Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Yes, I Have A Smoking Gun In My Hand, But It’s Not Mine, Although I Can’t Recall Who Handed It To Me. Am I Still In Trouble?

Is it just me, or does it seem like the Bush administration is imploding? The weight of all of the scandals, the inappropriate use of government offices and the infusion of political priorities into every single aspect of our government is finally threatening to collapse the whole sordid structure they’ve built. The references to the Bush Crime Family have always seemed a stretch to me, but as the whole mess unravels, it appears more and more like racketeering all the time. Bush, Cheney, Libby, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rove and all the others, have not only acted inappropriately as representatives and employees of the people, but they have build an operating system that condones and facilitates all of their bad (illegal) behavior.

In an attempt to avoid Congressional oversight, the Bush administration, with the help of the RNC and big Republican donors, set up a shadow communications system within the White House. The theory was, that since the communications were made on a private system rather than a government system, the emails weren’t subject to public scrutiny. This theory, like the neo-con theory that led us into the quagmire of Iraq, was riddled with flaws and may just lead to their downfall. You see, private communications can remain private (unless of course you’re just an average American subject to spying by the NSA) as long as no crimes are committed. Once a crime is suspected, then the communications are subject to subpoena, and there is no executive privilege option for hiding emails that were routed through the RNC. Oops!

You can call it a conspiracy or a culture of corruption, but it’s worth pointing out the many and varied investigations that are either ongoing, or that have already resulted in convictions of Republican officials and operatives. They may seem on the surface to be unconnected, but the one thing they all have in common is electoral math. There’s Tom DeLay’s illegal redistricting plan in Texas, since struck down by the Supreme Court. Tom Noe’s illegal funneling of stolen money into the Bush/Cheney campaign (not to mentionhis wife’s questionable behavior as Chair of the Lucas County Board of Elections). There’s the firing of US Attorneys who refused to halt investigations into corrupt Republicans or refused to manufacture investigations into Democrats in key states. The NSA spying that appears to have had more to do with political intelligence than foreign intelligence. And the big one, the war that was supposed to provide George W. Bush with the political capital necessary to implement a neo-conservative (not to mention Chrito-facsist) agenda while providing cover for the behind the scenes war profiteering and shady maneuvers to ensure a permanent Republican majority, not through public acceptance of their tried and true ideology, but though manipulation of our electoral system from illegal redistricting to privately owned voting machines and more legal hurdles to voting.

There’s news today of a new sweeping investigation by the Office of Special Councel into Karl Rove and his entire political operation that used our government agencies to ensure Republican electoral dominance. The firing of US Attorney David Iglesias, the political pressure put on government employees to use their positions to further Rove’s political agenda, the missing emails and the shadow communications system are all on the table in this investigation. For the Bush administration, the strength of their ideas is not enough to ensure political victory, leaving manipulation and suppression of the vote as their best option for maintaining power.

It’s about time there was one sweeping investigation into how this White House operates, and the RNC communications network might very well be the thing that ties the many disparate investigations together. It might even lead to some answers as to what really happened during the 2004 election, although as I heard Noam Chomsky say in a speech recently, “that is mostly an elite affair” and he’s not wrong. Far too many people have ignored the very real possibility of a stolen election, either because it’s too frightening to contemplate or it just seems par for the course. But still, there is evidence emerging that suggests this same RNC system was used to count the votes from Ohio on Election Night. That is a huge development and it opens up the possibility that the OSC investigation could accidentally stumble upon the smoking gun. Now wouldn’t that be a nice turn of events?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Bush Administration Plays Limbo With The Law: How Low Can They Go?

When liars testify before Congress, surprise, surprise...THEY LIE. Alberto Gonzales is in hot water because he has repeatedly lied about his involvement in the firing of 9 US Prosecutors so why should we expect that he’d tell the truth under oath? The grilling Gonzales received from both Democrats and Republicans on Thursday did nothing to shed light on the truth, but the AG’s answers to the questions posed to him did highlight the lack of credibility of his current story which boils down to, ‘I fired them, but I don’t know how they made it on the list to be fired, but I can assure you that there were not improper motives for firing them, although I can’t tell you the proper reasons.’ In other words, trust me. Sorry Gonzo, checks written on your credibility account have been bouncing for years.

My favorite moment in the hearing was when Senator Chuck Schumer pointed out that the Attorney General had set the bar unbelievably low as to what constitutes improper behavior. Both Gonzales and his Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson stated multiple times under oath that it would be improper to fire a US Attorney in an effort to interfere with a specific case. No Mr. Gonzales, that would be ILLEGAL. One would think that what is improper would fall well below that egregious offense. But even that charge cannot be fully dismissed considering that Carol Lam was fired just as her investigation into public corruption had moved beyond the Legislative branch and was inching closer to the White House. While the interference in that case may very well be illegal, certainly firing Prosecutors that won’t carry out the political agenda as laid out by Karl Rove, is improper to say the least.

One thing we know about the Bush administration is that they suck at policy but they revel in politics. This administration has shown a willingness hell, an eagerness, to weaken government agencies in an effort to strengthen their political hand. It’s who they are. The fact that they have politicized the Justice Department, while not surprising, is detrimental to the functioning of our government on the most basic level. It recalibrates the dispensing of justice to favor a political party over the people. That is why this investigation matters and why we should care what it reveals. I don’t much care if Alberto Gonzales is nailed for the underlying crime, as long as he’s nailed for a crime and driven far away from our government and barred from dispensing his form of justice (torture and illegal wiretapping to name a few) ever again.

Like Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s obstruction of Justice, Alberto Gonzales’s lying to Congress could result in one more tumor excised from our ailing democracy. It doesn’t much matter how that tumor is discovered, just that it is removed. Now if we could just get Cheney for tax evasion (or war profiteering) and Bush for illegal use of prescription drugs (or reckless incompetence), then we’d really be on our way to a more perfect union.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Moving On Is Hard To Do

Dennis Kucinich was on CNN last night, discussing the Iraq War. He proudly accepted the label “liberal” and stated boldly that he has always been against this war and has even voted against funding it all along. As he was speaking, the bottom of the screen read, “Rep. Dennis Kucinich D-Ohio." I turned to Man of American Dissent and said, “Ohio voters keep sending Kucinich to Congress and I’m supposed to believe that Ohio went for Bush in ’04? Puh-lease.”

All these years later, and I’m still not over it. I’ve still not read or seen anything that has changed my mind about what happened in Ohio in 2004. In fact, evidence continues to drip out that supports the argument that George Bush is an illegitimate president and that his campaign, along with Bush loyalists in key positions, with malice of forethought, rigged the election in his favor.

I remember reading reports of Ken Blackwell, in the months leading up to the election, purging the voter rolls of hundreds of thousands of Democratic voters. I remember him creating arbitrary rules about voter registration and the weight paper it must be printed on. I remember the long lines of mostly black voters in Ohio on Election Day. I remember the mysterious lock down by Homeland Security of the building in Warren County where the last of the votes were tallied. I remember the bizarre numbers coming out of Ohio in the days after the election, numbers that varied wildly from the exit polls. I remember being frightened by what had been revealed, and even more frightened by the silence of traditional media. It was a black time to say the least.

During the following weeks, I poured over election results, county by county, and none of it made any sense. I followed the re-count as it moved forward, out of the spotlight, the result of hard work and diligence by activists not willing to sit down and shut up about the possible thwarting of the democratic process. At that time, I still had hope that the truth would be revealed, and that a hand recount of the ballots would show that there was something rotten in Ohio. How naïve I was. Of course they rigged the recount too.

The silence of the media and the indifference of the Democratic Party forced this, possibly the biggest story of our lifetime, underground where it remains today. Perhaps it’s just too frightening to contemplate, too difficult to accept and the implications too great. But ignoring the continuing saga only puts us at greater risk of a repeat performance. It can happen here, and it has. Why wouldn’t it happen again?

The reason I bring this up now is because the firing of US Attorneys across the country is likely connected to this same rotten scheme. There’s no denying the electoral significance of the states that were targeted by Alberto Gonzales’s Justice Department. I was glad to see Robert Reich actually utter the suggestion on television this weekend that this White House wants to make it harder for Americans to vote. That is the real story behind the Attorney purge. It really is that simple.

I’m also rehashing this story because so much is left unrevealed and what is coming out is not widely reported. How many people know that the recount in Ohio was fixed? How many people know that election workers have been convicted of rigging that recount? Mainstream news reports of the conviction make sure to suggest that their actions did nothing to alter the outcome of the election, but that’s just ass covering. We will never know if the vote totals in Cuyahoga County were manipulated, and that is because these elections officials made sure that there would never be a hand recount. I don’t care what their motivations were, democracy was thwarted and the truth was buried.

How many people know that the 2006 election was riddled with “inconsistencies” as well? Who knows what the Rove machine is setting up for 2008? One election turning out right does not mean everything’s okay, it just means enough people voted to override any plan in place to thwart the will of the people. We still have voting machines that are vulnerable to manipulation. We still have a Republican crusade to make voting more difficult. We still have a media that is not at all interested in pursuing the story. The ballots in Ohio have never been counted so we don’t know for sure what happened in 2004, but the circumstantial evidence is enough to convict in the court of public opinion. Well, it would be if more people knew about it.

You can call me a conspiracy theorist and dismiss my concerns as the result of the overactive imagination of a hyperventilating liberal that can’t stand losing. You can, but you’d be wrong. I’m willing to accept that Bush legitimately won the election, I just want the glaring discrepancies and secrecy explained. I accept that enough Americans voted for Bush in 2004 to make it a close election, even if I have a hard time understanding why. I accept that he could have won, but what I know of that election and the amazing things (unexplained glitches, literally unbelievable vote counts and inconsistencies in exit polling) that occurred that have yet to be explained, I just don’t believe that he did. The fact that the Bush administration continues to manipulate any and all information relating to the integrity of our elections, is a good indicator that they’ve got something to hide. Again, it’s circumstantial, but criminals have been convicted on less.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Mission Impossible?

Apparently, the Bush administration wants to appoint a War Czar to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but they can’t seem to find any takers. Gen. John J. Sheehan, Gen. Jack Keane, and Gen. Joseph W. Ralston have all reportedly been tapped for the job and all have declined with Sheehan stating bluntly, "The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going."

President Bush is looking for a way out and no one seems interested in helping him do it. The problem is, Bush isn’t trying to find a solution to the disaster in Iraq or finish the job he’s abandoned in Afghanistan, he’s instead looking for a credible name to sign onto his failed policy as he pushes forward aimlessly. With Dick Cheney still the most powerful force within the White House, any General tapped for the job will likely respond similarly to Sheehan who said, "So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, 'No, thanks.'" His mama clearly didn’t raise no dummies, too bad for the country that Babs Bush was working overtime on that front.

Every attempt to inject reason into Bush administration war policy has failed miserably. Most dissenting voices within the administration have been expunged, those that still remain are ignored, and the Iraq Study Group recommendations were quickly tossed aside in favor of an escalation plan opposed by just about everyone but John McCain. The sad truth is, as long as Bush and Cheney occupy our White House, there will be no resolution in Iraq.

Cheney continues to sell the war using the same old lines and Bush simply doesn’t have a clue how to run a country, form a coherent policy or execute a war. We do have a King and he’s a buck naked, bumbling fool who thinks he rules the world. We The People are the only ones left that can dispel him of that notion. That is our mission should we choose to accept it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Buy A Politician! It’s Not As Expensive As You Might Think!

Technology has really changed the way political campaigns function. We’ve seen citizen produced campaign ads take off like wildfire (like the Hillary as Big Brother ad) and we’ve seen grassroots fundraising skyrocket with the help of the Internet. Barack Obama’s campaign announced last week that 90% of his first quarter campaign contributions were under $100 and came from a whopping 100,000 contributors, half of them through the Internet. Since campaign finance laws have done little to erode the influence of big business and corporate special interests on political candidates and campaigns, We The People must join the party and buy some politicians of our own.

Recently, some bloggers and activists in Oregon decided that Republican Senator Gordon Smith needed to be challenged and they started a movement to draft Peter DeFazio to run against Smith for one of Oregon’s Senate seats. Please check out their most recent post at Daily Kos titled, “$5 Can Change The World” and consider helping out. At this point, they’re not trying to raise big money for the campaign, they are simply trying to show that there is support out there and that the people can deliver as well, or better, than corporate donors. They’ve already reached their first goal and are now on to phase II. The title of the post really does say it all, the money is less important than the statement it makes.

There is power in numbers and with the help of the Internet we now have an easy way to exercise that power. A little bit of money, when added together can create quite a war chest. That is a message we should be make sure our politicians receive loud and clear. If we want a responsive government, we need to make sure that we are the ones picking the candidates, not the fat cats with the deep pockets who expect more for their money than a “thank you”.

Just Another Offensive Old White Guy

As a country, we are pretty fucked up when it comes to sex and race. I’m hearing rumblings from Man of American Dissent about a possible pending post on the topic (sparked by the outrageous comments made by Don Imus last week) so I won’t delve too deeply into the topic just yet. I hope he finds the time to get to it because I’m looking forward to commenting, but until then, I just have to throw in my two cents on Don Imus.

I don’t usually get angry over stupid white men gaffes, but this whole Imus thing has really pissed me off. I don’t care if his colleagues at MSNBC think he’s a “good man” and I don’t care that his most recent disgusting, racist, misogynistic rant was par for the course for his show, but I do care that a bigoted, sexist, disgusting old man has such a large audience and that our elected officials help him draw a crowd by appearing on his show.

Imus apologists claim that he should have latitude because he’s a comedian (although applying that term to Imus is a stretch) and that he shouldn’t be fired for a mistake that he’s apologized for. Fair enough, but I get to be outraged that a grown man would stoop so low as to disparage young women whose only crime is striving for athletic excellence. Such a man deserves the public flogging he’s receiving and if his show is cancelled and/or the rating plummet, good riddance. And really, how “good” of a man can he possibly be if these are the thoughts that lurk just beneath the surface? His colleagues clearly have a much different notion of what constitutes a good man than I.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Pretty Soon Bush Will Only Be Able To Speak In A Hermetically Sealed Bag

Bush’s speech on Iraq that he gave in front of the troops yesterday was met with a deafening silence. Man, was that uncomfortable to watch. There was the usual applause as he thanked the troops for their service and welcomed home those just returning from Afghanistan, but after that, the applause lines fell with a thud. He even trotted out his favorite one-liners, “everything changed after 9/11” and “oceans can’t protect us” and “we can’t leave until the job is done” but this time, the troops weren’t buying it and while they can’t boo, they made an even bigger impression by remaining perfectly silent. We’ve known for a long time that President Bush only speaks to carefully selected crowds, but even those are proving difficult to impress at this point.

He can’t even throw out the ceremonial first pitch to kick off baseball season for fear of being booed. Of course the White House claims it was because of scheduling conflicts but anyone with half a brain can figure out why a president with an approval rating hovering around 30%, mired in scandal and further botching an increasingly unpopular war would chose to skip any appearance in front of a crowd not prescreened to include only the brain addled. His top advisor gets pelted with garbage and his vice president has to hide in the bushes away from the cameras during a press conference. I hate to keep asking the obvious but come on, how is it possible that these two haven’t been impeached yet? They’re quite possibly the most despised men in America.

And Bush keeps telling us over and over again that his job is to protect the American people. Please, I beg of you, stop protecting us! Your kind of protection we can do without, it’s too much like the kind of protection offered by the mob, pay us and we won’t hurt you. Actually, Bush’s protection is even worse since he takes our money AND paints a big target on our back by stirring up trouble at every opportunity and acting the bully all around the world. At this point, I’d rather take my chances on a hunting trip with Dick Cheney than suffer through more protection from Bush Jr.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Sticks, Stones and Chicken Bones

The game of “Chicken” being played by the Congress and the White House just got a lot more interesting. With passage of the war supplemental by the Senate last week, the next move looked to be the President’s. Bush declared that he would veto any bill Congress sent to his desk that included a timetable for withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, and without the votes necessary to override a Presidential veto, it looked as if the Democrats would be forced to provide funding for the war with no stipulations. That may still be the case, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid upped the ante today by announcing that if the President vetoes the supplemental, he will cosponsor legislation with Senator Russ Feingold that seeks to cut off the funding for the continued occupation of Iraq. Way to go Harry, I didn’t think you had it in you. The only way to win this game is to commit, and floor it! Make President Bush choke on the chicken bone the way he did on that pretzel.

In an op-ed in Salon today, Senator Feingold compares the Feingold-Reid bill to one passed by the Senate in 1993 that cut off funding for military operations in Somalia. The White House and Congressional Republicans can continue to spew their faux patriotic crap about “supporting the troops” but with a real debate on ending the war that is put front and center by the Democratic Leadership, comes the possibility of solid and vocal support from the public. That the Republicans are engaging in the most hypocritical of arguments for allowing the Bush administration to continue on its disastrous course when they cut off funding for the troops in Somalia is to be expected, but exposing and harping on that hypocrisy can only be good for efforts to end the occupation. Nothing will convince the 20 percenters that Bush’s policies are NOT in fact ordained by God, but the other 80% can be made to shout, “Enough is enough already!”

The question has never been, will the public support cutting off funding for Bush’s failed Iraq policy, but instead has been, will the Democrats find the stones to do it? There is no one in the Senate with more credibility on Iraq than Senator Russ Feingold and I’m encouraged that leadership has finally decided to support his efforts (I suspect it was the carrot on the stick to secure Feingold’s support for the supplemental in the first place). I don’t know if Harry Reid’s skills are as honed as Nancy Pelosi’s when it comes to whipping the support necessary to get a bill passed, but I’m certainly looking forward to finding out.