Thursday, June 29, 2006

Al Gore 3.0

Al Gore 3.0
The man who won the presidency in 2000 is looser and more outspoken than ever. Is his global-warming movie a warm-up for a third run at the White House? (From the July 13-27, 2006 issue of ROLLING STONE) BY WILL DANA

Page 1 2 3
See images of planetwide damage caused by global warming and share your thoughts here.
It is probably not fair to say that global warming excites Al Gore, but get him going on the subject and he becomes possessed by the spirit of a Holy Rolling preacher, swelling and quaking in his chair, hitting high notes, speaking in tongues. We are meeting in a cramped waiting room outside two TV studios in midtown Manhattan. Gore is spending the afternoon here, knocking off a dozen or so interviews with broadcast outlets across the country, one after the other, intimations of the apocalypse sandwiched between the local-anchor happy talk and car-dealership ads in markets like Houston and Kansas City.

Gore is in the middle of an exhaustive campaign to promote An Inconvenient Truth, a surprise hit that transposes to film a lecture about global warming that he has given more than a thousand times in the past six years. (An accompanying book of the same title is climbing the best-seller lists.) But while Gore's message may be grim -- in a nutshell, a warming climate threatens civilization, and if the human race wants to survive, we've got about ten years to start turning things around -- Gore himself seems funnier, warmer and more relaxed than he ever did during his political years. You used to think: I wouldn't mind taking a class from this guy. Nowadays, you wouldn't mind having a beer with him. His recent appearance on Saturday Night Live, when he addressed the nation as president and boasted that gas prices were so low that the government had to bail out the big oil companies, was the single funniest moment on the show all season.

Gore's renewed visibility has only fueled speculation that this is all part of a carefully orchestrated plan to launch his third bid for the presidency. Although Gore refuses to rule it out, he suggests that he's having too much fun, and is too engaged in his various business interests, to subject himself to the endless slog of political life.

It's not unreasonable to hope that Gore runs, but the dream of a Gore candidacy also underscores the pathetic core of today's Democratic Party: It has become so unusual to hear a mainstream Democratic politician speak from a sense of conviction that when one does, people practically start begging him to run....

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

American Dream' turning into a nightmare

American Dream' turning into a nightmare
Jun. 27, 2006. 01:00 AM
Toronto Star

That American CEOs last year earned 262 times the average pay of their own workers is no big deal. It's always possible that some of them actually earned all that money, or at least some of it.
What is, surely, something of a big deal is that according to Corporate Library in Washington, the chief executives of the 11 largest companies in the United States earned a combined $865 million over the past two years at the same time as their shareholders lost $640 million.
What, potentially, is an even bigger deal, is that one of the main activities of American executives these days is figuring out ways to cut the pay of their workers while at the same time hanging on to all they have.
Recently, General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner declared that it was time for the government to become "more proactive on health care."
What Wagoner meant was that Washington should take over much, if not all, of GM's health-care costs, which starts at $1,500 for each car the company makes and is a major reason it's close to bankruptcy....

One Percent Madness

One Percent Madness
By Robert Parry
Consortium News
June 27, 2006

Author Ron Suskind’s account of Dick Cheney’s “one percent doctrine” – the idea that if a terrorist threat is deemed even one percent likely the United States must act as if it’s a certainty – supplies a missing link in understanding the evolving madness of the Bush administration’s national security strategy.

A one-percent risk threshold is so low that it negates any serious analysis that seeks to calibrate dangers within the complex array of possibilities that exist in the real world. In effect, it means that any potential threat that crosses the administration’s line of sight will exceed one percent and thus must be treated as a clear and present danger.

The fallacy of the doctrine is that pursuing one-percent threats like certainties is not just a case of choosing to be safe rather than sorry. Instead, it can suck the pursuer into a swollen river of other dangers, leading to a cascading torrent of adverse consequences far more dangerous than the original worry.

For instance, George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq may have eliminated the remote possibility that Saddam Hussein would someday develop a nuclear bomb and share it with al-Qaeda. (Some intelligence analysts put that scenario at less than one percent, although Bush called it a “gathering danger.”)

But the U.S. military invasion of Iraq had the unintended consequence of bolstering the conviction in North Korea and Iran that having the bomb may be the only way to fend off the United States.

The unending scenes of bloodshed in Iraq also have inflamed anti-American passions in other Middle East countries, including Pakistan which already possesses nuclear weapons and is governed by fragile pro-U.S. dictator Pervez Musharraf.

So, while eradicating one unlikely nightmare scenario – Hussein’s mushroom cloud in the hands of Osama bin-Laden – the Bush administration has increased the chances that the other two points on Bush’s “axis of evil,” North Korea and Iran, will push for nuclear weapons and that Pakistan’s Islamic fundamentalists, already closely allied with Osama bin-Laden, will oust Musharraf and gain control of existing nuclear weapons.

In other words, eliminating one “one-percent risk” may have created several other dangers which carry odds of catastrophe far higher than one percent. Bush now must decide whether to swat at these new one-plus-percent risks, which, in turn, could lead to even greater dangers....

Monday, June 26, 2006

Bush Is Not Incompetent!

Bush Is Not Incompetent!
By George Lakoff, Marc Ettlinger and Sam Ferguson
The Rockridge Institute

Monday 26 June 2006

Progressives have fallen into a trap. Emboldened by President Bush's plummeting approval ratings, progressives increasingly point to Bush's "failures" and label him and his administration as incompetent. For example, Nancy Pelosi said "The situation in Iraq and the reckless economic policies in the United States speak to one issue for me, and that is the competence of our leader." Self-satisfying as this criticism may be, it misses the bigger point. Bush's disasters - Katrina, the Iraq War, the budget deficit - are not so much a testament to his incompetence or a failure of execution. Rather, they are the natural, even inevitable result of his conservative governing philosophy. It is conservatism itself, carried out according to plan, that is at fault. Bush will not be running again, but other conservatives will. His governing philosophy is theirs as well. We should be putting the onus where it belongs, on all conservative office holders and candidates who would lead us off the same cliff.

To Bush's base, his bumbling folksiness is part of his charm - it fosters conservative populism. Bush plays up this image by proudly stating his lack of interest in reading and current events, his fondness for naps and vacations and his self-deprecating jokes. This image causes the opposition to underestimate his capacities - disregarding him as a complete idiot - and deflects criticism of his conservative allies. If incompetence is the problem, it's all about Bush. But, if conservatism is the problem, it is about a set of ideas, a movement and its many adherents.

The idea that Bush is incompetent is a curious one. Consider the following (incomplete) list of major initiatives the Bush administration, with a loyal conservative Congress, has accomplished:

Centralizing power within the executive branch to an unprecedented degree
Starting two major wars, one started with questionable intelligence and in a manner with which the military disagreed
Placing on the Supreme Court two far-right justices, and stacking the lower federal courts with many more
Cutting taxes during wartime, an unprecedented event
Passing a number of controversial bills such as the PATRIOT Act, the No Child Left Behind Act, the Medicare Drug bill, the Bankruptcy bill and a number of massive tax cuts
Rolling back and refusing to enforce a host of basic regulatory protections
Appointing industry officials to oversee regulatory agencies
Establishing a greater role for religion through faith-based initiatives
Passing Orwellian-titled legislation assaulting the environment - "The Healthy Forests Act" and the "Clear Skies Initiative" - to deforest public lands, and put more pollution in our skies
Winning re-election and solidifying his party's grip on Congress
These aren't signs of incompetence. As should be painfully clear, the Bush administration has been overwhelmingly competent in advancing its conservative vision. It has been all too effective in achieving its goals by determinedly pursuing a conservative philosophy.

It's not Bush the man who has been so harmful, it's the conservative agenda.

The Conservative Agenda

Conservative philosophy has three fundamental tenets: individual initiative, that is, government's positive role in people's lives outside of the military and police should be minimized; the President is the moral authority; and free markets are enough to foster freedom and opportunity.

The conservative vision for government is to shrink it - to "starve the beast," in Conservative Grover Norquist's words. The conservative tagline for this rationale is that "you can spend your money better than the government can." Social programs are considered unnecessary or "discretionary" since the primary role of government is to defend the country's border and police its interior. Stewardship of the commons, such as allocation of healthcare or energy policy, is left to people's own initiative within the free market. Where profits cannot be made - conservation, healthcare for the poor - charity is meant to replace justice and the government should not be involved.

Given this philosophy, then, is it any wonder that the government wasn't there for the residents of Louisiana and Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina? Conservative philosophy places emphasis on the individual acting alone, independent of anything the government could provide. Some conservative Sunday morning talk show guests suggested that those who chose to live in New Orleans accepted the risk of a devastating hurricane, the implication being that they thus forfeited any entitlement to government assistance. If the people of New Orleans suffered, it was because of their own actions, their own choices and their own lack of preparedness. Bush couldn't have failed if he bore no responsibility.

The response to Hurricane Katrina - rather, the lack of response - was what one should expect from a philosophy that espouses that the government can have no positive role in its citizen's lives. This response was not about Bush's incompetence, it was a conservative, shrink-government response to a natural disaster.

Another failure of this administration during the Katrina fiasco was its wholesale disregard of the numerous and serious hurricane warnings. But this failure was a natural outgrowth of the conservative insistence on denying the validity of global warming, not ineptitude. Conservatives continue to deny the validity of global warming, because it runs contrary to their moral system. Recognizing global warming would call for environmental regulation and governmental efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Regulation is a perceived interference with the free-market, Conservatives' golden calf. So, the predictions of imminent hurricanes - based on recognizing global warming - were not heeded. Conservative free market convictions trumped the hurricane warnings.

Our budget deficit is not the result of incompetent fiscal management. It too is an outgrowth of conservative philosophy. What better way than massive deficits to rid social programs of their funding?

In Iraq, we also see the impact of philosophy as much as a failure of execution.

The idea for the war itself was born out of deep conservative convictions about the nature and capacity of US military force. Among the Project for a New American Century's statement of principles (signed in 1997 by a who's who of the architects of the Iraq war - Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Zalmay Khalilzad, I. Lewis Libby among others) are four critical points:

We need to increase defense spending significantly if we are to carry out our global responsibilities today and modernize our armed forces for the future.
We need to strengthen our ties to democratic allies and to challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values.
We need to promote the cause of political and economic freedom abroad.
We need to accept responsibility for America's unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.
Implicit in these ideas is that the United States military can spread democracy through the barrel of a gun. Our military might and power can be a force for good.

It also indicates that the real motive behind the Iraq war wasn't to stop Iraq's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, but was a test of neoconservative theory that the US military could reshape Middle East geo-politics. The manipulation and disregard of intelligence to sell the war was not incompetence, it was the product of a conservative agenda.

Unfortunately, this theory exalts a hubristic vision over the lessons of history. It neglects the realization that there is a limit to a foreign army's ability to shape foreign politics for the good. Our military involvement in Vietnam, Lebanon, the Philippines, Cuba (prior to Castro) and Panama, or European imperialist endeavors around the globe should have taught us this lesson. Democracy needs to be an organic, homegrown movement, as it was in this country. If we believe so deeply in our ideals, they will speak for themselves and inspire others.

During the debate over Iraq, the conservative belief in the unquestioned authority and moral leadership of the President helped shape public support. We see this deference to the President constantly: when Conservatives call those questioning the President's military decisions "unpatriotic"; when Conservatives defend the executive branch's use of domestic spying in the war on terror; when Bush simply refers to himself as the "decider." "I support our President" was a common justification of assent to the Iraq policy.

Additionally, as the implementer of the neoconservative vision and an unquestioned moral authority, our President felt he had no burden to forge international consensus or listen to the critiques of our allies. "You're with us, or you're against us," he proclaimed after 9/11.

Much criticism continues to be launched against this administration for ineptitude in its reconstruction efforts. Tragically, it is here too that the administration's actions have been shaped less by ineptitude than by deeply held conservative convictions about the role of government.

As noted above, Conservatives believe that government's role is limited to security and maintaining a free market. Given this conviction, it's no accident that administration policies have focused almost exclusively on the training of Iraqi police, and US access to the newly free Iraqi market - the invisible hand of the market will take care of the rest. Indeed, George Packer has recently reported that the reconstruction effort in Iraq is nearing its end ("The Lessons of Tal Affar," The New Yorker, April 10th, 2006). Iraqis must find ways to rebuild themselves, and the free market we have constructed for them is supposed to do this. This is not ineptitude. This is the result of deep convictions over the nature of freedom and the responsibilities of governments to their people.

Finally, many of the miscalculations are the result of a conservative analytic focus on narrow causes and effects, rather than mere incompetence. Evidence for this focus can be seen in conservative domestic policies: Crime policy is based on punishing the criminals, independent of any effort to remedy the larger social issues that cause crime; immigration policy focuses on border issues and the immigrants, and ignores the effects of international and domestic economic policy on population migration; environmental policy is based on what profits there are to be gained or lost today, without attention paid to what the immeasurable long-term costs will be to the shared resource of our environment; education policy, in the form of vouchers, ignores the devastating effects that dismantling the public school system will have on our whole society.

Is it any surprise that the systemic impacts of the Iraq invasion were not part of the conservative moral or strategic calculus used in pursuing the war?

The conservative war rhetoric focused narrowly on ousting Saddam - he was an evil dictator, and evil cannot be tolerated, period. The moral implications of unleashing social chaos and collateral damage in addition to the lessons of history were not relevant concerns.

As a consequence, we expected to be greeted as liberators. The conservative plan failed to appreciate the complexities of the situation that would have called for broader contingency planning. It lacked an analysis of what else would happen in Iraq and the Middle East as a result of ousting the Hussein Government, such as an Iranian push to obtain nuclear weapons.

Joe Biden recently said, "if I had known the president was going to be this incompetent in his administration, I would not have given him the authority [to go to war]." Had Bush actually been incompetent, he would have never been able to lead us to war in Iraq. Had Bush been incompetent, he would not have been able to ram through hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts. Had Bush been incompetent, he would have been blocked from stacking the courts with right-wing judges. Incompetence, on reflection, might have actually been better for the country.

Hidden Successes

Perhaps the biggest irony of the Bush-is-incompetent frame is that these "failures" - Iraq, Katrina and the budget deficit - have been successes in terms of advancing the conservative agenda.

One of the goals of Conservatives is to keep people from relying on the federal government. Under Bush, FEMA was reorganized to no longer be a first responder in major natural disasters, but to provide support for local agencies. This led to the disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina. Now citizens, as well as local and state governments, have become distrustful of the federal government's capacity to help ordinary citizens. Though Bush's popularity may have suffered, enhancing the perception of federal government as inept turned out to be a conservative victory.

Conservatives also strive to get rid of protective agencies and social programs. The deficit Bush created through irresponsible tax cuts and a costly war in Iraq will require drastic budget cuts to remedy. Those cuts, conservatives know, won't come from military spending, particularly when they raise the constant specter of war. Instead, the cuts will be from what Conservatives have begun to call "non-military, discretionary spending;" that is, the programs that contribute to the common good like the FDA, EPA, FCC, FEMA, OSHA and the NLRB. Yet another success for the conservative agenda.

Both Iraq and Katrina have enriched the coffers of the conservative corporate elite, thus further advancing the conservative agenda. Halliburton, Lockhead Martin and US oil companies have enjoyed huge profit margins in the last six years. Taking Iraq's oil production off-line in the face of rising international demand meant prices would rise, making the oil inventories of Exxon and other firms that much more valuable, leading to record profits. The destruction wrought by Katrina and Iraq meant billions in reconstruction contracts. The war in Iraq (and the war in Afghanistan) meant billions in military equipment contracts. Was there any doubt where those contracts would go? Chalk up another success for Bush's conservative agenda.

Bush also used Katrina as an opportunity to suspend the environmental and labor protection laws that Conservatives despise so much. In the wake of Katrina, environmental standards for oil refineries were temporarily suspended to increase production. Labor laws are being thwarted to drive down the cost of reconstruction efforts. So, amidst these "disasters," Conservatives win again.

Where most Americans see failure in Iraq - George Miller recently called Iraq a "blunder of historic proportions" - conservative militarists are seeing many successes. Conservatives stress the importance of our military - our national pride and worth is expressed through its power and influence. Permanent bases are being constructed as planned in Iraq, and America has shown the rest of the world that we can and will preemptively strike with little provocation. They succeeded in a mobilization of our military forces based on ideological pretenses to impact foreign policy. The war has struck fear in other nations with a hostile show of American power. The conservatives have succeeded in strengthening what they perceive to be the locus of the national interest - military power.

It's NOT Incompetence

When Progressives shout "Incompetence!" it obscures the many conservative successes. The incompetence frame drastically misses the point, that the conservative vision is doing great harm to this country and the world. An understanding of this and an articulate progressive response is needed. Progressives know that government can and should have a positive role in our lives beyond simple, physical security. It had a positive impact during the progressive era, busting trusts, and establishing basic labor standards. It had a positive impact during the new deal, softening the blow of the depression by creating jobs and stimulating the economy. It had a positive role in advancing the civil rights movement, extending rights to previously disenfranchised groups. And the United States can have a positive role in world affairs without the use of its military and expressions of raw power. Progressives acknowledge that we are all in this together, with "we" meaning all people, across all spectrums of race, class, religion, sex, sexual preference and age. "We" also means across party lines, state lines and international borders.

The mantra of incompetence has been an unfortunate one. The incompetence frame assumes that there was a sound plan, and that the trouble has been in the execution. It turns public debate into a referendum on Bush's management capabilities, and deflects a critique of the impact of his guiding philosophy. It also leaves open the possibility that voters will opt for another radically conservative president in 2008, so long as he or she can manage better. Bush will not be running again, so thinking, talking and joking about him being incompetent offers no lessons to draw from his presidency.

Incompetence obscures the real issue. Bush's conservative philosophy is what has damaged this country and it is his philosophy of conservatism that must be rejected, whoever endorses it.

Conservatism itself is the villain that is harming our people, destroying our environment, and weakening our nation. Conservatives are undermining American values through legislation almost every day. This message applies to every conservative bill proposed to Congress. The issue that arises every day is which philosophy of governing should shape our country. It is the issue of our times. Unless conservative philosophy itself is discredited, Conservatives will continue their domination of public discourse, and with it, will continue their domination of politics.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Voting Rights Act nailed to burning cross

Greg Palast: 'Voting Rights Act nailed to burning cross'
Posted on Friday, June 23 @ 10:02:44 EDT

Behind the "Delay" in Renewing Law is Scheme for Theft of '08

White Sheets Changed for Spreadsheets

Greg Palast

Don't kid yourself. The Republican Party's decision yesterday to "delay" the renewal of the Voting Rights Act has not a darn thing to do with objections of the Republican's White Sheets Caucus.

Complaints by a couple of Good Ol' Boys to legislation has never stopped the GOP leadership from rolling over dissenters.

This is a strategic stall -- meant to de-criminalize the Republican Party's new game of challenging voters of color by the hundreds of thousands.

In the 2004 Presidential race, the GOP ran a massive multi-state, multi-million-dollar operation to challenge the legitimacy of Black, Hispanic and Native-American voters. The methods used broke the law -- the Voting Rights Act. And while the Bush Administration's Civil Rights Division grinned and looked the other way, civil rights lawyers are circling, preparing to sue to stop the violations of the Act before the 2008 race.

Therefore, Republicans have promised to no longer break the law -- not by going legit... but by eliminating the law.

The Act was passed in 1965 after the Ku Klux Klan and other upright citizens found they could use procedural tricks -- "literacy tests," poll taxes and more -- to block citizens of color from casting ballots.


Here's what happened in '04 -- and what's in store for '08.

In the 2004 election, over THREE MILLION voters were challenged at the polls. No one had seen anything like it since the era of Jim Crow and burning crosses. In 2004, voters were told their registrations had been purged or that their addresses were "suspect...."

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Global Warming Skeptics Engage In Denial And Spin Over New Academy Report; Gore Responds

Global Warming Skeptics Engage In Denial And Spin Over New Academy Report; Gore Responds
Think Progress

The National Academy of Sciences released an important report yesterday detailing the fact that the Earth’s temperatures in the last few decades have been the warmest in recorded history, raising concern about the impact of global warming. Warming skeptics have responded with their typical denial and spin.

Electricity Daily (sub. req’d), which covers news from the perspective of the electricity industry, reported:

The NAS report casts serious doubts on the conventional scientific wisdom of man-made climate warming, particularly as described by political advocates such as former Vice President Al Gore. … Those who argue that solar activity drives global climate, not CO2, will take heart.

In fact, the report specifically states that “human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming.” Moreover, as ThinkProgress noted, the report factored in the natural variations in temperature — volcanic activity, solar radiation, etc. — and concluded that these can’t explain the warming trend.

Another well-known skeptic, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), zeroed in on a study conducted by climatologist Michael Mann that is reviewed in the NAS report. Through his famous “hockey stick” graph, Mann argued that recent years have been the hottest on record in the last millennium. Inhofe responded:

Today’s NAS report reaffirms what I have been saying all along, that Mann’s ‘hockey stick’ is broken.

In fact, the NAS report “largely vindicates” Mann’s central thesis, stating it is “plausible that the Northern Hemisphere was warmer during the last few decades of the 20th Century than during any comparable period over the preceding millennium.”

As House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) said, “There is nothing in this report that should raise any doubts about the broad scientific consensus on global climate change…or any doubts about whether any paper on the temperature records was legitimate scientific work.” But science has never stood in the way of global warming skeptics. The NAS report is no exception.

On a conference call that Al Gore held with bloggers this afternoon, I asked him for a response to the claims made by Electricity Daily and Sen. Inhofe. He said that global warming skeptics “will seize on anything to say up is down and black is white.” Gore explained that science, by nature, thrives on uncertainty and tries to eliminate it; politics, on the other hand, is vulnerable to being paralyzed by uncertainty. When science and politics converge, Gore argued, the chance for “cowardice is high.”

Friday, June 23, 2006

So When Will President Bush `Cut and Run'?

So When Will President Bush `Cut and Run'?
Margaret Carlson
June 22, 2006

...Before the congressional Republicans insult those looking for a course correction in Iraq, they should read the latest book in the growing body of literature on the Iraqi war, ``The One Percent Doctrine,'' by Ron Suskind, author of an earlier book in which Bush's first Treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, said the administration was set on invading Iraq long before it stumbled onto the idea of yoking Saddam Hussein to 9/11.

Suskind starts by rewinding to that moment, when if attention had been paid, 9/11 might have been stopped. The opening anecdote puts a lie -- yet again -- to the oft-repeated claim that no one could have imagined al-Qaeda launching an attack domestically.

Bush Is Briefed

A CIA analyst told Suskind of flying to Crawford, Texas, during Bush's month-long vacation to brief him personally on the Aug. 6, 2001, memo titled ``Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S,'' a memo prepared when there had been increasing intelligence traffic about an impending terrorist attack. After listening, Bush dismissed the staffer, saying, ``All right. You've covered your ass, now.''

When you hate government, everyone in it is an ass-covering, dreck-producing bureaucrat. Bush returned to his mountain bike. No one pushed the urgency of tracking al-Qaeda traffic. Tapes of operatives discussing a possible 9/11 attack sat in the in-box of the National Security Agency, untranslated until after the attack.....

GOP Kills Bill to Police Halliburton

GOP Kills Bill to Police Halliburton
By Bob Geiger

Tuesday 20 June 2006

Republicans in Congress have made it clear they're willing to fight for military contractors' right to lie, cheat and defraud taxpayers.
I suppose it's old news at this point that the Bush administration lied us into the Iraq war and that the cost of this mess will be fully realized by the next generation when Bush leaves office with the biggest budget deficit in U.S. history.

And, while Democrats have been complaining for years about the GOP-led Congress abandoning its oversight of the executive branch's wrongdoing, a vote that took place in the Senate last week shows how the Republican desire to ignore fraud and abuse extends right into killing legislation that would help stop defense contractors from ripping off the American people.

In an effort to stop companies like Halliburton and its subsidiaries from cheating our troops and stealing from Americans, Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), introduced S.AMDT.4230 and attached it to the Defense Authorization bill currently being debated in the Senate. The bill was intended to improve contracting "by eliminating fraud and abuse and improving competition in contracting and procurement."

"I think when you are at war, when a massive quantity of money is being pushed out the door, that we ought to decide to get tough on those who would be engaged in war profiteering," said Dorgan in fighting for his amendment last week. "I dare say that never in the history of this country has so much money been wasted so quickly. And, yes, there is fraud involved, there is abuse involved, and it is the case that there is a dramatic amount of taxpayers' money that is now being wasted."

Dorgan's bill - cosponsored by 17 Democrats and called the Honest Leadership and Accountability in Contracting Act of 2006 - was tabled by a roll call vote of 55-43, effectively rejecting the amendment. Every single Senate Republican voted against the measure to make the contracting process honest and impose penalties on those who break the law.

And just what were the stern rules that the GOP didn't think their buddies at Halliburton should have to live with? The text of the legislation spelled out that Bush and Cheney's defense-contractor buddies would be in trouble if they did any of the following:

"Executes or attempts to execute a scheme or artifice to defraud the United States or the entity having jurisdiction over the area in which such activities occur."

"Falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact."

"Makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or representations, or makes or uses any materially false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry."

"Materially overvalues any good or service with the specific intent to excessively profit from the war or military action."

The measure called for those found guilty of violating the law to be imprisoned for up to 20 years and be subject to a fine of up to $1,000,000 - a drop in the bucket for these guys - or a percentage of their ill-gotten gains.

And Senate Republicans still saw fit to reject penalizing companies engaging in overt war profiteering and fraud despite Dorgan spending a considerable amount of time on the Senate floor trotting out example after example of the hideous abuse that has been occurring in Iraq.

"What we have discovered is pretty unbelievable," said Dorgan last week. "We have direct testimony from physicians, Army doctors, and others about providing nonpotable water for shaving, brushing teeth that is in worse condition as water than the raw water coming out of the Euphrates River."

"Let me describe some of the firsthand eyewitness issues in Iraq," Dorgan continued. "Brand new $85,000 trucks that were left on the side of the road because of a flat tire and then subsequently burned. 25 tons, 50,000 pounds, of nails ordered by Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR), the wrong size, that are laying in the sands of Iraq. 42,000 meals a day charged to the taxpayers by Halliburton and only 14,000 are actually served."

After telling the amazing tale of the KBR Halliburton subsidiary ordering hand towels for soldiers embroidered with the "KBR" logo, to allow them to double the price of the towels, Dorgan told one Halliburton whistleblower's story of his company serving food date-stamped "expired" to American troops rather than throwing it away.

"[Halliburton was] serving food at a cafeteria in Iraq for the soldiers, and a man named Roy who was the supervisor in the food service kitchen said that the food was date-stamped 'expired,''' said Dorgan. "In other words, it had a date stamp, which meant the food wasn't good anymore, and he was told by superiors that it doesn't matter. Feed it to the troops. It doesn't matter that they had an expired date stamped - feed it to the troops."

But apparently the support-the-troops types on the Republicans side of the aisle only support them until their major contributors are caught feeding them possibly-tainted food before they go into battle - at that point, I guess the love is gone.

The best the Republicans could offer in response to Dorgan was a lame statement by Senator John Warner (R-VA), Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, who said that his committee is on the case and that "the organization is now in place to try to monitor the situations the Senator has enumerated."

There was no mention from Warner of where the hell his committee - and the GOP - have been for the last four years with all of this going on.

I'll leave you with one other Dorgan horror story in which he describes a massive amount of money paid to four contractors to install air-conditioning in a Baghdad building.

"The contract goes to a subcontractor, which goes to another subcontractor, and a fourth-level subcontractor," said Dorgan "And the payment for air-conditioning turns out to be payments to four contractors, the fourth of which puts a fan in a room. Yes, the American taxpayer paid for an air-conditioner and, after the money goes through four hands, there is a fan put in a room in Iraq."

I guess that's fiscal conservatism Republicans can truly embrace.

And Yet It Does Move…

And Yet It Does Move…
By Dover Bitch

On this day in 1633, Galileo Galilei was forced by the Catholic Church to recant his endorsement of Nicolaus Copernicus’ claim that the earth revolves around the sun. He was threatened with torture and sentenced to life in prison, finally ending up with a life sentence of house arrest after promising never to mention his ideas ever again.

How far we have come. Today, nobody gets tortured and the people in power embrace science… just not in America.

Legend has it that Galileo got his sentence commuted to house arrest by keeping his cool, but never truly abandoning his beliefs. "Eppur si muove," he supposedly said of the earth. "And yet it does move."

And now, 373 years later, it is clear the earth itself was keeping its cool back then as well. The National Research Council released a 155-page report today, in which they claim:

Surface temperature reconstructions for periods prior to the industrial era are only one of multiple lines of evidence supporting the conclusion that climatic warming is occurring in response to human activities, and they are not the primary evidence.

In summary, large-scale surface temperature reconstructions are proving to be important tools in our understanding of global climate change. They contribute evidence that allows us to say, with a high level of confidence, that global mean surface temperature was higher during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period during the preceding four centuries.

If you haven’t seen Al Gore’s "An Inconvenient Truth" yet, go see it. You will leave the theater knowing both that we can rise to this challenge and also that we never will as long as we’re putting people like George Bush in power.

Bush was willing to say that we, as a nation, are "addicted to oil." But our leaders are addicted to money from the oil industry. Next week, another film will be released: "Who Killed the Electric Car?" The documentary shows how companies like GM built electric cars in response to zero-emission legislation in California, only to put them in a giant shredder as soon as the federal government came to the oil industry’s rescue and overruled the state legislature. The cars were destroyed before any real attempt was made to market them to the public.

On Tuesday, the Smithsonian removed a GM EV1 — one of the only surviving models in existence — from public display. The museum and GM deny it has anything to do with the film. What is replacing the EV1? A robotic SUV.

They’ve destroyed their electric cars and are instead promoting their existing gas-guzzlers, like the Hummer, by offering $1.99 per gallon gas cards. How’s that working out for them? While the Smithsonian was spiriting away the EV1, GM’s debt rating was downgraded "deeper into junk territory."

Simply stated, there are no good economic arguments against trying to save the planet. As Gore says, all it takes is "political will." But that will is sorely lacking in Washington. Just today, friend to Jack Abramoff and oil, Richard Pombo (R-CA), pushed a bill through his House Resources Committee, "a measure that partially lifts a 25-year-old federal ban on offshore drilling and lets Virginia and other coastal states determine if they want to drill close to shore."

We have to get responsible people back in office. The shortsighted GOP is incapable of addressing the grave problem undeniably facing the planet. General Motors, the Republicans in Congress and the oil industry are pretending that the electric car isn’t a viable option.

And yet it does move.

Update: Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in I.M. Pei’s magnificent facilities in Boulder, Colorado, also released a study today, in which they conclude that global warming was responsible for half of the increase in hurricane strength in 2005. The science is in. The time for action is now.

Fluorescent bulbs and the Revolution

Zack Exley

Fluorescent bulbs and the Revolution
Huff Post

Thanks to Al Gore, now everyone knows the planet is doomed if we don't take IMMEDIATE ACTION. What kind of action? Start using fluorescent light bulbs. Drive a Prius. Encourage your mayor to put solar panels on city hall. Yeah, right.

Al's a hero for what he's accomplished over the last several weeks. And it's not his fault that there are no credible solutions to global warming on the table. I blame academia. Rare leaders like Gore, who are willing to address the biggest problems, have been left solutionless by a two-generation moratorium on big-picture, long-term thinking among our greatest economists and social thinkers.

I saw Barack Obama hit the same brick wall a few weeks ago speaking on global warming. He started out saying, "We need a mobilization of resources on the scale of WWII." I was ready to enlist in the Obama army. But when it came to specifics, he too had to default to fluorescent bulbs, Priuses, etc....

This problem spans virtually all big issues: in John Edwards' search for real solutions to poverty, academia offers him little more than higher education subsidies and mixed income housing. On health care, it's just as bad. I once witnessed a room full of U.S. Senators alternately beg and berate a panel of top health care policy experts for solutions they could tell their constituents about. After 45 minutes the experts had said nothing convincing, or even intelligible.

This affliction is not limited to mainstream Democratic politicians. On global warming, the Left's biggest, boldest idea is the Apollo Alliance. It calls for $30 billion in new investment each year for ten years for renewable energy and industrial retooling. Can $30 billion per year fundamentally transform our society? No. Thirty billion dollars is 0.0024% of U.S. GDP -- or, to put it another way, about 70 seconds of the national workday. Think about that on a personal level: you can't keep your house clean in 70 seconds a day, let alone transform your life.....

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Shadow War, In a Surprising New Light

The Shadow War, In a Surprising New Light
By Barton Gellman,
a Washington Post staff writer who reports on intelligence and national security
Washington Post
Tuesday, June 20, 2006; C01


Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11

By Ron Suskind

Simon & Schuster. 368 pp. $27

This is an important book, filled with the surest sign of great reporting: the unexpected. It enriches our understanding of even familiar episodes from the Bush administration's war on terror and tells some jaw-dropping stories we haven't heard before.

One example out of many comes in Ron Suskind's gripping narrative of what the White House has celebrated as one of the war's major victories: the capture of Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan in March 2002. Described as al-Qaeda's chief of operations even after U.S. and Pakistani forces kicked down his door in Faisalabad, the Saudi-born jihadist was the first al-Qaeda detainee to be shipped to a secret prison abroad. Suskind shatters the official story line here.

Abu Zubaydah, his captors discovered, turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like the pivotal figure they supposed him to be. CIA and FBI analysts, poring over a diary he kept for more than a decade, found entries "in the voice of three people: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3" -- a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego. All three recorded in numbing detail "what people ate, or wore, or trifling things they said." Dan Coleman, then the FBI's top al-Qaeda analyst, told a senior bureau official, "This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality."

Abu Zubaydah also appeared to know nothing about terrorist operations; rather, he was al-Qaeda's go-to guy for minor logistics -- travel for wives and children and the like. That judgment was "echoed at the top of CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President," Suskind writes. And yet somehow, in a speech delivered two weeks later, President Bush portrayed Abu Zubaydah as "one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States." And over the months to come, under White House and Justice Department direction, the CIA would make him its first test subject for harsh interrogation techniques.

How could this have happened? Why are we learning about it only now? Those questions form the spine of Suskind's impressively reported book.

In interviews with intelligence officers, Suskind often finds them baffled by White House statements. "Why the hell did the President have to put us in a box like this?" one top CIA official asked about the overblown public portrait of Abu Zubaydah. But Suskind sees a deliberate management choice: Bush ensnared his director of central intelligence at the time, George J. Tenet, and many others in a new kind of war in which action and evidence were consciously divorced....

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Al Gore On Charlie Rose-Best Interview Yet

Al Gore On Charlie Rose-Best Interview Yet
by Patriot for Al Gore
Tue Jun 20, 2006 at 06:36:03 AM PDT
Daily Kos

The interview Charlie Rose did with Al Gore last night (6.19.06) was without a doubt the very best interview I have watched him on yet. He delved deeper into the actual issue of climate and other foreign policy matters than any other "cable" interviewer has to date. I was thoroughly pleased with his questions regarding solutions to the climate crisis, the political process regarding it, the mindset of the current administration, and the background to the Iraq War and its reasons which really is in concert with this administration's ideologies on all issues.

Mr. Gore did a fantastic job of discussing the science behind this issue, his dealings with scientists regarding their retiscence to make matters regarding this issue public, and also with bringing across his dedication to solving this crisis. He truly believes this is urgent, and I truly do believe it is as well. There was just so much in this one hour that passed by so quickly that I will only touch the surface, because I don't want to give too much away in case you didn't see it last night, as I believe it is going to be rebroadcast this afternoon on PBS at 1:30PM EST.

I believe he started with how his slide show got started in 1989 when he first presented it, and moved on to explain his passion for this issue, his work on it all of these years, the movie and book, the responsibility of corporations and other entities regarding it, the religious and spiritual aspects of it, and giving hope that it can be solved based on the Montreal Protocol and other work to heal the ozone layer in years past that to date has been successful. He also discussed his plan to train 1000 people in Nashville to carry this slide show on. He also talked more in depth about the ice sheets in Greenland, peer reviews that dispute companies like EXXON, the think tanks they support, CEI, and other foreign policy matters including Peak Oil, and Dick Cheney's plan to secure oil reserves in the Middle East.

Again, it was in my judgement the BEST interview he has done on this topic to date. He was firmly in his element, and I couldn't be happier for him, or us...because I know that as long as he remains in the public eye on this issue in whatever capacity he believes is best to get this message out, the world will benefit from it.

However, one thing from this interview that I do wish to mention is a quote Mr. Rose read to him that was his in which he stated that the poiltical system was nowhere near being where it has to be to face this... and then reiterating that based on scientific warnings that we only have about 10 years to really work for a solution and in changing our own behavior. That tells me regarding his answer, that he is also very disillusioned with the response from the political community on all sides regarding this issue, and believes the best best way to now counter their inaction is to go around it by informing and empowering the people to action.

I personally believe that is also the best way to handle this, and I think he is brilliant and brave for doing it this way. I also don't see what other choice we have when our political process remains the way it is now, with corporate benefactors taking precedence in buying policy over those "elected" (and I use that word loosely) doing what is right. I simply can't praise this interview enough, and perhaps that is because up until now I have become tired of the same questions being asked of him in the same order. This interview was not like that at all, and he actually discussed things he has not discussed in other interviews.

Please watch it if you get a chance, or check back at the site for the link to the video after it is shown again. You will not be disappointed, especially if you truly care for our coming together to solve this crisis.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Historians say Bush is sinking fast

Historians say Bush is sinking fast
Posted on Sunday, June 18 @ 08:27:54 EDT
This article has been read 2211 times.
Allan Powell, The Herald-Mail

With increasing frequency, articles are being published which compare the performance of George W. Bush with that of earlier presidents. But there is a very real difference in the present ranking system and what was used on previous presidential studies.

Earlier studies of presidential performance used categories which had been accepted for many years: excellent, above average, average, below average and failure. At least two of the recent articles rank Bush only in relationship to presidents who have, by common agreement of recognized historians, been judged to have been poor presidents. In other words this study is judging the worst of the worst.

Examples of low-ranking presidents are James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Warren Harding and Richard Nixon. A 2004 study conducted by George Mason University in a survey of 415 presidential historians concludes that George Bush should now be included in this list - or worse, designated as "the worst."

A summary of the results are as follows: Eighty percent considered Bush's first term a failure, half of all respondents considered it the worst since the Great Depression, more than a third said it was the worst in 100 years and 11 percent ranked his first term the "worst ever."

But, more damaging than the original study are follow-up opinions. One professor avers that, "When I filled out that survey, I said Bush was the worst since Buchanan (1857-61), but things have gotten worse and now I'd have to consider him the worst ever."

The criteria used by these historians by which to grade the performance of each president were: Fiscal management, economic stewardship, success in handling change and crises and how our international interests were promoted...

Down for the count on Election Day '04'

Bob Herbert
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

I REMEMBER FIELDING TELEPHONE CALLS on Election Day 2004 from friends and colleagues anxious to talk about the exit polls, which seemed to show that John Kerry was beating George W. Bush and would be the next president. As the afternoon faded into evening, reports started coming in that the Bush camp was dispirited, maybe even despondent, and that the Kerry crowd was set to celebrate. (In an article in the current issue of Rolling Stone, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. writes, "In London, Prime Minister Tony Blair went to bed contemplating his relationship with President-elect Kerry."). I was skeptical.

The election was bound to be close, and I knew that Kerry couldn't win Florida. I had been monitoring the efforts to suppress Democratic votes there and had reported on the thuggish practice (by the Jeb Bush administration) of sending armed state police officers into the homes of elderly black voters in Orlando to "investigate" allegations of voter fraud.

As far as I was concerned, Florida was safe for the GOP. That left Ohio.

Republicans, and even a surprising number of Democrats, have been anxious to leave the 2004 Ohio election debacle behind. But Kennedy, in his long, heavily footnoted article ("Was the 2004 Election Stolen?"), leaves no doubt that the democratic process was trampled and left for dead in the Buckeye State. ...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Swing Ideas, not Swing Voters

Swing Ideas, not Swing Voters
By Kenneth S. Baer and Andrei Cherny
The Democratic Strategist
June 2006

At this spring's exclusive Gridiron Dinner, Senator Barack Obama - according to reports, as the dinner is closed press - offered up a complaint common in Democratic circles. "You hear this constant refrain from our critics that Democrats don't stand for anything. That's really unfair," he said, "We do stand for anything." As they say in the Catskills, the line killed. But the problem it refers to has been killing Democrats for years.

Since the end of the Clinton years, the Democratic Party has been adrift - without a coherent agenda or public philosophy. According to a poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research earlier this year, only 29 percent of Americans believe that Democrats have a better sense than Republicans of what they stand for as a party (while 51 percent say that Republicans have a better sense than Democrats). As Stan Greenberg has put it, the American public believes Democrats have "no core set of convictions or point of view."

Part of that is expected: when you lose the White House, a party loses a de facto leader who can impose message and ideological discipline. But there is more to it. The world has profoundly changed since President Clinton sat in the Oval Office: globalization has accelerated at a torrid pace as have the technological innovations fueling it, the country has become more diverse and more dispersed, changing family arrangements and workplace structures have deeply affected how people see the world, and the attacks of September 11th have brought to the surface a simmering war with radical Islamist terror.

Yet Democrats have not put forward a vision of where the country should go, where it should lead the world, and why. And absent that vision, no get-out-the-vote effort, re-messaging exercise, or charismatic candidate will help Democrats win the White House and, just as importantly, become a vibrant progressive force for years to come. That is why if Democrats want to win in 2008 and beyond, they must invest in the intellectual infrastructure that underpins a modern political movement. They need to develop coherent responses - rooted in the party's deepest beliefs about democracy, liberty, equality, and justice - that respond to the new realities that America faces....

It's All About Bush

It's All About Bush
by mcjoan
Daily Kos
Sat Jun 17, 2006 at 06:29:19 PM PDT

Purely as a discussion counterpoint to georgia10's strategy post, I want to posit an alternative idea for these midterm elections: it's all about Bush and Iraq.

The dirty secret of politics is that going negative works, particularly in midterm elections. If ever we had the makings of a "throw the bums out" mood in the electorate, it's this year. In light of that, consider this advice for Democrats from tristero:

Remember: Bush really is incompetent. And the American public sees it now.
Remember: Bush really has governed above the law. And the the American public understands that now.

Remember: Bush has bogged this nation down in an insane war. And the American public understands that now.

Remember: Bush does not have a genuine plan to deal with Iraq, nor is he capable of creating and implementing one. People are dying because he doesn't know what he's doing. And the American public understands that now.

Remember: Bush's supreme callousness and negligence led to the hiring of the incompetents in charge of FEMA during Katrina. And the American public knows it.

Remember: This is one helluva unpopular president. The American public has very good reasons for disliking him and his policies so intensely. They are all but begging you to stand up and refuse to go along with his incompetent, extremist, and unlawful behavior.

Focus on Bush. Everything else is detail.

All the policies and ideas the Democrats will labor over between now and Labor Day mean absolutely nothing as long as the Rubber Stamp Republicans hold the Congress. Until Democrats stand up and strongly repudiate everything that has made this Republican Congress and this Republican President so wildly unpopular, we're just going to be lumped in with the other bums.

Draw that contrast. Make Bush and his war the albatross on the neck of all Republicans. Everything else, as tristero says, is detail.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Corporate Democrats

Published on Friday, June 16, 2006 by
Corporate Democrats
by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

If you wonder why things never change in Washington, look no further than a report released yesterday by Russ Baker's Real News Project (

The report documents 25 corporate Democrats -- corporate consultants with strong ties to the Democratic Party leadership inside the beltway.

"Although establishment Democrats are, by and large, still more skeptical of the corporate agenda than Republicans, they have become strikingly less so," Baker writes. "This has led to the creation of a kind of permanent corporate governance structure that is truly bipartisan. Many of the firms employing Democratic operatives have them working side-by-side with Republicans -- often the same Republicans they go up against in political campaigns. In some cases, a so-called conservative Republican and a so-called liberal Democrat are full partners in the same firm."

Case in point: Jack Quinn.

Jack Quinn served as Vice President Gore's Chief of Staff, and later as Counsel to President Clinton. Now he is a partner in a political consulting and lobbying firm with Republican insider Ed Gillespie -- Quinn Gillespie -- and together, "they have represented clients who want to drill in fragile areas of Alaska, put the screws to already beleaguered American creditors, and prevent the introduction of more healthy dairy substitutes in school lunches," Baker writes.

Democratic consultants know no bounds when it comes to the corporate feeding trough. They work for companies pushing genetically modified organisms, for Big Pharma, for credit card companies and for gambling companies.

Here are the 25 Corporate Democrats profiled in Baker's report.

They'd make a great set of trading cards -- representing Democrats who have traded in their ideals to push the corporate agenda:

Name: Edward Ayoob
Firm: Barnes & Thornburgh
Democratic connection: Former legislative counsel to Senator Harry Reid - (D-Nevada)

Name: Bill Andresen
Firm: Dutko Worldwide
Democratic connection: Former chief of staff to Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman - (D-Connecticut)

Name: R. Lane Bailey
Firm: Golin/Harris
Democratic connection: Chief of staff to Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) for 12 years.

Name: Michael Berman
Firm: Duberstein Group
Democratic connection: Well-connected veteran Democrat

Name: John Breaux
Firm: Patton Boggs
Democratic connection: Former Democratic Senator from Louisiana

Name: Leslie Dach
Firm: Edelman Worldwide
Democratic connection: Former media consultant to Bill Clinton and John Kerry

Name: Ingrid Duran
Firm: D&P Creative Strategies
Democratic connection: Worked for the House Banking Committee under Democratic control.

Name: Carter Eskew
Firm: Glover Park Group
Democratic connection: Al Gore's chief media advisor in 2000.

Name: Phil Goldberg
Firm: Shook, Hardy & Bacon
Democratic connection: Aide to several Democratic members of Congress

Name: Joel Johnson
Firm: Glover Park Group
Democratic connection: Worked in the Clinton White House Name: Marshall Matz
Firm: Olsson Frank & Weeda
Democratic connection: Was George McGovern's nutrition expert.

Name: Richard Mintz
Firm: Brunswick Group
Democratic connection: Worked in Clinton's Transportation Department and was staff director for Hillary Clinton during the 1992 campaign.

Name: George Mitchell
Firm: Piper Rudnick
Democratic connection: Former Democratic Senator from Maine

Name: Mark Penn
Firm: Burson-Marsteller
Democratic connection: Principal pollster for Bill Clinton

Name: Ronald Platt
Firm: Buchanan Ingersoll
Democratic connection: Michigan state director for Gore-Lieberman

Name: Anthony Podesta
Firm: Podesta Mattoon
Democratic connection: Bill Clinton's chief of staff

Name: Heather Podesta
Firm: Blank Rome
Democratic connection: Counsel to the late Congressman Robert Matsui (D-California) and to Earl Pomeroy (D-North Dakota) as well as a staffer for former Senator Bill Bradley (D-New Jersey)

Name: Jack Quinn
Firm: Quinn Gillespie
Democratic connection: Chief of staff to former Vice President Al Gore.

Name: Thomas Quinn
Firm: Venable
Democratic connection: Worked on Democratic Presidential campaigns from Edward Kennedy in 1980 to John Kerry in 2004.

Name: Jody Powell
Firm: Powell Tate
Democratic connection: President Jimmy Carter's press secretary

Name: Steve Ricchetti
Firm: Ricchetti Inc.
Democratic connection: Former deputy chief of staff to Bill Clinton

Name: Anne Urban
Firm: Venn Strategies
Democratic connection: Economics adviser to Senator Joseph Lieberman-- (D-Connecticut)

Name: Anne Wexler
Firm: Wexler and Walker Public Policy Associates Democratic connection: Top policy aide in the Carter administration

Name: Howard Wolfson
Firm: Glover Park Group
Democratic connection: Former spokesperson for Hillary Clinton

Name: Andrew Young
Firm: Goodworks International
Democratic connection: President Carter's ambassador to the United Nations

Baker concludes that Democrats have increasingly belied their long-assumed commitment to the little guy and the average American by "cozying up to the money trough."

"Once the Democrats turned into the opposition, key Clinton figures found a home in offering their advertising, public relations and arm-twisting skills to industry trade associations and corporations," Baker writes in the report. "They retained their links to the party, and have lived a kind of dual life ever since, moving effortlessly from corporate work to campaign work and back. The friendliness with big business has escalated under the reign of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who has assembled his own so-called 'K Street Cabinet' -- named after the street where the lobbying hordes are headquartered."

Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor. Mokhiber and Weissman are co-authors of On the Rampage: Corporate Predators and the Destruction of Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press).

© 2006 Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

Friday, June 16, 2006

African-American Voters Scrubbed by Secret GOP Hit List

African-American Voters Scrubbed by Secret GOP Hit List
by Greg Palast
Democracy Now!

Friday 16 June 2006

Palast, who first reported this story for BBC Television Newsnight (UK) and Democracy Now! (USA), is author of the New York Times bestseller, Armed Madhouse.

The Republican National Committee has a special offer for African-American soldiers: Go to Baghdad, lose your vote.

A confidential campaign directed by GOP party chiefs in October 2004 sought to challenge the ballots of tens of thousands of voters in the last presidential election, virtually all of them cast by residents of Black-majority precincts.

Files from the secret vote-blocking campaign were obtained by BBC Television Newsnight, London. They were attached to emails accidentally sent by Republican operatives to a non-party website.

One group of voters wrongly identified by the Republicans as registering to vote from false addresses: servicemen and women sent overseas.

[Greg Palast's discussion with broadcaster Amy Goodman on the Black soldier purge of 2004.]

Here's how the scheme worked: The RNC mailed these voters letters in envelopes marked, "Do not forward", to be returned to the sender. These letters were mailed to servicemen and women, some stationed overseas, to their US home addresses. The letters then returned to the Bush-Cheney campaign as "undeliverable."

The lists of soldiers of "undeliverable" letters were transmitted from state headquarters, in this case Florida, to the RNC in Washington. The party could then challenge the voters' registration and thereby prevent their absentee ballot being counted.

One target list was comprised exclusively of voters registered at the Jacksonville, Florida, Naval Air Station. Jacksonville is third largest naval installation in the US, best known as home of the Blue Angels fighting squandron....

Incivility in the House of Unrepresentatives: Washington Post Reporter Juliet Eilperin Scrutinizes the People's House

Incivility in the House of Unrepresentatives: Washington Post Reporter Juliet Eilperin Scrutinizes the People's House
Friday, Jun. 02, 2006
Currently, about two-thirds of America disapproves of the job the Congress is doing. In a few months, however, they can do something about it when they elect the 110th Congress.

What is to be blamed for this overwhelming displeasure with Congress? While Congress-watchers are aware of the source of the problem, few others understand more than the fact that in the House, rancor has replaced reason - at the expense of Americans.

The U.S. House of Representatives is the true battlefield of contemporary national politics. Since 1994, Republicans have controlled the House, and since that time Juliet Eilperin has been covering the House for States News Service, Roll Call, and the Washington Post. (In 2004, she began covering the global environment for the Post.)

Eilperin thus is uniquely qualified to write about the House, and the title of her new book nicely sums up her take: Fight Club Politics: How Partisanship Is Poisoning the House of Representatives. The book is her account of "how the House of Representatives became the House of Unrepresentatives."

It would be difficult to be more fair and balanced than Eilperin has been; nonetheless, she acknowledges, at the outset of her report, her view that Republicans "have failed to live up to their own promises of reform" - their 1994 contract with America "to reclaim the House for the American people." While she finds both Republicans and Democrats at fault for the current state of affairs, her journalistic analysis of the "dysfunctional" House holds Republicans responsible, in particular, for failing to honor their promises.

But this is not a polemic or effort to castigate either party. Rather, Eilperin wants those who are not familiar with the partisanship and incivility to understand what it is doing to "the people's house." Accordingly, she seeks to explain why she believes it is occurring, and to consider what, if anything, can be done....

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Other Cheney Behind the Scenes

The Other Cheney Behind the Scenes
By Robert Dreyfuss
The American Prospect

Tuesday 13 June 2006

Since 2005, Dick Cheney's daughter Elizabeth has held a powerful position guiding Middle East policy. And like father, like daughter: Liz is a key player in the push for regime change in Iran and Syria.
At the very heart of U.S. Middle East policy, from the war in Iraq to pressure for regime change in Iran and Syria to the spread of free-market democracy in the region, sits the 39-year-old daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney. Elizabeth "Liz" Cheney, appointed to her post in February 2005, has a tongue-twisting title: principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs and coordinator for broader Middle East and North Africa initiatives. By all accounts, it is an enormously powerful post, and one for which she is uniquely unqualified.

During the past 15 months, Elizabeth Cheney has met with and bolstered a gaggle of Syrian exiles, often in tandem with John Hannah and David Wurmser, top officials in the Office of the Vice President (OVP); has pressed hard for money to accelerate the administration's ever more overt campaign for forced regime change in both Damascus and Teheran; and has overseen an increasingly discredited push for American-inspired democratic reform from Morocco to Iran.

With the unspoken support of her father, Cheney has kept a hawk's eye on Iraq policy within the department, intimidating opponents of the neoconservative axis within the administration. And, less visibly, according to former officials who've worked with her, she has made her influence felt in choosing officials, selecting (or blocking) the appointment of ambassadors and other foreign service officers, and weighing in on other bureaucratic battles at the department.

Now, according to the Financial Times of London, Cheney is coordinating the work of a new entity called the Iran-Syria Operations Group. The unit was established "to plot a more aggressive democracy promotion strategy for those two 'rogue' states," reported the Times. In February, the State Department announced that Cheney would oversee a $5 million program to "accelerate the work of reformers in Syria," providing grants of up to $1 million each to Syrian dissidents.

And in the current fiscal year, she will oversee a similar, $7 million regime-change grant program for Iran, though funding for that effort is expected to grow to at least $85 million soon, to include both a propaganda program and support to Iranian opposition groups. "She came in knowing very little about the Middle East," says Marina S. Ottaway, senior associate and co-director of the Democracy and Rule of Law Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who has worked with Liz Cheney on democratic reform issues. "She had a mandate to do democracy promotion, but she had very little familiarity with the subject.... They deliberately picked a person who was not a Middle East specialist, so that the conventional wisdom, well, let me rephrase, so that real, actual knowledge of the issues in the region wouldn't interfere with policy."...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Another failed photo-op

Another failed photo-op
June 14, 2006 07:47 AM
The Rant
Capitol Hill Blue

President George W. Bush jetted off in the dark of night for a clandestine visit to Iraq - a grandstanding photo-op by a coward who refused to fight in war when his country called.
I've always found Bush's swaggering "war-time president" persona the height of political hypocrisy. This is, after all, the same George W. Bush who hid out in the Texas Air National Guard to avoid going to Vietnam and who later became the "Commander in Chief" who sends members of the National Guard and Reserve to their deaths in his lies-based invasion of Iraq.

MSNBC correctly labeled Bush's trip to Iraq the "mission not-quite accomplished photo op," a clever play on his disastrous "mission accomplished" debacle on board an aircraft carrier three years ago when he prematurely claimed the Iraq war a victory.

Back then a gullible electorate and complaint press played into Bush's hands and his poll numbers took a jump. Not now: Too many lies, too many setbacks, too much evidence that Iraq is a quagmire from which there may be no escape. Bush can't jump start his polls with a publicity stunt. He's been to that well too often.

But the President is desperate and the Republican Party is so afraid of losing control of the House in November that political strategists are willing to try anything to, even if it means putting the President of the United States into just the kind of war he tried so hard to evade as a young man.....

Another failed photo-op

Another failed photo-op
June 14, 2006 07:47 AM
The Rant
Capitol Hill Blue

President George W. Bush jetted off in the dark of night for a clandestine visit to Iraq - a grandstanding photo-op by a coward who refused to fight in war when his country called.
I've always found Bush's swaggering "war-time president" persona the height of political hypocrisy. This is, after all, the same George W. Bush who hid out in the Texas Air National Guard to avoid going to Vietnam and who later became the "Commander in Chief" who sends members of the National Guard and Reserve to their deaths in his lies-based invasion of Iraq.

MSNBC correctly labeled Bush's trip to Iraq the "mission not-quite accomplished photo op," a clever play on his disastrous "mission accomplished" debacle on board an aircraft carrier three years ago when he prematurely claimed the Iraq war a victory.

Back then a gullible electorate and complaint press played into Bush's hands and his poll numbers took a jump. Not now: Too many lies, too many setbacks, too much evidence that Iraq is a quagmire from which there may be no escape. Bush can't jump start his polls with a publicity stunt. He's been to that well too often.

But the President is desperate and the Republican Party is so afraid of losing control of the House in November that political strategists are willing to try anything to, even if it means putting the President of the United States into just the kind of war he tried so hard to evade as a young man.....

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Tipping Points

The Tipping Points
By Daniel Yankelovich
Foreign Affairs

May/June 2006 Issue

From Bad to Worse

Terrorism and the war in Iraq are not the only sources of the American public's anxiety about U.S. foreign policy. Americans are also concerned about their country's dependence on foreign energy supplies, U.S. jobs moving overseas, Washington's seeming inability to stop illegal immigration, and a wide range of other issues. The public's support for promoting democracy abroad has also seriously eroded.

These are a few of the highlights from the second in a continuing series of surveys monitoring Americans' confidence in U.S. foreign policy conducted by the nonprofit research organization Public Agenda (with support from the Ford Foundation), of which I am chair. The first survey, conducted in June of last year, found that only the war in Iraq had reached the "tipping point" -- the moment at which a large portion of the public begins to demand that the government address its concerns. According to this follow-on survey, conducted among a representative sample of 1,000 American adults in mid-January 2006, a second issue has reached that status. The U.S. public has grown impatient with U.S. dependence on foreign countries for oil, and its impatience could soon translate into a powerful demand that Washington change its policies.

Overall, the public's confidence in U.S. foreign policy has drifted downward since the first survey. On no issue did the government's policy receive an improved rating from the public in January's survey, and on a few the ratings changed for the worse. The public has become less confident in Washington's ability to achieve its goals in Iraq and Afghanistan, hunt down terrorists, protect U.S. borders, and safeguard U.S. jobs. Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed said they think that U.S. relations with the rest of the world are on the wrong track (compared to 37 percent who think the opposite), and 51 percent said they are disappointed by the country's relations with other countries (compared to 42 percent who are proud of them).

As for the goal of spreading democracy to other countries, only 20 percent of respondents identified it as "very important" -- the lowest support noted for any goal asked about in the survey. Even among Republicans, only three out of ten favored pursuing it strongly. In fact, most of the erosion in confidence in the policy of spreading democracy abroad has occurred among Republicans, especially the more religious wing of the party. People who frequently attend religious services have been among the most ardent supporters of the government's policies, but one of the recent survey's most striking findings is that although these people continue to maintain a high level of trust in the president and his administration, their support for the government's Iraq policy and for the policy of exporting democracy has cooled....

Monday, June 12, 2006

Crucial Issues Not Addressed in the Immigration Debate: Why Deep Framing Matters

Crucial Issues Not Addressed in the Immigration Debate: Why Deep Framing Matters

by George Lakoff, Sam Ferguson
Constructive critics of our paper The Framing of Immigration have suggested that we say more about immigration and American workers. We do that here. Other critics have misframed framing and attacked us for engaging in it. We respond.
Crucial Issues Not Addressed in the Immigration Debate:
Why Deep Framing Matters

By George Lakoff and Sam Ferguson
The Rockridge Institute
Our recent article, The Framing of Immigration, was about issues that are outside the frame of the “immigration problem” but are crucial to understanding immigration. The “immigration problem” frame points the finger at immigrants and administrative agencies as being “the problem.” This grossly oversimplifies a hugely complex set of issues involving the suppression of wages in the US economy and the “cheap labor trap” for workers here; the failure to crack down on illegal employers; the economic and political conditions that force immigrants to leave and the role US foreign policy has had in creating or perpetuating these conditions; the major contributions immigrants make to our economy without gratitude or proper recognition; and the humanitarian crisis caused by economic and political refugees.

These are real problems that largely go unframed — and thus unconsidered. Frames structure the way we think, the way we define problems, the values behind the definitions of those problems, and what counts as “solutions” to those frame-defined problems. If the problems are the immigrants and administrative agencies, all solutions involve those parties — building hi-tech walls, hiring more agents, calling in the National Guard, identification cards, stiff citizenship requirements, a “temporary worker” program with no rights for workers. As we noted, other frames allow us to see other problems, other causes, and other solutions.

Why the narrow framing of issues? Part of the answer comes from the difference in the way conservatives and progressives argue about causation. Conservatives tend to argue politically in terms of direct causation, while progressives are open to seeing systemic causation. Consider what is happening to low-to-middle income American workers. Our economy is structured to consider relatively unskilled labor as a resource, whose cost is to be minimized so that productivity and profits can be maximized. The more productive workers responsible for higher profits see wages stay the same or go down as profits go up. If they are replaced by illegal immigrants who work for even less, the immigrants are blamed, not the illegal employers who hired them, nor the economic system driving down wages. Conservative ideology sees the social safety net as immoral as well as wasteful. As conservatives, in hundreds of ways small and large, attack the safety net and take money out of the system for it through tax policy and the war in Iraq, American workers get squeezed more and more. Who is blamed? Not conservative ideologues ultimately responsible for the squeeze, but impoverished immigrants who receive modest benefits. In both cases, the visible immigrant present on the scene is taken as the direct cause, when the deeper causes — the ones that can't be cured by an immigration bill —are systemic and go undiscussed.

The situation of American workers and the status of our social safety net are in disastrous shape. Framing matters here, as Lakoff has argued in his article on the framing of the living wage issue. We do not believe that by expelling several million people, currently living in the shadows, that the problems of American workers will be solved, or that the social safety will miraculously recover. The reasons for this plight, as we have seen, are varied, complex, and deep-seated. When undocumented immigrants are scapegoated, attention is diverted from more fundamental causes. Why hasn't the government raised the minimum wage in nearly a decade? Why are the hundreds of billions of dollars being used to wage an unnecessary war instead being used to provide Americans with meaningful work? Or, with a national healthcare system? And why has nearly ten percent of Mexico's population been willing to face death to move north?

What is particularly sad to us is to see progressives accept the conservative framing of the issue.

Our job at Rockridge is to point out how the deep framing of values and issues is currently being done, what is left out, and how reframing can allow us to see otherwise hidden realities. We are concerned with reality. We are committed to showing how hidden realities can be framed so that they can be seen and openly discussed.

Frames are mental structures that allow us to understand the world. They are pre-linguistic — in the realm of concepts, not words. Framing is about characterizing values, concepts, and issues. Frames define the underlying problems, and by reframing one can point out when the real problems lie elsewhere.

Take the needed reframing of immigration from Mexico as a humanitarian crisis. An excellent article performing such reframing is “Dead in Their Tracks,” by Marc Cooper in the LA Weekly, February 22, 2006, which recounts the important humanitarian work of the Samaritan Patrol — a church group helping immigrants in need of medical care — and the harassment and arrest of the Samaritan Patrol by the Border Patrol.

One of the most basic results in cognitive science is that, for the most part, the use of conceptual frames is unconscious. Even people who are good at conceptual framing may not even be aware they are doing it. Marc Cooper is a good case in point. The effective reframer of “Dead in Their Tracks” attacked us last week for engaging in his own skilled but unconscious activity — “framing.” Cooper writes proudly, “Last year I bashed linguist and amateur political analyst George Lakoff for his absurd suggestion that "progressives" should concentrate on what he called "framing" of the issues. … Man, was I ever right to call him out.”

Our job at Rockridge is to make the public conscious of the framing in political discourse — including their own framing. Marc Cooper is a good example of what goes wrong when you engage in framing but are not aware of what you are doing. Cooper repeatedly misframes framing “as a matter of simple wordplay” (in The Atlantic Monthly, March 15, 2005). Lakoff, and the staff of the Rockridge Institute in general, talk about framing in terms of values, principles, and deep frames (that is, fundamental ideas that go across issue areas), and advise progressives to become conscious of their own deepest values and to use framing honestly and effectively to say what they really mean.

So called “tort reform” is a good example. Lakoff, in an interview on the Rockridge website discusses “tort reform” as an attempt by the Right to destroy the civil justice system, which is the last resort the public has when corporations, lacking regulation, harm the public. In the civil justice system, trial lawyers function as police and prosecutors and their fees pay for the detective work and the preparation of the case — and the capping of fees would de-finance the system and remove the public's last resort in dealing with corporate malfeasance. Lakoff recommends that progressive tell the public about this reality and that a term like “public protection attorneys” would better fit the role of protecting the public than merely “trial lawyers.” Cooper misses Lakoff's point that introducing such terms depends upon effectively and honestly characterizing the nature of the civil justice system — a deep reframing. Just introducing the words in the absence of the deep framing would have no effect and couldn't possibly work.

What happens if someone seriously and deeply misframes framing as the mere use of words, as “spin”? Can you just correct him by telling him what framing really is? Cognitive science tells us the answer: Probably not. The frames will trump the facts — even if the subject matter is framing itself.

The misframing of framing, whether by Rush Limbaugh and George Will or by Marc Cooper, is a fact we must deal with. Our approach to clarify the cognitive science is to distinguish deep versus surface frames. Deep frames are mental structures through which we conceptualize our values, principles, and fundamental ideas. Surface frames are the frames that are evoked by words and slogans, like tax relief or the culture of corruption. The surface frames only make sense given the deep frames. The Right has been much better at getting their deep frames out there, which is why they have so much more success with their surface frames.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Iraq Effect

The Iraq Effect
Zarqawi’s death is good news, but America’s war in the Middle East still looms large over U.S. politics. Just ask Joe Lieberman.
By Eleanor Clift
Updated: 1:29 p.m. ET June 9, 2006
June 9, 2006 - The death of the top-ranking operative of Al Qaeda in Iraq is a welcome moment of clarity in a war desperately in search of a rationale. Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi personified the face of evil and was controversial even among jihadists for staging large-scale attacks on civilians. The news out of Iraq has been gloomy for so long that Zarqawi’s demise, along with the agreement on the remaining cabinet ministers to fill out the new government, may buy some time with the American public, and give President Bush the breathing space to figure out what to do next when he meets with his advisers at Camp David next week.

Bush was subdued and didn’t overplay his hand when he stood in the Rose Garden early Thursday morning to commend U.S. forces for the successful bomb attack on the house where Zarqawi had been meeting with his lieutenants. The Jordanian-born Zarqawi led the foreign jihadists in Iraq and incited the sectarian violence against the Shia-majority population. His death is a major symbolic blow for the insurgency and a big win in the propaganda war for the West. But the carnage and the mayhem that defines Iraq today will not stop with Zarqawi’s passing, a reality that Bush acknowledged, along with a reflection of lessons learned from earlier victories that turned out to be less than enduring.

Weeks ago Karl Rove said Iraq “looms over everything.” That’s true not only for Bush but also increasingly for Democrats. Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, who was Al Gore’s running mate in 2000, is facing the first serious challenge in his 18-year Senate career. According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, Lieberman’s margin of victory dropped eight points in the last month, from 65 to 57 percent, and his favorable rating among Democrats slipped to 49 percent, a red flag for the upcoming Aug. 8 primary. Wealthy telecommunications executive Ned Lamont polled just 19 percent a month ago against Lieberman; he’s now at 32 percent and the darling of a growing antiwar movement to take back the party. The primary is in the dead of summer when only the most passionate turn out, which bodes ill for Lieberman, a Bush ally on the war and a middle-of-the-roader on most issues.

Here’s the dilemma for Lieberman: He could lose the primary, but if he ran as an independent, he would win. He polls much higher among all voters than Democrats. To get on the ballot as an independent, Lieberman needs 30,000 signatures, which would be no problem. The catch is that under the rules, he would have to present them on Aug. 9, the day after the primary. But if he starts to gather signatures now, he likely loses the primary.

“It’s like saying to Democrats, ‘I’m going to run anyway.’ It’s a slap in the face and an admission of weakness,” says Matt Bennett with Third Way, a centrist Democratic group. On the other hand, if Lieberman doesn’t follow through on a fallback position, “He’s gambling with his Senate career,” says Bennett. Party regulars worry that if Lamont is their candidate, he could lose and take Democratic House challengers with him. Republicans have an appealing local district attorney waiting in the wings if Lamont is the candidate. History shows from George McGovern to Howard Dean that doves are not rewarded at the ballot box. If Lieberman were to lose the primary, or to start collecting signatures, it would be evidence of the power of the antiwar grass roots—something the Democratic leadership has been working hard to keep a lid on.

The death of Zarqawi is a reminder of how fast things can change in a war Americans still want to win....

Friday, June 09, 2006

Overselling Terror

Overselling Terror
By Robert Parry
June 9, 2006

The killing of Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq and the arrest of 17 suspects in an alleged terror plot in Canada have buoyed George W. Bush’s political prospects by refocusing America’s attention again on the terror threat, much as the orange color-coded warnings did from 2002 until Election 2004.

But the recent developments in Iraq and Canada have obscured other new evidence that points toward a very different reality: that the Islamic terror threat was never as severe as Bush made it out to be after the 9/11 attacks and that it has been fading ever since.

While Bush has sought to frighten the American people with apocalyptic visions of Islamic terrorists establishing an empire that “spans from Spain to Indonesia,” the new intelligence data actually reveals al-Qaeda as a largely dissipated force that now exists more as an inspiration to violence than as an organized movement.

Indeed, since 9/11, with Osama bin-Laden on the run and many other al-Qaeda leaders captured or killed, leading theoreticians of Islamic terror have jettisoned the idea of a tightly organized movement that could take territory or even mount coordinated attacks.

Instead, these strategists have been reduced to encouraging scattered acts of crude violence by home-grown terror cells that can manage to scrape together their own resources, make their own plans and launch attacks far less sophisticated than those on 9/11.

While still capable of some horrific acts of violence, like the Madrid train bombings in 2004 or the London subway bombings in 2005, these self-motivated cells would seem to represent more of a police challenge than a justification for putting the U.S. government onto a perpetual war footing with a President exercising total – or “plenary” – authority.

In fact, it could be argued that the excesses of Bush’s “war on terror” – the invasion of Iraq, the Abu Ghraib prison abuses, alleged torture at Guantanamo Bay and secret CIA prisons – have become the central organizing tool and the chief motivating force for the emerging shape of Islamic terrorism...

Pissypants Crowd Fears Gore

Pissypants Crowd Fears Gore
By Pachacutec

They used to mock him. Now they’re giving him the shrieking orc treatment. The bedwetting team is scared. . . witless. . . of Al Gore and his new movie, An Inconvenient Truth (which you can pledge to see here).

Search for blog entries mentioning Al Gore at Technorati to see how HUGE the buzz is around him now. You’ll see a lot of cheering, enthusastic welcoming of Gore back to the public scene, mixed in with heaping septic mountains of flying wingnut feces. I could provide you with links to show how unhinged and terrified the right wing is of Gore, but I don’t link to them. You know the usual sites and suspects. Technorati will help you see what I’m talking about.

Why do they fear Gore?

Well, for one, he is telling the truth. His message is popular and timely in the post-Katrina era. The energy lobby is furiously lying like Mike McCurry to step on Gore’s message. Gore is the last Democrat to win the national popular vote, and the highest total Democratic vote getter ever. He’s looking relaxed, focused and fearless, and though he says he’s not running for president, insiders seem to doubt him and outsiders are trying to draft him.

What’s more, his signature issue - taking action to avoid global calamity in the form of irreversible climate change - is a potential political game changer. It gives people something far more genuine to fear, and bedwetters are all about harnessing fear to promote their political ends. They don’t want their monopoly challenged....

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Incivility in the House of Unrepresentatives: Washington Post Reporter Juliet Eilperin Scrutinizes the People's House

Incivility in the House of Unrepresentatives: Washington Post Reporter Juliet Eilperin Scrutinizes the People's House
Friday, Jun. 02, 2006
Currently, about two-thirds of America disapproves of the job the Congress is doing. In a few months, however, they can do something about it when they elect the 110th Congress.

What is to be blamed for this overwhelming displeasure with Congress? While Congress-watchers are aware of the source of the problem, few others understand more than the fact that in the House, rancor has replaced reason - at the expense of Americans.

The U.S. House of Representatives is the true battlefield of contemporary national politics. Since 1994, Republicans have controlled the House, and since that time Juliet Eilperin has been covering the House for States News Service, Roll Call, and the Washington Post. (In 2004, she began covering the global environment for the Post.)

Eilperin thus is uniquely qualified to write about the House, and the title of her new book nicely sums up her take: Fight Club Politics: How Partisanship Is Poisoning the House of Representatives. The book is her account of "how the House of Representatives became the House of Unrepresentatives."

It would be difficult to be more fair and balanced than Eilperin has been; nonetheless, she acknowledges, at the outset of her report, her view that Republicans "have failed to live up to their own promises of reform" - their 1994 contract with America "to reclaim the House for the American people." While she finds both Republicans and Democrats at fault for the current state of affairs, her journalistic analysis of the "dysfunctional" House holds Republicans responsible, in particular, for failing to honor their promises.

But this is not a polemic or effort to castigate either party. Rather, Eilperin wants those who are not familiar with the partisanship and incivility to understand what it is doing to "the people's house." Accordingly, she seeks to explain why she believes it is occurring, and to consider what, if anything, can be done.

The 1994 Shakeup of the House: Republicans Win Control, and Make Changes

Republicans won control of the House in 1994, after forty years in the political wilderness and several decades of trashing the Democratic leaders of the House, and portraying the body itself "as an evil institution." Newt Gingrich and other backbenchers relentlessly and endlessly attacked for over a decade, charging Democrats with misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance - or worse. Republicans promised they would do better if given a chance to lead.

Once in control, the GOP leadership made fundamental changes in the operations of the House. None was more dramatic than eliminating the powerful fiefdoms of committee chairmen who had obtained their posts though seniority alone, under both Democratic- and Republican-controlled Congresses. Under the new Republican rule, chairmen were to be selected by the leadership based on a combination of seniority and willingness to play ball with the leadership....

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Peaceable Assembly

Monday, June 5th, 2006 at 6:00 pm
Peaceable Assembly
By diogenes

Ever since Reagan fired the air-traffic controllers, unions have faced the most hostile environment of any organization in America. The legal, political and cultural environment has resulted in a decline of union membership from 16% in 1989, to 8% of private sector jobs in 2004. And that’s down from the 1950’s high water mark of 36%. Why and how that happened gives insight into the AFL-CIO/SEIU split we see in labor. Let’s look at the why’s and how’s.

You can’t talk about the legal environment without consulting The Source – the US Constitution. The First Amendment says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Consider how easy it easy to “peaceably assemble” as a church or corporation.

When I was a kid, many found Southern Baptists to be insufficiently conservative. As a result, a Free Will Baptist delegation was invited to discuss a new church in our area. The first cottage prayer meeting was held at our house. Shortly thereafter, property and a building was leased, and voila! – a new church was born. Minimal paperwork, few regulations, no government interference. Easy as falling off a log. Just like the First Amendment says.

A professor of mine formed a Delaware corporation, the sole asset of which was his sailboat. Why? If one of his sailing guests were injured, they could only sue the corporation, not my professor. He recouped the filing and maintenance costs in reduced insurance premiums. To form a corporation, you basically send the right papers to the state, pay the fee and you’re off and running. Easy as falling off a log. The state can’t stop you. And forming a proprietorship is even easier.

Contrast that with forming a union. Opposed by business and government, citizens fought and died for the right to “peaceably assemble” as a union. When’s the last time anybody died forming a church or company?....