Monday, January 30, 2006

George W. Bush as the New Richard M. Nixon: Both Wiretapped Illegally, and Impeachably

George W. Bush as the New Richard M. Nixon: Both Wiretapped Illegally, and Impeachably;
Both Claimed That a President May Violate Congress' Laws to Protect National Security
Friday, Dec. 30, 2005

On Friday, December 16, the New York Times published a major scoop by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau: They reported that Bush authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on Americans without warrants, ignoring the procedures of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

It was a long story loaded with astonishing information of lawbreaking at the White House. It reported that sometime in 2002, Bush issued an executive order authorizing NSA to track and intercept international telephone and/or email exchanges coming into, or out of, the U.S. - when one party was believed to have direct or indirect ties with al Qaeda.

Initially, Bush and the White House stonewalled, neither confirming nor denying the president had ignored the law. Bush refused to discuss it in his interview with Jim Lehrer.

Then, on Saturday, December 17, in his radio broadcast, Bush admitted that the New York Times was correct - and thus conceded he had committed an impeachable offense.

There can be no serious question that warrantless wiretapping, in violation of the law, is impeachable. After all, Nixon was charged in Article II of his bill of impeachment with illegal wiretapping for what he, too, claimed were national security reasons.

These parallel violations underscore the continuing, disturbing parallels between this Administration and the Nixon Administration....

Medicare Drug Plan Leaves Out Supplies

Medicare Drug Plan Leaves Out Supplies
The benefit covers home IV medication but not the implements and care needed to administer it.

By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, LA Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The new Medicare drug program is denying supplies that seriously ill patients need to administer intravenous antibiotics and other medications at home. As a result, some patients are being referred to nursing homes, and others have had to go into hospitals.

Although no national estimates are available, the number of patients affected — including some with life-threatening diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis — could run into the thousands. One Anaheim pharmacy says 200 of its patients are having trouble.

Medicare officials say they are aggressively addressing the problem, which they attribute to restrictions in the law that created the prescription benefit and to difficulty communicating with states, pharmacies and medical providers.

Essentially, the prescription program allows coverage of the drugs but does not pay for the medical supplies and nursing help needed for the home infusion treatments to be safe and effective — a policy that effectively shuts down such treatment for some patients, even though it is substantially cheaper than the alternatives. Two GOP senators warned the Medicare agency last fall that the gap in coverage "may limit access to home infusion therapy."

Home infusion pharmacies say they are overwhelmed trying to help patients deal with the problem. "It's like I'm doing triage in a MASH unit," said pharmacist Michael Rigas, vice president for clinical affairs with Crescent Healthcare in Anaheim....

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Town Hall meeting held in Spa City

Town Hall meeting held in Spa City
Updated: 1/29/2006 1:34 PM
By: Curtis Schick
Capital News 9

Spa City leaders were open to all opinions on the big issues on Saturday. Some of the issues raised included over development in Saratoga Springs as well as what's next for Saratoga Race Course.

One concerned resident said, "Do we want to change the face of Saratoga? Mary Lou Whitney has it right. It's not only a special place to be. You have to work at keeping it a special place."

Those were just a few issues folks flung at new Mayor Valerie Keehn.

Another concerned resident said, "We are not opposed to development. Valuable land is another story. It affects our water system, our school enrollment, our traffic congestion."

She said people need to get involved with their government.

And these Town Hall Meetings are a perfect place.

Saratoga Springs Mayor, Valerie Keehn said, "It's so important to keep that dialog open and continue to keep those relations going. I think getting out there in to people's communities make them feel like you care about what they are saying."

Dozens of residents filed into the Ford Community Center at Jefferson Terrace.

Keehn along with three City Commissioners, Tom McTygue, Ron Kim and Matt McCabe talked town issues for two hours.

She said she is keeping a campaign promise.
Meeting held
Spa City Mayor Valerie Keehn upheld a campaign promise Saturday as she and other city officials held a Town Hall Meeting open to all residents.

Keehn also said, "I think what I heard is that people said city officials were not that accessible. This is my answer to that."

The mayor's second Saratoga Springs Town Hall meeting will on Saturday, March 25 at the community room of the Water's Edge development on Saratoga Lake.

President is as powerful as he is unpopular

President is as powerful as he is unpopular
By PHILIP GAILEY, Times Editor of Editorials
Published January 29, 2006

Republicans are practically dancing in the Senate aisles over the prospect of Samuel Alito joining Chief Justice John Roberts on the Supreme Court, saying these two conservatives will bring some badly needed "judicial restraint" to the court. If only they were as concerned about presidential restraint.

Bush, who is acting more like a monarch than an unpopular president, might as well wear a crown to go with the powers he has claimed. Under his "inherent" authority as commander in chief, Bush says he is free to conduct warrantless eavesdropping on Americans, detain anyone suspected of a terrorist connection indefinitely and without due process, ignore the Geneva Conventions against torture and just about any other law or treaty that would limit his expansive executive powers. Even after signing antitorture legislation, Bush made it clear in a "signing statement" that he intends to interpret the new law, which he resisted mightily, to suit his purposes.

If al-Qaida operatives abroad are talking to someone in the United States, Bush says the government needs to know. Of course it does. That's not the issue. The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) allows domestic eavesdropping in national security cases. However, it requires a warrant from a secret court that rarely says no. It even allows the government to eavesdrop first and seek a warrant later.

At his news conference on Thursday, Bush said the surveillance act "was written in 1978" and now "it's a different world" because of terrorism. Bush seemed to be saying the law is outdated. However, he insists that there is no need for Congress to update it. In fact, he said last week that efforts in Congress to rewrite the 1978 law to expressly give the president authority to conduct surveillance without a warrant are unnecessary and even dangerous.

The president doesn't stop there. His administration has asserted that FISA would be unconstitutional if it were read to prevent the president from doing what he has been doing - conducting domestic surveillance without a warrant. In other words, Congress can write laws but Bush will decide what they mean.

What's the public to make of it all?

The president has framed the issue in a way that, at least for now, gives him the political advantage over his critics. The latest New York Times/CBS News Poll shows that a majority of Americans approve of warrantless eavesdropping to reduce the threat of terrorism even as they expressed some uneasiness that Bush's antiterrorism measures could diminish civil liberties.

Meanwhile, Karl Rove, the president's unindicted leaker in the CIA leak case, stooped to a new low in suggesting that Democrats still have a "pre-9/11 worldview" when it comes to fighting terrorists. "Let me be as clear as I can be - President Bush believes if al-Qaida is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they're calling and why," Rove told a Republican audience last week. "Some important Democrats clearly disagree."

What a loathsome insinuation. Some Republicans also have expressed doubt about the legality of Bush's surveillance program. Senate hearings are scheduled next month, but senators probably shouldn't expect much cooperation from an imperial White House that routinely defies congressional investigators.

Last week, the White House stiffed a Senate committee trying to determine why the administration was so unprepared for Hurricane Katrina. Bush to Senate: Drop dead. Citing executive privilege, the president's men have refused to provide the documents and witnesses the committee requested. If only the levees around New Orleans were as formidable as the walls this White House has erected to protect the dirty little secrets of the most secretive administration in modern times. Don't even think about asking the White House to release that photo of Bush and lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the latest poster boy for Washington corruption.

Bad news has no place in Bush's world. Neither does reality. To hear the president tell it, everything in Iraq - the war and the reconstruction - is going just fine. The government is doing everything it can for the victims of Katrina. There is nothing wrong with the economy that more tax cuts can't cure. His Medicare drug plan is just what the doctor ordered, even if people are being turned away by their pharmacies because of computer glitches, poor planning by the insurance companies and bureaucratic bungling.

So much executive power, so little competence.

Philip Gailey's e-mail address is
[Last modified January 28, 2006, 00:47:01]

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Election theft emergency: An interview with Mark Crispin Miller

Election theft emergency: An interview with Mark Crispin Miller
Posted on Friday, January 27 @ 10:03:37 EST

Mark Crispin Miller talks about how the right stole the 2004 presidential election -- and how they'll do it again unless we stop them.

Terrence McNally, AlterNet

For GOP voters, the 2004 presidential election was little short of miraculous: Behind in the Electoral College even on the afternoon of the vote, the Bush-Cheney ticket staged a stunning comeback. Usually reliable exit polls turned out to be wrong by an unprecedented 5 percent in swing states. Conservatives argued, and the media agreed, that "moral values" had made the difference.

In his latest book, Fooled Again: How The Right Stole The 2004 Election, And Why They'll Steal The Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them), Mark Crispin Miller argues that it wasn't moral values which swung the election -- it was theft.

TERRENCE McNALLY: You're a professor of media studies. According to your bio, you write about "film, television, propaganda, advertising and the culture industries ..." Why did you write this book?

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Out of a sense of civic emergency. I believe that "Fooled Again" makes the case quite persuasively that there is actually no convincing evidence that Bush and Cheney won re-election.

This is a civic story of the utmost importance. It has to do with the dire need for election reform in the United States. But it's also a story about the colossal failure of the American press to do precisely the kind of job that the framers had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment. What they had in mind was that the press would function as a reliable check on executive power. It would keep the people informed about what their government was up to, and it would keep them politically engaged in national debate.

The newspapers, as limited and defective as they were in the 18th century, did perform that function, and I believe they performed that function for much of our history. We now have a corporate media system that is not answerable to the people nor concerned about the people, but [is] in the service of its pay masters. And it is far too close to the government for the health of anything like a democratic system.

One of the points of "Fooled Again" is that this is a story of tremendous importance, as far as a democracy is concerned. Yet the press has for the most part ridiculed those who have come up with very solid evidence of fraud. They've been in the business less of talking about the situation than of preventing anybody else from talking about it. And this includes some of the progressive media as well. In fact, the most hostile reviews that I've received have been in Mother Jones and Salon.

TM: I read the transcript of you on Democracy Now! with Mark Hertsgaard, a progressive journalist who has been fairly dismissive of those questioning Bush's victory. By the end he seemed to be agreeing that everything should be more fully investigated.

I would think that the 2004 election story, if tracked and broken, would be huge for whoever breaks it. Any other thoughts about why it's so ignored?

MCM: We have to understand that for some decades the press has served basically an establishmentarian function. They have the reputation, and they certainly have the self-image, of being terribly skeptical, prone to disrespectful questions, probing dark matters that authority would just as soon have them leave alone. That's a very flattering view of the press but completely undeserved. The press will not deal with any story that goes beyond a particular scandal to cast doubt on the very viability of the entire system. The press in this country will studiously ignore any story that too violently rocks the boat, whose implications are too shattering.

This is not new. Watergate was a story that the press avoided for months and months. Only the Washington Post pursued that story; everybody else made fun of it. Now we look back on Watergate with tremendous nostalgia and self-congratulation, telling ourselves the press saved the system. But since Watergate the press has preferred to deal with meaningless and trivial scandals like the Clinton scandals. They will not talk about 9/11, they will not talk about the theft of the last three elections.

TM: You also include the 2002 congressional election. That one also broke too consistently against predictions?

MCM: That's exactly right. In Colorado, in Minnesota, in Georgia, and in a couple of other states -- there was what we might call "Diebold magic" everywhere. In all these states, you had far-right-wing politicians predicted to lose by pre-election newspaper polls and by exit polls, and all of them won....

C-Span Will Cover "Real State of U.S. Foreign Policy 2006" Conference -- LIVE on Monday, 30 January

C-Span Will Cover "Real State of U.S. Foreign Policy 2006" Conference -- LIVE on Monday, 30 January

« Hamas Projected to Win 40% of Ballots in Today's Palestinian Elections: Unofficial Israeli Leadership Drew the Line of Acceptability at 30% -- Stress Ahead | Main

January 27, 2006
C-Span Will Cover "Real State of U.S. Foreign Policy 2006" Conference -- LIVE on Monday, 30 January

Here is the final schedule for Monday's forum that my colleagues and I have organized titled "The Real State of U.S. Foreign Policy 2006".

The meeting will take place from 8:30 a.m. - 1:45 p.m. on Monday, January 30th, in the SD-G50 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Among those speaking are General Wesley Clark, former National Review Editor-in-Chief and Hudson Institute Senior Fellow John O'Sullivan, TWN blogger and New America Foundation foreign policy programs director Steve Clemons, CNN Terrorism Analyst and bin Laden tracker Peter Bergen, New America Foundation Senior Research Fellow Anatol Lieven, Whitehead Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation Michael Lind, Scowcroft Group Partner and former senior State Department oficial Kevin Nealer, Nixon Center President and National Interest publisher Dimitri Simes, Albright Group Partner and former Counsel to the Secretary of State as well Special Presidential Envoy on North Korea matters Wendy Sherman, former Special Advisor to President Clinton and political journalist Sidney Blumenthal, World Policy Journal founding editor and New America Foundation Global Middle Class Program Sherle Schwenninger and Economic Strategy Institute President and former Reagan administration senior official Clyde Prestowitz.

C-Span will be covering the entire conference LIVE. However, we have learned that the progam will most likely appear on C-Span 3, which is usually available with many digital television packages -- and also available for live streaming over any PC.

This will be a significant foreign policy discussion -- that I think will have some impact on the journalistic environment just preceding the President's Tuesday night State of the Union address.

So, please join us -- in person or over C-Span -- for a discussion of the "Real State of U.S. Foreign Policy 2006".

My comments will be one of the first two in the conference -- and I'm paired with former National Review editor-in-chief John O'Sullivan.

More soon.

-- Steve Clemons

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Bush the Incompetent

Bush the Incompetent

By Harold Meyerson
Washington Post
Wednesday, January 25, 2006; A19

Incompetence is not one of the seven deadly sins, and it's hardly the worst attribute that can be ascribed to George W. Bush. But it is this president's defining attribute. Historians, looking back at the hash that his administration has made of his war in Iraq, his response to Hurricane Katrina and his Medicare drug plan, will have to grapple with how one president could so cosmically botch so many big things -- particularly when most of them were the president's own initiatives.

In numbing profusion, the newspapers are filled with litanies of screw-ups. Yesterday's New York Times brought news of the first official assessment of our reconstruction efforts in Iraq, in which the government's special inspector general depicted a policy beset, as Times reporter James Glanz put it, "by gross understaffing, a lack of technical expertise, bureaucratic infighting [and] secrecy." At one point, rebuilding efforts were divided, bewilderingly and counterproductively, between the Army Corps of Engineers and, for projects involving water, the Navy. That's when you'd think a president would make clear in no uncertain terms that bureaucratic turf battles would not be allowed to impede Iraq's reconstruction. But then, the president had no guiding vision for how to rebuild Iraq -- indeed, he went to war believing that such an undertaking really wouldn't require much in the way of American treasure and American lives.

It's the president's prescription drug plan (Medicare Part D), though, that is his most mind-boggling failure. As was not the case in Iraq or with Katrina, it hasn't had to overcome the opposition of man or nature. Pharmacists are not resisting the program; seniors are not planting car bombs to impede it (not yet, anyway). But in what must be an unforeseen development, people are trying to get their medications covered under the program. Apparently, this is a contingency for which the administration was not prepared, as it has been singularly unable to get its own program up and running.

Initially, Part D's biggest glitch seemed to be the difficulty that seniors encountered in selecting a plan. But since Part D took effect on Jan. 1, the most acute problem has been the plan's failure to cover the 6.2 million low-income seniors whose medications had been covered by Medicaid. On New Year's Day, the new law shifted these people's coverage to private insurers. And all hell broke loose.

Pharmacists found that the insurers didn't have the seniors' names in their systems, or charged them far in excess of what the new law stipulated -- and what the seniors could afford. In California fully 20 percent of the state's 1.1 million elderly Medicaid recipients had their coverage denied. The state had to step in to pick up the tab for their medications. California has appropriated $150 million for the medications, and estimates that it will be out of pocket more than $900 million by 2008-09. Before Jan. 1 the Bush administration had told California that it would save roughly $120 million a year once Part D was in effect.

California's experience is hardly unique. To date at least 25 states and the District have had to defray the costs to seniors that Part D was supposed to cover. What's truly stunning about this tale is that, while officials may not have known how many non-indigent seniors would sign up of their own accord, they always knew that these 6.2 million seniors would be shifted into the plan on the first day of the year. There were absolutely no surprises, and yet administration officials weren't even remotely prepared.

No such problems attended the creation of Medicare itself in the mid-1960s. Then, a governmental agency simply assumed responsibility for seniors' doctor and hospital visits. But, financially beholden to both the drug and insurance industries, the Bush administration and the Repsublican Congress mandated that millions of Americans have their coverage shifted to these most byzantine of bureaucracies.

This is, remember, the president's signature domestic initiative, just as the Iraq war is his signature foreign initiative.

How could a president get these things so wrong? Incompetence may describe this presidency, but it doesn't explain it. For that, historians may need to turn to the seven deadly sins: to greed, in understanding why Bush entrusted his new drug entitlement to a financial mainstay of modern Republicanism. To sloth, in understanding why Incurious George has repeatedly ignored the work of experts whose advice runs counter to his desires.

More and more, the key question for this administration is that of the great American sage, Casey Stengel: Can't anybody here play this game?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The criminal conspiracy that destroys America

The criminal conspiracy that destroys America
By doug Thompson
Jan 25, 2006, 01:26
Capitol Hill Blue

Sadly, the President of the United States is a criminal. In fact, he should be arrested, tried and sentenced to life in prison as a repeat offender.

He is a war criminal who led this nation into an illegal conflict based on lies. His criminal conduct in the invasion of Iraq has led to the deaths of more than 2,000 American military men and women and countless thousands of Iraqi civilians.

He ripped the Constitution to shreds, ordering the National Security Agency, the Pentagon and other government agencies to spy on American citizens.

His administration trampled basic American freedoms, creating a police state through the Gestapo tactics of the Department of Homeland Security and the rights-robbing USA Patriot Act.

He lied to the American people about his close relationship with corrupt GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, claiming he didn’t know the man who raised more than $100,000 for his campaign and visited the White House more than 200 times in his first year in office as well as trips to the ranch in Crawford, Texas.

He ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to withhold information about dangerous toxins dumped into the air over Manhattan when terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center.

His vice president met secretly with the CEOs of America’s top energy companies, cutting deals that gave those companies record profits while ripping off consumers at the gas pump.

Bush’s crimes against the Constitution and the American people began the day he took office and continue today. Each day brings new revelations of abuse of power, evasion of the law and disregard for basic rights of privacy.

Under Bush’s watch, the fears of George Orwell became all too real. The NSA routinely monitors phone calls of American citizens. The Defense Advance Research Projects Agency tracks routine travel and financial activities of Americans. The Pentagon sends infiltrators to spy on groups whose only crime is disagreement with the Iraq war or the other Draconian actions of the Bush administration.

America is now a totalitarian state ruled by a fascist dictator who hides behind phony claims that he is a “wartime president” who must usurp the Constitution to protect us from ourselves. Ironically, the “wartime president” is, in reality, a coward who hid out in the Texas Air National Guard to avoid his own service in wartime, a cardboard cowboy who sends others to die while he hides behind a legion of Secret Service agents who no doubt gag at the thought of taking a bullet for such a pathetic excuse for a leader.

But who protects us from the real enemy of freedom? That enemy resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, backed by a party that puts partisanship above patriotism, power above freedom and political expediency above justice.

I’ve come to the sad conclusion that the President of the United States is a madman, a raving lunatic driven by an insane lust for power, given to frequent outbursts of temper and out-of-control tantrums.

Bush has plunged this nation into a deepening Constitutional crisis, one that demands immediate action if we are to save what was once a great nation.

The last President to precipitate such a crisis, Richard M. Nixon, failed to destroy this nation because Congress, led by an opposition party, stepped up and took the actions necessary. But today’s Congress is ruled by criminally-complicit thugs who share Bush’s fanatical views.

Together, Bush and his Republican cronies in Congress have led America to ruin. Unfortunately, too many in this country have sat on their asses and let it happen.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Are unions poised for a comeback?

Are unions poised for a comeback?
By Staff and Wire Reports
Jan 22, 2006, 07:27
Capitol Hill Blue

Long-declining union membership leveled off last year at 12.5 percent of the work force, the Labor Department said Friday in a report labor leaders called encouraging.

Union membership was about a third of the work force a half-century ago, and was one in five, 20 percent, in 1983, when the Labor Department started keeping such data.

The department said 15.7 million workers were union members in 2005. Blacks were more likely than whites, Hispanics or Asian workers to be members of a union. Men were more likely than women to be in unions and those in the public sector were four times as likely as those in the private sector to be in unions.

Full-time workers who were union members had median weekly earnings of $801, compared with a median weekly income of $622 for workers who were not in unions.

"The good news is that the annual hemorrhaging of union membership slowed last year," said Teamsters' President James P. Hoffa. "And that's not really good news. A worker's right to join a union has been continually eroded by a corporate takeover of our government."

The difficulties facing labor contributed to a split between the AFL-CIO, an umbrella federation of more than 50 unions, and about a half dozen unions including the Teamsters, who wanted to focus more resources on building membership.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney cited the leveling off of union membership as good news for a movement that has faced troubles.

"In a political climate that's hostile to worker's rights," Sweeney said, "these numbers illustrate the extraordinary will of workers to gain a voice on the job despite enormous obstacles."

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Creatives must bring everyone along

Creatives must bring everyone along, says Florida
Posted by Renee Hopkins Callahan

I was wrong about Richard Florida's Rise of the Creative Class....I, and apparently a lot of people, thought that the book was elitist, that it was about the need for cities to bring in the amenities that would appeal to the creative-class workers that Florida says are the backbone of the new economy.

But that's not what he said yesterday when he gave the keynote "Engaging Creative Communities: The New Global Competition for Talent" here at CPSI. His main point, made yesterday in his speech and in his newest book Flight of the Creative Class, seems to be that all people are creative and that the way a community can attract jobs and economic prosperity is to engage the creativity of everyone in that community, not just the 30% of people who are actually in creative-class jobs.

Here are some highlights of his talk. Some of them are linked to appropriate short video clips:

"What powers economic growth? It's not technology -- technology is a raw material. What makes human being unique is one thing -- creativity. All else are subsets. Creativity powers economic growth."

"Political polarization is the recoil from the rise of the creative economy. And the blame [for stoking the fears] goes on both sides of the aisle." Paraphrase of what followed: Part of this political polarization is because of the widening gap between the creative haves and the have-nots, expressed in such statistics as the cost of housing, which is increasingly out of reach for lower- and middle-income people in high-creative areas.

"It's *not* about the creative elite, but about the creativity of *everyone*. It's the collective intelligence of [all the workers] that gives companies....For real economic impact, we must tap into the creativity of the 70% of the people who are not in the creative class."

"In order to attract creative-class jobs, a community needs technology (high-tech businesses), talent (the ability to educate the local talent as well as to keep talent and attract talent), and tolerant (must be proactively inclusive of all kinds of people, not just grudgingly accepting)."

"The real competition is for global creative talent...If you ask people in their 20s where they would like to move, the list [of places] is international. The world is an open system and friendship networks are international among 20-somethings."

Reacting to Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat, Florida said, "the world is not flat, but simultaneously incredibly concentrated and spiky...there are two dozen spiky places in the world that account for 98% of innovation.

Solutions: According to Florida, the political class at the national level is clueless, which he says not a U.S.-specific problem but "the same all over the world." He urged everyone in the audience that the work must be done at the local level, by councilpeople and mayors.

"The models that we have to build on are those that build a more inclusive, creative society, such as Helsinki, Stockholm, Melbourne, Sydney....and Minneapolis-St. Paul is a good model."

Following Florida's talk, Minneapolis councilman Don Samuels spoke about the challenges of building the creative talent in inner-city neighborhoods, where often "the brightest and most creative often end up on the wrong side of the law -- the frustration of creativity attacks the brightest first." There was a very interesting discussion that followed, about how the kids that "get out" of challenging childhood circumstances are usually those who are smart, but not "street-smart" and entrepreneurial..."the really bright, tough, smart kids are the ones who don't get out" which Samuels attributed to the attitude that "there has always been a group of people in this country that it's not OK to educate....[and] every day I have to re-educate myself as to the value of the kids in my community." Florida's comment: "The society that solves its crime or gang problem will be an economic engine."

The starting points for solutions: 1) See every individual as creative; 2) Be open; 3) Leave no one behind.

Paul Wolfowitz Busy Neo-Conning the World Bank: Staff Rebellion Brewing

January 20, 2006
Paul Wolfowitz Busy Neo-Conning the World Bank: Staff Rebellion Brewing
Steve Clemons
The Washington Note

Paul Wolfowitz, architect of America's failing foray into Iraq as Rumsfeld's former Deputy at the Pentagon, now heads the World Bank and finally seems like his true self is coming out of the closet.

In recent months, picking up steam in recent weeks, there has been a massive exodus of top talent from the World Bank. According to reports, the senior Ethics Officer at the Bank has departed. Also on the exit roster are the Vice President for East Asia & Pacific, the Chief Legal Counsel, the Bank's top Managing Director, the Director of Institutional Integrity (which monitors internal and external corruption), the Vice President for Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development, and the head of ISG (Information Solutions Group).

According to one senior insider who feels as if Wolfowitz is gut-punching the most talented teams at the bank and indicated that morale is plummeting, "Wolfowitz just does not talk to his Vice Presidents. He speaks to a few close advisors -- Kevin Kellems, Robin Cleveland, Karl Jackson, some others -- but a lot of very good people are leaving."

What Wolfowitz has done that has started a serious wave of negative sentiment against him among his ranks is that he has appointed Kevin Kellems -- Vice President Cheney's former Communications Director and Spokesman -- as a "director" of the bank, which formally reports to a Vice President of the Bank -- while at the same time making him Senior Advisor to Wolfowitz.

In other words, Wolfowitz is forcing a political appointment at the "director level" of the bank -- which is never done. "Director" positions are fairly low in the World Bank bureaucracy and are filled by a competitive process and the merits of one's work -- not political imposition.

However, Wolfowitz on January 10, 2006 made Kellems Director of Strategy in the External Affairs, Communications and United Nations Affairs Vice Presidency while at the same time Senior Advisor to the President of the Bank.

In addition, the senior Bank staff are bristling at the behavior and antics of Robin Cleveland, a long-time aide to Senator Mitch McConnell who was considered by this writer to be one of the few genuinely monstrous personalities among Congressional staff. She has been shaking World Bank staff and programs on governance and anti-corruption agendas "in her normal, predictable tirade-style" according to one senior World Bank official.

The irony here is that Robin Cleveland was herself deeply involved in the Boeing tanker ethics mess. While soliciting then Secretary of the Air Force James Roche to help her brother get a job at Northrop Grumman, Roche wroter her a reply after receiving his resume:
Be well. Smile. Give tankers (Oops, did I say that? My new deal is terrific.) :) Jim.

While the Financial Times reported that Roche was found guilty of breaching defense department ethics rules, the Pentagon inspector general did not have the authority to inveestigate Robin Cleveland.

Senior bank staff see Wolfowitz withdrawing from his team and senior players -- and relying instead on a group of political zealots -- Wolfowitz's "dobermans" one staffer told TWN.

Here are some comments that have been shared with TWN this morning and yesterday:
"Wolfowitz is not talking to his VPs. He is withdrawing -- and instead using Robin Cleveland and the likes of Kevin Kellems to do his bidding, and they are building massive ill will inside the Bank."

"He is appointing political hacks into positions that should be filled by highly qualified personnel through competitive and transparent processes."

"Cleveland and Wolfowitz talk about anti-corruption and good governance, but she herself was in the midst of the Boeing tanker scandal and he is appointing a hack at the director level, circumventing the VP, and making this same hack his Senior Adviser. Cleveland in particular rankles as she is the single most arrogant and abusive person at the senior level of the bank without anything to be arrogant about. She makes John Bolton look sheepish."

"Wolfowitz is Sovietizing the bank by placing his political watch dogs in key positions in the bank -- and is more interested in political symbolism than the substantive work and challenges of the Bank."

What is clear to TWN is that whatever honeymoon Paul Wolfowitz had at the World Bank -- externally and internally -- is over. ANY major bureaucracy will resist change and attempt to thwart some of the more extensive objectives of its leader. So, some of this resentment of Wolfowitz may be similar to the same kind of resistance that James Wolfensohn encountered when he was shifting things around inside the institution.

However, after having recently listened to Karl Jackson at an informal lunch where Jackson recounted his work on Indonesia and interaction with Paul Wolfowitz, with whom Jackson is very close, I have concerns about the quality of interaction between Wolfowitz and other senior level personalities in the Bank's hierarchy. I can't comment on Jackson's precise comments as they were not for attribution -- but I got a "feel" for some of the problems that others have been describing.

Jackson now serves as an advisor to Wolfowitz and is a former colleague at the Johns Hopkins/Nitze School of Advanced International Studies where Wolfowitz served as Dean. But after just mentioning the names Robin Cleveland and Kevin Kellems to a few Bank staff in phone interviews, people gushed with resentment against them and Paul Wolfowitz.

This simmering tension between Wolfowitz and his staff seems to be deeper and more serious than even the drama of staff reorganization can explain.

Wolfowitz may be showing his stripes now -- and may be finally tilting the Bank into a groove where it becomes a harsher instrument of U.S. foreign policy -- rewarding friends and punishing those who don't fall into lockstep behind George W. Bush's vision.

Friday, January 20, 2006

In Michigan, a future where cars count less

In Michigan, a future where cars count less
High-wage jobs will come from focusing on human capital, not the Big Three.
By Mark Trumbull
Christian Science Monitor

LANSING, MICH. – It's Wednesday evening, and the west campus of Lansing Community College is humming with activity.

In one lab, students test their electrical skills. In another, they learn computer-aided design. On the main level, instructors and regional industry officials are discussing how to nurture the next generation of manufacturing workers.

It's a key question for America and, especially, for Michigan, as US carmakers pare domestic production. The state has faced job slumps before, most notably in the 1980s. But this downturn is different. The auto industry can no longer carry the state's economy.

Recovery will depend on "human capital," experts say, developing talent that ranges from PhD research to the professional skills taught in evening classes here at this new facility....

As Election Season Nears, Efforts to Upgrade Voting Machines Bog Down

As Election Season Nears, Efforts to Upgrade Voting Machines Bog Down
By Daniel B. Wood
The Christian Science Monitor

Thursday 19 January 2005
About half the states missed a deadline to replace old apparatus. California is one racing to comply.

Los Angeles - Shattered by Florida's "chadgate" experience in the 2000 presidential election, voter confidence nationwide plummeted and pundits declared America's democracy "at a crossroads."

Five years later, roughly half the states are not in compliance with the federal law that was designed to restore faith in voting. The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) has provided states with $3.1 billion in funding to replace punch-card ballots with modern electronic machines and ensure that blind and disabled voters can independently cast secret ballots using the new technology, among other mandates. HAVA's deadline passed Jan. 1.

Along with the push to test and install these machines are questions about their security, reliability, and accuracy. To address this, about 25 states including Ohio and California are requiring paper verification (so-called VVPAT for "voter verified paper trail") of results. It is a process adding time, money and, in California, widespread confusion and anxiety as 58 county registrars race to get their machines ready for the state's June primary election.

Preparing for the June 2006 Election

It will be California's first election that must meet HAVA mandates, replacing punch cards and providing user-friendly machines for blind and disabled voters. But testing and purchase of the machines is being delayed because of additional state requirements for printed records of each vote. As a result, many voting officials are concerned about federal lawsuits as well as disgruntled, disabled voters.

"We are in limbo, we are in uncertainty, and we are getting more frustrated by the day," says Kristin Heffron, chief deputy registrar recorder/county clerk for Los Angeles county. "We have a federal deadline that just passed, a state deadline that is coming, and we are scratching our heads over what to buy while the state tries to certify machines that meet their standards."

California secretary of State officials say they are still determining which of about seven different brands of voting machines - including touch-screen and optical scan devices - will be certified.

In turn, they are waiting for federal officials to finish their own certification of approved machines and also examining how to add paper printouts to the state's existing voting machines to meet the state's deadline this summer.

Pressured by voters, politicians, vendors, and voting officials, federal agents say they are putting the machines through rigorous tests of software and hardware.

In the 2004 presidential election, widespread voter anger flared after the votes were counted in Ohio, as new doubts surfaced about how to conduct a recount on electronic voting machines that had no way of verifying votes.

"The American voting public has really gone full circle on this issue," says Dan Seligson, editor of, which has been tracking election reform. "After 2000, where people wanted to eliminate the need for paper and punch cards and older systems they felt weren't reliable. Then in the past few years there is growing concern with electronic systems. Federal and state officials are caught in the middle trying to address all these concerns."

A Paper Trail to Count Votes

A California think tank called the state's mandate for paper records of all ballots one of the top 10 policy blunders of 2005.

"Passing sweeping laws ... to require voter-verified paper trails for touch-screen machines, though well intentioned, could bankrupt cash-strapped counties and may erode the efficiency of electronic voting management," says Vince Vasquez, who coauthored the briefing paper for the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco.

Part of the growing cost comes because the state must purchase machines that meet both the paper trail and disability requirements. Some questions are still unanswered including how blind people can verify that a piece of paper has correctly recorded their electronic votes.

"As a nation we are in a very difficult situation right now because states and counties have had ample time to comply with HAVA laws but are being hindered by VVPAT requirements," says Dan Tokaji, a political scientist at Ohio State University who has been tracking US election reform. "At the moment, it is very difficult if not impossible to comply with VVPAT and the disability requirements given the existing state of technology."

Academics, computer science associations, and others have argued that a voter verification paper trail is necessary because public trust in the vote-count systems is paramount for a return to more participation in elections.

"Imagine the scenario where as a voter you choose candidate A, but the machine scores it for candidate B and yet displays a vote for A," says David Dill founder of "If you try to recount it later without any paper verification, the machine will keep telling you the same thing over and over."

California Waits for Word on Machines

In the meantime, California state and county officials are trying to assure that the June election can go forward.

"We are still waiting to receive many machines that are in federal testing," says secretary of State spokeswoman Jennifer Kerns. Two models - the ESNS Unison and the Sequoia Edge System - will need another 55 days of state testing.

The window for election planning gets smaller every day. Only after the machines pass inspection can they be purchased and allotted to county personnel, who carry out elections.

If states are not in compliance with the federal law, it is unclear what comes next, says Doug Chapin, director of

The US Department of Justice could extend the deadline but would likely not leave it open-ended.

Avalanche of Democratic criticism falls on Sweeney for ski trip

Avalanche of Democratic criticism falls on Sweeney for ski trip
1/18/2006, 6:02 p.m. ET
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic attacks on Republican congressman John Sweeney snowballed Wednesday over a fundraising ski trip he hosted last weekend in Utah with at least one prominent Washington lobbyist.

Sweeney, R-Clifton Park, was criticized Tuesday by his would-be Democratic opponent, Kirsten Gillibrand, for consorting with lobbyists at a time when, her camp argues, lawmakers should be more open about such dealings.

Democratic county officials jumped into the argument Wednesday, arguing that if Sweeney wants to host $2,000 a person fundraisers on the slopes, he should do it at a ski resort in his own district.

"Your decision to spend a weekend frolicking in Utah with lobbyists instead of here on the slopes in New York sends a terrible message and does nothing to encourage the all important tourist industry here," five Democratic county chairs and the head of the state party wrote to the congressman.

One group, Citizen Action of New York, offered a facetious letter asking if they, too, could ski with the congressman on behalf of all the "struggling families" in his district who can't afford to hit the slopes.

Sweeney's camp countered that, in fact, Sweeney hosted a New York-boosting event in Lake Placid the weekend before, the ninth such Lake Placid getaway Sweeney has hosted for lawmakers and others.

"This latest assault is both sad and troubling," said Sweeney spokeswoman Melissa Carlson, adding that Sweeney's fundraising practices are identical to those of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and other Democrats.

"Today, Gillibrand has added another chapter of hypocrisy and dishonesty to a campaign bereft of ideas," said Carlson.

The attacks on Sweeney come as the congressman has called for new elections for all House GOP leaders except Speaker Dennis Hastert, saying the Republican members need to do some "soul searching" in wake of a probe centering around corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Abramoff has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with a federal criminal probe of a number of members of Congress and staffers.

Gillibrand's campaign has called for Sweeney to detail which lobbyists attended the event. The congressman's aides say they will report the donations at the regular time to the federal campaign officials.

During the ski weekend, guests were invited to a dinner with pharmaceutical industry lobbyist Jeff Kimbell.

Sweeney aides note Gillibrand has done her own big-ticket fundraisers, and said part of the time Sweeney was in Utah he pressed a top ski association official on economic development in his district.

The lobbyist Kimbell, they said, represents firms with a total of 2,250 jobs in Sweeney's district.

The flurry of criticism continued Wednesday with the chair of the Saratoga GOP pointing out Gillibrand is the daughter of Albany lobbyist Douglas Rutnik.

"She's a New York City lawyer who's only lived in our county part-time for a year and a half," said Jasper Nolan.

Added Sweeney's spokeswoman, "She was born into the lobbying business."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Latest Bush Mega-Catastrophe Is Now Pharmaceuticals

The Latest Bush Mega-Catastrophe Is Now Pharmaceuticals
By Harvey Wasserman
The Free Press

Monday 16 January 2006

No matter what you think of George W. Bush, he is staking out his claim as a bona fide Horseman of the Apocalypse.

With his Hand of Hell in Iraq already yielding countless dead, $200 billion wasted and a global war again Islam well on its way to Armageddon, Bush has definitively established his ability to wreck unparalleled disaster on a global scale with zero positive outcome.

By drowning New Orleans and turning its alleged rebuilding plan into a sinkhole of corruption and disarray, he has shown he can lay waste to an entire American city.

And now he is visiting disease and death on tens of millions of our elderly and ill with a botched Medicare/Medicaid drug plan that has plunged the nation's pharmacies into total chaos while driving the states even closer to bankruptcy. As you read this, millions of Americans are without medications that may be life-sustaining because of what Bush has done to "improve" their pharmaceutical plan.

One can only shudder at what might come next.

There have, of course, been lesser catastrophes, or ones whose long-term devastation is primarily political.

Bush's No Child Left Behind program has utterly poisoned our national educational system and gutted state budgets.

Bush's economic programs have taken a national surplus and turned it into a gargantuan debt, almost incalculable in its devastating implications for our future.

Bush's "War on Terror" has in fact been a war on civil rights and liberties, stripping the US of its basic democracy while leaving us more vulnerable than ever to terror attacks on nuclear plants, chemical facilities, our ports and air lanes.

Bush's "Homeland Security" agency is by all accounts a fetid swamp of corruption, mismanagement and ineptitude.

Bush's Patriot Acts I & II have shredded our most sacred document, the Bill of Rights, and opened the door to full-scale dictatorship while defiling everything the men and women who founded this country stood for.

Bush's embrace of torture has cast the US in the role of a sordid, sadistic demon wallowing in the very "cruel and unusual punishment" forbidden by its own Constitution.

Bush's universal spy program has turned a nation founded on reverence for privacy, free speech and due process into a cynical Big Brother with utter contempt for individual rights or liberties.

Bush's theft of two consecutive presidential elections has turned the right to vote into a tragic joke. Team Bush-Rove has gutted the ideal of free and fair elections while giving the GOP a death grip on the nation's electronic voting machines, creating a permanent one-party franchise.

There is, of course, much much more.

This new pharmaceutical crisis has yet again an administration that is amazingly incompetent by any and all non-partisan measures of basic management skills.

One can have an opinion about the war in Iraq. But no one on any side of the issue can argue that the effort has been run with anything but complete arrogance, idiocy and incompetence.

One can have an opinion about New Orleans. But even an administration overtly intent on killing the city could hardly have done a more thorough job.

And now we watch Bush lay utter waste to a Medicaid/Medicare program defined by red tape and inequity, but which has at least delivered pharmaceuticals to people who rely on them.

Bush's "reform" is a gratuitous, greed-based scheme to pour still more billions into drug company coffers. And now millions of poor, sick Americans are being turned away from pharmacies because Bush's plan is incomprehensible, unworkable, and has left them unable to pay for the medicines that are keeping them alive.

To their credit, many states are trying to pick up the slack. But some are not, or cannot.

One could say that this relentless injection of chaos and confusion into the body politic fits a conspiratorial pattern for utterly demoralizing the nation. One could argue that it's a conscious shot at total social deconstruction, provoking the End Times so fervently embraced by the fundamentalist fringe of Franklin Graham and Pat Robertson, the most unChristian men in America.

But at this point, even conservative Republicans are scrambling to distance themselves from the utter, astonishing incompetence of a national leader so obviously unfit to handle the job on the most basic administrative levels.

Nothing could be more indicative of the utter contempt Team Bush harbors for average Americans than the concept, design and execution of this latest catastrophe.

Except for the one that will come next….

Bush often met with, and praised, corrupt lobbyist

Bush often met with, and praised, corrupt lobbyist
Capitol Hill Blue
Jan 18, 2006, 07:24

Although White House spokesliar Scott McClellan claims lobbyist/crook du jour Jack Abramoff only met with administration staff two or three times, the scandal ridden buyer of influence enjoyed frequent private meetings with President George W. Bush, who referred to Abramoff as “one of this administration’s greatest friends.”

In a town where money buys influence and access, it would have been highly unusual for one of the top fundraisers for the Bush White House to not have had meetings with the President.

McClellan, in a carefully-worded response to reporters Tuesday, said his personal investigation into the matter revealed that Abramoff may have had two “private staff level meetings” at the White House. This is the same Scott McClellan who claimed he investigated the Valerie Plame leak and told reporters that neither Vice President Dick Cheney nor anyone on his staff had any involvement in that scandal. Then Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, got slapped with an indictment for giving the info to the press.

McClellan, as skilled a liar as anyone who has stood before the press and misled reporters on behalf of a President, fails to mention Abramoff’s frequent visits to the President’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, the private meetings that the lobbyist arranged with the President on the 2004 campaign trail and at the Republican National Convention that year.

White House visitor logs are not public record and the Bush administration keeps separate logs of visitors to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and other locations like Camp David or the President’s home. In addition, logs can – and often are – revised when scandal erupts....

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

10 Things Martin Luther King Would Have Done about Iraq

10 Things Martin Luther King Would Have Done about Iraq
By Juan Cole
Informed Comment

Monday 16 January 2006

Every year we honor Martin, and we hear again his stirring speech, "I have a Dream." But in many ways, that speech is among the least challenging of his charges to us, however hard and unfulfilled it remains. He dreamed other dreams, of the end of exploitative materialism and relentless militarism, of an America devoted to social justice and creative non-violence, which our mainstream media do not dare repeat over and over again.

We do not have Martin among us to guide us with his wisdom. But it is not hard to extrapolate from his "Beyond Vietnam" address of 1967 to what he would think about the Iraq morass.

He would say we have to treat with the Sunni Arabs and the Shiite Sadrists. We have to treat with the enemy. Not only for their sakes, for the sake of ruined cities like Fallujah and Tal Afar, and those to come- but for our own sakes.

1. Martin urged the end of the offensive bombing raids.
'End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.'

The US has increased the number of its bombing raids in Iraq from 25 a month last summer to 150 in December. Bombing raids are very bad counter-insurgency tactics and should be rethought.

2. Martin suggested that the US begin, on its own account, a cease fire.
'Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.'

3. He urged that the widening of the war be stopped:
'Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.'

If we applied that to Iraq, I think it implies that the US should seek better relations with Syria and Iran and cease menacing the latter with an air attack.

4. He insisted that the US recognize the widespread political support for the NLF:
'Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and any future Vietnam government.'

With regard to Iraq, this principle would imply that the US should recognize that the Neo-Baath Arab nationalist leaders, the Salafi Sunni revivalists, and local guerrilla chiefs have genuine popular support among Sunni Arabs, and cannot be shut out of the new order. (Note that some 150 candidates who ran in the Dec. 15 elections were excluded after the fact by the debaathification committee controlled by Ahmad Chalabi.) The Cairo Conference held last fall was a step toward this recognition, and acknowledged the right to mount a resistance to foreign military occupation. The work of the conference must be continued.

5. Martin supported a timetable for withdrawing US troops.
'Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva Agreement.' [sustained applause]

Iraqi Sunni parties, as well as the Shiite fundamentalist bloc of Muqtada al-Sadr, have demanded that the US set a timetable for withdrawal. Some 120 Iraqi parliamentarians out of 275 called for it last year. The new parliament may well have a majority that supports it.

These five principles are not the only ones that can be extrapolated from Martin's sermon. They concern more tactics than over-arching strategy. Here are some principles of strategy that he mentioned:

6. It is necessary to understand the common people among the "enemy" if anything is to be accomplished:
'And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the ideologies of the Liberation Front, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.
They must see Americans as strange liberators.'

7. Concern to save US troops from creeping cynicism must be paramount:
'I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.'

In Iraq, too, virtually "none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved." Not weapons of mass destruction, not international terrorism, not Swedish style democracy, not social justice, are actually on the agenda of the present administration.

8. The initiative belongs to the US:
'Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and dealt death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.'

Likewise, in the Sunni Arab heartland, homes are being destroyed and culture subverted.

9. A revolution in American values away from consumer materialism and militarism is needed if we are not to go on having one Vietnam after another:
'The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality [applause], and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing "clergy and laymen concerned" committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy . . .

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin [applause], we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered . . .

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, "This is not just . . ."

A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.' [sustained applause]

10. Love and justice, not aggression and exploitation, hold the real hope for a peaceful and prosperous future:
'This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I'm not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: "Let us love one another (Yes), for love is God. (Yes) And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love. . . . If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us." Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day.'

Note that Martin recognized love as the principle that all the great religions saw as the "supreme unifying principle of life," including Islam. His religious universalism might be a starting point for Americans to rethink the Islamophobia that has become so widespread.

We cannot in any simplistic way extract a template from Martin's sermon that we can apply to Iraq today. We can, however, explore his wisdom for inspiration in how to go foward, end the quagmire, and make amends for the horrors of the way we have waged this illegal war of choice.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Text of Gore speech, January 16, 2006

Text of Gore speech, January 16, 2006

Published: January 16, 2006

Congressman Barr and I have disagreed many times over the years, but we have joined together today with thousands of our fellow citizens-Democrats and Republicans alike-to express our shared concern that America's Constitution is in grave danger.

In spite of our differences over ideology and politics, we are in strong agreement that the American values we hold most dear have been placed at serious risk by the unprecedented claims of the Administration to a truly breathtaking expansion of executive power.

As we begin this new year, the Executive Branch of our government has been caught eavesdropping on huge numbers of American citizens and has brazenly declared that it has the unilateral right to continue without regard to the established law enacted by Congress to prevent such abuses.

It is imperative that respect for the rule of law be restored.

So, many of us have come here to Constitution Hall to sound an alarm and call upon our fellow citizens to put aside partisan differences and join with us in demanding that our Constitution be defended and preserved.

It is appropriate that we make this appeal on the day our nation has set aside to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who challenged America to breathe new life into our oldest values by extending its promise to all our people.

On this particular Martin Luther King Day, it is especially important to recall that for the last several years of his life, Dr. King was illegally wiretapped-one of hundreds of thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government during this period.

The FBI privately called King the "most dangerous and effective negro leader in the country" and vowed to "take him off his pedestal." The government even attempted to destroy his marriage and blackmail him into committing suicide.

This campaign continued until Dr. King's murder. The discovery that the FBI conducted a long-running and extensive campaign of secret electronic surveillance designed to infiltrate the inner workings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and to learn the most intimate details of Dr. King's life, helped to convince Congress to enact restrictions on wiretapping.

The result was the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA), which was enacted expressly to ensure that foreign intelligence surveillance would be presented to an impartial judge to verify that there is a sufficient cause for the surveillance. I voted for that law during my first term in Congress and for almost thirty years the system has proven a workable and valued means of according a level of protection for private citizens, while permitting foreign surveillance to continue.

Yet, just one month ago, Americans awoke to the shocking news that in spite of this long settled law, the Executive Branch has been secretly spying on large numbers of Americans for the last four years and eavesdropping on "large volumes of telephone calls, e-mail messages, and other Internet traffic inside the United States." The New York Times reported that the President decided to launch this massive eavesdropping program "without search warrants or any new laws that would permit such domestic intelligence collection."

During the period when this eavesdropping was still secret, the President went out of his way to reassure the American people on more than one occasion that, of course, judicial permission is required for any government spying on American citizens and that, of course, these constitutional safeguards were still in place.

But surprisingly, the President's soothing statements turned out to be false. Moreover, as soon as this massive domestic spying program was uncovered by the press, the President not only confirmed that the story was true, but also declared that he has no intention of bringing these wholesale invasions of privacy to an end.

At present, we still have much to learn about the NSA's domestic surveillance. What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and persistently.

A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. Indeed, they recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution - our system of checks and balances - was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law. As John Adams said: "The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men."

An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution - an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free. In the words of James Madison, "the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

Thomas Paine, whose pamphlet, "On Common Sense" ignited the American Revolution, succinctly described America's alternative. Here, he said, we intended to make certain that "the law is king."

Vigilant adherence to the rule of law strengthens our democracy and strengthens America. It ensures that those who govern us operate within our constitutional structure, which means that our democratic institutions play their indispensable role in shaping policy and determining the direction of our nation. It means that the people of this nation ultimately determine its course and not executive officials operating in secret without constraint.

The rule of law makes us stronger by ensuring that decisions will be tested, studied, reviewed and examined through the processes of government that are designed to improve policy. And the knowledge that they will be reviewed prevents over-reaching and checks the accretion of power.

A commitment to openness, truthfulness and accountability also helps our country avoid many serious mistakes. Recently, for example, we learned from recently classified declassified documents that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized the tragic Vietnam war, was actually based on false information. We now know that the decision by Congress to authorize the Iraq War, 38 years later, was also based on false information. America would have been better off knowing the truth and avoiding both of these colossal mistakes in our history. Following the rule of law makes us safer, not more vulnerable.

The President and I agree on one thing. The threat from terrorism is all too real. There is simply no question that we continue to face new challenges in the wake of the attack on September 11th and that we must be ever-vigilant in protecting our citizens from harm.

Where we disagree is that we have to break the law or sacrifice our system of government to protect Americans from terrorism. In fact, doing so makes us weaker and more vulnerable.

Once violated, the rule of law is in danger. Unless stopped, lawlessness grows. The greater the power of the executive grows, the more difficult it becomes for the other branches to perform their constitutional roles. As the executive acts outside its constitutionally prescribed role and is able to control access to information that would expose its actions, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other branches to police it. Once that ability is lost, democracy itself is threatened and we become a government of men and not laws.

The President's men have minced words about America's laws. The Attorney General openly conceded that the "kind of surveillance" we now know they have been conducting requires a court order unless authorized by statute. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act self-evidently does not authorize what the NSA has been doing, and no one inside or outside the Administration claims that it does. Incredibly, the Administration claims instead that the surveillance was implicitly authorized when Congress voted to use force against those who attacked us on September 11th.

This argument just does not hold any water. Without getting into the legal intricacies, it faces a number of embarrassing facts. First, another admission by the Attorney General: he concedes that the Administration knew that the NSA project was prohibited by existing law and that they consulted with some members of Congress about changing the statute. Gonzalez says that they were told this probably would not be possible. So how can they now argue that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force somehow implicitly authorized it all along? Second, when the Authorization was being debated, the Administration did in fact seek to have language inserted in it that would have authorized them to use military force domestically - and the Congress did not agree. Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Jim McGovern, among others, made statements during the Authorization debate clearly restating that that Authorization did not operate domestically.

When President Bush failed to convince Congress to give him all the power he wanted when they passed the AUMF, he secretly assumed that power anyway, as if congressional authorization was a useless bother. But as Justice Frankfurter once wrote: "To find authority so explicitly withheld is not merely to disregard in a particular instance the clear will of Congress. It is to disrespect the whole legislative process and the constitutional division of authority between President and Congress."

This is precisely the "disrespect" for the law that the Supreme Court struck down in the steel seizure case.

It is this same disrespect for America's Constitution which has now brought our republic to the brink of a dangerous breach in the fabric of the Constitution. And the disrespect embodied in these apparent mass violations of the law is part of a larger pattern of seeming indifference to the Constitution that is deeply troubling to millions of Americans in both political parties.

For example, the President has also declared that he has a heretofore unrecognized inherent power to seize and imprison any American citizen that he alone determines to be a threat to our nation, and that, notwithstanding his American citizenship, the person imprisoned has no right to talk with a lawyer-even to argue that the President or his appointees have made a mistake and imprisoned the wrong person.

The President claims that he can imprison American citizens indefinitely for the rest of their lives without an arrest warrant, without notifying them about what charges have been filed against them, and without informing their families that they have been imprisoned.

At the same time, the Executive Branch has claimed a previously unrecognized authority to mistreat prisoners in its custody in ways that plainly constitute torture in a pattern that has now been documented in U.S. facilities located in several countries around the world.

Over 100 of these captives have reportedly died while being tortured by Executive Branch interrogators and many more have been broken and humiliated. In the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, investigators who documented the pattern of torture estimated that more than 90 percent of the victims were innocent of any charges.

This shameful exercise of power overturns a set of principles that our nation has observed since General Washington first enunciated them during our Revolutionary War and has been observed by every president since then - until now. These practices violate the Geneva Conventions and the International Convention Against Torture, not to mention our own laws against torture.

The President has also claimed that he has the authority to kidnap individuals in foreign countries and deliver them for imprisonment and interrogation on our behalf by autocratic regimes in nations that are infamous for the cruelty of their techniques for torture.

Some of our traditional allies have been shocked by these new practices on the part of our nation. The British Ambassador to Uzbekistan - one of those nations with the worst reputations for torture in its prisons - registered a complaint to his home office about the senselessness and cruelty of the new U.S. practice: "This material is useless - we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful."

Can it be true that any president really has such powers under our Constitution? If the answer is "yes" then under the theory by which these acts are committed, are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited? If the President has the inherent authority to eavesdrop, imprison citizens on his own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can't he do?

The Dean of Yale Law School, Harold Koh, said after analyzing the Executive Branch's claims of these previously unrecognized powers: "If the President has commander-in-chief power to commit torture, he has the power to commit genocide, to sanction slavery, to promote apartheid, to license summary execution."

The fact that our normal safeguards have thus far failed to contain this unprecedented expansion of executive power is deeply troubling. This failure is due in part to the fact that the Executive Branch has followed a determined strategy of obfuscating, delaying, withholding information, appearing to yield but then refusing to do so and dissembling in order to frustrate the efforts of the legislative and judicial branches to restore our constitutional balance.

For example, after appearing to support legislation sponsored by John McCain to stop the continuation of torture, the President declared in the act of signing the bill that he reserved the right not to comply with it.

Similarly, the Executive Branch claimed that it could unilaterally imprison American citizens without giving them access to review by any tribunal. The Supreme Court disagreed, but the President engaged in legal maneuvers designed to prevent the Court from providing meaningful content to the rights of its citizens.

A conservative jurist on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that the Executive Branch's handling of one such case seemed to involve the sudden abandonment of principle "at substantial cost to the government's credibility before the courts."

As a result of its unprecedented claim of new unilateral power, the Executive Branch has now put our constitutional design at grave risk. The stakes for America's representative democracy are far higher than has been generally recognized.

These claims must be rejected and a healthy balance of power restored to our Republic. Otherwise, the fundamental nature of our democracy may well undergo a radical transformation.

For more than two centuries, America's freedoms have been preserved in part by our founders' wise decision to separate the aggregate power of our government into three co-equal branches, each of which serves to check and balance the power of the other two.

On more than a few occasions, the dynamic interaction among all three branches has resulted in collisions and temporary impasses that create what are invariably labeled "constitutional crises." These crises have often been dangerous and uncertain times for our Republic. But in each such case so far, we have found a resolution of the crisis by renewing our common agreement to live under the rule of law.

The principle alternative to democracy throughout history has been the consolidation of virtually all state power in the hands of a single strongman or small group who together exercise that power without the informed consent of the governed.

It was in revolt against just such a regime, after all, that America was founded. When Lincoln declared at the time of our greatest crisis that the ultimate question being decided in the Civil War was "whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure," he was not only saving our union but also was recognizing the fact that democracies are rare in history. And when they fail, as did Athens and the Roman Republic upon whose designs our founders drew heavily, what emerges in their place is another strongman regime.

There have of course been other periods of American history when the Executive Branch claimed new powers that were later seen as excessive and mistaken. Our second president, John Adams, passed the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts and sought to silence and imprison critics and political opponents.

When his successor, Thomas Jefferson, eliminated the abuses he said: "[The essential principles of our Government] form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation... [S]hould we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty and safety."

Our greatest President, Abraham Lincoln, suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War. Some of the worst abuses prior to those of the current administration were committed by President Wilson during and after WWI with the notorious Red Scare and Palmer Raids. The internment of Japanese Americans during WWII marked a low point for the respect of individual rights at the hands of the executive. And, during the Vietnam War, the notorious COINTELPRO program was part and parcel of the abuses experienced by Dr. King and thousands of others.

But in each of these cases, when the conflict and turmoil subsided, the country recovered its equilibrium and absorbed the lessons learned in a recurring cycle of excess and regret.

There are reasons for concern this time around that conditions may be changing and that the cycle may not repeat itself. For one thing, we have for decades been witnessing the slow and steady accumulation of presidential power. In a global environment of nuclear weapons and cold war tensions, Congress and the American people accepted ever enlarging spheres of presidential initiative to conduct intelligence and counter intelligence activities and to allocate our military forces on the global stage. When military force has been used as an instrument of foreign policy or in response to humanitarian demands, it has almost always been as the result of presidential initiative and leadership. As Justice Frankfurter wrote in the Steel Seizure Case, "The accretion of dangerous power does not come in a day. It does come, however slowly, from the generative force of unchecked disregard of the restrictions that fence in even the most disinterested assertion of authority."

A second reason to believe we may be experiencing something new is that we are told by the Administration that the war footing upon which he has tried to place the country is going to "last for the rest of our lives." So we are told that the conditions of national threat that have been used by other Presidents to justify arrogations of power will persist in near perpetuity.

Third, we need to be aware of the advances in eavesdropping and surveillance technologies with their capacity to sweep up and analyze enormous quantities of information and to mine it for intelligence. This adds significant vulnerability to the privacy and freedom of enormous numbers of innocent people at the same time as the potential power of those technologies. These techologies have the potential for shifting the balance of power between the apparatus of the state and the freedom of the individual in ways both subtle and profound.

Don't misunderstand me: the threat of additional terror strikes is all too real and their concerted efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction does create a real imperative to exercise the powers of the Executive Branch with swiftness and agility. Moreover, there is in fact an inherent power that is conferred by the Constitution to the President to take unilateral action to protect the nation from a sudden and immediate threat, but it is simply not possible to precisely define in legalistic terms exactly when that power is appropriate and when it is not.

But the existence of that inherent power cannot be used to justify a gross and excessive power grab lasting for years that produces a serious imbalance in the relationship between the executive and the other two branches of government.

There is a final reason to worry that we may be experiencing something more than just another cycle of overreach and regret. This Administration has come to power in the thrall of a legal theory that aims to convince us that this excessive concentration of presidential authority is exactly what our Constitution intended.

This legal theory, which its proponents call the theory of the unitary executive but which is more accurately described as the unilateral executive, threatens to expand the president's powers until the contours of the constitution that the Framers actually gave us become obliterated beyond all recognition. Under this theory, the President's authority when acting as Commander-in-Chief or when making foreign policy cannot be reviewed by the judiciary or checked by Congress. President Bush has pushed the implications of this idea to its maximum by continually stressing his role as Commander-in-Chief, invoking it has frequently as he can, conflating it with his other roles, domestic and foreign. When added to the idea that we have entered a perpetual state of war, the implications of this theory stretch quite literally as far into the future as we can imagine.

This effort to rework America's carefully balanced constitutional design into a lopsided structure dominated by an all powerful Executive Branch with a subservient Congress and judiciary is-ironically-accompanied by an effort by the same administration to rework America's foreign policy from one that is based primarily on U.S. moral authority into one that is based on a misguided and self-defeating effort to establish dominance in the world.

The common denominator seems to be based on an instinct to intimidate and control.

This same pattern has characterized the effort to silence dissenting views within the Executive Branch, to censor information that may be inconsistent with its stated ideological goals, and to demand conformity from all Executive Branch employees.

For example, CIA analysts who strongly disagreed with the White House assertion that Osama bin Laden was linked to Saddam Hussein found themselves under pressure at work and became fearful of losing promotions and salary increases.

Ironically, that is exactly what happened to FBI officials in the 1960s who disagreed with J. Edgar Hoover's view that Dr. King was closely connected to Communists. The head of the FBI's domestic intelligence division said that his effort to tell the truth about King's innocence of the charge resulted in he and his colleagues becoming isolated and pressured. "It was evident that we had to change our ways or we would all be out on the street.... The men and I discussed how to get out of trouble. To be in trouble with Mr. Hoover was a serious matter. These men were trying to buy homes, mortgages on homes, children in school. They lived in fear of getting transferred, losing money on their homes, as they usually did. ... so they wanted another memorandum written to get us out of the trouble that we were in."

The Constitution's framers understood this dilemma as well, as Alexander Hamilton put it, "a power over a man's support is a power over his will." (Federalist No. 73)

Soon, there was no more difference of opinion within the FBI. The false accusation became the unanimous view. In exactly the same way, George Tenet's CIA eventually joined in endorsing a manifestly false view that there was a linkage between al Qaeda and the government of Iraq.

In the words of George Orwell: "We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield."

Whenever power is unchecked and unaccountable it almost inevitably leads to mistakes and abuses. In the absence of rigorous accountability, incompetence flourishes. Dishonesty is encouraged and rewarded.

Last week, for example, Vice President Cheney attempted to defend the Administration's eavesdropping on American citizens by saying that if it had conducted this program prior to 9/11, they would have found out the names of some of the hijackers.

Tragically, he apparently still doesn't know that the Administration did in fact have the names of at least 2 of the hijackers well before 9/11 and had available to them information that could have easily led to the identification of most of the other hijackers. And yet, because of incompetence in the handling of this information, it was never used to protect the American people.

It is often the case that an Executive Branch beguiled by the pursuit of unchecked power responds to its own mistakes by reflexively proposing that it be given still more power. Often, the request itself it used to mask accountability for mistakes in the use of power it already has.

Moreover, if the pattern of practice begun by this Administration is not challenged, it may well become a permanent part of the American system. Many conservatives have pointed out that granting unchecked power to this President means that the next President will have unchecked power as well. And the next President may be someone whose values and belief you do not trust. And this is why Republicans as well as Democrats should be concerned with what this President has done. If this President's attempt to dramatically expand executive power goes unquestioned, our constitutional design of checks and balances will be lost. And the next President or some future President will be able, in the name of national security, to restrict our liberties in a way the framers never would have thought possible.

The same instinct to expand its power and to establish dominance characterizes the relationship between this Administration and the courts and the Congress.

In a properly functioning system, the Judicial Branch would serve as the constitutional umpire to ensure that the branches of government observed their proper spheres of authority, observed civil liberties and adhered to the rule of law. Unfortunately, the unilateral executive has tried hard to thwart the ability of the judiciary to call balls and strikes by keeping controversies out of its hands - notably those challenging its ability to detain individuals without legal process -- by appointing judges who will be deferential to its exercise of power and by its support of assaults on the independence of the third branch.

The President's decision to ignore FISA was a direct assault on the power of the judges who sit on that court. Congress established the FISA court precisely to be a check on executive power to wiretap. Yet, to ensure that the court could not function as a check on executive power, the President simply did not take matters to it and did not let the court know that it was being bypassed.

The President's judicial appointments are clearly designed to ensure that the courts will not serve as an effective check on executive power. As we have all learned, Judge Alito is a longtime supporter of a powerful executive - a supporter of the so-called unitary executive, which is more properly called the unilateral executive. Whether you support his confirmation or not - and I do not - we must all agree that he will not vote as an effective check on the expansion of executive power. Likewise, Chief Justice Roberts has made plain his deference to the expansion of executive power through his support of judicial deference to executive agency rulemaking.

And the Administration has supported the assault on judicial independence that has been conducted largely in Congress. That assault includes a threat by the Republican majority in the Senate to permanently change the rules to eliminate the right of the minority to engage in extended debate of the President's judicial nominees. The assault has extended to legislative efforts to curtail the jurisdiction of courts in matters ranging from habeas corpus to the pledge of allegiance. In short, the Administration has demonstrated its contempt for the judicial role and sought to evade judicial review of its actions at every turn.

But the most serious damage has been done to the legislative branch. The sharp decline of congressional power and autonomy in recent years has been almost as shocking as the efforts by the Executive Branch to attain a massive expansion of its power.

I was elected to Congress in 1976 and served eight years in the house, 8 years in the Senate and presided over the Senate for 8 years as Vice President. As a young man, I saw the Congress first hand as the son of a Senator. My father was elected to Congress in 1938, 10 years before I was born, and left the Senate in 1971.

The Congress we have today is unrecognizable compared to the one in which my father served. There are many distinguished Senators and Congressmen serving today. I am honored that some of them are here in this hall. But the legislative branch of government under its current leadership now operates as if it is entirely subservient to the Executive Branch.

Moreover, too many Members of the House and Senate now feel compelled to spend a majority of their time not in thoughtful debate of the issues, but raising money to purchase 30 second TV commercials.

There have now been two or three generations of congressmen who don't really know what an oversight hearing is. In the 70's and 80's, the oversight hearings in which my colleagues and I participated held the feet of the Executive Branch to the fire - no matter which party was in power. Yet oversight is almost unknown in the Congress today.

The role of authorization committees has declined into insignificance. The 13 annual appropriation bills are hardly ever actually passed anymore. Everything is lumped into a single giant measure that is not even available for Members of Congress to read before they vote on it.

Members of the minority party are now routinely excluded from conference committees, and amendments are routinely not allowed during floor consideration of legislation.

In the United States Senate, which used to pride itself on being the "greatest deliberative body in the world," meaningful debate is now a rarity. Even on the eve of the fateful vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq, Senator Robert Byrd famously asked: "Why is this chamber empty?"

In the House of Representatives, the number who face a genuinely competitive election contest every two years is typically less than a dozen out of 435.

And too many incumbents have come to believe that the key to continued access to the money for re-election is to stay on the good side of those who have the money to give; and, in the case of the majority party, the whole process is largely controlled by the incumbent president and his political organization.

So the willingness of Congress to challenge the Administration is further limited when the same party controls both Congress and the Executive Branch.

The Executive Branch, time and again, has co-opted Congress' role, and often Congress has been a willing accomplice in the surrender of its own power.

Look for example at the Congressional role in "overseeing" this massive four year eavesdropping campaign that on its face seemed so clearly to violate the Bill of Rights. The President says he informed Congress, but what he really means is that he talked with the chairman and ranking member of the House and Senate intelligence committees and the top leaders of the House and Senate. This small group, in turn, claimed that they were not given the full facts, though at least one of the intelligence committee leaders handwrote a letter of concern to VP Cheney and placed a copy in his own safe.

Though I sympathize with the awkward position in which these men and women were placed, I cannot disagree with the Liberty Coalition when it says that Democrats as well as Republicans in the Congress must share the blame for not taking action to protest and seek to prevent what they consider a grossly unconstitutional program.

Moreover, in the Congress as a whole-both House and Senate-the enhanced role of money in the re-election process, coupled with the sharply diminished role for reasoned deliberation and debate, has produced an atmosphere conducive to pervasive institutionalized corruption.

The Abramoff scandal is but the tip of a giant iceberg that threatens the integrity of the entire legislative branch of government.

It is the pitiful state of our legislative branch which primarily explains the failure of our vaunted checks and balances to prevent the dangerous overreach by our Executive Branch which now threatens a radical transformation of the American system.

I call upon Democratic and Republican members of Congress today to uphold your oath of office and defend the Constitution. Stop going along to get along. Start acting like the independent and co-equal branch of government you're supposed to be.

But there is yet another Constitutional player whose pulse must be taken and whose role must be examined in order to understand the dangerous imbalance that has emerged with the efforts by the Executive Branch to dominate our constitutional system.

We the people are-collectively-still the key to the survival of America's democracy. We-as Lincoln put it, "[e]ven we here"-must examine our own role as citizens in allowing and not preventing the shocking decay and degradation of our democracy.

Thomas Jefferson said: "An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will."

The revolutionary departure on which the idea of America was based was the audacious belief that people can govern themselves and responsibly exercise the ultimate authority in self-government. This insight proceeded inevitably from the bedrock principle articulated by the Enlightenment philosopher John Locke: "All just power is derived from the consent of the governed."

The intricate and carefully balanced constitutional system that is now in such danger was created with the full and widespread participation of the population as a whole. The Federalist Papers were, back in the day, widely-read newspaper essays, and they represented only one of twenty-four series of essays that crowded the vibrant marketplace of ideas in which farmers and shopkeepers recapitulated the debates that played out so fruitfully in Philadelphia.

Indeed, when the Convention had done its best, it was the people - in their various States - that refused to confirm the result until, at their insistence, the Bill of Rights was made integral to the document sent forward for ratification.

And it is "We the people" who must now find once again the ability we once had to play an integral role in saving our Constitution.

And here there is cause for both concern and great hope. The age of printed pamphlets and political essays has long since been replaced by television - a distracting and absorbing medium which sees determined to entertain and sell more than it informs and educates.

Lincoln's memorable call during the Civil War is applicable in a new way to our dilemma today: "We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country."

Forty years have passed since the majority of Americans adopted television as their principal source of information. Its dominance has become so extensive that virtually all significant political communication now takes place within the confines of flickering 30-second television advertisements.

And the political economy supported by these short but expensive television ads is as different from the vibrant politics of America's first century as those politics were different from the feudalism which thrived on the ignorance of the masses of people in the Dark Ages.

The constricted role of ideas in the American political system today has encouraged efforts by the Executive Branch to control the flow of information as a means of controlling the outcome of important decisions that still lie in the hands of the people.

The Administration vigorously asserts its power to maintain the secrecy of its operations. After all, the other branches can't check an abuse of power if they don't know it is happening.

For example, when the Administration was attempting to persuade Congress to enact the Medicare prescription drug benefit, many in the House and Senate raised concerns about the cost and design of the program. But, rather than engaging in open debate on the basis of factual data, the Administration withheld facts and prevented the Congress from hearing testimony that it sought from the principal administration expert who had compiled information showing in advance of the vote that indeed the true cost estimates were far higher than the numbers given to Congress by the President.

Deprived of that information, and believing the false numbers given to it instead, the Congress approved the program. Tragically, the entire initiative is now collapsing- all over the country- with the Administration making an appeal just this weekend to major insurance companies to volunteer to bail it out.

To take another example, scientific warnings about the catastrophic consequences of unchecked global warming were censored by a political appointee in the White House who had no scientific training. And today one of the leading scientific experts on global warming in NASA has been ordered not to talk to members of the press and to keep a careful log of everyone he meets with so that the Executive Branch can monitor and control his discussions of global warming.

One of the other ways the Administration has tried to control the flow of information is by consistently resorting to the language and politics of fear in order to short-circuit the debate and drive its agenda forward without regard to the evidence or the public interest. As President Eisenhower said, "Any who act as if freedom's defenses are to be found in suppression and suspicion and fear confess a doctrine that is alien to America."

Fear drives out reason. Fear suppresses the politics of discourse and opens the door to the politics of destruction. Justice Brandeis once wrote: "Men feared witches and burnt women."

The founders of our country faced dire threats. If they failed in their endeavors, they would have been hung as traitors. The very existence of our country was at risk.

Yet, in the teeth of those dangers, they insisted on establishing the Bill of Rights.

Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol? Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of missiles poised to be launched against us and annihilate our country at a moment's notice? Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march-when our fathers fought and won two World Wars simultaneously?

It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it is up to us to do the same.

We have a duty as Americans to defend our citizens' right not only to life but also to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is therefore vital in our current circumstances that immediate steps be taken to safeguard our Constitution against the present danger posed by the intrusive overreaching on the part of the Executive Branch and the President's apparent belief that he need not live under the rule of law.

I endorse the words of Bob Barr, when he said, "The President has dared the American people to do something about it. For the sake of the Constitution, I hope they will."

A special counsel should immediately be appointed by the Attorney General to remedy the obvious conflict of interest that prevents him from investigating what many believe are serious violations of law by the President. We have had a fresh demonstration of how an independent investigation by a special counsel with integrity can rebuild confidence in our system of justice. Patrick Fitzgerald has, by all accounts, shown neither fear nor favor in pursuing allegations that the Executive Branch has violated other laws.

Republican as well as Democratic members of Congress should support the bipartisan call of the Liberty Coalition for the appointment of a special counsel to pursue the criminal issues raised by warrantless wiretapping of Americans by the President.

Second, new whistleblower protections should immediately be established for members of the Executive Branch who report evidence of wrongdoing -- especially where it involves the abuse of Executive Branch authority in the sensitive areas of national security.

Third, both Houses of Congress should hold comprehensive-and not just superficial-hearings into these serious allegations of criminal behavior on the part of the President. And, they should follow the evidence wherever it leads.

Fourth, the extensive new powers requested by the Executive Branch in its proposal to extend and enlarge the Patriot Act should, under no circumstances be granted, unless and until there are adequate and enforceable safeguards to protect the Constitution and the rights of the American people against the kinds of abuses that have so recently been revealed.

Fifth, any telecommunications company that has provided the government with access to private information concerning the communications of Americans without a proper warrant should immediately cease and desist their complicity in this apparently illegal invasion of the privacy of American citizens.

Freedom of communication is an essential prerequisite for the restoration of the health of our democracy.

It is particularly important that the freedom of the Internet be protected against either the encroachment of government or the efforts at control by large media conglomerates. The future of our democracy depends on it.

I mentioned that along with cause for concern, there is reason for hope. As I stand here today, I am filled with optimism that America is on the eve of a golden age in which the vitality of our democracy will be re-established and will flourish more vibrantly than ever. Indeed I can feel it in this hall.

As Dr. King once said, "Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us."