True Patriot Acts

Standing on the ashes of the man
Standing on the ashes of the man,
originally uploaded by herby_fr.

Today’s attack on democracy in the United States began with George W. Bush’s efforts to strongarm the House of Representatives into extending the Protect America Act.

Failure to act would harm our ability to monitor new terrorist activities and could re-open dangerous gaps in our intelligence. Failure to act would also make the private sector less willing to help us protect the country, and this is unacceptable.

The lives of countless Americans depend on our ability to monitor terrorist communications. Our intelligence professionals are working day and night to keep us safe, and they’re waiting to see whether Congress will give them the tools they need to succeed or tie their hands by failing to act.

Determined not to be upstaged by their faithful leader, House Republicans called a vote during the memorial service for Tom Lantos, forcing Congressmen to leave the memorial service to return for a vote on…nothing.

And like the two-year-old babies that they are, when confronted with a vote on a resolution to cite Harriet Miers and Josh Bolton for contempt of Congress (which they are), House Republicans, save two, walked out in a huff to a bank of microphones and reporters conveniently waiting on the steps of the Capitol.

The House Democrats, in their first act of patriotic bravery, passed two resolutions, one of which holds Bolton and Miers in contempt. It is refreshing to see Nancy Pelosi finally stand up for what’s right instead of backing down and dropping the ball.

“This is beyond arrogance,” said Pelosi. “It’s hubris taken to the ultimate degree.”

Conyers said he had already discovered “plenty of evidence of wrongdoing at the Department of Justice. He said officials made the decision to fire attorneys on the basis of whether they had pursued public corruption charges against Democratic government officials. He also said that Justice officials made misleading statements to investigators minimizing the apparent involvement of White House personnel in the firings.

Emboldened by the adrenaline that comes with doing the right thing for a change, Speaker Pelosi adjourned the House of Representatives until a week from Monday, allowing the Protect America Act to expire on Saturday.

Can you imagine this happening a year ago? Even six months ago? Why the difference? Could it be that our elected Representatives are hearing us when we tell them via vote and voice that we refuse to be intimidated, bullied and controlled by fear? Could it be that they are finally getting the message that we expect them to represent us and do the right thing instead of the political thing? It would seem so.

Another Patriot Act: Congressman Silvestre Reyes sent a letter to President Bush Thursday, forcefully reminding him that his statements about leaving America vulnerable are patently false and that the House of Representatives will not be bullied into passing a law on the basis of empty threats. His closing paragraphs seem to echo something I’ve been hearing recently in one of the candidates’ Presidential campaigns:

I, for one, do not intend to back down – not to the terrorists and not to anyone, including a President, who wants Americans to cower in fear.

We are a strong nation. We cannot allow ourselves to be scared into suspending the Constitution. If we do that, we might as well call the terrorists and tell them that they have won.

The entire letter should be framed and placed squarely on the Oval Office desk.

In a parting shot, Nancy Pelosi said :

President Bush tells the American people he has nothing to offer but fear.

I believe that our representatives are hearing our voices, the voices that call, fax, email, blog and write. The voices of the voters who are turning out in droves to say they are tired of being the pawns in a big political game. The voices that think it’s wrong for our government to ignore the same laws we obey.

Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment tonight articulated the outrage that I feel when I think about the payoff Bush wants to give the telephone companies for spying on me, especially this:

Mark Klein was the AT&T Whistleblower, the one who explained in the placid, dull terms of your local neighborhood I-T desk, how he personally attached all AT&T circuits — everything — carrying every one of your phone calls, every one of your e-mails, every bit of your web browsing into a secure room, room number 641-A at the Folsom Street facility in San Francisco, where it was all copied so the government could look at it.

Not some of it, not just the international part of it, certainly not just the stuff some spy — a spy both patriotic and telepathic — might able to divine had been sent or spoken by — or to — a terrorist.


Every time you looked at a naked picture.

Every time you bid on eBay.

Every time you phoned in a donation to a Democrat.

Oh, go ahead and watch the whole thing. You know you want to. Even when Keith gets shrill, he makes good points and tonight’s were especially well-spoken.

Will the newly-emboldened House of Representatives inspire the Senate to do the right thing? Will we finally have elected representatives who understand that we’re refusing to allow them to run roughshod over the Constitution for political and personal gain? Will George Bush join the board of AT&T when he leaves office?

Stay tuned for upcoming Patriot Acts, and the inevitable whimpers of cowards, fading away into better, bolder times. We can always hope.


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The Spinning’s Beginning

In an op-ed published in the Baltimore Sun yesterday and augmented on the Huffington Post today, Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson argues that Hillary Clinton is the only candidate who can come away from the national election still standing.

He centers his argument on a single exchange of letters between Senator Obama and Senator McCain concerning a bipartisan effort to draft campaign finance reform laws. Unfortunately, his Huffington Post article links to a completely unrelated and somewhat bombastic series of comments relating to an exchange between McCain and Obama on the campaign trail last May, shortly after McCain paid a visit to Iraq and then argued for the ‘surge’ upon his return.

The actual letter exchange is very different than Ambassador Wilson describes.

But will Mr. Obama fight? His brief time on the national scene gives little comfort. Consider a February 2006 exchange of letters with Mr. McCain on the subject of ethics reform. The wrathful Mr. McCain accused Mr. Obama of being “disingenuous,” to which Mr. Obama meekly replied, “The fact that you have now questioned my sincerity and my desire to put aside politics for the public interest is regrettable but does not in any way diminish my deep respect for you.” Then McCain said, “Obama wouldn’t know the difference between an RPG and a bong.”

Mr. McCain was insultingly dismissive but successful in intimidating his inexperienced colleague. Thus, in his one face-to-face encounter with Mr. McCain, Mr. Obama failed to stand his ground.

What gives us confidence Mr. Obama will be stronger the next time he faces Mr. McCain, a seasoned political fighter with extensive national security credentials? Even more important, what special disadvantages does Mr. Obama carry into this contest on questions of national security?

Let’s step back and understand something here, beginning with the correct sequence of events. Letters were exchanged on February 2nd (Sen. Obama to Sen. McCain), and February 6th (Sen. McCain to Sen. Obama and reply by Sen. Obama). The exchange ended with this from Sen. Obama:

I confess that I have no idea what has prompted your response. But let me assure you that I am not interested in typical partisan rhetoric or posturing. The fact that you have now questioned my sincerity and my desire to put aside politics for the public interest is regrettable but does not in any way diminish my deep respect for you nor my willingness to find a bipartisan solution to this problem.

The Ethics Reform bill passed in January, 2007. John McCain voted for it. So who, exactly, backed down? Not Sen. Obama, who invited McCain to the table, McCain declined, and the legislation was introduced and passed with a near-unanimous majority.

Then, in a somewhat disingenuous move, Ambassador Wilson links up a comment McCain made in MAY, 2007 with this 2006 correspondence when in fact, it was related to McCain’s argument for the surge in Iraq. The comment was this one: “Obama wouldn’t know the difference between an RPG and a bong.” , which Ambassador Wilson incorrectly attributes to Sen. McCain, when in fact it was a McCain aide. The response from the Obama camp was anything but a retreat:

“America doesn’t need juvenile name-calling from Washington, we need a commitment to end this war and bring our brave troops home.”

Again, how does that equate to ‘backing down’? I would guess that Wilson is taking aim at Sen. Obama’s vote to fund the troops (including the surge), which Hillary Clinton also voted for. Here’s a news flash for Ambassador Wilson: A vote to fund the troops and pay them is hardly a vote for the war in Iraq. Even doves like me who also wouldn’t know an RPG from a bong know that much. I also know that Ambassador Wilson’s characterization of the War Authorization bill that Hillary voted for is incorrect. He may know something about diplomacy, but his knowledge of the actual facts of Senate actions appear to be a bit thin, despite the fact that it’s all in the public record right here on the Internet for anyone to see.

When the facts are considered, the air is blown right out of Ambassador Wilson’s argument, leaving a trail of ‘vapid rhetoric’ in the wake.

Folks, this is classic Clinton fighting style. Take facts, twist them around into a spin that demonizes the opponent, and then use a ‘weighty voice’ to carry them across the internet and airwaves as her proxy. This is why she cannot be the Democratic candidate — her ‘get in the gutter and fight’ tactics that Mr. Wilson admires so much are divisive, manipulative, underhanded and will guarantee John McCain the Presidency.

I have previously expressed great respect for Ambassador Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame Wilson. It’s disappointing to see him spend such a monumental store of goodwill on a dying candidacy. If this is an indication of what Senator Clinton has up her sleeve, then she really should suspend her campaign now, before she and Fmr. President Clinton tear the Democratic party apart and the country along with it.

A personal note to Ambassador Wilson: My own family served in the US Department of State for 30 years, and I have nothing but the utmost respect and fondness for the intelligence and passion of the US Diplomatic Corps. Your self-indulgent fact-twisting on the Huffpo piece is insulting to me on a personal level. In your haste to do Hillary Clinton a favor, you trounced all over the credibility of your colleagues. That’s truly a disappointment.

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Impeachment is an Imperative

I have never been so afraid for the future of this country as I am in these times. In other dark times, I could cling to the knowledge that where there was wrongdoing, it would eventually be exposed. Where there were crimes committed, they would eventually be prosecuted. And where there were crooks and liars, elections would oust them in favor of a new breed, possibly less malevolent. 

But in the Bush/Cheney era of operating in the dark outside of the boundaries of checks and balances, all bets are off. Our justice system has been subverted; the majority in Congress cowed and whipped into submission by the most power-hungry war machine to ever inhabit the White House and we’ve let it happen by not standing up and forcing these evildoers to be held accountable. So confident are they of their success that they daily walk into the spotlight and tell lies easily refuted but nonetheless allowed to stand, they raise their sabers and rattle them with no thought given to the price already paid for their folly, and I suspect that history will show that both of them used the last 8 years in public office to profit themselves and pillage our country in ways we haven’t even imagined yet.

Yet there is no credible movement for impeachment moving through the Congressional majority despite the rising call  from a widely diverse group of voices. Why? Impeachment must be put back on the table and it must be a serious effort, beginning with Dick Cheney. The cost of not impeaching will be expansion of our military aggression into Iran (a Dick Cheney pet project), many more lives lost in Iraq, complete subversion of the courts and justice system, and a body politic so ravaged by the dishonest raping of our 230-year old Constitution that apathy replaces anger which is a very dangerous place to be.

Which of us wants to explain to these children what freedoms their mother gave her life to preserve? The freedom to profit from overseas oil? The freedom to profit from the war machine itself? Or the freedom to stand up and tell this president that we will not sacrifice any more of our young men and women to a flawed and paranoid ideology which has separated completely from reality?

Barbara Boxer:

…now people are dying because of this administration. That’s the truth. And they won’t change course. They are ignoring the Congress. They keep signing these signing statements which mean that he’s decided not to enforce the law. This is as close as we’ve ever come to a dictatorship. When you have a situation where Congress is stepped on, that means the American people are stepped on. So I don’t think you can take anything off the table. Because in fact the Constitution doesn’t permit us to take these things off the table.

Cheney is deadly serious about pushing ahead with aggression against Iran, and his argument for why we must is so strikingly similar to the arguments for engaging Iraq that they cannot go unanswered.

From the mouth of George Bush himself, some recent lies about Iraq:

Actually, I was hoping to solve the Iraqi issue diplomatically. That’s why I went to the United Nations and worked with the United Nations Security Council, which unanimously passed a resolution that said disclose, disarm or face serious consequences. That was the message, the clear message to Saddam Hussein. He chose the course.

The truth: Iraq claimed over and over that they were not developing weapons of mass destruction. They cooperated with the UN Weapons Inspectors, who did not find evidence of weapons of mass destruction. Colin Powell, whose words to the UN probably did more to sell the American public on the war in Iraq has publicly denounced that UN speech as being based upon flawed intelligence, innuendo and exaggeration, has said more than once in public that he regrets ever going to the UN without doing an independent fact-check first.

And on July 10th, this statement of policy was released by the Bush administration, which essentially threatened to veto any bill sent up by Congress which limited the executive powers on Iraq. In addition, there was a small paragraph dealing with Iran:

The Administration strongly opposes amendments to the bill that to restrict the ability of the United States to deal effectively with the threats to regional security posed by the conduct of Iran, including Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons. The Administration also notes that provisions of law that purport to direct or prohibit international negotiations, covert action, or the use of the armed forces are inconsistent with the Constitution’s commitment exclusively to the presidency of the executive power, the function of Commander-in-Chief, and the authority to conduct the Nation’s foreign policy. If the bill were presented to the President with provisions that would prevent the President from protecting America and allied and cooperating nations from threats posed by Iran, the President’s senior advisers would recommend he vetoed the bill.

Once again, you have the Bush/Cheney spinning machine madly spinning the tale that there is a threat to develop nuclear weapons. Yet, Iran has agreed to allow UN inspectors in, and also to scale back its enrichment of uranium. Does this sound like a country ramping up a nuclear weapons program? This is the lie that Bush and Cheney used on us with Iraq. Do not allow them to use it on us to excuse aggression against Iran. The Iran excuse is Cheney’s agenda, which he is pushing hard, despite resistance from Condoleeza Rice and Robert Gates.

It’s time: Cheney has to be impeached first. I am saying it to my representatives in Congress via fax and email and phone, too. Bruce Fein, a conservative, has this to say:

Then President George W. Bush outsourced the lion’s share of his presidency to Vice President Cheney, and Mr. Cheney has made the most of it. Since 9/11, he has proclaimed that all checks and balances and individual liberties are subservient to the president’s commander in chief powers in confronting international terrorism.

Fein goes on to list Cheney’s ‘abuses and excesses’, including the creation of military commissions (tribunals) to prosecute ‘war crimes’, kidnappings, secret detentions, and torture, championed torture, advocated signing statements intended to defy Congress, engineered the warrantless domestic surveillance program, assisted in the politicization of the justice department and subsequent subversion of justice in the form of the Libby pardon, and abused executive privilege while simulateously claiming not to be part of the executive branch of government, declaring himself a sort of fourth branch, unchecked by normal constitutional limits.

What more do we need? Impeachment is an imperative, not an option. Please write your representatives and urge them to begin impeachment proceedings against Cheney and then Bush. It is time for us to stand against the dictatorial and subversive nature of these men and reclaim this democracy which is of the people, by the people and for the people. All of them.


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Impeach Cheney

Back in January I said we needed to impeach Cheney first.

Now Glenn Greenwald and agree. It’s time to impeach Cheney, and then Bush.

Sign the Petition

It is time to stand up and reclaim our democracy from the hands of despots and dictators. George Bush and Dick Cheney are doing what they are because we are permitting them to do it. Say “No More!” Start with Cheney, then Bush.

Democracy means using your voice. Now is not the time for silence.

Hat tip: Crooks and Liars

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