Monday, October 02, 2006

September 22 - October 1, 2006

US Senate's Vote
That Will Live in Infamy
History is prologue. It also tends to repeat itself. So, to understand today, you first have to understand yesterday. To predict the future, you often need only look in your rear-view mirror.

So let's just do that today. Take trip back in time with me. It's a short trip, so you can leave your carry-on's at home. (But no liquids, please. Folks have been known to spill them in the worm hole, and that really plays hell with the fabric of time/space.)

But before we jump let's orient ourselves to our own time, so we recognize it on the way back. Since we will be returning in just a few minutes, a quick review of the top news stories of the day should be enough.

Year: 2006
Date: 29 September
Place: USA

In the News:

US Senate & House approve strict limits on the legal rights of terror suspects.

Yesterday Congress approved landmark changes to the nation’s system of interrogating and prosecuting terrorism suspects, preparing the ground for military tribunals for those accused or suspected of being terrorist fighters. (More)

* The bill creates military commissions to prosecute terrorism suspects.
* It also grants the president flexibility to decide what interrogation techniques are legally permissible
* It denies detainees the right of Habeas Corpus.
* Those subject to commission trials are described only as “any person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents."
* The administration says say the definition would not apply to U.S. Citizens – thought the legislation itself does not explicitly preclude US citizens.
* The bill embraces President Bush’s view that the battle against terrorism justifies “extraordinary limits on defendants’ traditional rights in the courtroom.” The limits include restrictions on a suspect’s ability to challenge his detention, examine evidence against him and bar testimony allegedly acquired through coercion of witnesses.
* The Republican-controlled House also approved a bill to authorize Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program, leaving just the Senate to act to make the it law.
* These measures follow passage in 2002 of the “Patriot Act,” which greatly expanded the government's domestic law enforcement powers and surveillance of US citizens.

Okay, oriented? Great. Stay close together and don't wander from the group as we jump three-quarters of a century back in time:

Year: 1933
Date: 23 March
Place: Germany

In The News:

Reichtage Passes Law to Protect Citizens/Nation

The Enabling Act (Ermächtigungsgesetz in German) was passed by Germany's parliament (the Reichstag) this day, March 23, 1933. It was the second major step after the “Reichstag Fire Decree” through which the Nazis obtained dictatorial powers using largely legal means. The Act enables Chancellor Adolf Hitler and his cabinet to enact laws without the participation of the Reichstag.

It's legislative title was, “The Law to Remedy the Distress of the People and the Reich.”

It read as follows:

The Reichstag has enacted the following law, which is hereby proclaimed with the assent of the Reichsrat, it having been established that the requirements for a constitutional amendment have been fulfilled:

Article 1
In addition to the procedure prescribed by the constitution, laws of the Reich may also be enacted by the government of the Reich. This includes the laws referred to by Articles 85 Paragraph 2 and Article 87 of the constitution.

Article 2
Laws enacted by the government of the Reich may deviate from the constitution as long as they do not affect the institutions of the Reichstag and the Reichsrat. The rights of the President remain undisturbed.

Article 3
Laws enacted by the Reich government shall be issued by the Chancellor and announced in the Reich Gazette. They shall take effect on the day following the announcement, unless they prescribe a different date. Articles 68 to 77 of the Constitution do not apply to laws enacted by the Reich government.[2]

Article 4
Treaties of the Reich with foreign states which affect matters of Reich legislation shall not require the approval of the bodies of the legislature. The government of the Reich shall issue the regulations required for the execution of such treaties.

Reichstag Fire Decree
On the basis of Article 48 paragraph 2 of the Constitution of the German Reich, the following is ordered in defense against Communist state-endangering acts of violence:

Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124 and 153 of the Constitution of the German Reich are suspended until further notice. It is therefore permissible to restrict the rights of personal freedom [ habeas corpus ], freedom of opinion, including the freedom of the press, the freedom to organize and assemble, the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications, and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.

(It becomes clear as we move forward a few years, to 1937-1940, that whatever the stated purpose of the Reichstag Fire Decree (which the Nazis used exactly as the Bush administration used 9/11) and the Enabling Act, the Nazis actually used the new powers to gain complete political power without the need of the support of a majority in the Reichstag and without the need to bargain with their coalition partners. The Act essentially allowed the chancellor and his cabinet to enact legislation without the Reichstag, including changes to the constitution. )

Okay gang, back through into the worm hole. Time to go home.

Hey, what, the hell......!?

Oh, we are home.

Hardly noticed.

Save For November

Pin this on your frig so you don't forget to take it to the polls with you in November. Here's who voted for Bush's Enabling Act in the Senate this week. These votes provided terrorists their biggest win in the war so far. They have succeeded in getting us to abandon the founding principle -- "Justice for All," upon which America was founded. Shame, shame, shame!

The NOT Justice for All - Senate 65

Alexander (R-TN)
Allard (R-CO)
Allen (R-VA)
Bennett (R-UT)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burns (R-MT)
Burr (R-NC)
Carper (D-DE)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Coleman (R-MN)
Collins (R-ME)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Craig (R-ID)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
DeWine (R-OH)
Dole (R-NC)
Domenici (R-NM)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Frist (R-TN)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hagel (R-NE)
Hatch (R-UT)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Lieberman (D-CT)
Lott (R-MS)
Lugar (R-IN)
Martinez (R-FL)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Salazar (D-CO)
Santorum (R-PA)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Smith (R-OR)
Specter (R-PA)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Stevens (R-AK)
Sununu (R-NH)
Talent (R-MO)
Thomas (R-WY)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Voinovich (R-OH)
Warner (R-VA)


We demand of those we put in the White House only two things:

1) Keep the nation safe
2) Don't screw up the economy.

I charge the Bush administration with dereliction of duty in both regards. And, if it please the court, would like to submit evidence to support this charge.

Count 1
US Economy:

Your Honors, when George W. Bush, et al, took office in 2000, the economy was indeed heading south. Bush blamed his predecessor, Bill Clinton. “Clinton left us with a recession,” he whined.

But, I submit, how do the defendants explain the billions of dollars in budget surpluses Clinton left behind? And how do they explain that Clinton had not only balanced the budget but begun to shrink the national debt by paying it off at an astronomical rate?

“Oh that was just the effect of the boom,” the Bushies retorted. “It was just a phony bubble, not a real, sustainable economic accomplishment.”

Your Honors, I agree, the bubble was indeed unsustainable. All bubbles are. But at least Clinton had the sense to make hay while the sun was shinning, to wit, he taxed that hot money, assuring the government got it's share.

Now, let's look at Bush's bubble – the housing bubble.

Skyrocketing housing prices and easy credit fueled much of the economic activity underlying the Bush economy. But instead of making sure the government got a share of the housing bubble booty, Bush slashed taxes by $1.6 trillion.

So here's the difference: Clinton raised taxes on the wealth during the bubble and created surpluses,

Bush slashed taxes on the wealthy during the real estate bubble and created deficits.

Clinton paid down the national debt with some of that hot bubble money.
Bush let the rich keep most of it and deficits and the national debt has exploded.

But wait, there's more.

Because Bush failed to assure the government got enough in taxes to fund it's obligations, existing and anticipated, he issued IOUs by selling bonds to other countries. But just as anyone who has charged their VISA over its limit, the end has arrived. This from yesterday's Wall Street Journal:

US Foreign Debt Shows Its Teeth
“...the nation's consumption, investment and other outlays have exceeded (its) income by a cumulative $2.9 trillion – the largest gap on record. ... As of the end of 2005, total US foreign debt stood at $13.6 trillion – or about $119,000 per household... By buying US Treasurys, foreign investors put more than four-fifths of the $1.3 trillion the federal government borrowed since 2001 to help pay for (the Bush) tax breaks...”

“Your standard of living is going to be reduced unless you work harder,” says Nouriel Roubini, chairman of Roubini Global Economics. “The longer we wait to adjust our consumption and reduce our debt, the bigger will be the impact on our consumption in the future.”

“You end up having to pay more and borrow more, adds Pierre-Oliver Gourinchas, professor of economics at UC Berkeley. “Things could get out of hand very quickly.”

Just as Bill Clinton's bubble burst, so too has Bush's housing bubble. One would assume that, since Bush had pointed to the inevitability of the bubble's burst, he would have known another bubble when one developed on his watch. But no. Instead Bush has repeatedly pointed the rising home ownership and prices as one of the crown jewels of his economic, tax cut and borrow, policies.

Now the housing bubble has burst too.

Annual Existing Home Sales Prices Tumble
Annual existing home prices declined in August for the first time in more than a decade as sales fell for a fifth straight month....The year-over-year drop in median sales prices represented a dramatic turnaround in fortunes for the once high-flying housing market, which last year was posting double-digit price gains...."Pop goes the housing bubble," said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors. He predicted prices will tumble farther as home sellers struggle with a record glut of unsold homes. (More)

I rest my case on the economy. The “healthy economy” Bush rhetorically brandishes is nothing but a Potemkin Village economy, built and maintained on a foundation of borrowed money. The US is no longer the world's banker.. but the world's biggest debtor. (That muffled scratching sound you hear is Barry Goldwater trying to scratch his way out of his grave, drag himself to DC and strangle the Bushies in their sleep.)

Count 2
On National Defense

Your Honors, if it pleases the court, I would like to begin by entering into evidence the most recent National Intelligence Estimate.

Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat
WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 — A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks....The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.” (More)

And about that, “we're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them here,” strategy – how's that going?

US extends deployment of Iraq troops
The United States is to extend the combat tours of 4,000 soldiers in Iraq amid ongoing violence in the country....The US defense department said it would keep one unit in Iraq 46 days longer than scheduled and send another unit 30 days earlier.... Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, a private research group, said: "The [US] army is coming to the end of its rope in Iraq.... "It simply does not have enough active-duty military personnel to sustain the current level of effort." (More)

Well hell George, if it's the "central front in the war on terrorism," as you claim, why not send more troops and equipment to Iraq?

Oh, I see. You're broke.

Army chief tells Bush: not enough money for Iraq war
Six weeks before midterm elections in which the war is a crucial issue, the protest from the army head, General Peter Schoomaker, exposes concerns within the US military about the strain of the war on Iraq, and growing tensions between uniformed personnel and the Pentagon chief, Donald Rumsfeld."It's quite a debacle," said Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute think tank. "Virtually everyone in the army feels as though their needs have been shortchanged."

Gen Schoomaker's defiance gives a voice to growing concern within the military about the costs of America's wars, and the long-term strain of carrying out operations around the world."There is no sense in us submitting a budget that we can't execute, a broken budget," he told a Washington audience.

If the court will bear with me, I have just a couple more pieces of supporting comments before I close.

First, why do you suppose the administration extended the troop's stay just long enough to get past the November elections? Because they fear an October Surprise – a Tet Offensive by insurgents in Baghdad, Kabul or both. The administration wants as many troops there as possible just to keep a lid on the inevitable until after the midterm elections.

That's it. The People rests its case. The defendants are guilty.

Guilty of screwing up the economy by slashing taxes on the rich and borrowing from our kids and grandkids to make up the shortfall.

Guilty of making the nation less secure, the world more dangerous, and using the lives of American soldiers as pawns in domestic politics.

The People rest -- (though not in peace.)

Who's Your (Real) Daddy?

Have you noticed? Gas prices are down...way down. Have you noticed? The Saudis hope so. And, if you haven't noticed, they are going to make sure the price goes even lower.

Because the next time you wonder just who's running things around here, put the Saudi “Royal” Family at the top of the list – at least when it comes to the choices Americans make in the cars they buy and the politicians they elect to high office.

I'm not insinuating that there is a connection between the following stories – I am guaranteeing there is:

Gas Drives Politics
Gas up, president down. Gas down, president up. You could almost plot it on a graph....Some of my colleagues extrapolate from this that lower gas prices have caused voters to smile upon the man in the White House, or those in the Republican Party up for election....the general correlation is strong over time — strong enough to take seriously...” (More)

Prius Sales Skyrocket
Since the Prius hit the U.S. market in 2000, more than 288,000 have been sold nationwide. Sales jumped from 5,788 in 2000 to 110,394 in 2005 and since this August, 68,210 have been sold. (More)

Consumers Turn to Fuel Efficient Cars
Three thousand Americans dead in oil-financed terrorist attacks didn't do it. But $3-a-gallon gasoline did....Although gasoline prices are now tumbling from that high (temporarily, we suspect), Americans are finally demanding fuel-efficient vehicles. And American automakers say that -- duh -- they're getting the message. (More)

Saudis Pumps More Oil
SAUDI Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer, is planning to boost future production capacity by 1.5m barrels a day to counter potential supply disruptions expected from Iran, Venezuela and Iraq. The Kingdom, which owns 25% of the world’s proven reserves, has previously said production capacity would be sustained at 12m barrels. But in a private briefing to investment bankers on Thursday, executives at Lehman Brothers in London were told by representatives of the Kingdom that the revised figure for production will be up to 13.5m barrels a day by 2011....They were presented with an “updated assessment” document entitled Saudi Arabia’s Strategic Energy Initiative: Safeguarding Against Supply Disruptions which has been prompted by “regional conflict and high oil prices”. (More)

Other OPEC Nations Object to Saudi Over-Production
OPEC may ask member countries to cut from current production now, leaving the thorny quota discussions for later, according to one senior OPEC official....Crucial to any decision to cut, however, will be Saudi Arabia and its oil minister, Ali Naimi, de facto leader of OPEC. The kingdom accounts for nearly 30 percent of OPEC output, and any decision would have to be backed by the Saudis to work. (More)

Forget about Karl Rove. When it comes to reading the political tea leaves, Rove can't hold a candle to oily Saudis. They keep one hand on the pulse of American markets and the other hand cupped firmly around the balls of American politicians.

When times are good the Saudis cut oil production and prices rise. When they go too far and high energy prices spark economic or political disruptions that threaten their racket, the Saudis “ride to the rescue,” by flooding the market with oil and driving the price down – temporarily.

I am quite sure that when the history of the 20th century is written the Saudis will be credited with operating the longest running and most profitable junkie operation in history. Cali Cartel, eat your hearts out. You guys are pikers compared to the oil pushers of Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis pay close attention to all things American. And they didn't like what their hearing and reading lately. The oil-friendly GOP could lose control of one or both Houses of Congress. Americans were dumping their gas guzzlers for hybrids and billions of dollars or R&D money was going into developing vehicles that would only need oil to lubricate their wheel bearings.

Time to pump and dump.

So, enjoy your cheap gas, you petroleum whores out there. Because it won't last. Just as soon at the elections are over, and you change your mind about switching to a hybrid, the Saudis will cut production and gas prices will go back up. And there you'll be, stuck with a GOP House and Senate for two more years, and with a 60-month loan on a brand new gasoline burning albastros aound your neck. Suckers!

I don't know for sure whether the Saudis can pull it off again, but my gut tells me they will, Because too many Americans still don't get it. Red State voters tend to love their big cars and trucks more than Blue State voters. ( Cheap gas ranks right up there with cheap beer and free tickets to a NASCAR event.)

That's largely the fault of Democrats for running on a vacuous “vote for us because we're not them,” campaign. (Oh, and when was the last time you heard a leading Democrat dare to take a swipe at the Saudis? Forget about it.)

That's all I have to say about this. I'm not optimistic, which is why I'm slowly retrofiting my rural abode towards energy independence – mostly solar. Sure, there are glitzier things I'd prefer spending that money on. But I'm pretty sure I'm making the right choice. Because I don't trust the Saudis. And I don't trust spineless American politicians.

But most of all I don't trust American consumers. Because they have shown time and time again their willingness to sell out, not only their own governance, but the very environment that supports life itself, for a cheap gallon of gas.

So, they next time someone yells, “Who's your daddy?” -- here you go.

Quote of the Day
"My head is getting tighter now its starting to squeak
I was talking to the mailman late last week
He had a letter in his sweater from stuttering don
He said things are getting better back in sa, sa, sa, sa, sa, Saigon"

(John Prine's Pink Cadillac)

Bleeding the Beast

Here's a question the folks in the White House and Pentagon should mull. First the question: (This is a multiple choice test)

“How did the West defeat the Soviet Union – the “Evil Empire?”

A) By fighting them over there, so we didn't have to fight them here.
B) By invading and occupying Eastern Bloc nations and force-feeding democracy.
C) By turning the US into a surveillance society.
D) None of the above

The correct answer is “D,” None of the above.

We won the Cold War in a very boring way – we broke the Soviet Union's fiscal back. By luring the Soviets into trying to keep match us in a technological weapons race, we bankrupted th Evil Empire. (Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), “Star Wars,” was the $100 billion straw that broke the Soviet Union's back.)

I only bring up this piece of ancient history because I believe the shoe is on the other foot now – our foot. And we are falling into the same trap the Soviets did.

Again we are engaged in a war. again against an evil an “Axis of Evil.” Over the past few years this enemy has swollen form three Evils to so many now I've lost count. While they are still largely Islamic Evils, there's also that little fireplug of fellow who runs North Korea, and recently we've added a South American, Hugo Chavez, to the list.

I have no idea if this new enemy of ours realizes it or not, but they are doing exactly to us, what we did to the Soviets, only at the opposite end of the technological scale.

While we bankrupted the Soviets by luring them into an expensive high-tech showdown, our new enemies are bankrupting us by luring us into a low-tech showdown. Not only has this tactic rendered most of our high-tech weapons useless, but old-fashioned conventional war is proving enormously expensive. If we allow ourselves to continue being suckered into these low-tech fights we'll end up just like the Soviet Union, broke.

First of all, the enemy holds a trump card in this low tech conflict we cannot, and will not match. As the old saying goes, “never pick a fight with a man with nothing to lose.” These guys have nothing to lose. The disaffected masses of the Middle East already have nothing and therefore nothing to lose. We, on the other hand, have everything, and therefore everything to lose -- and they want it.

During the Cold War we had money to burn and were willing to pour all the money required into high-tech weapons. The Soviets did not, and ultimately could not. Game and match, USA.

But this time the other side has all the dough, so to speak. Their capital is lives. “We have to die just as much as you (in the West) have to live,” an al Qaida fighter warned in a recent video. In other words, they are willing to spend as many lives as needed, for as long as it takes to win. They can, and will, match and raise us each time we call their bluff.

Blood is all they have to invest, and they have plenty of it. In our effort to bleed them dry we are bleeding ourselves dry. Red ink flowing like a river from the US Treasury. The war in Iraq has already opened an artery, costing us over $8 billion a month -- $316 billion so far, and counting.

And, even though NATO troops are now helping out in Afghanistan, we're still fighting there too. And, three years after we chased the enemy out, he's back, and getting stronger.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Foreign troops in Afghanistan will not be able to end attacks by Taliban militants unless "terrorist sanctuaries" outside the country are destroyed, President Hamid Karzai said on Wednesday, in a clear reference to Pakistan....NATO troops are battling to quell the heaviest bout of violence in Afghanistan since 2001 when U.S.-led forces overthrew the Islamic-fundamentalist Taliban, which had been sheltering Osama bin-Laden and his al Qaeda organization. (More)

The Bush administration addresses these setbacks in their War Against Terror, the same way the Soviets responded to US advances – throw more resources at the problem. Open more arteries to the Treasury, borrow more money from Chinese banks. Deploy, pursue, fight them over there, spend more, borrow more. It's the path to national bankruptcy. The same path the Soviets grunted their way down until they exhausted their resources, forcing them to release their grip on an empire that then vanished in just weeks.

I don't question for instant that we don't have real enemies out there that want to do us real harm, if given half the chance. But is chasing them around the world with US troops the smart way to fight this new enemy? Or are we simply playing right into their hands, spending money we don't have sending hundreds of thousands of US troops for them to shoot at and be shot by?

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the big talking Neocons that surround them should ask themselves; “Are we the Soviet Union of the 21st Century?”

It would appear so. Already our military resources have been spread thin, equipment is wearing out at alarming rates, our troops are wearing out even faster. And, of course, we are broke, reduced to living on the credit of strangers.

So, you ask, if that's the wrong way to fight this new enemy, then how?

By the numbers:

1)Begin by stopping feeding the beast. Stop sending US troops. All that does is let them fight us there instead of going through all the trouble and dangers of coming here to kill Americans.

2)Spend a fraction of the $8 billion a month we are now wasting over there, to secure us over here.

3)Embrace my “Don't Do That” defense policy.

What that would do is place the onus on the nations of the Middle East to deal themselves with the radical Islamists. Nations that harbor, fund or otherwise facilitate terrorist acts on America will be dealt with at arms length – militarily speaking.. as outlined in the Don't Do That policy.

Will oil supplies be disrupted under this plan? You bet. Which is a sword that cuts both ways. Who can least afford oil disruptions, the West or nations that have no other revenue base but oil? Anyway, the sooner the West is forced off oil, the better for the West, and the environment. So in that regard I feel good about declaring, “bring it on.”

Anyway, I just wanted to inject this notion into the debate. Are we the new Soviets? Big, brutal, dumb, lumbering, out of touch, out of ideas, and soon to be out of money?

Just asking.