Saturday, August 18, 2007

What Karl Rove REALLY Had in Mind for a "Permanent Republican Majority"

The Huffington Post
Paul Abrams
What Karl Rove REALLY Had in Mind for a "Permanent Republican Majority"

Most of us, myself included, tend to take our democratic institutions for granted. They were there when we were born. They were there for 200+ years. The idea that the US could somehow no longer be a representative democracy does not resonate at the gut-level, even when events should demonstrate the vulnerability of our system.

Yet, twice in the last 4 decades, the US Constitution has come very close to extinction. Interestingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, each occurred in the setting of a war begun with a series of lies, and continued beyond the point when everyone knew the ultimate outcome would be unaffected, but was pursued just for the vanity of those in power.

The first was Nixon-Watergate-Vietnam. Barry Werth's excellent book, "31 Days", the story of the first month of the Gerald Ford Administration, is only the latest to indicate that the ONLY barrier to a coup d'etats was crusty, old, conservative Judge Sirica who knew he was being lied to by the Watergate burglars, and was insulted. He imposed the maximum sentence on the burglars, and then one (ex-CIA agent, James McCord) broke because he did not want to go to jail. [Scooter's commuted sentence shows that theyDO learn.] Without Judge Sirica, there would have been no John Dean, no special prosecutor, and no impeachment.

Otherwise, Nixon had his stonewall erected, and spoke prospectively about how he could "crush" the opposition after the '72 election. [Dallek's book, "Nixon and Kissinger", indicates that both realized they could start ending the Vietnam war in 1971, but wanted to wait so it would not impact Nixon's re-election chances---i.e., ~20,000 additional Americans lost their lives for Nixon's re-election]. Absent Sirica's pique, Nixon would have succeeded. Nixon's Gonzales, Attorney General John Mitchell, told the Watergate committee that their abuses were done because: "all we were trying to do is get the President re-elected". The danger to our Republic was not that sentiment, but that the Attorney General of the United States, a legal expert on municipal bonds, actually believed it was a sufficient justification.

What about Karl Rove, a man who had an early career job with Brown & Williamson tobacco company, learning how to sell something that no one, rationally, would buy, and being comfortable knowing that he was helping recruit 5000 children per week to start a life habit of smoking?

Rove's vision for a permanent Republican majority had little to do with winning properly run elections for the simple reason that there IS no Republican majority in free elections, and Rove knows that. To get a Republican majority and make it permanent, therefore, he had to 1) gain power; and 2) destroy the vitality of democratic institutions. He accomplished (1). It did not matter to him whether he used "Republican" policies to do that or not: just consider, Bush's only positive legacy will be the prescription drug law that, while terribly flawed, added an entitlement. True, he also lined pockets of his supporters, and that helped Rove's cause. Bush also tried to gain Latino votes by siding with Ted Kennedy, John McCain and others on immigration reform, while dissing his entire rightwing base.

They pushed the Iraq War in the fall of an election cycle to squeeze Democrats by providing as little time as possible to parry their lies [not that they may have acted differently if given more time], and then invaded Iraq while the inspectors were still doing their work fearing that no WMD might be found. The idea was to have a spectacular display of US military power (if you recall, Afghanistan, according to the greatest Sec'y of Defense in interplanetary history, did not have enough "high quality targets") to develop the popular support so the President could push through his domestic programs and grow executive power. The domestic agenda was to de-link financially people from government, so they would be weak and even easier prey for corporate manipulation.

Even that, however, would have been insufficient, Rove knew it, and had a comprehensive approach to a true takeover. As Judge Sirica showed, and as dictators such as Hitler, Chavez, Khomenei, Saddam, and others knew, the last bastion of democracy is a truly independent judiciary where an individual can take on the entire power of the government. So, Rove et al. planned to destroy that independence by appointing truly pedestrian people, who grew up in the "movement", to interpret the law against individuals, and in favor of the government and big corporations.

Rove's pretentions could not survive increased voter turnout. Hence, the attack against minorities and others who were trying to vote in non-Republican areas, and the firing of US attorneys who, apparently, had not received the memo that the rule of law was, as Attorney General Gonzales called the Geneva Conventions, "quaint". Dragging their feet on voting reform (despite the Baker-Carter Commission Report), and using non-paper trail machines, most made by rightwing Republican CEOs, they wanted to grab a majority where none existed. The districts in the '04 that had voting machines with no paper trail had greater divergences from the exit polls than those with paper trails.

For '08, they are trying to get California to eliminate its winner-take-all approach to divvying up electoral college votes, so that, instead of a Democrat winning 55 votes (about 20% of the total needed to win), might only get 35 and a Republican get 20. They NEVER quit. And, they care nothing about American traditions and the Constitution.

Another arrow in the Rove quiver was the radical rightwing media. Dangerous as it is as a purveyor of hate, of lies masquerading as scientific evidence, and the echo chamber that provides the imprimatur of legitimacy, it was not good enough. Hence, the move to allow more media concentration, fortunately foiled not by what John McCain called the largest outpouring of opposition he had ever seen (hang the people, they will become irrelevant anyhow), but by a judicial system that retained pockets of independence.

Still, that was not enough. Rove paid columnists to plant Administration propaganda, they provided certain "reporters" like Judith Miller unique access to what they called "facts" so they would be published as "scoops", preying on Miller's vanity as an ace reporter. She published the "information" they provided her in the New York Times, and then Administration spokespeople quoted the Times as an impeccable source for their opinions. Rove also went through the government, schooling people on how to use their power to help Republican candidates, a violation of law.

Perhaps the most pathetic, they insisted that any policy statement from the government mention George Bush favorably at least 3-times per page. It triggers visions of the wife of Romanian dictator Ceaucescu, who insisted upon being called "Doctor", and had her name included as co-author on scientific publications whose substance she knew nothing about.

They hired people for loyalty, not competence. In the regulatory agencies, they placed industry people so that not much enforcement would occur. They found young, recent college graduates, from places like Pat Robertson's "Regent University", to take high level positions (e.g., Monica Goodling), so they could guarantee unquestioned obedience to George Bush. People were recruited for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq who had absolutely no expertise in anything, but on the basis of their opinions on Roe v. Wade, and how they felt about the Florida recount in 2000. That is how much Bush Rove and Cheney cared about Iraq.

In the meantime, they proceeded mostly in a stealth fashion with increasing claims of executive power, with attacks against opponents of such claims as unpatriotic and endangering the lives our citizens. With a lockstep Republican Congress for 6 years, who were easily lulled by power into abandoning their oaths of office ("supporting the Constitution of the United States"), there was no barrier to encroaching on the balance of power among the branches. As Bush removed more and more of our civil liberties, our Constitution was more and more under attack, and there were fewer effective responses.

(As an aside, for those who believe in a "unitary executive", I pose a single question: does the President believe that he could, if he wished, overrule the Federal Reserve, and set interest rates? That is, can Congress establish an independent agency, without control by the executive, or not? If the answer is the President could overrule, I suggest that today's Dow Jones Industrial average is in the stratosphere compared to what it will be if that answer were confirmed).

To bring this all together, there is the Department of Homeland Security. Note that the Administration resisted making this an actual Department---why? Because Dick Cheney understood that, as a Department, it would have to provide Congress information and testimony for oversight. Imagine what it could do as an "advisor" to the President, operating in complete secrecy. Fortunately, not all rightwingers "got it" at the time, and joined the chorus for creating a Deparment. Even Bush and Cheney could not rebuff that groundswell.

Immediately following World War II, many of the eastern european countries had democracies of sorts. But, the Communist Party, that was part of ruling coalitions, bargained for the internal security portfolios. They used that power to quell opponents, break up meetings, bully voters and voting places, manipulate the media, and paved the road for Communist, totalitarian dictatorships to take control.

Katrina, the Iraq War disaster, pockets of a remaining independent judiciary, the rise of the internet as alternative communications, corruption, and the recognition by the American people that their liberties, and their way of life was at stake, prevented the Rove plan from working.

But, it was close. Webb, Tester and McCaskill won by very small margins in their Senate races, if any had lost, Cheney would be controlling the Senate. [Remember, he is not part of the executive branch, an example of how they are willing to say absolute anything, no matter how preposterous, if they think that it will make the question go away]. Many of the Democrats who beat Republican incumbents won by very small margins; this showed the collective disgust for Bush et al. on the one hand, but the extraordinary power of incumbency on the other.

And, if Katrina had not struck when it did, if the US attorneys had acted in lockstep as had the Republican Congress rather than investigate Republican scandals, I am afraid that I am not confident that the media would have had the spine to reveal the truth about Iraq, or to ask the questions that this Administration assumed would never be raised. Given the small margins of victory, it seems to me more likely than not that Bush would have had a lockstep Republican Congress for his last two years, and Rove would have been able to pursue his multi-faceted attack on democratic institutions.

No, this was no ordinary attempt by a savvy political strategist to win elections by resonating with the majority of the American people. It was a partially executed, and nearly successful, plan to create a permanent majority by weakening to the point of irrelevance all potential challenges to the unaccountable exercise of power.

It is a familiar story, but not an American story.


FISA Court Orders Bush-Cheney Administration to Respond to ACLU Requests for Key Rulings

FISA Court Orders Bush-Cheney Administration to Respond to ACLU Requests for Key Rulings

August 17, 2007 (LPAC)--The FISA Court has told the Bush-Cheney Administration that it must respond to a request for the key legal opinions which provide the backdrop to the White House's demand that Congress give it expanded wiretapping power.

The court is requiring the government to respond to a motion filed ten days ago by the ACLU, asking for two of the court's rulings in particular. The first is a January 10, 2007 order which apparently permitted the program which the White House calls the "Terrorist Surveillance Program'' to come under court supervision -- although apparently in a more limited manner than the way the original program directed by Vice President Dick Cheney operated -- which LPAC and EIR believe involved the "data-mining'' of information obtained by tapping into the major telecommunications hubs.

The second is a ruling, apparently around March of this year, which reportedly held that the government could not tap any communications passing through communications hubs inside the United States, without a court order. That ruling was used as the pretext by the White House to demand the power to monitor almost any telephone call which may involve a party overseas, not limited to terrorist suspects.

"Disclosure of these court orders and legal papers is essential to the ongoing debate about government surveillance,'' said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "We desperately need greater transparency and public scrutiny. We're extremely encouraged by today's development because it means that, at long last, the government will be required to defend its contention that the orders should not be released.''

The court ordered the government to respond by August 31.


Edwards divesting lenders targeting Katrina victims

Edwards divesting lenders targeting Katrina victims

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards said on Friday he plans to divest from his personal fortune any money tied to lenders who are trying to foreclose on the homes of Hurricane Katrina victims.

Edwards, who formally launched his campaign last year in a storm-battered section of New Orleans, was taking the action after The Wall Street Journal reported he held investments in lending units of the hedge fund Fortress Investment Group LLC.

Edwards, who earned a fortune as a trial lawyer, worked for Fortress as an adviser after he lost his vice presidential campaign in the 2004 election.

His campaign said he would also take unspecified steps to help those individuals who are facing foreclosure by Fortress' units.

Edwards, whom polls show running in third place behind Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in the race for the Democratic nomination ahead of the November 2008 election, has made a campaign issue of the swooning mortgage market. He has said he would end predatory lending practices and protect home owners.

Edwards was paid $479,512 in 2006 for consulting work for Fortress and had $16 million invested with the firm.

His campaign said Edwards would divest any holdings tied to lenders trying to foreclose on victims of the devastating August 2005 hurricane, but gave no specific figure.

An Edwards spokesman, Eric Schultz, said while some subprime lending is a valuable alternative for families with poor credit histories, some mortgages carry predatory terms.

"The distinction is sometime difficult to make, but John Edwards believes that nobody in New Orleans should lose their home because of Hurricane Katrina," Schultz said.


White House's Snow to leave before Bush term ends

White House's Snow to leave before Bush term ends

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - White House spokesman Tony Snow plans to leave his job before U.S. President George W. Bush's term ends in January 2009, citing financial reasons rather than his recurrence of colon cancer.

In a radio interview this week, Snow, 52, did not reveal when he would leave. Snow earlier this year suffered a return of colon cancer and has been receiving chemotherapy.

But he said his reasons for leaving would be financial. He took a pay cut to leave Fox News.

"I've already made it clear I'm not going to be able to go the distance, but that's primarily for financial reasons," Snow said on conservative radio program "The Hugh Hewitt Show."

"I've told people when my money runs out, then I've got to go."

Snow joined the White House last year to become the voice of the administration, which was under fire for its handling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In March, Snow learned his cancer had returned and underwent surgery to have a small growth removed. Doctors also found a tumor attached to his liver and he has since been undergoing treatment.

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe, asked about Snow's comments, said on Friday he did not know whether Snow had formally submitted his resignation.

Two years ago Snow fought through colon cancer, the same disease that killed his mother.

His leaving would be yet another significant departure from the Bush camp. Chief political adviser Karl Rove this week announced his resignation from the end of August.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Army suicides highest in 26 years

Yahoo! News
Army suicides highest in 26 years
By PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press Writer

Army soldiers committed suicide last year at the highest rate in 26 years, and more than a quarter did so while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a new military report.

The report, obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its scheduled release Thursday, found there were 99 confirmed suicides among active duty soldiers during 2006, up from 88 the previous year and the highest since the 102 suicides in 1991.

"Iraq was the most common deployment location for both (suicides) and attempts," the report said.

The 99 suicides included 28 soldiers deployed to the two wars and 71 who weren't. About twice as many women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan committed suicide as did women not sent to war, the report said.

Preliminary numbers for the first half of this year indicate the number of suicides could decline across the service in 2007 but increase among troops serving in the wars, officials said.

The increases for 2006 came as Army officials worked to set up a number of new and stronger programs for providing mental health care to a force strained by the longer-than-expected war in Iraq and the global counterterrorism war entering its sixth year.

Failed personal relationships, legal and financial problems and the stress of their jobs were factors motivating the soldiers to commit suicide, according to the report.

"In addition, there was a significant relationship between suicide attempts and number of days deployed" in Iraq, Afghanistan or nearby countries where troops are participating in the war effort, it said. The same pattern seemed to hold true for those who not only attempted, but succeeded in killing themselves.

There also "was limited evidence to support the view that multiple ... deployments are a risk factor for suicide behaviors," it said.

About a quarter of those who killed themselves had a history of at least one psychiatric disorder. Of those, about 20 percent had been diagnosed with a mood disorder such as bipolar disorder and/or depression; and 8 percent had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, including post traumatic stress disorder — one of the signature injuries of the conflict in Iraq.

Firearms were the most common method of suicide. Those who attempted suicide but didn't succeed tended more often to take overdoses and cut themselves.

In a service of more than a half million troop, the 99 suicides amounted to a rate of 17.3 per 100,000 — the highest in the past 26 years, the report said. The average rate over those years has been 12.3 per 100,000.

The rate for those serving in the wars stayed about the same, 19.4 per 100,000 in 2006, compared with 19.9 in 2005.

The Army said the information was compiled from reports collected as part of its suicide prevention program — reports required for all "suicide-related behaviors that result in death, hospitalization or evacuation" of the soldier. It can take considerable time to investigate a suicide and, in fact, the Army said that in addition to the 99 confirmed suicides last year, there are two other deaths suspected as suicides in which investigations were pending.


Associated Press reporter Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report from Washington.


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The Surge's Short Shelf Life

Yahoo! News
The Surge's Short Shelf Life

Hospital officials in northwestern Iraq have told TIME that the death toll from Tuesday's blasts in Qahataniya may exceed 300, making the multiple suicide bombings the deadliest terrorist operation in the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein. One hospital is saying that there are at least 500 bodies and that 375 people are injured. That report, however, cannot yet be verified. The only previous occasion when the toll from concerted attacks has exceeded 200 was last November, when six car-bombs in Baghdad's Sadr City killed 215 people. If the toll in the Qataniya incident grows, it could become the worst terrorist incident since al-Qaeda's September 11, 2001 attack on the U.S. (The Beslan massacre in Russia in September 2004 came to approximately 330, about half of the total children).

Since then, the massive "surge" of U.S. and Iraqi troops in and around Baghdad has made the Iraqi capital safer than before from such bombings - but terrorist groups have stepped up attacks elsewhere. There have been a number of attacks in northern Iraq, which had enjoyed a long spell of peace before the start of the "surge."

Tuesday's bombings were also a reminder that even successful U.S. military operations can have a short shelf life - a sobering thought for Bush Administration officials and independent analysts who have recently been talking up the successes of the "surge." After all, the area around Qahataniya was the scene of a major anti-insurgent operation barely two years ago. In the fall of 2005, some 8,000 American and Iraqi troops flushed a terrorist group out of the nearby town of Tal Afar in an operation that was a precursor to the "clear, hold and build" strategy that underpins the current "surge." A few months later, President Bush cited Tal Afar as a success story for the U.S. enterprise in Iraq.

There have been several attacks in and around Tal Afar since then; last March, two truck bombs killed more than 100 people in a Shi'ite neighborhood in the town. The bombings in Qahataniya were a deadly reminder that the terrorists have not gone very far away.

The U.S. military said al-Qaeda was the prime suspect; some Iraqi government officials fingered Ansar al-Sunnah, which has links to al-Qaeda and has long been active in northern Iraq. Early reports suggest the majority of the victims were Yazidis, a pre-Islamic sect in Syria and northern Iraq.

Throughout history, Yazidis have faced persecution because an archangel they worship as a representative of God is often identified by Muslims (and some Christians) as Satan. Branded as devil worshipers, they are detested by extremists on both sides of Iraq's sectarian divide.

The Yazidis have their own extremists: earlier this year, members of the community stoned to death a young woman they accused of converting to Sunni Islam to marry her lover. A widely distributed video of the stoning inflamed Sunni sentiments; in retaliation, insurgents executed 23 Yazidi factory workers near Mosul. With reporting by Andrew Lee Butters

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Obama says Bush not solely to blame

Yahoo! News
Obama says Bush not solely to blame
By AMY LORENTZEN, Associated Press Writer

Not all the nation's ills can be blamed on President Bush, Democratic candidate Barack Obama said Wednesday as he called on Americans to change the nature of politics and institute more openness in government.

"Part of the problem here is not just George Bush and the White House," Obama told a crowd of hundreds gathered at a park in Cedar Falls. "We can't just change political parties and continue to do the same kind of things we've been doing. We can't just go about business as usual and think it's going to turn out differently."

Obama, a senator from Illinois, said average Americans must be brought back to the table when dealing with every issue, from health care to education to trade.

"We've got to make sure workers are represented, not just CEOs. We've got to make sure patients are represented and the nurses are represented, not just drug companies," he said.

To make the government more accountable, Obama said he would post all non-emergency bills online for five days before he signed them into law, allowing Americans a chance to weigh in on the legislation. In addition, he said he would post all meetings between lobbyists and government agencies online.

Obama said he would require Cabinet officials to speak to Americans via national broadband town-hall style meetings to discuss issues at their agencies. He also pledged to issue an executive order that information about the government's operations must be released to those seeking it unless it could harm a protected interest.

Obama cited his record of backing ethics and lobbying reforms, including co-authoring a bill that requires all government spending to be posted online — allowing anyone to do a simple Internet search and find that information. He said that during his time as a state lawmaker he helped to create hospital report cards so that patients could understand the quality of care offered at each hospital.


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