Monday, October 31, 2005

October 29, 2005

Valerie Plame
Bush's Paula Jones?

What do Bill Clinton and O.J. Simpson have in common? Both men slipped through the fingers of the criminal justice system only to get their comeuppance in civil court.

I only mention that because today's developments in the CIA leak investigation are just the beginning, not the end. No matter how many senior administration officials end up getting indicted the real damage to this administration may come, not from criminal convictions, if any, but a civil action currently being planned by Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame.

There's important history here. In case you've forgotten, special prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, for all his diligence, (some would call it obsessive diligence,) couldn't pin a thing of consequence on the Clintons until right-wing lawyers convinced Paula Jones to file a civil suit against Clinton. That case set loose a sequence of events that were cheered by conservatives out to get Clinton, but are now likely to be keeping them awake nights.

Remember, it was the Paula Jones case that established that a private citizen can sue a sitting President. No less than the US Supreme Court so ruled. After that President Clinton had to give sworn depositions to Jones' lawyers. By then the Lewinsky scandal was making headlines. Since Jones' case alleged sexual misconduct by Clinton, her lawyers quickly added it to their discovery wish list. Clinton was sworn in and asked -- had he ever "had sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky?" Scuffing the ground like the bad little boy he'd been, he lied to them.

That's how getting a hummer in the Oval Office became a crime. Because Clinton lied about it in a civil case he was slammed with a perjury charge.

WASHINGTON -- July 29, 1999) -- A federal judge has ordered President Bill Clinton to pay $90,686 for giving false testimony in the civil sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him by Paula Jones. U.S. District Court Judge Susan Webber Wright's office issued the fine Thursday. She had held the president in contempt of court in April, ruling that Clinton intentionally gave false testimony during his deposition in Jones' suit. Clinton did not elect to fight the ruling, agreeing instead to pay the court $1,202 for expenses associated with a deposition and for "reasonable costs incurred by plaintiffs" as a result of his actions.

After that Jones attorney's had Clinton by the short hairs. He couldn't afford to get caught lying twice in the case, especially with the Lewinsky matter heating up – as was wife Hillary -- which meant he couldn't afford to tell the truth either. So he settled the case, agreeing to pay Jones $850,000 to go away.

And so it came to pass that what Ken Starr could not accomplish with nearly $60 million taxpayer dollars, a handful of right-wing lawyers and a gal from an Arkansas trail park did in civil court. Their civil case set in motion a sequence of events that got a sitting president impeached.

And here we are again. Only Valerie Plame is no Paula Jones. Jones was a Tanya Harding sans ice skates. Valerie Plame has spent the last couple of decades in the service of her country as a undercover CIA agent, often overseas and exposed to genuine danger.

Her husband, Joe Wilson, also served his country, without stain, as a U.S. Ambassador to several countries. A diplomat from 1976 to 1998 during both Democratic and Republican administrations, serving in various diplomatic posts throughout Africa and eventually as ambassador to Gabon. He was the acting ambassador to Baghdad when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. In 2003, Wilson received the Ron Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling from the Fertel Foundation and the Nation Institute.

Valerie's CIA service, by all reports, was flawless and honorable, as was Joe's. They will be going toe to toe with individuals who have been shown to have "misstated" intelligence to justify war. Joe went to Niger and reported there was not yellow cake deal. The administration said there was. They have been proven dead wrong. Wilson has been proven right.

When the Wilson's file their civil suit they will allege that senior Bush administration officials conspired to maliciously invade Valerie's privacy, destroying her career and exposing her and her family to genuine danger -- for purely political purposes. Joe will likely allege that they slandered and libeled him as part of concerted conspiracy to discredit his accurate findings from his mission to Niger, thereby damaging his future career options.

By the time this case goes to trail a year or so from now, whom do you think a jury is likely to believe?

Legal experts are already debating whether the Wilson's have a case. These are some of the same legal experts who thought Paula Jones' case was going to get laughed out of court. Who knows, they might be right this time.

But the Wilson's case will not end quickly however it goes. Win or lose there will be lots and lots of motions, depositions and days in court. The Jones's case wound it's way all the way up to the US Supreme Court, leaving a trail of embarrassing disclosures every inch of the way.

Soon after the Wilson's case is filed subpoenas will start arriving at the homes and/or offices of the President, Vice President, Rove, Libby, Tenet, Rumsfeld and others involved in the cooking of intelligence justifying the war. Sworn depositions will follow as images of Bill Clinton dances a mocking jig in their heads.

That's why I say, the worst – or best -- may be yet to co

Friday, October 28, 2005

October 27, 2005

Whack Job

The sedans pulled up in rapid succession as dusk settled over Washington last evening. Men in winter coats exited back seats and walked briskly, heads down, into the building to an emergency meeting of party Capos. Permission was needed to dispose of a member who had become a liability.

The case for whacking the problem member was heard. Sober heads around the room nodded agreement. A contract was approved.

By sun up Harriet Miers was history.

Karl Rove may have more to worry about from his boss than prosecutor Fitzgerald. Even the most loyal members of this gang are expendable when they become a liability. One of the gangs' former bosses, Richard Nixon, had his two closest aides whacked in what proved a futile effort to save his own skin when investigators began closing in on him.

Already we are seeing evidence that Bush may be getting ready to whack his own loyal aide, Karl "Turd Bloosom" Rove . They have already brought in sub-capo, Ed Gillespie to fill the hole. Eddy is already giving interviews while Karl is no where to be seen. Bad sign.

Over at Cheney's crib his right hand man, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was seen yesterday hobbling around on crutches. No he wasn't knee-capped – at least not yet. He was playing the sympathy card, trying to look too pathetic to indict -- or whacked.

These are dangerous days. It's housecleaning time within the inner circles of the Bush operation. It's the natural cycle for such organizations. Ranking members become radioactive after years of doing the boss's bidding and must be jettisoned. Those that can be trusted to keep their mouths shut are allowed to retire to lucrative, no-work, positions on corporate boards. Those they suspect might run off at the mouth are whacked; discredited, smeared, banished.

Fresh blood is moved up to fill the vacant positions. But, while eager to please the boss, these newcomers are green. They lack the years of street-smarts possessed by the dearly departed they replace -- which makes all that eagerness new disasters just waiting to happen.

Meanwhile the boss, who does not trust new faces, has to figure out how he can keep the lid on the past while also staying in business. With Karl all George had to say when he needed a job done was, "You know what to do, Karl." With a new guy Bush would have no idea what he might think he meant. He might think he means, "Ed, you know what to do -- do the right thing."

Anyway, as of this this morning it's one problem gone, two to go -- Karl and Scooter. If I were either man I'd hire someone to start my car every morning for the next week or so.

Meanwhile Patrick "Elliot Ness" Fitzgerald, may have discovered another of the gang's operations over in Niger. A curious fellow by nature, Fitz could not have investigated Ambassador Joe Wilson's fact-finding trip to Niger without noticing the "facts" he was sent to find out about. To wit – those phony documents that supposedly proved that Iraq had been seeking uranium yellow cake from Niger. (Document images and translations, here)

Those documents proved to be forgeries. That we know. What we don't know is forged by who? It sure as hell wasn't a CIA job, since the CIA never believed the Niger tale from the get-go. But Cheney sure did, or at least said he did.

So the question remains hanging out there -- who planted those phony documents -- and just in time for Bush to hawk them in a pre-war State of the Union message?

Until we find out the answer to that question the CIA leak investigation will not be complete. (More)

"This, we know now, was all based on fabricated documents. But it’s not clear yet ... who fabricated the documents. -- The documents were fabricated by supporters of the policy in the United States. The policy being that you had to invade Iraq in order to get rid of Saddam Hussein, and you had to do it soon to avoid the catastrophe that would be produced by Saddam Hussein’s use of alleged weapons of mass destruction. (Full Story)

Recent rumblings from Fitzgerald watchers is that he wants to know more about how the documents showed up when they did, why and who made that happen. Fitz has proven himself to be a man who -- one way or another -- gets what he wants. If he is allowed to pursue the origins of the phony Niger documents they may join the Nixon's tapes as evidence that leads directly to the Oval Office.

Therefore, as it turned out for Boss Nixon, Bush's housecleaning may turn out to be too little, too late.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

October 26, 2005


What Now?

For three more years America is going to be led by, not just a lame duck President, but a totally discredited President. In a poll taken yesterday 90% percent of those asked said they believed top Bush administration officials are guilty of either illegal or unethical behavior in the CIA leak case.

So where does that leave an un-indicted George W. Bush? There really are only two explanations and neither reflect well on him. First he can claim his closest aides conspired behind his back while he was otherwise occupied. I call that the "Exxon Valdez Defense," -- the captain was not at the helm when a careless crewman ran the ship of state aground. Unfortunately for Captain Bush that defense did not wash for the real captain of the ill-fated tanker. Because , you see, the captain is always responsible.

The other explanation is worse; that the President of the United States knew what was going on, maybe even participated in it.

Either way, Bush is finished as a force in American politics. How he ever got to become President in the first place -- not once, but twice -- will remain a subject social scientists will study and debate for decades to come. Because there was plenty of evidence that George W. Bush was a made man. He had accomplished nothing in his adult life on his own. Not one. (Click Here for more on that.)

Of course, for those of us who have covered the Bush family for years, it's no mystery at all. The best way to think of George W. Bush is as a "beard" for others. At every step in his "career" individuals of wealth and/or power groomed and then used him as their front man.

These benefactors had learned long ago that there was more money and more power to be had in the shadows than the limelight. All they needed was the right person to front for them, someone with a name, a smile, a confident swagger. Vision, dreams, hopes and ethics were not only unnecessary but liabilities in a beard. All they needed was a person they can program, wind up and send out into the public spotlight and deliver for them.

That's George W. Bush. He fit the bill to a "T." Texas oil men and companies with international agendas and voracious appetites for government contracts had found their perfect front man in GWB – a kind of Forrest Gump from the Dark Side. A man ignorant, proud of it, and willing to take direction from those he considered friends.

They began by nurturing George's pathetic efforts to become a high-rolling Texas oil man. Though his companies failed, they made sure he never did. Then they were able to further his ascendancy by indulging his playful side, buying him his own baseball team – a Texas baseball team. That raised George's public profile to just a notch below their ultimate goal, public office.

Fully groomed and programmed they finally steered George towards the goal. And it worked, probably beyond their wildest expectations. As Governor of Texas their beard kept state regulators out of their hair on dollar and cents issues critical to the oil drilling and processing industries, like air quality. That alone would have been sufficient payoff for their years of cleaning up George's business messes.

Bagging the US Presidency was an unexpected super-bonus. Still, they knew it was a development ripe with as much danger as opportunity. After all, they knew the real George W. Bush. There was no way they could send that hayseed off to the Big Show unattended. Dick Cheney and Karl Rove were tasked with keeping their idiot prince both on message and a short leash. God forbid he should ever make a speech, take a position or make a decision on his own!

All went very well for the first four years. From day one, their boy delivered, delivered and delivered again. He was a gift that just kept giving;

* $1.6 trillion in tax cuts, the bulk of which went to people like them;
* environmental laws watered down; expanded logging allowed in national forests;
* a push to open protected Alaska wilderness to oil and gas drilling;
* Iraqi oil fields suddenly within reach;
* plenty of cheap labor flooding across our southern border.
* And just as it looked as if he was on the way to fulfilling another assignment, the elimination of the estate tax, his beard fell off.

It was the thing they had always feared most – the real George W. Bush went public. There it was, for the whole world to see – a chuckling, twitching, dope of man standing in front of the America people, unleashed and unscripted. Worse yet, he was making his own decisions. He chose his friend and admirer, Harriet Miers, for the Supreme Court of the United States of America. ("Harriet who," his handlers asked.)

What went wrong? Where were his handlers?

Busy. They dropped Gorege's leash when handed subpoenas. Junior was unleashed and home alone.

It's a moment new to America, a leader who himself needs to be led, now unled. And the world watching. It's as if the police had come and dragged Edgar Bergin off stage in the middle a show, leaving Charlie McCarthy, wide-eyed, mouth agape and slumped alone on his stool.

So, what now?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

October 24, 2005

Follow The Sausages

If Betty Davis were still with us she'd have ta piece of advice for the American public: "Better buckle up. It's going to be a bumpy ride."

Yes, all hell is about to break loose. As I said in an early column, I've been here before and I can tell you, it ain't gonna be pretty. The process that is about to begin is a bit like the whole body politic getting a colonic. I remember how it left the nation weak and disoriented for a decade or more. I am, of course, speaking of Watergate – different caste of characters, same crimes.

In the Watergate era we still had people in Congress, from both parties, with the integrity and backbone to pursue the matter on their own. But those folks have been replaced by the political equivalent of street gang members who make their judgments based on whether the other guy is wearing red or blue.

So forget Congress. This time the sword is wielded by an independent prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald who is, by all reports, a genuine Dudley Dooright.

"Famous among colleagues for remembering minutiae, he keeps extraordinary hours while handling the leak investigation and managing a Chicago office with more than 150 lawyers. Dick Sauber, an attorney for Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper in the leak case, said Fitzgerald "worked the case down to the small details. He was the one who knew the obscure fact in a document and knew where to find it."

Letting a fellow like that loose on the Bush administration is like turning a bloodhound free in sausage factory -- his nose must have begun twitching the moment he arrived.

So the question is not "if" he found anything, but how much he found. Because when you find a fresh sausage there's almost always another one connected to it -- and another, and another. In this case the first sausage in that string is not the Valarie Plame affair, but the war -- specially, how the administration justified invading another nation. The outing of Joe Wilson's wife as a CIA agent was actually one of the final sausages in that string, a desperate attempt by the administration to hide the criminal acts that preceded it -- the lies they concocted to take our nation to war. And that makes Watergate crimes look like jaywalking by comnparison,

So will the great unraveling begin this week? I suspect so. If Rove and/or Libby are indicted it will become impossible for the administration to deny access to materials exposing the inner workings of this White House. They will try, of course, claiming "executive privilege." But much of it will still eventually come out. ( Remember, when Bill Clinton found himself entangled in the gears of justice even his very DNA could not escape the long arm of the law.)

This administration has relied on it's ability to hide inconvenient facts, beginning with the refusal for five years to even identify the members of Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force. But shaping US energy policy to benefit old pals in the oil business is politics as usual. Trumping up evidence to justify war is a crime with both national and international ramifications.

First understand that Dick Cheney was the maestro of that crime. Libby was his Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, the guy who got his hands dirty doing the boss's work. When tough-guy Sammy faced years in prison he rolled over on boss John Gotti. Sammy looked his old boss right in the eye in court as he dropped dime after dime after dime on him. Sammy got out of prison. Gotti died, alone and ranting, in a federal prison hospital.

That's why when Cheney looks at his old pal Scooter these days, he must shudder. Gone are he "atta boy" backslaps, between boss and sidekick. Gone are the "nod, nod, wink, winks," between two soul mates who think so much alike they seldom have to explain. Now when Cheney looks at Scooter he sees a guy who knows where all the bodies are buried -- because he helped bury them. When Scooter looks at Cheney he must see a guy who could spend his golden years luxuriating in his Jackson Hole mansion, while he, Scooter, spends his retirement filing appeals from a cell at Camp Beefcake -- where a nickname like "Scooter" would be a real liability.

So, it must be awkward between the two old friends these days. (Betty Davis again: Dick Cheney to Scooter Libby: "I'd kiss ya, but I just washed my hair.")

If I learned anything about crooks from my years of covering such folk it's this – good crooks always take out insurance. In the world of white collar crooks, insurance amounts to incriminating evidence – secretly tapped conversations with co-conspirators, copies of documents, notes and emails. The message is, "don't sell me up the river because I have the goods on you too."

Therefore Cheney must suspect that Scooter Libby has his own insurance stash. After all, as a private attorney Scooter represented some of the world's biggest crooks, so he knows how the game is played. Remember Marc Rich... the crooked financier Clinton pardoned? Republicans like drag Marc Rich out any time they want to make the point that Clinton was a bad guy. What they don't mention is who Marc Rich's lawyer was – I. Lewis Scooter Libby.

WASHINGTON (CNN) March 2, 2001 -- Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff testified Thursday he believes prosecutors of billionaire financier Marc Rich "misconstrued the facts and the law" when they went after Rich on tax evasion charges -- The testimony from Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who represented Rich dating back to 1985 but stopped working for him in the spring of 2000, came during a contentious, hours-long House committee hearing into former President Bill Clinton's eleventh-hour pardons. (Full Story)

As prosecutor Fitzergald began following the trail of sausage links back from the time Valarie Plame's name was leaked to the press by "high administration officials," he could not have avoided discovering that that disclosure was part of much larger conspiracy. A conspiracy to keep a lid on much more serious crimes than just blowing a CIA agent's cover. The evidence of those crimes is contained in the gaps – the portions of the public record this administration has, so far, successfully kept from prying eyes and inquiring minds.

WMD? Who knew what, and when did they know it? Joe Wilson was one of the few who knew – and talked -- which is why he had to be destroyed. Destroying enemies was a specialty of Richard Nixon, and Dick Cheney was one of his more attentive students. (Cheney's political career began in 1969 when he joined the Nixon Administration, serving in a number of positions at the Cost of Living Council, at the Office of Economic Opportunity, and within the White House.)

When Cheney became second-in-command of the G.W. Bush's gang, he dusted off his Nixon play book and went about the work of destroying anyone who threatened them. He and Bush Capo Karl Rove didn't even care which party their victims belonged to. If they they threatened the gang they dropped the hammer on them. They didn't even blink when they destroyed two American war heroes when they got in the way, Republican John McCain and Democrat Max Cleland – a Vietnam war triple amputee.

So, by the time Ambassador Joe Wilson began spilling the WMD beans the Bush/Cheney gang figured they could destroy Jesus Christ himself if He crossed them. Then they got careless, as all crooks eventually do.

So, buckle up folks. It's gonna be a bumpy ride.

Monday, October 24, 2005

October 18-20

A Stolen Map and Old Trolleys

What does this story have to do with turn of the century Los Angeles Trolleys?

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 - Maps matter. They chronicle the struggles of empires and zoning boards. They chart political compromise. So it was natural for Republican Congressional aides, doing due diligence for what may be the last battle in the fight over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to ask for the legally binding 1978 map of the refuge and its coastal plain. -- It was gone. No map, no copies, no digitized version. (Full Story)

The map, the only one in existence, had been stored behind a filing cabinet in a locked room in Arlington, Va. It was still there in late in 2002, but by early 2003, just when drilling in ANWR became a hotly debated issue, the map disappeared.

In politics timing is everything. Last Wednesday the GOP-controlled Senate Energy and Commerce Committee passed a measure based on a new map that opened to drilling 1.5 million acres of coastal plain in the refuge. Of course, before they could make that decision they need a new map because the old one was missing. Conveniently that missing map did not include in the coastal plain tens of thousands of acres of Native Alaskans' lands -- but lo and behold, the new map did. That made it possible to open those areas to oil exploration and drilling. (The final measure is scheduled to be in the budget reconciliation bill to be voted on next month.)

So, who lifted the old map? No one knows. But my guess is it was the same kind of folks who destroyed the once robust system of Los Angeles trolleys – and for the same reasons.

Bear with me.

Back in the 1930s most folks in urban Southern California went shopping and commuted to work on an efficient system of interconnecting electric trolleys. Those trolleys and trains were so convenient and efficient that there was no compelling reason to buy one of those newfangled gasoline automobiles.

So, on June 28, 1932, Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., president of General Motors, organized the National Highway Users Conference, and began pushing (and paying) Congress to restrict transportation taxes to just highway construction. Joining GM were others with an interest in the matter like Firestone Tire and Standard Oil.

Their political efforts directly resulted in the destruction of Southern California's electric light rail systems -- and later systems in other cities across the country. GM bought up rail rightaways, pulled down the electric wires that powered the trains, ripped up tracks. By 1955 approximately 88 percent of the nation's electric streetcar and light rail networks had been eliminated.

It was a stunningly successful operation. In 1936 40,000 streetcars were operating in the United States. By 1965 fewer than 5,000 remained in operation. General Motors was not just in the auto business by then, but the business of building city buses as well. In December 1965 GM bus chief, Roger M. Kyes, crowed that, "The motor coach (diesel buses) has supplanted the interurban systems and has for all practical purposes eliminated the electric trolley"

The rest is history. LA, and most other US cities, are now clogged with gasoline powered cars and diesel powered buses and the air has become so filthy because of it that the earth's very climate is changing.

So, what does any of that have to do with that missing map of Alaska?

First, let's not pussyfoot around it, we all know who took that inconvenient old map. We may not know the individual who took it, but we know the industry. Like GM, oil companies are driven by priorities that do not necessary have anything to do with what's right or wrong, smart or dumb, good for mankind or bad. Companies do have a sense of responsibility to mankind – but only those who are shareholders. Everyone else is either a potential shareholder or simply in the way - collateral damage.

Please understand, I am not blaming companies for being that way. That's the nature of the beast -- what bears do in the woods - so to speak. It's not up to company's to control their voracious appetites. That's our job, and the job of the people we send to Washington to regulate and set the boundaries of corporate behavior -- and reel them in when they run amok, hopefully before.

So, we know the oil folks stole that map, or had it stolen. I know it, you know it, they know it, and members of Congress know it. Back in the first half of the last century Congress also knew what GM was up to when that company got them to pervert the use of transportation tax money in order to destroy competing light rail systems.

GM made hundreds of billions of dollars over the decades that followed, but left the rest of us with clogged highways, filthy air and hooked on Arab oil – for which Americans soldiers are now dying.

But don't try to convince GM they did anything wrong. They were just doing what a bear does in the woods. And, likewise, don't waste your breathe lecturing oil companies on the environmental damage they have caused and want to now extend to ANWR. Oil companies are pulling the same stunt right now in Alaska that GM pulled 70 years ago in LA. Only this time they did not have to tear up railroad tracks or pull down transmission lines.

All they had to do was steal an old map.

Friday, October 21, 2005

October 20, 2005

Faith-Based America
Your Papers, Please

What's wrong with this picture?

As part of President Bush's "faith-based initiative," US taxpayers gave the Salvation Army's children services division $47 million this year – 95% of its total budget. Several folks get jobs there but refuse to take the Salvation Army's pledge "proclaiming Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord," disclose what church they attended or name gay co-workers, and were summarily fired.

Let's parse this event out. The money came from American taxpayers, many of whom are not Christians. Nevertheless the workers were fired for refusing to pledge allegiance to the Christian prophet. They were also fired for failing to disclose their own religious affiliations, if any. And finally, they were fired for refusing to rat out gay co-workers.

Sounds more like something that would happen in Communist China, doesn't it? And, if it had happened in China, and it was Christians getting fired, you can bet your sweet bippy the Bush administration and America's Christian right would be screaming bloody murder about it.

But not this time. They even found an activist judge to back them on it.

"Bush's big victory came Sept. 30 in New York, where a federal judge threw out most elements of a religious discrimination lawsuit against the Salvation Army. Eighteen employees claimed they were fired or demoted because they refused to pledge support to the Salvation Army's mission of "proclaiming Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord," disclose what church they attended or name gay co-workers. -- U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein noted that all the plaintiffs worked for a children's services division of the Salvation Army that gets 95 percent of its $50 million budget from government grants. -- But the judge's 48-page opinion upheld the principle that a religious group can hire and fire employees on the basis of their religious beliefs and practices, even if their salaries come from taxpayer funds. That principle is at the heart of the Bush administration's policy." (Full Story)

Since the federal money the Salvation Army got represents nearly 100% of that division's total budget, it's a defacto federally funded program. So, are these the new HR rules for faith-based federally funded programs? Rat out gays on the payroll, or be fired. Pledge allegiance to the favored religion or superstition dejur, or be fired. Answer the question, "are you now, or have you ever been, an atheist?, or be fired.

Hey, why not just streamline hiring at federally funded faith-based organizations by requiring everyone's religious affiliation be tattooed on their arm? Worked for the Germans.

Meanwhile in the American theocratic state of Utah, the ACLU has locked horns with the Mormon Church over freedom speech and dress in a Salt Lake City downtown park.

A federal appeals court Monday validated Salt Lake City's controversial sale of its Main Street Plaza park to the LDS Church, which promptly turned the former section of historic Main Street into a LDS religious park.

"Three judges on the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the plaza is private property and that the city didn't endorse the LDS Church by selling off the right to public access. -- "Looked at objectively, the . . . case is one of neutrality and equal access, in which the city does nothing to advance religion, but merely enables the LDS Church to advance itself," wrote the court. -- The ruling is a victory for the city and the LDS Church, which joined to fight the American Civil Liberties Union and four plaintiffs. The ACLU wanted the court to declare the plaza a public sidewalk and allow free speech there - though such a ruling could have led the church to wall off the plaza. -- Practically, the decision changes nothing since the LDS Church has been controlling the property since 2003, when the City Council voted to eliminate the easement in an emotionally charged land swap. The church manages it like its other religious property - visitors are welcome but cannot engage in behavior the church finds offensive." (Full Story)

Lee Siegel, one of the ACLU's plaintiffs, called the decision a sad day for the principle of separation of church and state saying it "adds to the feeling that I live in a state run by the American Taliban. Salt Lake City and the church have successfully weaseled themselves to a victory, but it doesn't make it right," he said. "I hope they enjoy their lily white, golly gee, clean, fun plaza."

When the plaza was sold to the church a few years back the Mormons pitched the deal to the City saying the they wanted to turn the plaza into "a little bit of Paris" and to enhance downtown pedestrian access.

Of course no one thought for a second that they meant Can-Can dancers and topless sunbathing. But they soon learned they meant even less. They meant no tee-shirts or signs with messages on them they did not like, or speakers saying unkind things about Mormons. The LDS Church now decides what kind of speech is and is not allowed in the park. And, even though it's out doors, there will be no smoking or "disorderly" speech, dress or conduct. And other Christians beware -- proselytizing is forbidden -- unless it's by approved members of the LDS Church.

(Good thing there weren't any giant ancient stone Buddhas in the plaza or they would have had to blow them up.)

All this from a church founded by a guy, Joseph Smith, who, if he lived today would be fitted for a straight-jacket and put on a I.V. anti-psychotic drugs.

Let's pretend. What if somehow the Nation of Islam were able to convinced the City of Washington to sell them Lafayette Park across from the White House. And they tried to pull an anti-American stunt like the Mormons have pulled off in Salt Lake City. How long do you think it would be before the reverends Dobson, Faldwell and their ilk started screaming bloody murder on CNN?

But never mind. The worm has turned. This is officially a Christian country. It says so right there in the US Constitution. It's right there somewhere. You go ahead and find where it says that. Then you'll see.

While you search for that clause I need to start shaping up. I'm gonna go straight out to the garage and scrape that bumper sticker off my car that reads, "He died 2000 years ago. Get over it! Then I will pry that subversive Darwin emblem off the trunk and get a Jesus bobble-head doll for the rear window.

For identifying myself while away from my car I'm getting a crucifix necklace -- and not just one of those empty mealy-mouth ones, but one with a body hanging on it. (I'm just happy the Romans didn't have the electric chair!) I'm even considering an arm tattoo that reads, "Jesus loves me, so what's your problem?"

Once I have all that in place I'm going to start compiling a list of acquaintances I suspect are gay. Who knows, I may need a federal job someday and a list like that could come in mighty handy.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

October 19, 2005

The Time Out Clock is Running

Over the next six months fate will hand Democrats a once-in-a-political lifetime opportunity – a time out. While Republicans are busy fighting over who the real conservatives are -- and if Harriet Miers is one -- and defending themselves against mounting evidence of sleaze and criminality at the highest levels of their party, Democrats will receive the gift of time. Time to stop trying to figure out if they should triangulate towards "the center," or the "left," in a cynical search for some elusive demographic sweet spot, and instead time to just do the right thing, for a change. Things everyone out here in the real world knows needs doing and fixing the things we already know need fixin'.

The Time Out Clock has already begun ticking. Republicans are up to their hips in trouble. Key players are on the injured list. Both their Congressional leaders are hamstrung with mounting legal problems and, by next week the White House first string players will be too.

Tick, tick, tick... time out. Time for the beaten, dispirited, clueless, valueless and now nearly irrelevant Democrat Party, to regroup and recover. They are getting the unbelievable luxury to do what can't be done in the heat of battle.

In case they don't know what I mean, here's a crib sheet they can work off:

Self-discovery and Reconnection

* Time to rediscover who they are, and why they're here.
* Time to catch up with middle class Americans who were snookered by the GOP's phony "values" campaign
* Time to become reacquainted with the growing number of working poor in America who have seen their wages stagnate and whither, even as prices for life's basic necessities soar.
* Time to remind themselves that New Orleans is not the only American city in which masses of poor and minorities live in obscure and precarious proximity to utter despair.

Reflection and Penance

* Time to apologize for their part in authorizing this administration to take our nation to war on false pretenses.
* Time to reflect on why so many of them actually voted for the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy that gutted the federal Treasury and led to cuts in domestic programs benefiting the poorest Americans.
* Time to apologize to working Americans for allowing trade pacts that encourage the export of good-paying blue, gray and white collar jobs to cheap labor venues outside the US.
* Time to explain how they allowed – and even helped -- the banking and credit card industries gut bankruptcy protections for Americans burdened by crushing, unconscionably high-interest credit card debt and bills from catastrophic medical emergencies.

Redemption and Rebirth

* Time to set forth a coherent and responsible plan for extricating us from the Iraq brier patch.
* Time to study and propose a single-payer national health plan blending the strengths of the private sector with the buying power of the federal government to, not just control health care costs, but make quality health care affordable and available to all Americans, regardless of age, condition, income or class.
* Time to set forth a plan that balances the federal budget, beginning by rolling back the tax breaks given by this administration to the wealthiest Americans.
* Time to propose a detailed, 20-year program to repair and modernize America's crumbling infrastructure and, in the process, creating tens of thousands of construction jobs.
* Time to formulate principals to be applied to all future trade deals that creates both fair and free trade, including insisting that those nations that wish access for their goods to the American markets provide worker and environmental protections equal to those required of American-based manufactures.
* Time to formulate and propose how they plan to revive America's failing education system by assuring adequate funding for schools, raising the salaries and the professionalism of teachers, while holding teachers and administrators to the highest level of accountability.
* Time to formulate an immigration policy that is not designed to cater only to the growing Hispanic demographic, but the nation. Such an immigration policy must include both a manageable documented guest worker program and strong employer sanctions – civil and criminal -- for companies caught hiring undocumented workers. Anything less would be a knife in the back of American workers.
* Time to stop pretending that Social Security and Medicare are not heading for a demographic cliff and develop and propose a responsible plan that secures both to the end of the century.

Sure there's a lot more that needs fixing but, I think you would agree, that would be one hell of start. We know they can do it when they want to, because they did some of these things during the Clinton years. Hillary's health care plan might actually have worked, had she not become a bigger issue than health care itself. (Which is why I still plead, "Just say no to Hillary in 08. Because, fairly or unfairly, Hillary will always be "the issue.")

Anyway, I just wanted to let the Democrats know that the Time Out Clock has been started. They have about six months to huddle in the locker room and come up with plan for the last quarter of the game. Otherwise there will be no "Super Bowl" for them in 06 -- or 08.

Time Out For Tom
Later this week former House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay, will be arraigned in Texas on charges of conspiracy and money laundering. His lawyers tried to convince Texas authorities to let DeLay phone it in, but they said, "no way."

So on Friday Tom DeLay will have to surrender himself to Texas Rangers, be finger-printed and mug shots will be taken.

Now, if we can only convince Texas authorities to let photographers in while they check his hair for lice.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

October 18, 2005

A Whiff of Watergate ?

Last week I showed the four photos above and asked, "What do these men have in common?"

For those too young to recognize two of them they are former Nixon White House aides J.R. Halderman and John Erlichman. The other two are current White House aides Karl Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

What they have in common is they each allowed power to corrupt. They each misused their privileged positions to punish those they viewed as threats -- personal or political "enemies."

The cliché that applies here is, "Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

It takes a special kind of person to shoulder absolute power and not misuse it. We've had them, but they are far and few between. As far as Presidents go I think there may have only been two in my lifetime, Eisenhower and Carter. They were both decent and honorable men who really did have the nation's best interests at heart.

The others abused their office in one way or another. Richard Nixon misused so many organs of government to destroy his perceived enemies I lost count, the IRS, the FBI, the CIA. Kennedy and Clinton misused the aphrodisiac power of their office to manage their personal prostate health.

(I leave Gerald Ford out of this equation because the only thing history will record is that he pardoned Nixon and fell down a lot.)

Ronald Reagan subverted the U.S. Constitution by defying Congressional prohibitions against arming the Contras. (And the only thing that saved him from being indicted was that, by the time he left office, he was no longer mentally competent to stand trial.)

I have no idea what prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is up to, but as a veteran of the Watergate years it all has a familiar scent to it. If I had to guess from what I can grok out of news accounts he will indict Rove and Libby for obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. That would not surprise me. But clearly there was a well organized campaign launched within this administration to undercut the credibility of Ambassador Wilson's revelations. To believe that Rove and Libby were out there freelancing on something so central to the administration's excuse to invading Iraq, is naive to the extreme.

Also, remember, it was not Rove or Libby, but Vice President Dick Cheney who is on tape repeatedly claiming that Saddam had "reconstituted his nuclear program." And recall that it was President GW Bush whose chestnuts were personally in the Niger/yellow cake tale, because he made that explicit claim before the nation and world in his pre-war State of the Union speech.

So, when Wilson exposed that as a bald-face lie in his New York Times editorial you know all hell broke loose at the White House. Do you doubt for a nanosecond that Bush and Cheney did not huddle with Rove, Libby, Condi – (and you wanna bet – Harriet Miers) – to figure out how to blunt Wilson's credibility.

Considering all that, it is entirely possible that the Grand Jury's indictment of Rove and Libby may also cite one or more, unnamed, "unindicted co-conspirators."

Since indicting a sitting President and/or VP would spark – well, who knows what – it's verges on the unimaginable. The closest we ever came to that was when Nixon's VP, Spiro Agnew, resigned when he faced indictment for taking bribes when he was a governor. (That's how Jerry Ford found himself a heartbeat away from the Oval Office.)

If unnamed, unindicted co-conspirator(s) are cited by Fitzerald, it's "game over" for the Bush administration. Speculation precisely who the un-named conspirators are will consume the balance of this administration's years in office. A cloud of criminality will hang over Bush and Cheney. And this time they will not be able to dismiss it as "partisan nonsense." After all, they picked this prosecutor themselves.

It occurred to me this weekend how ironic this situation is. Republicans were delirious when they saddled Bill and Hillary Clinton with prosecutor Kenneth Starr. It was the best of times. Starr dutifully dragged the Clintons through every mud puddle he could produce, real or imagined. Hell, there was even talk of what the President's weenie looked like and who knew what it looked like. There was a Presidential stain on a blue dress. Yikes. Life just didn't get any better. And oh how Republicans relished every seedy, smarmy, mean spirited moment of it!

Now Republicans may have their own Ken Starr on their hands. Because, even if Fitzgerald does not tag Bush and Cheney, and just indicts Rove and/or Libby, that will not be the end of the matter. Negotiations will begin. Will one of them flip -- drop a dime on their boss to mitigate their punishment? Remember what Starr did to the hapless Web Hubbell? Well, the shoe's on the other foot now baby.

Am I taking pleasure in all this? You bet. Absolutely. But not because I give a damn whether anyone goes to jail or not. I don't. What's important about this is that it promises to hobble this administration. And that's very good news for anyone in uniform or a normal tax bracket.

This bunch has shown us what they do when they have the run of the place. They channeled what money Clinton left them in the National Treasury to the already wealthy, they started a war on completely false pretenses, and then they channeled more money to their wealthy friends in no-bid contracts to clean up the mess.

And they weren't done. Before all these legal troubles Republicans were posed to give even more tax cuts to the rich by abolishing the estate tax -- at the very moment Republicans are trying to cut $35 billion in domestic social programs.

What about mounting deficits? Their solution,
Borrow more money from China and run up more debt.

What about reversing some of Bush's tax cuts to the rich?
Ha! Forget about it.

What about the poor?
Let-em eat cake.

That's why I take pleasure in the legal troubles bedeviling this administration. First of all, they richly deserve whatever the legal system can pin on them because it's only a fraction of what they deserve. They are also the most subversive and truely unAmerican cabal to ever occupy the Executive Branch. Sent to Washington to represent all Americans, they instead used their positions of trust to steal from my children and my grand kids and gave it to their friends. Where's my proof? Since they took office America has joined Mexico and Russia as the three countries with the largest disparity between the haves and the have-nots.

Hopefully the liberal application of handcuffs will limit their ability to do any more damage before we can replace them.

Re: Little Ms. Run Amok

If you've been following the reality show, "The Trials and Tabulations of Judy Miller," you know there's more to that tale than is being told. Judy has not come clean.

There's something very fishy about the relationship between Miller and Libby we still don't know about.

What am I insinuating?

What indeed?

Oh, and her employer, the New York Times, the Old Gray Lady -- she's fallen again and can't seem to get up.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

October 18, 2005

Note in a Bottle

If my regular readers will excuse me for a moment, I don't want to preach to the choir today. No offense intended, please. I just think it's the right time to re-open a dialog with the folks who supported George W. Bush. At least the Bush voters I know are fine, decent folk I find in them no ill-will, no evil intent and they are no smarter or dumber than the rest of us. But we stopped talking a long time ago and when we interact now we tend to just sneer and jab at one another. We call their guy "dumb" and "a liar." And they reply by reminding us that the last guy we sent to the Oval Office was adulterer and a liar.

It's all so tiresome, not to mention unproductive. So let's just clear the air – we're both right.

But Bill Clinton is long gone and Hillary has about as much chance of becoming President as I do of becoming the next Pope. So talking about them is a waste of both our times. But George W. Bush is with us for another three years. That's why I believe it's time we started talking again, talking about what we can do, together.

So, a note to my conservative friends.

Dear Friends,
Long time no see. How ya been? Not so good? I understand.

It took me a while back then to sort out my feelings too. I liked most of Clinton's policies. I loved that he balanced the budget, embarrassed the Europeans into responding to genocide in the former Yugoslavia. I appreciated his sharp mind and eloquence. So it took me a while before I had to admit that Clinton was also a self-indulgent, self-distructive putz.

Now it's your turn to make that painful journey. It's not about disloyalty. It's about patriotism. It's not a reflection on you, but him. You voted for Bush because you believed him, believed he was, like you, a compassionate conservative. Believed that he was against thrusting America into highfaluting international nation building adventures. Believed that he was, as you are, a fiscal conservative who would fight government waste and fraud. Believed that he was strong on defense and would strengthen America's armed forces.

I don't know if he lied to you or just failed to live up to his stated standards. We can argue about that, but it's a waste of time. The fact is he has failed to deliver on each and every one of those promises. Six years later:

* America is deeper in debt than ever in our history, and getting deeper by the second.
* America's armed forces are over-extended, under-manned and nearing exhaustion.
* Fraud, waste and abuse has become institutionalized as hundreds of billions of dollars in no-bid contracts flow to administration-connected firms like Halliburton.
* America is involved in the biggest nation building effort since the Mashall Plan.
* The sleaziest of sleazy lobbyists (like now-indicted Jack Abramoff,) were welcomed within the highest administration offices.
* And now the top two administration officials, Karl Rove and Scooter Libby are under federal investigation.

Now don't get your backs up. I am not making fun or jabbing or taking pleasure in your pain and disappointment. I am just asking that you do what I did when the shoe was on the other foot. You have to let it go. Let go of the Bush you wish you had and come to terms with the Bush you got.

Once you are over that hump we can bury the hatchet and get down to work -- together. We have three more years to muddle through before we can pick a new leader. I'm not asking you to become Democrats. (Hell, I'm not even sure I want to be one myself any more.)

What I am asking is that we try to work together between now and then to steer our respective representatives in useful directions. To force them to begin cleaning up some of these messes, or at the very least staunch the hemorrhaging of lives and treasure and trust until this guy is safely back at his Texas ranch.

So, are you ready now to apply the high standard you rightfully imposed on Bill Clinton? I know it's tough. Believe me, I've been there so, dare I say, I feel your pain.

You begin by first admitting mistakes where made and then apply the first rule of Holes, (You know, "When you discover you've dug yourself into a hole, stop digging.")

We need to stop digging in Iraq, stop digging ourselves into debt giving money we don't have to the already wealthy, stop digging the graves of American labor by making it more attractive for companies to send jobs overseas than keep them here at home.

Then whether we elect a Republican or Democrat president next time, he/she will not be taking charge of a complete basket case.

Thanks for listening. Stay in touch.

Friday, October 14, 2005

October 13, 2005

Theater of the Absurd

As I write this I am watching the President's teleconference with a dozen hand-picked troops in Iraq. It's painful.

Before the conference began CNN White House correspondent, Bob Franken, said he knew the event would start soon because he could hear the assembled soldiers "practicing their impromptu responses to the President's impromptu questions."

Even the old Soviet leaders were not this obvious or ham-handed. If this had been a high school presentation it would have deserved a D grade. After one trooper delivered his lines, George looked down at his notes and replied, "Hmm, that's interesting."

Yes George, if war is anything, it's interesting.

Of course, all the soldier's comments were positive. None of the soldiers had any bad news to deliver to their Commander-in-Chief because, as we all know, nothing bad ever happens in Iraq.

They even threw in a token Iraqi soldier whose only line was, "Mr. President, I like you." To which President George replied, "Well, I like you too." (Awww, how sweet, but remember George -- "Don't ask, don't tell.")

The whole reason for this morning's dog and pony show was to show George W. Bush "engaged," as a "hands-on" kind leader. That's also why he's been down to Louisiana so many times lately he may have to pay state taxes there.

The flaw in this new PR strategy is that Bush's handlers have decided to make him look in charge at the very time growing numbers of Americans would prefer he be anything but.

Nevertheless George W. Bush, who at the height of his popularity made almost no effort to get involved in the nitty gritty of governance, is suddenly everywhere. I expect any day now will begin tagging buildings in cities he visits with "George Was Here."

It's pure, unadulterated, painfully obvious desperation. Because today George is living his worst nightmare. His entire adult life has been a quest to avoid being unmasked as mediocre – or worse. It must remind him of his first few months in office. I recall those early days clearly. Bush had an expression on his face back then that said, "Oh, oh. Now I've done it. They want me to actually do stuff."

Then 9/11 saved him. Suddenly he could play to his only strength – pretending. He had fooled everyone for in the past by pretending, pretending he actually served in the Air National Guard, pretending he was a fighter pilot, then pretending he was self-made businessman. But in those charades his father was both his producer and stage manager. When Junior finally finagled his way into the world's top job there were no more strings Dad could pull to make him look successful when he failed. Nor was there enough money in the Bush Family Trust to buy him out the enormous jams he could get into as President of the United States.

That dawned on George about a week after he arrived in the Oval Office. And he was scared. If you go back and look at video from that period the expression on his face looked eerily like that of Michael "Brownie" Brown's a week after Katrina. ("Who am I. Why am here?")

Then terrorist killed 3000 Americans and saved Junior. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 allowed George W. to do what he did best again, pretend. Many still wonder what he thinking during those long painful minutes he read The Goat to little children after being told of the attacks? Something along these lines I suspect:

"Hmmm.. should I do a John Wayne or a Clint Eastwood?.... I want to say stuff like, 'Wanted, Dead or Alive," and 'Go ahead, make my day," show I'm not scared, 'bring-em on....' That kinda stuff."

And so it came to pass. George W. Bush, the empty vessel, filled himself with the character of a swaggering Texas cowboy. He started walking slightly bow-legged and moseyed on over to Ground Zero to strut his phony stuff. The sad part is, it worked for him – again.

But four year later that character has lost it's appeal and George suddenly finds himself back where he was before 9/11 – directionless valueless and utterly clueless. He's in way over his head, and knows it. Dad can't help and neither can his theatrical agent, Karl Rove. His substitute father figure, Dick Cheney, is reportedly sick and tired of picking up after Junior and apparently decided to just let him stew in the problems he creates, like Harriet Miers.

Alone and on his own -- it's the most terrifying set of circumstances imaginable to George. Worse yet, it comes at a time when nothing seems to be going right. The war in Iraq has become the war in Vietnam. The phony recovery he bought with tax cuts and borrowed money is headed for deep trouble. His stubborn dependence on antiquated, finite and ecologically harmful fossil fuels has come home to roost - with a vengence. And, after lying to them, leaders around the world no longer believe a word that comes out of his mouth.

So we get pathetic displays like this morning's Orwellian teleconference. No longer able to govern, his poll numbers plumbing new depths, his most trusted aides heading for court and/or jail, his Supreme Court nominee wandering the halls of congress bugging reluctant Senators like a Jehovah Witness – it's all coming apart. The audience is walking out on him.

Now comes the death watch -- a political and emotional death of a thousand cuts. A slow-motion train wreck, televised. For the next three years we will have to watch George W. Bush stumble from character to character in search of a persona able to mask his utter vacuousness and again attract admiring crowds.

Today's character was "hands on Commander-in-Chief." His supporting actors were real soldiers, who delivered them about as well as one would expect of troops on active duty in a combat zone.

Who's the President of the United States going to be next week? Charlton Heston? Billy Graham? Maxwell Smart? Gomer Pile?

Check your program guide.

Site of The Day

Thursday, October 13, 2005

October 12, 2005

Sign it !
Or You Don't Get My Vote

The current issue of The Nation magazine contains an important essay by Bob Borosage, head of the Center for America’s Future , Like many of us Bob has spent the last few years watching in awe and shock as the Democrats triangulated themselves into irrelevancy. With there being no realistic hope a viable progressive third part will emerge he and other progressive thinkers have been trying to figure out how to round up our wayward mule team and get it hitched back to the right wagon.

Bob's article, "A *Real* Contract With America," is an important step in that direction. In it he lays out a set of clear pledges Democrat candidates can embrace in the upcoming '06 and '08 races.

Such a "contract" is critical if Democrats are going to once again become a great party, and here's why. Democrats will regain some seats in both houses in coming elections. How could not, considering the mess the GOP has made of things since becoming the majority party. And therein lays the entire current platform of the Democrat Party -- "Vote for us because we are not them."

But winning only because the other team committed too many errors, is not the same thing as governing. It's simply being the only other alternative -- the lesser of evils. And that's not a foundation upon which greatness can be built.

You hear it everyday in Washington; "Democrats have no ideas, no programs, no deeply held beliefs, no lines in the sand they will not cross." The only decernable passion Democrats display is a passion to be in power again. But in power to do what? You tell me. I have no friggin idea, and I deeply suspect neither do they.

That's why we need to force them to sign a contract with us this time. To put it bluntly, we don't trust them any longer. They've double-crossed at every major moment -- on war, on taxes, on the environment, on health care. They took or votes and our hopes and bargained them away to the enemy for the political equivalent of nylons, smokes and chocolate bars.

So I took the points Bob listed in his article, "embellished" them and put them into the form of 10 contractual pledges Democrat candidates can and should embrace. (To see Bob's original -- un-Pizzo'ed -- list click here.) Here is my list – which began Bob's list-- and will hopefully become every Democrat's list:

A Progressive
Contract With America

If elected to office I promise to fully, enthusiastically and aggressively work to pass legislation that achieves the following goals:

We Will Bring the Troops Home: Our military has been stretched to the breaking point through a series of unwise deployments, particularly the war in Iraq. We will begin rebuilding America's all-volunteer military by first setting a date-certain for withdrawal from Iraq, beginning with National Guard and reservists. We will pass legislation requiring US troops begin leaving Iraq at the rate of 15,000 a month. We will work as closely as possible with Iraqi government officials to make this withdraw orderly while continuing to provide them the resources needed to train and equip their own soldiers and police forces.

We Will Crack Down on Corruption: The revolving door between corporate lobbies and high public office must be closed. We will pass legislation prohibiting legislators, their senior aides and executive branch political appointees from lobbying for two years after leaving office. We will let the sun shine into the deepest corners by requiring detailed public reporting of all contacts between lobbyists and legislators and the timely posting of such contacts on the Web. We pledge to apply these rules to all, regardless of party, as one way to take big money out of politics.

We Will Make Public Officials Accountable: When public officials fail to do their job, as in the pre-9/11 and WMD intellegence faliures, we will require an independent investigation be launched so that no official's actions, regardless of rank or position, escapes review. We will detail action on the urgent needs that this Administration has ignored: Improve port security, bolster first responders and public health capacity, and require adequate defense planning by high-risk chemical plants. And we will attack fraud, waste and abuse, beginning with the pork-barrel squandering of national security funds.

We Will Unleash New Energy for America: We understand that the "age of oil," is nearing an end. Therefore we pledge to launch and fund a concerted drive towards real energy independence for America. We must approach this task with the same sense of urgency, funding and attention that the nation gave to the Manhattan Project. We will focus these efforts solely on mainstreaming renewable, non-polluting sources of energy such as hydrogen, wind and solar, with the goal of achieving total energy independence no later than 2020.

We Will Rebuild America First: We will pass legislation rescinding Bush's tax cuts for the already wealthy and corporations in order to create more jobs here than overseas. We will accomplish that, in part, by using the additional tax revenue to create good-paying jobs rebuilding America's decaying infrastructure.

We Will Make Work Pay Once Again: There are only three nations on earth with such a vast disparity between rich and poor, Russia, Mexico and the United States. It is a disgraceful effect of GOP economic policies that favor corporations and the wealthy while ignoring hard working Americans. While CEO pay has moved steadily upward, the pay of working Americans has fallen, in many cases below the official poverty level. We promise to reverse that trend, beginning by passing legislation raising the minimum wage to a level that reflects current economic reality. We will encourage workers, including white collar workers, to take a hand in their own destinies by joining unions, as well as becoming shareholders in the companies that employ them and fully participating in both union and shareholder activities. We will insist that any companies that receive government contracts pay the prevailing wage.

We Will Make Healthcare Affordable: We pledge to fix America's broken healthcare system, a to do so quickly. We will study and then propose a single-payer, universal, healthcare system to be in place no later than 2015. We will also immediately reverse the Republican shameful sellout to the pharmaceutical industry by empowering Medicare to bargain down drug prices andallowing people to purchase drugs from safe outlets abroad.

We Will Protect Retirement Security: We pledge to strengthen Social Security. We will not risk Social Security by privatizing it. Instead we will modernize Social Security by, in part, recognizing that people live and work longer than they did 75 years ago.We will also modernize the ways the Social Security Trust Fund is invested to assure it always grows at least as fast as core inflation. We will also require companies to treat the shop floor like the top floor when it comes to managing their pensions and healthcare benefits.

We Will Keep the American Dream Alive: We will immediately stop and reverse current GOP efforts to cut eligibility for college grants and to limit loans. Instead we will offer a contract to American students: If they graduate from high school, they will be able to afford college or the higher technical training needed to be successful in today's economy. We will pay for this by preserving the estate tax on the wealthiest multimillion-dollar estates in America.

We Will Provide Real Security for America: We will foster and lead an aggressive international alliance to track down stateless terrorists, capture or kill them and confiscate their assets. Captured terrorists will be always be treated in accordance with international law. We will increase efforts and funding to track down and secure "loose nukes." We will detail action on the urgent needs that this Administration has ignored: Improve port security, bolster first responders and public health capacity, and require adequate defense planning by high-risk chemical plants. We will also affirm the reality that no nation can ever be secure as long as its borders are not. We will bring order and security to our borders by increasing border patrols and controls and by instituting a fair, manageable and humane guest worker program. We will also aggressively prosecute employers who employ or exploit illegal immigrant workers.



So, maybe you should email or mail this to your elected representative and let him/her know that, if they intend to run for re-election the price of your vote is their signiture on this document.

Link of the Day

When you impeach a president for lying about a personal matter, you leave yourself open for impeaching a president for lying that caused tens of thousands of deaths.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

October 11, 2005

News Blues

Compassionate Conservative Watch
What's a compassionate conservative do when faced with this problem. Energy costs are at record highs. Winter is approaching. In normal times the working poor have trouble paying their winter heating bills. This year they will face bills between 50% and 71% higher than normal.

So, whatya do? Do you repeal some of the overly generous tax cuts you gave to the already wealthy during better times? Nope. You squeeze an extra $4.3 billion out of the budget by terminating 100 federal programs, many designed to help the poor manage their energy bills and respond to emergencies.

"Among the programs set for elimination are high-energy cost amelioration grants totaling $28 million and natural disaster emergency loan subsidies totaling $3 million, both administered by the Agriculture Department. Other targets are $70 million in flood control and coastal emergency programs of the Army Corps of Engineers, a $298 million emergency low-income heating assistance fund, and the $10 million empowerment zone and enterprise community program....The cost-cutting moves highlight the trade-offs involved as Congress tries to address a huge budget deficit without raising taxes." (Full Story)

So, the next time Bush describes himself as a "compassionate conservative," understand that his compassion is for the wealthy, whose tax cuts he is willing protect even if it means heaping yet more misery on America's working poor.

And if that makes me sound like a bleeding heart liberal, fine. I can live with that -- especially if the alternative is being a phony "compassionate" conservative. My heart does bleed, just not for the Trump's Cheney's and Murdoch's out there, whom I suspect will not even notice this winter's utility bills.

Sky Pilots Get Wings' Clipped
"Airman! Drop down and give me 50 push ups – or accept Jesus as your personal savior. Your choice, maggot!"

Okay, I admit, that's a bit much. But bible thumping Christian chaplains at the U.S. Air Force Academy have been accused of Jehovah Witness evangelizing on campus. Rather than just ministering to the already superstitious, they were trying to poach Jews, Muslims, Hindus and atheists – especially atheists. (For an evangelical preacher, converting an atheist is like a guy bagging a lesbian.)

Of course it wouldn't take a genius I.Q. to figure out that sooner or later someone was going to take offense. And so it came to pass.

"The Air Force, facing a lawsuit over alleged proselytizing, has withdrawn a document that permitted chaplains to evangelize military personnel who were not affiliated with any faith, Pentagon officials said yesterday. The document was circulated at the Air Force Chaplain School until eight weeks ago. It was a "code of ethics" for chaplains that included the statement "I will not proselytize from other religious bodies, but I retain the right to evangelize those who are not affiliated." (Full Story)

Understand what happened there. These American religious fundamentalists actually thought they had made a generous concession by promising not to poach believers from "other faiths." But they wanted to leave open the option of bagging the occasional free-range atheist.

Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein, a 1977 Air Force Academy graduate is one of those who has accused the academy's current leaders of pressuring cadets to convert to evangelical Christianity. He sees a fundamental(ist) contradiction in that.

"They say the bad guys we're fighting, the jihadists, represent a theocratic, fascistic movement," Weinstein said. "If the United States Air Force, probably the most technologically lethal organization ever assembled by man, has a policy of evangelizing 'the unchurched,' you tell me how that makes us look."


Darwin v. Stupid
Oh, oh. Bad news for the stubbornly ignorant. Scientists have announced they have taken a giant step towards removing forever the term adjective "theory," from Evolution.

"When scientists announced last month they had determined the exact order of all 3 billion bits of genetic code that go into making a chimpanzee, it was no surprise that the sequence was more than 96 percent identical to the human genome. Charles Darwin had deduced more than a century ago that chimps were among humans' closest cousins...But decoding chimpanzees' DNA allowed scientists to do more than just refine their estimates of how similar humans and chimps are. It let them put the very theory of evolution to some tough new tests...That a smidgeon of cells 3.5 billion years ago could -- through mechanisms no more extraordinary than random mutation and natural selection -- give rise to the astonishing tapestry of biological diversity that today thrives on Earth." (Full Story)

The results of this research come at an inconvenient moment for the forces of ignorance, as it will almost surely play center court in cases dealing with the teaching of so-called "Creationism" and/or "Intelligent Design" as science in schools.

"Evolution is a way of understanding the world that continues to hold up day after day to scientific tests," Alan Leshner, chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "By contrast, said , Intelligent Design offers nothing in the way of testable predictions....Just because they call it a theory doesn't make it a scientific theory. The concept of an intelligent designer is not a scientifically testable assertion."

So here's the bottom line: Intelligent Design v. Evolution -- one is science and one really is just a theory.

(Personally I believe we are all just figments of one another's imaginations. But it's just a theory.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

October 10, 2005

"The obsequious instrument
of his pleasure."

Last week Randy Barnett, writing in the Wall Street Journal, pointed out a contradiction in the GOP's position on strict adherence to what our Founding Fathers meant when they wrote the U.S. Constitution. Republicans put that alleged reverence for original intent on full display when they argued that President Bill Clinton deserved impeachment by quoting Founding Father Alexander Hamilton's Federalist essay No. 65, which defined the intent and grounds for, impeachment of a sitting President.

But not a word have these GOP constitutional "scholars" whispered about Hamilton's Federalist essay No. 76, dealing with why the Founders thought it was critical the U.S. Senate approve Presidential appointments, like Supreme Court Justices. This silence is particularly strange since you cannot read Hamilton's words without immediately thinking, "Oh, Harriet Miers!"

"To what purpose then require the co-operation of the Senate? I answer, that the necessity of their concurrence would have a powerful, though in general, a silent operation. It would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President, and would then greatly prevent the appointment of unfit characters from State prejudice, from family connection, from personal attachment, or from a view to popularity.... He would be both ashamed and afraid to bring forward, for the most distinguished or lucrative stations, candidates who had no other merit than that of coming from the same State to which he (the President) particularly belonged, or of being in some way or other personally allied to him, or of possessing the necessary insignificance and pliancy to render him (the appointee) the obsequious instrument of his pleasure."
Alexander Hamilton
Federalist No. 76

The only part of that quote that does not apply here is the part that says, "he (the President) would be ashamed.." Shame requires recognition and acceptance of wrong doing. George W. Bush's entire life is a monument to successfully avoiding both. He just creates messes and moves on, like a dog that poops on the sidewalk. If some behind him steps in it, well that's their fault, as far as George is concerned. They should look where they're stepping.

So, the Harriet Miers flap flaps on. What on earth was he thinking? How could an administration that had displayed such Orwellian skill in the past, get this one so bollixed up? I mean, they've gotten away with some real whoppers in the past; Saddam = 9/11, pretend WMD in Iraq, tax cuts for the rich will raise the working poor out of poverty, the Clear Skies Act... to name just a few flat out lies they've pulled off.

How did they let this Miers problem happen in the first place, and then let it get worse and worse?

I have theory -- maybe a crackpot theory -- but here it is: Karl "Turd Blossom" Rove was too busy lately to keep an eye on Junior. I imagine it started something like this. George picks up the phone and buzzes Rove's office.

"Hello, Mabel, tell Turd Blossom to get over here. We need another Supreme."

"I'm sorry Mr. President, but Mr. Rove is with his attorney all day today."

"Attorney? Why? Is he checking his blind trust again?"

"No Mr. President, it's that Valarie Plame business again, I'm afraid. He said he is going to be tied up preparing his Grand Jury testimony for the rest of this month."

"Can't I just pardon him and get this behind us?

"I don't know Mr. President. I'm just a secretary, but I doubt it. I think you can only pardon someone after they've been convicted of something."

"Damn. That's inefficient. Typical. The lawyers want their cut first. Okay. Not a problemo. Tell Karl not to worry. If he's convicted I''ll pardon him. I can do that cause I'm President, you know. And tell him I'll just pick someone for the court myself. Faster that way anyhow. Karl thinks too long. It's not that complicated. Enny, meany, miney, moe.... "

Just then George spies Harriet Miers wandering through the Rose Garden reading her bible. He runs to the door.

"Hey, Moe!... I mean Harriet.... come here. You wanna be a judge? I need a judge. You interested? Supreme Court. Big job. Big raise. You get to wear slimming black every day to work. You're woman too, right? That's good. Diversity. Women will like that. You read the bible over lunch, you hate abortion. Home run. Easy as that. Now, to lunch and a nap."

And so we got Harriet Miers for the highest court in the land.

Which should not be a surprise, considering that, if I am right about how this unfolded, George made the choice alone. When things get complicated George's first instinct is to further tighten the circle of wagons, narrowing even further the already tight clutch of trusted sycophants. And things have gotten complicated of late. Disloyalty may even be afoot. Who knows, Karl might talk, so it's just as well he be left out of this.

And it wasn't just Karl who was tied up. His two congressional generals, Bill Frist and Tom DeLay, were huddled with their attorney's as well. And his father-figure Vice President was laid up from knee surgery.

So we got to see the real George W. Bush, stripped of his handlers, free, free, free at last to be himself. Surrounded now only by lower-ranking, pet-named sycophants who won their tenure by finding new and ever more enthusiastic ways of saying things like, "Brilliant sir!," and "I like it, sir." or "That'll show-em, sir."

There he was, in pig heaven, encouraged by the truest of true-blue GWB Moonies who honestly believe he is "the most brilliant person" they've ever met – and regularly assure him so. And, having been raised by an overly critical, dominating mother, adoring, masculine affirming, Stepford women are his particular favorites.

So he chose one of them -- Harriet Miers.

Governance – simple as that!

Simple is as simple does.

Monday, October 10, 2005

October 8, 2005

An Article of Faith

What to do about Harriet Miers? She has no judicial record to grill her about. And, since she has been working in the Bush White House as the President's lawyer, all her memos and advice is privileged. Senators can ask her what her personal view are on Roe v. Wade, but she doesn't have to answer them, and won't.

That would apparently leave Senators with a very short list of non-controversial, non-enlightening questions, like "what's your favorite color," and "what three books would take with you on a desert island?"

But that's not true. There are heavy questions that need to be asked, questions that would reveal more about who Harriet Miers is and the kind of Justice she would be, than all the legal mumbo jumbo in the US code.

The only question is will Senators have the nerve to ask her? Before I list the questions that should be asked of Miss Miers I have to set the stage.

I'm old enough to remember when JFK ran for President. There was grumbling then that, as a Catholic, he would be beholding to the Pope. Kennedy nixed such paranoia by clearly and convincingly stating that his personal religious beliefs would not influence his obligation to the nation.

Kennedy's position was consistent with the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which is actually a contract between the government and the governed. That contract stipulated that, in return for not interferring with citizen's free practice the faith of their choice, no one would be allowed to force the establishment of a state-favored religion.

That contract held for 200 years, until the Ronald Reagan made his pact with the Christian right, and it's been chipped away at ever since. The Christian right's opposition to abortion was just the thin-edge of the wedge -- more followed; prayer in public schools, Christian monuments on public property, Biblical creationism taught as science.

The Christian right has broken that contract – or at least are trying their best to do so. So, it's different now than when Kennedy ran. Back then the contract was intact and not under attack. Today it is clearly and demonstrably under attack and threatened. Threatened by whom? By evangelical Christians -- evangelical Christians like Harriet Miers.

While that contract was intact no one hat the right to probe the religious beliefs of a candidate for high public office. Doing so would have been correctly seen as the lowest form of bigotry – a kind of anti-religious McCarthyism. But over the past 25 years or so evangelicals have not been shy about attacking those who do not share their religious beliefs, or in trying to impose those beliefs on everyone else.

So, the deal's off. I want to know what's rattling around in Harriet Mier's evangelically influenced brain before I put her in a position to interpret my my rights under the US Constitution.

So, here we go. Swear Harriet in and let the questioning begin:

Question: Miss Miers, you are a member of the Valley View Evangelical Christian Church in Dallas for 25 years, correct?

Question: Does your church believe the Old and New Testaments are tobe taken literally and do you share that belief?

Question: Under what circumstances do you believe biblical law trumps secular law or rights?

Question: If a case comes before you as a Justice of the US Supreme Court in which established law supports the case of the petitioner but is in direct violation of biblical law and/or your religous beliefs, could you still rule for the petitioner?

Question: Do you believe that humans evolved or were, as all evangelicals believe, man was created fully developed as we know ourselves now?

Question: How old do you believe the Earth is? Do you believe the science that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, or as many evangelicals believe, just 6000 years old?

Question: Do you believe, as many evangelicals do, that modern man co-existed with dinosaurs?

Question: Can you explain your understanding of the term "the scientific method?"

Question: How do you intellectually and emotionally reconcile the results of exhaustive scientific research when those results directly contradict the bible and/or your evangelical religious beliefs?

Question: You have been quoted as saying that you feel President Bush is the most brilliant person you have ever known. The BBC recently reported that President Bush said he believes God speaks to him directly.

Quote: God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan'.' And I did, and then God would tell me, 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq...' And I did.....'And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East.' And by God I'm gonna do it',"

Miss Miers, do you believe that God literally speaks directly to President Bush? And that the policies he mentioned in that quote were indeed ordered by God? And do you believe God speaks to you directly?

As I said, the answers to those questions would tell us all we need to know what kind of Justice Harriet Miers would be. And Senators have a right to ask them because the Christian right has put them squarely on the table.

Evangelical Christians like to argue that "God has been banned from the public square." Well, fine, then let's put God back in the public square. But understand, the public square in not a lecture hall, it's a debating society.

So, let the debate begin. Would a Justice Harriet Miers continue America's tradition of separation of church and state, or erode it? Would she rule for mankind, or impose her narrow evangelical beliefs?

I think we have a right to know that. And the only way to find out is to probe what's going on in Miss Mier's head and heart. Look at it this way, if Harriet Miers were discovered to be a member of a pro-communist study group you could bet she'd be grilled on those beliefs. So why not grill her on her evangelical beliefs as well? After all, a true-believer is a true-believer.

One last observation. In his novel, "Mother Night," Kurt Vonnegut's protagonist tells of meeting a nice couple that, in all respects seemed entirely normal. Their friendship grew, until one day they invited him to a meeting. It turned out to be a meeting of American Fascists. He mulled how this could be. How could two people who, on the surfaced seemed so sane, become followers of something so insane? He concluded that some people's minds operate like gears that mesh normally as they turn until they reach a certain spot where a tooth is missing, and there they slip.

I want to know how many teeth, if any, Harriet has missing from her gears. Don't you?

And Chew on This
From The Los Angeles Times

The dark side of faith
October 1, 2005

IT'S OFFICIAL: Too much religion may be a dangerous thing.
This is the implication of a study reported in the current issue of the Journal of Religion and Society, a publication of Creighton University's Center for the Study of Religion. The study, by evolutionary scientist Gregory S. Paul, looks at the correlation between levels of "popular religiosity" and various "quantifiable societal health" indicators in 18 prosperous democracies, including the United States.

Paul ranked societies based on the percentage of their population expressing absolute belief in God, the frequency of prayer reported by their citizens and their frequency of attendance at religious services. He then correlated this with data on rates of homicide, sexually transmitted disease, teen pregnancy, abortion and child mortality.

He found that the most religious democracies exhibited substantially higher degrees of social dysfunction than societies with larger percentages of atheists and agnostics. Of the nations studied, the U.S. — which has by far the largest percentage of people who take the Bible literally and express absolute belief in God (and the lowest percentage of atheists and agnostics) — also has by far the highest levels of homicide, abortion, teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

This conclusion will come as no surprise to those who have long gnashed their teeth in frustration while listening to right-wing evangelical claims that secular liberals are weak on "values." Paul's study confirms globally what is already evident in the U.S.: When it comes to "values," if you look at facts rather than mere rhetoric, the substantially more secular blue states routinely leave the Bible Belt red states in the dust.

Murder rates? Six of the seven states with the highest 2003 homicide rates were "red" in the 2004 elections (Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina), while the deep blue Northeastern states had murder rates well below the national average. Infant mortality rates? Highest in the South and Southwest; lowest in New England. Divorce rates? Marriages break up far more in red states than in blue. Teen pregnancy rates? The same.

Of course, the red/blue divide is only an imperfect proxy for levels of religiosity. And while Paul's study found that the correlation between high degrees of religiosity and high degrees of social dysfunction appears robust, it could be that high levels of social dysfunction fuel religiosity, rather than the other way around.

Although correlation is not causation, Paul's study offers much food for thought. At a minimum, his findings suggest that contrary to popular belief, lack of religiosity does societies no particular harm. This should offer ammunition to those who maintain that religious belief is a purely private matter and that government should remain neutral, not only among religions but also between religion and lack of religion. It should also give a boost to critics of "faith-based" social services and abstinence-only disease and pregnancy prevention programs.

We shouldn't shy away from the possibility that too much religiosity may be socially dangerous. Secular, rationalist approaches to problem-solving emphasize uncertainty, evidence and perpetual reevaluation. Religious faith is inherently nonrational.

This in itself does not make religion worthless or dangerous. All humans hold nonrational beliefs, and some of these may have both individual and societal value. But historically, societies run into trouble when powerful religions become imperial and absolutist.

The claim that religion can have a dark side should not be news. Does anyone doubt that Islamic extremism is linked to the recent rise in international terrorism? And since the history of Christianity is every bit as blood-drenched as the history of Islam, why should we doubt that extremist forms of modern American Christianity have their own pernicious and measurable effects on national health and well-being?

Arguably, Paul's study invites us to conclude that the most serious threat humanity faces today is religious extremism: nonrational, absolutist belief systems that refuse to tolerate difference and dissent.

My prediction is that right-wing evangelicals will do their best to discredit Paul's substantive findings. But when they fail, they'll just shrug: So what if highly religious societies have more murders and disease than less religious societies? Remember the trials of Job? God likes to test the faithful.

To the truly nonrational, even evidence that on its face undermines your beliefs can be twisted to support them. Absolutism means never having to say you're sorry.

And that, of course, is what makes it so very dangerous.

Friday, October 07, 2005

October 6, 2005

The Doh! Factor

I have a slogan for the Bush administration: "Doh !"

This President begins every new project, be it foreign or domestic, with the boyish enthusiasm of Homer Simpson. Just let his pals down at Moe's plant the seed of a half-baked notion in his head and George takes it from there.

Enthusiasm is a good thing when exercised by the rational and competent. But when exercised by a dimwit all that passion and energy can only end with a resounding, "doh!"

And so it has come to pass with another of George's economic brainstorms. It all began after a few beers. The fellas at Moes were discussing how high US corporate tax rates were forcing corporations to hide more and more of their profits overseas. Lenny suggested that maybe we could get that money repatriated if we gave those companies a freebee, let them bring the money back into their own country for practically nothing.

George, sipping his sarsaparilla, bolted upright. "Yeah, great idea. Could create jobs. Would create jobs. Those companies would use that money to create jobs. Billions of jobs."

So, along with his other tax breaks, George added a measure that would allow companies that had hidden profits off-shore to repatriated them without paying the full tax, normally around 25%. Instead they would just pay postage and handling, 5.25%.

And it worked. Hell, how could it NOT work. Five and a quarter percent was even less than the tax havens were charging companies to shuffle all those peas around under shell company accounts. But to get that deal companies had to get all that dough back into the US before the end of this year.

And, as I said, it worked. After all, wouldn't you agree too if it meant being in the 5% tax bracket?

We learned that companies had salted away about $350 billion off shore. At least, that's how much they've admitted to so far. Had those companies paid their fair share of taxes in the first place the US Treasury would be about $90 billion better off than it is now. Instead they were rewarded for their creative tax avoidance by being given a free pass.

But never mind that, George said, the jobs all that repatriated money would create here at home would more than make up for that little favor.

So, how did that idea pan out? Not so much.

According that left-wing rag, the Wall Street Journal, most of that money is being used by companies to buy back stock in their own companies and pay off old loans and boost executive compensation. But that's not what they were supposed to do with the money.

"Companies aren't supposed to use repatriated funds for stock buybacks, dividends, or executive compensation, but there is no requirement that companies isolate funds or show that spending on approved uses is above what the company would have spent normally." (Oct 5 WSJ)

And what of those jobs? Well, one of the companies that dug up it's off shore stash was Colgate-Palmolive Co. which hauled home $800 million, for which the company said, "thank you very much," and then proceeded with plans to shut at third of it's US factories and eliminate 4,450 jobs.

More Doh! Dough
And how is George's brainstorm that, if we let the rich keep more of their money by giving them fat tax breaks, they will use it to create jobs, going?

New York Times -- Oct 5: After falling for two years, the share of income going to the richest slice of Americans - the top tenth of 1 percent - grew significantly in 2003 while the share going to 99 percent of Americans fell, tax data released yesterday showed....At the same time, the effective income tax rates paid by the top tenth of 1 percent fell sharply, declining at more than 10 times the rate reduction for middle-class taxpayers, the new report, by the Internal Revenue Service, showed.

Only for those Americans in the top 1 percent, the nearly 1.3 million taxpayers who made at least $327,000, did incomes increase significantly more in 2003 than the rate of inflation....The top 1 percent of taxpayers received almost 17.5 percent of all income and paid a third of all income taxes in 2003, the I.R.S. found. The top tenth of 1 percent received 7.57 percent of reported income and paid more than 15.3 percent of all income taxes. (SEE THE 1% SOLUTION)

(Please also note that I.R.S. data tends to understate incomes for those at the very top because of different rules for reporting wages and capital gains, meaning the actual disparity was really much larger than the official data show.)

And get this. The data also show that among major world economies, the United States in recent years has had the third greatest disparity in incomes between the very top and everyone else. Only Mexico and Russia, among major economies, have greater disparity.

Way to go, Homey.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

October 5, 2005

Justice Mother Superior

From the moment I laid eyes on her, there was something about Harriet Miers that gave me the creeps. I had seen that look before. What was it?

Then I learned that Miss Miers had been born Catholic and remained so until deciding when she turned 30 that Catholics weren't crazy enough for her, and switching to a Dallas evangelical sect. Then it became clear. I had been schooled by women who wore that very same look and demeanor

She had left the Catholic Church, but that look remained – the look of every Catholic nun that had taught me in grammar school.

Why would that worry me? Well, aside from my jaundiced view of all things religious, those nuns were, every nun of them, was 150 pounds of "issues" in a habit. They each wore a wedding ring. Why? Because they were "married to Christ." (Hellooo... married to a guy dead 2000 years? Nothing strange there.)

In those days nuns were draped head to toe in black habits, (known as "berkas" today.) Their faces were framed by stiffly starched white linen beneath which was large white linen bib. Behind their backs we called them "penguins," a smear on real penguins which are a whole lot nicer.

Those nuns had issues pile atop issues. Even Dr. Phil would have thrown them out of his office after five minutes. Socially and sexually repressed in ways only the Yesterday President Bush lied (again) when asked by a reporter if he had ever discussed abortion with Miss. Miers. "Ah, (looking down, shuffling paper,) ah, not that I recall."
Oh come on George! Poooleezze! Who do you think you're kidding? Of course he did.

Friends close to Miss Miers, including a Texas judge, have already publicly testified that they've attended anti-abortion meetings with her and that she has donated both time and money to anti-choice groups. So of course she opposes abortion, and of course she and George discussed that, and of course she would end the legal right to abortion in New York minute if given the chance. And George knows it.

But then, we're used George lying to us. Democracy is not a sacred institution to George, but a game, an act, a Kabuki dance that has to be performed as a part of his job. He's Shucker-and-Jiver in-Chief, who ministers over a government where the ends always justify the means. The trick is making sure voters never get a gander at the means until the ends are achieved.

One more thing on Miss Miers. Despite her crazy-right credentials conservatives are kicking a fuss about her appointment. What's that all about?

Two things. First the crazy-right is really crazy. So it's not surprising to see that pack of knuckle-draggers throwing crap from their cages. They are afraid that Miss Miers is not crazy enough. (I suspect they are wrong about that.)

The other reason is more important -- and tactical It's a head fake. The GOP leadership is letting their crazies howl about Miss Miers because they hope it will lull Democrats into believing that Miss Miers is benign – at least as Bush conservatives go. And it's working. They already landed one sucker, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. So, expect more to come especially in the lead up to Senate hearings.

If Miss Miers is confirmed the thoughtful Sandra Day O'Conner's seat will go to a Mother Superior. A childless spinster who, years ago, pledged all her love, respect and devotion to one man, George W. Bush -- a man she can never have, a man who, when his term is over, will return to Texas, leaving her to pine alone in Washington for the rest of her life, in her black robe with companion Clarence Thomas.

Buckle up for some strange rulings. Very strange.

Puritans would have found normal, they took their frustrations out on we kiddies. They would yank us from desks by our earlobes (ouch !) when we misbehaved (classified as any behavior that hinted at normality) and dragged the offending youngster to the front of the class. If a boy they would make him roll up his stiff corduroy uniform pant leg to the knee. Then, with the other kiddies watching, the giant penguin would smack, and smack and smack the offending calf with a yardstick until it turned Satan red. Nothing strange there. (Half a century later, I still can't look at a yardstick without flinching.)

My third grade nun had a moister way of dealing with sin in the classroom. She would walk up and down the lines of desks packing a giant cask of Holy Water, spreading it over the students as if she was spraying herbicide on weeds. Nothing strange there.

I only mention all this for a couple reasons. First, I needed to get that off my chest. Those nutty nuns would be turned into Child Protective Services today. I guess they figured that if the priests could have sex with little boys in the aptly named "rectory," then at least they should be able to vent their repressed sexual frustrations by slapping the kids around. (And the Pope wonders why there as so many ex-Catholics.)

But I digress. The main reason I worry about Miss Miers is because she is one of them – in heart, in soul and in psyche. I can see it in her eyes. I know that look. And she's got it -- in spades

There are whole lot of reasons why that matters. Let me list just a few.

A life-long bachelorette Miss Miers has never had children. People can decide not have children and that's fine. Some folks want kids but can't have them. That's sad, but they can always adopt. Miss Miers has done neither.

The Supreme Court is often faced with cases that involve minors and the rights of minors. During this very term the Court will hear a case about whether a minor has the right to an abortion without parental consent. But Miss Miers has never been a parent. What pool of data will she sort through to make a decision like that? (And yes, I know Justice Souter is also unmarried and without kids. But one Justice without such key life experiences is quite enough. Hey, maybe sparks will fly between Miss Miers and Mr. Sueter. Justices Mr. & Mrs. Souter.. has a ring to it.)

Anyway you parents out there know what I mean when I say that the issues that emerge between parent and child are among the most daunting, complex and contradictory of all human emotions. But Miss Miers has experienced none of them. She has no idea what is like to have a daughter and worry about her getting pregnant, either the usual way or by being raped. None. zip. She might be able to intellectualize about it in the abstract, even sympathize, but she can't empathize.

Then there's the religious issues. If someone on the Supreme Court is going to indulge in the metaphysical, I prefer it be the white bread variety – you know, Lutherans, reformed Judaism, that kind of thing. But Miss Miers decided to jump from from mainstream Catholic to a hand-waving evangelical.