Thursday, July 26, 2007

Gonzalez Must Go

Here's a summary of the latest reasons why.

More Katrina-Related B.S.

After complaints that the Small Business Administration was too slow to pay out loans granted for Hurricane Katrina relief, they are now arbitrarily taking away previously-granted small business loans "to cut the number of applicants whose loans had been approved but not paid out."

Bush Torture Ban Full of Loopholes

Prof. David Cole: "We have learned that when President Bush says, "We don't torture," it's important to read the fine print. . . . The actual tactics the CIA is authorized to use remain classified. . . . [T]he president's order appears to permit cutting or bruising a suspect so long as the injury does not risk death, significant functional impairment or 'extreme physical pain,' an entirely subjective term. . . . [T]he order creates no rights enforceable by any victim against the United States or its employees, while expressly offering CIA employees a defense against any attempt to hold them liable for abuse. The ultimate purpose of the law, in other words, is to protect the potential perpetrators, not the potential victims."

Monday, July 23, 2007

The President who will not remain nameless

Two local attorneys in Media, Pennsylvania filed pretrial motions to keep opposing counsel from mentioning President Bush by name at trial. The theory was that he is so unpopular, that it would prejudice the jury against them at a false arrest trial stemming from the arrest of a local doctor who was holding an anti-war sign at a Bush campaign event.

Check it out:
Apparently President George W. Bush is now so unpopular that some lawyers believe the mere mention of his name in front of a jury could tip the scales against them.

Attorneys Michael P. Laffey and Robert P. DiDomenicis of Holsten & Associates in Media, Pa., are defending Upper Darby Township, Pa., in a civil rights suit brought by Harold Lischner, an 82-year-old doctor who claims he was falsely arrested for displaying an anti-war sign at a Bush campaign event in September 2003.

With the case set to go to trial on July 23, the defense lawyers recently filed a flurry of motions, including one that asked Eastern District of Pennsylvania Judge Gene E.K. Pratter to prohibit the plaintiff from mentioning Bush's name.

The motion in Lischner v. Upper Darby Township said that according to the latest Newsweek poll, Bush has "the worst approval rating of an American president in a generation," and that 62 percent of Americans believe that Bush's handling of the war in Iraq shows that he is "stubborn and unwilling to admit his mistakes."

Laffey and DiDomenicis argued that "the identity of George W. Bush has no relevance to plaintiff's claim and should not be admitted."

Any "probative value" of Bush's identity, they argued, "is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice to defendant."

Bush's identity, they argued, "in and of itself, presents the danger that the jury will favor plaintiff."

As a result, the defense lawyers said, "it will be sufficient for plaintiff to testify that he displayed a sign in opposition of a 'presidential candidate.'"
In the end, Judge Pratter was not convinced:
Now Pratter has sided with the plaintiffs lawyers, saying "the court disagrees that what Upper Darby proposes is a viable approach."

Pratter found that the message on Lischner's sign and Bush's identity, as well as the circumstances surrounding his visit -- including the war in Iraq and Bush's bid for re-election -- are "relevant to the determination of probable cause and to the adequacy of Upper Darby's training and policies."

All relevant evidence is "generally admissible," Pratter said, and "the president's identity and Dr. Lischner's opposition to the war in Iraq -- presumably as evidenced by the text on his sign -- are relevant because they are part of the circumstances weighing on the probable cause analysis conducted by Officer [Michael] Kehrle."

. . .

"The facts that the political candidate was not only a candidate for arguably the most important office in our government, but also the current president participating in a campaign for re-election, were important to the court's determination that the condition imposed by Drexelbrook was illegal and, thus, relevant to the probable cause determination."

The text of Lischner's sign is also legally significant, Pratter found, because "the fact that Dr. Lischner's sign was not blatantly offensive or disrespectful, and certainly not aimed at inciting violence or some other physical disruption, is relevant to whether probable cause existed."

Friday, July 20, 2007

Bush Orders Justice Department Not to Enforce Laws against Bush

The imperial president has again set himself above the law.

Let's review: Congress receives evidence and testimony suggesting that the Bush Administration politicized the Justice Department and U.S. Attorney offices in its hiring and firing decisions. Congress, investigating those allegations, subpoenas Bush Administration officials for their testimony. Bush Administration tells its officials not to testify to Congress and to ignore the subpoenas. Congress refers contempt of Congress charges to the Justice Department. President Bush orders the Justice Department not to do anything with those charges.

What further need is there to prove that Bush has politicized the Justice Department? We can see him doing it right now in real time, and hear him saying that he is doing it.

The ball is back in Congress's court. As Greenwald explains:
There is nothing new here. As has long been known, this administration believes themselves to reside above and beyond the reach of the law. What else would they need to do in order to make that as clear as can be? They got caught red-handed committing multiple felonies -- by eavesdropping on Americans in precisely the way the law we enacted 30 years ago prohibited -- and they not only admitted it, but vowed to continue to break our laws, and asserted the right to do so. And nothing happened.

. . .

There is no magic force that is going to descend from the sky and strike with lighting at George Bush and Dick Cheney for so flagrantly subverting our constitutional order. The Founders created various checks for confronting tyrannical abuses of power, but they have to be activated by political will and the courage to confront it. That has been lacking. Hence, they have seized omnipotent powers with impunity.

It's the next war too

As Congress debates an end to the Iraq war, a nagging question keeps coming back: Is war with Iran inevitable? Or will Congress step back, take a deep breath, and put on the brakes before it is too late?

I've written before about my suspicions on where things are heading, and Sy Hersh has been indispensible on the subject. Now,'s Justin Raimondo offers plenty more reasons to be worried about the present course. Put simply, we have three aircraft carriers that we recently parked near Iraq (and Iran) in the relatively tiny Persian Gulf (think high potential for accident that sparks international incident). We have alleged Iranian diplomats captured and being held in Iraq under suspicion of espionage. We have accusations flying around about covert Iranian involvement in its unstable neighoring country (duh), and worse, Iranian weapons killing our soldiers. The Senate has already passed a unanimous resolution condemning Iran for killing U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Or there's the WMDs argument.

It seems like we've already watched a powder keg get set up, and are now just waiting for something to happen. The stage seems to be set for the big outrage or the incredible secret evidence or the tragically-mistaken forgery that all the wise people in Washington will agree to mean that we absolutely must, MUST attack Iran, and anyone who disagrees... fifth columnnist traitors. Remember, we've seen this play out not that long ago, and this time we have three aircraft carriers and a whole mess of troops in Iraq just sitting around right next door. And maniacs and fools who talk about how we can "do Iran" with only air strikes. Really.

As stupid as the whole concept of another war may be to most of us right now, and as we wonder how the heck we get out of Iraq without creating even more chaos, the guys still in charge are the crew that brought us the present middle eastern disaster. Will they really be deterred by the fact that their new middle eastern plans make no sense at all, and would likely result in a catastrophically bigger disaster? Or will they try to salvage the "legacy" and make a "bold move" before whatever weenie who wins the next election takes office and goes soft. These are the guys that "create their own reality," after all.

Having seen this all play out already only a few short years ago, and watching its tragic results and costs before our eyes, one would hope that there would now be enough people in Congress or counseling the President with the sense to stop this course from repeating.

If the new war actually comes to a vote before it's already fait accompli, I assume there would be quite a few more dissenters this time around (I'm looking at you, John Kerry). But can we honestly trust that 50% of Congress would be able to resist the temptation of going along with it, assuming that the big outrage is big enough or the scary evidence scary-sounding enough? The ranks of the gullible and the cynical are ever-refreshed in politics, and just like last time, for many politicians, the real questions will be 'how does it play on the teevee,' and 'will I get killed at the polls next year if the war goes really great and I was on the damned dirty hippies' side?'

And who really expects the media to do their crucial job and act the role of the skeptic and factchecker when the time comes, beyond a handful of outraged editorials, obscure reports buried on the back pages, and debates between three yelling pro war pundits and either Janeane Garofalo or Scott Ritter? By contrast, who expects that they will immediately go into breathless 24/7 hysterics and White House/Department of Defense stenography (complete with countdown clock) as soon as they catch a whiff of the next war?

To put it simply, I would not be surprised to see that the Iraq exit strategy turn out to be an Iran entry strategy, with tragic results. Now is the time to stop it.

The pieces are in place and the intention has been long known: "Anyone can go to Baghdad. Real men go to Tehran."

Sunday, July 08, 2007

It's the War, Stupid

Even the newspaper that helped start the war and foolishly supported every crackpot "last ditch" effort to "save" it (in six-month "Friedman" increments), now wants to end it. The Times now says, "Enough":
It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.

Like many Americans, we have put off that conclusion, waiting for a sign that President Bush was seriously trying to dig the United States out of the disaster he created by invading Iraq without sufficient cause, in the face of global opposition, and without a plan to stabilize the country afterward.

At first, we believed that after destroying Iraq’s government, army, police and economic structures, the United States was obliged to try to accomplish some of the goals Mr. Bush claimed to be pursuing, chiefly building a stable, unified Iraq. When it became clear that the president had neither the vision nor the means to do that, we argued against setting a withdrawal date while there was still some chance to mitigate the chaos that would most likely follow.

While Mr. Bush scorns deadlines, he kept promising breakthroughs — after elections, after a constitution, after sending in thousands more troops. But those milestones came and went without any progress toward a stable, democratic Iraq or a path for withdrawal. It is frighteningly clear that Mr. Bush’s plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor. Whatever his cause was, it is lost.

. . .

Continuing to sacrifice the lives and limbs of American soldiers is wrong. The war is sapping the strength of the nation’s alliances and its military forces. It is a dangerous diversion from the life-and-death struggle against terrorists. It is an increasing burden on American taxpayers, and it is a betrayal of a world that needs the wise application of American power and principles.

A majority of Americans reached these conclusions months ago. Even in politically polarized Washington, positions on the war no longer divide entirely on party lines. When Congress returns this week, extricating American troops from the war should be at the top of its agenda.

That conversation must be candid and focused. Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave. There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide. Potentially destabilizing refugee flows could hit Jordan and Syria. Iran and Turkey could be tempted to make power grabs. Perhaps most important, the invasion has created a new stronghold from which terrorist activity could proliferate.

The administration, the Democratic-controlled Congress, the United Nations and America’s allies must try to mitigate those outcomes — and they may fail. But Americans must be equally honest about the fact that keeping troops in Iraq will only make things worse. The nation needs a serious discussion, now, about how to accomplish a withdrawal and meet some of the big challenges that will arise.

. . .

President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have used demagoguery and fear to quell Americans’ demands for an end to this war. They say withdrawing will create bloodshed and chaos and encourage terrorists. Actually, all of that has already happened — the result of this unnecessary invasion and the incompetent management of this war.

This country faces a choice. We can go on allowing Mr. Bush to drag out this war without end or purpose. Or we can insist that American troops are withdrawn as quickly and safely as we can manage — with as much effort as possible to stop the chaos from spreading.
Read the whole thing, there is quite a bit of detail in there for an editorial. Hopefully, the Times can learn enough from recent history to stop starting the next war, in Iran.

Dead or Alive

Isn't this why we invaded Afghanistan, to get a bunch of bad guys who attacked us that another country wouldn't let us get?
WASHINGTON, July 7 — A secret military operation in early 2005 to capture senior members of Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas was aborted at the last minute after top Bush administration officials decided it was too risky and could jeopardize relations with Pakistan, according to intelligence and military officials.

The target was a meeting of Qaeda leaders that intelligence officials thought included Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden’s top deputy and the man believed to run the terrorist group’s operations.

But the mission was called off after Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, rejected an 11th-hour appeal by Porter J. Goss, then the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, officials said. Members of a Navy Seals unit in parachute gear had already boarded C-130 cargo planes in Afghanistan when the mission was canceled, said a former senior intelligence official involved in the planning.
Read the rest of the story here.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

What an interesting coincidence

Josh Marshall and emptywheel both take note of an interesting coincidence: right about the time that the prosecutors in the Rep. Duke Cunningham corruption case were looking into efforts by top Department of Defense appointees "to set up their own domestic surveillance and spying operations . . . quite likely well outside the bounds of American law," including potential domestic surveillance of U.S. citizens through a program called TALON, in which key contracts went to Cunningham's bribers, "somehow the entire record of the TALON program, every report that had been collected, was scrubbed."

Obstructor in Chief

"[I]n America THE LAW IS KING. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other." - Thomas Paine, Common Sense

"[I]n a republic . . . every magistrate ought to be personally responsible for his behavior in office." - Alexander Hamilton, Federalist #70

"I guess I don't know what you mean by equal justice under the law." - Scott Stanzel, White House Press Briefing, 7/5/2007

President Bush commuted the sentence of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a man duly convicted by a jury of his peers of perjury, lying to investigators and obstruction of justice, all relating to an independent investigation (that President Bush pretended to support) concerning the leaking of a covert CIA agent's identity. After decrying the "severity" of Libby's sentence, President Bush has instead substituted it with NOTHING, to the cheers and applause of the press and the Washington elite.

With this move, President Bush has furthered the criminal conspiracy and cover-up, and himself obstructed justice. He has sabotaged an ongoing investigation that reaches into the doorstep of the White House. He has ensured that Libby will never "flip" and testify against either he or the Vice President, and by failing to fully pardon him, he has ensured that Libby can continue to invoke the Fifth Amendment and refuse to testify about his crimes before Congress. This is an outrage.

Add this to the impeachment bill that will never be passed (despite support from a growing majority of Americans), but would never be more deserving, add it together with his illegal war in Iraq (and the criminal conspiracy to lie and forge our way into it), his unconstitutional detentions of American citizens and civilians without due process, his international torture ring, and his illegal and unconstitutional spying on Americans, among numerous other offenses.