Tuesday, January 31, 2006

General Wes Clark's SOTU address....

Ah...if only! He lays out the problems and then, unlike most, comes up with solutions:

Monday, January 30, 2006

Thank you for that kind introduction. And thanks to the New America foundation for getting us together today to discuss these important issues.

It is a privilege to be with you this afternoon to address the state of our Union, to offer an assessment, and to tell you how our Union can be great again. For today, we are into our fifth year of war abroad and threats at home, and the state of the union is not what it should be, and not what it could be.

I want to express my admiration and appreciation for the men and women in our Armed Forces, and their families. They have served with courage and honor and with incredible skill. They have volunteered, and served selflessly. Over 2200 have died in Iraq, others in Afghanistan, and tens of thousands have come home with the injuries and scars -- physical and mental -- that will mark them forever. Won't you stand and join me in recognizing them, and all our veterans, with a round of applause?

A few weeks ago, as I rode across the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan, the Pakistani-born cab driver interrupted my thoughts with his own story and reminded me why we all should feel this sense of privilege to be here in America. "We came as three brothers," he said. "We came nine years ago. Only I am still driving a cab. We own a store now, and a restaurant, and soon I will join the others full time in the restaurant. When we came we had nothing, but today... Only in America," he said, "could we do this, ONLY IN AMERICA!"

His story is the story of hundreds of millions of us and our forefathers who came here from somewhere else, who dreamed, dared, planned and struggled to forge new lives, raise strong families, and together, generation after generation we have built a great nation, exceptionally unique. We are a nation where liberty is protected by the Constitution, a nation where people choose their own leaders, and a nation where government's power is limited. Generation after generation, America has throttled the self-serving impulses of the powerful and restrained the powerful passions of the multitudes, thus guaranteeing that the freedoms and opportunities of every citizen enumerated in law are provided in practice. And in the process America has become a Beacon of Hope for people everywhere.

Unlike the taxi driver, I was born here. I learned to love this nation as a youngster growing up without a father, at a time when all our institutions and values were under attack by Communism. I loved this nation enough to serve as a soldier, to come home from war on a stretcher, enough to stay in uniform for another thirty years.

My family and I lived in Germany, Belgium, and Panama, in Kansas and Kentucky, in Virginia and California, in Texas and New York. Over time, like other officers I was given increasing responsibilities for others, commanding units, teaching courses, providing staff advice and assistance. We were at various times responsible for the work they did, the lessons they learned, the health care they received, the homes they lived in, the schools their children attended, the lives they led. I learned about our country, our people, and how we are perceived in the world. I was so proud to represent America in uniform.

And this is why today, I come before you with concern -- not in a spirit of partisanship, but because our nation is in trouble, veering from its heritage, and sliding into a dangerous future. It doesn't have to happen this way, but we can change course only if we speak honestly and directly about what's gone wrong, and why, and how we must change, and then reach across Party lines to bring the American people together.

Today, billions of people abroad believe that America's beacon is fading, our star is dimming, and that America's time is passing. Why? Because four years after 9/11, Osama Bin Laden remains on the loose in the vastness of western Pakistan, and Al Qaeda remains a potent force among millions of Muslims. Because the threat of terrorism has actually increased, partly as a result of the unnecessary invasion of Iraq, where after almost three years, we find ourselves enmeshed in an intensifying sectarian struggle that is drawing in jihadi terrorists like a magnet and creating a new cadre of hardened opponents to America and our friends. Because, despite our tough talk, Iran is discarding its international obligations in the apparent pursuit of nuclear weaponry, while simultaneously questioning Israel's existence and raising the specter of wider conflict in the Mideast.

Because, North Korea, with a standing army of more than 1 million men, armed with chemical and biological weapons as well as long-range missiles, is defying US efforts to contain its threat of nuclear proliferation.

Because, in the process of this struggle against insurgents and terrorists and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, we are in danger of losing the very principles we are fighting for as revelations of torture and degrading treatment of those detained confound our long standing commitment to human rights and undercut our moral strength and leadership.

Because America's long-standing commitment to assisting democracy abroad was recklessly transformed into hot rhetoric and direct action in Iraq -- and it has not only offended cultural and national sensitivities in the Middle East, but it is also contributing to the anger and violence in the region.

Because while we are distracted by the war on terror, Iraq and Afghanistan, rising global competitors like China are taking advantage of the security umbrella we have created to lock in their own access to the resources needed to fuel their stupendous growth.

Because the United States has stood silently while the historic opportunity of a democratic Russia is systematically crushed and other new democracies threatened by the same power ministries and entrenched authorities that enslaved hundreds of millions during Communism's long reign.

Because our oldest friends and Allies, in Europe and Asia, are questioning America's commitment to the dialogue, institutions, and principles that kept us safe throughout the Cold War and even helped end ethnic cleansing in Europe during the 1990's.

The plain truth is, in America's rhetoric and conduct since 9/11, we've made more enemies than friends in the world -- and that's no way to protect the American people! And all of this at a time when Americans are more dependent on events abroad than ever before: the war in Iraq; the daily notification of losses; the threat of another terrorist incident; the rising price of gasoline, a global economy.

And here at home, to speak candidly, that beacon of hope is flickering also. Again we ask why.
Because we're losing our manufacturing base in America, and failing to face the realities of a global labor market, international trade and capital flows which are robbing millions of Americans of income security and have mired us ever deeper in debt.

Because, while, statistically, the unemployment rate may be a little below 5% now, according to the way the Administration measures, these figures mask millions of people in the ranks of the long term unemployed, or trapped in low wage jobs, or underemployed in jobs which fail to use their skills.

Because even highly skilled jobs in the so-called knowledge industry are moving abroad, with big firms like Microsoft and GE as well as thousands of highly competent foreign-born, US educated entrepreneurs and business leaders seeking new talent, lower-cost labor and less competitive, friendlier business environments.

Because at home more than 45 million Americans lack access to health insurance, a profound systemic failure and imposes a staggering human cost on those least able to bear it and drives businesses offshore.

Because both our infrastructure and our system of public education lack essential modernization and reform, caught in a squeeze between rising costs for salaries, supplies, construction and repair, and rising federal deficits.

Because despite over thirty years of warning, this nation still has no policy to lead us to energy independence and away from the volatile and conflict-ridden regions where, today, the "geostrategic risk premium" is adding billions of dollars to the costs imposed on the American people.
Because the legal protections for the environment and natural resources on which so much of our economic welfare depends have been steadily undercut by new laws and policies, even as the Administration has tightened restrictions on the scientists and analysts who could tell us of the dangers ahead.

All this is common knowledge.

But what's perhaps most surprising this year -- despite the skill and dedication of our civil service, diplomatic, and military personnel -- was the tragic incompetence of our government: failing effectively to assist the states in the terrible humanitarian catastrophe of Katrina, stumbling through a repetitive cycle of inflated rhetoric and crushing disappointments associated with reconstruction and reform in Iraq and the Middle East, and frustrating millions of American seniors floundering through a poorly designed and badly under-resourced Medicare prescription drug program.

Even worse, has been the emergence of what appears to be a culture of corruption reaching from lobbyists, through the Republican leadership in Congress, and into the White House itself.
No wonder so many believe that America is a nation in trouble, squandering our precious resources in a destructive and unnecessary conflict abroad and a spendthrift economy at home. We are, they say, neglecting our future, failing in our duty to our children and grandchildren, and denying them the opportunities to dare, to dream, to achieve and create that our generation and our predecessors have enjoyed. And they have a strong case.

What has happened to us?

We Americans can no longer hide behind our oceans, or pretend that the dialogue of politics should be confined to disagreements about domestic policy alone. And as for the partisan charge that Democrats are living in a pre-9/11 world, let us be very clear: the policies followed by this Administration since 9/11 -- the belligerent tone, the unilateralism, the excessive reliance on military force are not making us safer; they are increasing the dangers we face abroad and distracting us from the most important challenges here at home.

From the late 1940's until the early 1990's, America led the world in winning an historic struggle, a victory in the Cold War against the tyranny and oppression of Communism.
We were guided abroad by a largely bipartisan strategy of containing the spread of Communist ideology, deterring the Soviet use of force, and supporting those who shared our values. And at home, the stress of this titanic struggle inspired efforts in science and technology, industry, agriculture, education, health and fitness.

Over a period of forty years we persevered -- through diplomacy, alliances, ideological struggle, and armed conflict in Korea and Vietnam. And in the end, we won -- the Berlin Wall came down, the Soviet empire collapsed, and the Soviet Union disintegrated into 11 separate states. It was the triumph of American ideals -- of the nobility of the human spirit, the priceless significance of freedom and human rights, and the incredible creative force of a free-market economy.

But when we defeated our old adversary, we not only lost our opponent, we also lost our strategy -- our organizing principles -- the animating principles of our society, and much of the cohesion that held our world together.

Oh, we did well economically in the 1990's, creating jobs, reducing poverty, balancing the budget -- but the United States never quite put in place another strategy, another publicly understood, bipartisan set of principles which could guide America's policies at home and abroad, and take us safely into the future. We had taken economic advantage of the global opening, but we really didn't understand how to mitigate the many strategic risks it brought along.

And then, four and a half years ago this nation was viciously attacked in a series of terrorist hijackings of airliners that resulted in three thousand innocents' deaths. 9/11 was an act of war. Action was required. America struck back at the terrorists who attacked us and the Taliban government in Afghanistan that supported them.

And we should have.

But, soon the errors began:

* Letting Bin Laden slip through the noose at Tora Bora, in December, 2001 and failing to commit sufficient forces to Afghanistan to finish the job there gave the terrorist movement continuing stature and enabled a host of local imitators to ride his coattails of impunity.

* Naming an "Axis of Evil" helped drive the North Koreans and Iranians to accelerate nuclear weapons efforts and probably spurred a deepening cooperation, even as the term itself offended allies and convinced millions around the world that a just American effort against those who attacked our country was being transformed into a self-righteous moral crusade against those of different religious convictions or geostrategic alignment.

* Invading Iraq, neglecting North Korea, and ducking the diplomacy on Iran -- and labeling it all with a bellicose-sounding strategy of preemption left us concentrating the greatest resources on the least urgent strategic problem and doing so in a way that has exacerbated the threats we face.

* Ignoring our European allies and sidelining NATO left us bereft of the strong Allied support necessary to succeed in Iraq and simultaneously meet challenges elsewhere.

* Pushing through a series of deep permanent tax cuts using the pretext of a temporary recession have prevented us from addressing urgent issues at home and shoved the nation into long term and unsustainable budget deficit.

* And in the press of partisan politics, the governing party has elevated the role of money in American politics higher than ever before, encouraging a "pay to play" culture of corruption and aiming to control the political agenda with a ferocity almost unprecedented in American history, undercutting the common good and threatening the very Constitutional principles which guard our most precious freedoms.

What's gone wrong? In the last five years we have seen leadership without vision or foresight, a backwards look to tough talk and excessive unfair tax cuts, and a misguided idea from the 1990's that uncooperative Middle East regimes could be "cleaned up" by American military action.

And at the same time we've seen such partisanship that many believe that this Administration lacks the basic decency to respect its political opponents, and the fundamental integrity to adhere to common standards of transparency, honesty, and ethics in government.

Enough is enough!

Americans are ingenious, energetic, pragmatic, and almost inevitably optimistic. But they are also keenly aware of reality -- and today a strong majority disapproves of the way our President and the one-Party rule on Capitol Hill are leading the country.


A Forty Year War on Terrorism -- which I have heard trumpeted more than once in this town -- and which may well be required, particularly if we continue on this course -- simply fails to provide the comprehensive strategy and framework -- comparable to deterrence and containment in the Cold War -- necessary to direct American policy abroad or guide needed change at home. We are a nation adrift, and America senses this.

Here's what we must do.

First, we've got to set things right at home. Protecting our Constitution comes first. Country before Party. Congress must fulfill its duties to the American people, not roll over for favors from the Executive branch. We need a full, in-depth, bipartisan investigation of the Administration's bypassing of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Congress needs to show resolve that the laws it passes do bind the executive branch, whether in wiretapping, humane treatment of prisoners, or the freedom of information act. Moreover, it is time for a special prosecutor, independent of the Department of Justice, to be empowered to investigate the Abramoff scandal, and pursue the leads all the way through Congress and up to the highest office in the land, if necessary.

Then, we have to focus on the principal challenge ahead: preparing our nation to succeed in a 21st Century world where capital and technology flows instantly across borders, where the labor market is global, and where the benefits and security Americans have taken for granted are put at risk as supergiant countries like China, with 1.3 billion people, grab resources, spur economic growth, redress old grievances, and seek to pursue their own interests.

Today, we are indisputably the world's most powerful nation, but how we organize and prepare America at home, and provide leadership abroad, in the face of China's growing power, is the real and enduring challenge that 21st Century America must answer.

Can we protect that which we value, welcome and profit from China's growth, maintain our own security, and avoid the conflict and war which has so often accompanied historical changes such as we will witness? I believe we can, if we see clearly what must be done and bend our will to do it.

It begins at home, for this is where the most intractable problems lie, with public education, health care, and creating a business environment that encourages innovation, growth, and the creation of meaningful valued jobs.

* In education, we should be offering public preschool across America, encouraging renewed study of mathematics, sciences and engineering, and reform and change must be deep and fundamental creating the community programs needed to assure that every American child graduates from high school.

We must commit more resources to public education -- not pull them away with voucher programs -- but the most important resources are not financial -- they are the commitment of community leaders to create public schools emphasizing learning and character, and the commitment of parents to work with their children, to assure they are fully engaged in the classroom and at home in preparing for their own productive future.

We need to reward teachers for their skills and commitments, but the best form of teacher accountability is not found in standardized testing but in the dialogue between teachers and parents centered on the love and respect for each child in the class. And no student who seeks to go to college should be denied that opportunity because they can't pay.

* In health care, we need to take better advantage of modern technology to practice evidence-based medicine, in which treatments and practices are based on statistically proven results -- not commercial advertising -- and doctors and hospitals are held accountable for their performance, not just by the threat of malpractice but by the day-to-day quality of their results.

We need to harness the innovation of our biotech, pharmaceutical, and health insurance industries better to serve the public good, not just the private gain of shareholders.

No child in America should grow up without regular medical check-ups and care -- or regular exercise and physical fitness -- and every adult should be provided access to the kinds of diagnostic testing and preventive treatments which can slow the onset of aging diseases like diabetes, atherosclerosis, and Alzheimer's. Additional insurance coverage should be directed to catastrophic illness and injuries, the kind that wreck families and shatter productive lives.
And inevitably this will mean transitioning over time from a work place centered, private payer system toward greater reliance on some form of single-payer system to ease administrative burdens and reduce costs.

* In the business community, we must spur research, development, and innovation, and the growth of the small companies that provide the majority of US employment. This will mean more private-public partnerships in developing new technology, and in linking our universities to business enterprises, as well as an expanded arsenal of economic and tax incentive programs aimed primarily at small businesses.

We must assure investments in the technology infrastructure -- the broadband and wireless access improved and modernized highway, air, and rail transportation systems, and the access to affordable, reliable sustainable energy essential to continuing economic development.

We must have a real plan to achieve "energy independence." And we need to do so without further damaging our fragile environment. In fact, sustainable energy and so-called green engineering provide major growth opportunities for American ingenuity, and we must move in that direction,

* We must chart a new path for labor in America, and probably for the union movement itself. While workers still need help in redressing grievances against management, perhaps the old dividing lines make less sense in an age of high technology, social and geographic mobility, and global competition. Is it possible that unions could become the "development agencies" for workers, protecting their rights, but also promoting their training, education and career development throughout a lifetime of many different skills and jobs? And if they don't who will?
For we know that in today's economy learning is a lifetime process and every American in the workplace must take increasing responsibility for his or her own development of skills, pursuit of opportunities, and creation of financial security for the family.

* And to address these and many other issues, our government will need more resources, for the great discovery of twentieth century America was not that we should get "government off our backs" but that government could be a partner in the economy -- in infrastructure, in regulation, in research and development, in education, and in health -- laying the foundation for the achievements of private industry. In particular, we need resources to empower our people, with new programs comparable to the landmark contributions of the Homestead Act, the GI Bill, and the 30 year Mortgage in order to give every child in America a head start in education, business, home ownership, investment, and economic opportunity.

But we must raise resources in a way that protects the most needy and working families, and that still provides opportunities for the creation of the wealth that is the hallmark of the American dream.

America's great strengths are our economy and the spirit of our people. And if we take these major, fundamental measures, we'll be well positioned to cope with the economic challenges of China's rapid development.

But we must also take other, urgent steps to assure America's security now.
Turning first to the Middle East, we need to use American military commitments to broker political arrangements that bring the Sunnis back into the Iraqi political system, delegitimize the insurgency, and reduce the threat of escalating civil war. We should create a regional security dialogue, in which we and the Iraqi government can hold real conversations with neighboring states, including Iran and Syria.

A substantial US troop presence will likely be required for years -- and I am mindful of the sacrifices that we are asking from the men and women in the armed forces and their families. It is a heavy burden, and they alone have been asked to bear such sacrifices -- but we should draw down as rapidly as political objectives can be achieved and Iraqis can secure their own country.

Today, Syria presents an historic opportunity for the United States. Rather than just threatening Syria, we should talk directly to Bashir Assad, encouraging him to lay the foundations for economic and political opening and gradual transformation, cut off insurgent access through Syria into Iraq, and end the sponsorship of Iranian-backed terrorist institutions, in return for stabilizing his administration during the ongoing UN investigations.

And this in turn, will give us greater traction against Iran's steady march toward nuclear weaponry. But actions on Iran are urgent. We should join now -- right now -- in opening new talks with Iran, in which we ourselves participate, before pressing for UN action or moving toward the military option. No one should be mistaken: there is a military option.

We can strike hard enough to set back Iran's nuclear quest by many years, and take out much of their military capacity in the process. And we can at the same time protect most of the oil flow from Iran and deny their capacity to block transit through the Straits of Hormuz. But we also must recognize the possible consequences of this action: an embittered, vengeful Iran, seeking further destabilization of the region. Far better to pursue dialogue now, whatever the precedents, and save the military option for truly last resort. Understand: unlike others you may hear, I know when and how to determine our course with Iran.

As for Israel and the Palestinian people, there is no longer a "road map to peace." But Israel is increasingly secure. It is now up to Hamas to form a government for the Palestinians. But they should be under no misunderstanding. Hamas is an international outlaw so long as it demands Israel's destruction.

The war against terrorists will continue, as it must. But it should be conducted with a new resolve to use diplomacy, local authorities, and international cooperation among law enforcement and intelligence agencies, reserving military forces only as a last resort.

Ultimately, we will not prevail in this war by killing terrorists -- though that may need to be done -- but rather by winning the battle for greater tolerance, understanding, and respect between peoples of differing religious convictions. It is first and foremost a battle of ideas. We need to bring terrorists to trial. And we must carefully guard our own values and principles, for in this struggle, moral leadership is far more valuable than pittances of information gained by compromising our beliefs.

We are still in danger from events in Southwest Asia.

We need to cooperate with Pakistan to eliminate the new terrorist base area forming along Pakistan's frontier with Afghanistan, and sustain an enlarged commitment to Afghanistan for many years.

But more fundamentally, we need to redirect the main thrusts of American efforts abroad. We need to rebuild our ties with Europe, with NATO as the foundation, and a new Atlantic Charter as the means. Europe is our "base," more than 400 million people with whom we are the most closely aligned in terms of values and interests, economics and power. Together we can move the international system. Isolated, alone in a multipolar world, America simply won't fare as well. And we should strengthen ties with India, the world's largest democracy and itself a rapidly developing superpower.

If we are to avoid the reemergence of a 19th Century balance of power system replete with threats and warfare between states and alliances, we must use this period of American preeminence to rebuild the system of international laws and institutions which two generations of American leaders fashioned and extolled. We should set the example in shaping and obeying international law.

Likewise, we should lead in the reform of the United Nations, seeking its full potential as a place for dialogue and the expression of values, and as the source for international law and humanitarian assistance in emerging crises.

Fellow Americans, although our nation is incredibly wealthy and uniquely powerful, we are at an historic turning point. Facing multiple near term crises and a great and long term challenge to our very identity as Americans, we have critical choices to make.

Will we choose to emphasize boastful rhetoric or constructive engagement abroad? Will we lash out in anger with military force, or will we pursue every reasonable avenue to avoid the terrible destruction of war? Will we "fight fire with fire," relying on the means and techniques of our adversaries, or live and lead by the higher standard of the values we have professed?
At home, will we persist in shortsighted partisanship, or will we follow a stronger vision to the deep reforms needed to secure our future? Will it be selfishness or teamwork that is our rallying cry?

These are the choices before us.

I welcome the opportunity to participate in this great American adventure as we seek our destiny. America's Beacon of Hope must shine brightly once more, lighting our beloved country and illuminating the whole world.

And if we choose wisely, it will.


Another W crony screws up: Wolfowitz....

via truthout.org :

World Bank Receives Complaint on Wolfowitz Aides
By Andrew Balls
The Financial Times
Tuesday 31 January 2006

The World Bank's internal investigations unit has received an anonymous complaint that the bank's rules and procedures were stretched in the appointment of close advisers to Paul Wolfowitz, the bank's president.

In the latest example of simmering tensions between Mr Wolfowitz and some members of the bank's staff, a complaint to the bank's whistleblower hotline this month raised questions about what it alleged were excessive pay and open-ended contracts for Robin Cleveland and Kevin Kellems, previously colleagues of Mr Wolfowitz in the administration of George W. Bush, who came to the bank with him.

The complaint also questioned the terms on which Karl Jackson was retained as a consultant. Mr Jackson worked with Mr Wolfowitz in the administration of George H. W. Bush, and is a professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, where Mr Wolfowitz used to be dean.

The e-mail complaint was sent to the Department of Institutional Integrity's whistleblower hotline, which encourages bank staff to come forward anonymously using procedures designed to safeguard their identity. It was copied to the bank's 24 executive directors, who represent its 184 member countries on the board.

Bank insiders said it appeared to have been sent by an individual or group of bank staff who had access to high-level personnel files.

Separately, the bank's staff association has raised concerns about some of Mr Wolfowitz's appointments, after what it said were expressions of concern from a large number of staff.

Last week the association sent an e-mail to all 10,000 bank employees complaining that procedures were not followed in the appointments of Suzanne Rich Folsom, as head of the Department of Institutional Integrity, and of Mr Kellems, who was named director of strategy in the bank's internal relations department.

In addition to their new appointments, they remain counsellor and senior adviser to Mr Wolfowitz, respectively.

Several of the bank's executive directors, who asked not to be identified for this story, said they were aware these concerns about Mr Wolfowitz's appointments had been circulating, but that now that complaints had been brought formally to the board's attention they expected the matter would be looked into by the integrity department.

They also said that Mr Wolfowitz had the prerogative to make appointments as he saw fit as long as no bank rules were violated.

Graeme Wheeler, acting managing director of the World Bank - in a statement responding to FT inquiries - cited the bank's articles of agreement, which gave the president responsibility for the internal management and staff appointments. "President Wolfowitz strongly supports the practice of making senior appointments through a competitive process and he has demonstrated this in his tenure at the bank.

"Following the practice of previous presidents and consistent with the articles of agreement, this does not preclude him from making appointments for key positions at his discretion."

Mr Wheeler said: "The grade and salary levels of the advisory positions are within bank policy and reflect their level of responsibility."

Ms Cleveland, previously associate director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, was formerly an aide to Senator Mitch McConnell. Mr Kellems, who worked for Mr Wolfowitz at the Pentagon and for Vice-President Dick Cheney, was previously an aide to Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee.

Mr Wolfowitz's supporters say the bank has a history of difficult transitions under new presidents - indeed much of former president James Wolfensohn's first term at the bank was overshadowed by tensions with the staff .

Mr Wolfowitz has made clear he intends to shake up the way the bank works. He is expected to make several new senior management appointments, and has expressed dissatisfaction internally about some of the banks vice-presidents, and departments, which has stirred up resentment in the ranks. A former vice-president at the bank is also under investigation on corruption charges.

The carefully worded e-mail sent to the integrity department asked questions about who had made the decisions on the terms of his advisers' appointments - noting that Mr Wolfowitz may not have been aware of the details - and asking what precedents were invoked in the decisions or whether exceptional circumstances were seen as applying. It is the integrity department's policy to pursue all complaints it receives and decide whether they warrant further investigation. Since it was set up in 2001, the director of the integrity department has reported to the bank president.

Mr Wolfowitz is not considered a staff member, although advisers and consultants he appoints are subject to the bank's normal rules.



Bush's speech was horrendous. I say that having read part of it and hearing some of it on Air America with John Elliot's comments as I drove home from the writers' gathering. And the writers did indeed gather because most of us can not stand to either see or hear that individual.

One of the best places to read comments from Congresspeople who were there is on the Huffington Blog. Kudos to those Dems who had to sit and listen but who then blogged their opinions.

No kudos to Sheehan who was invited by a Congresswoman and thus had a seat inside and who was so damned stupid as to wear an anti-Bush t-shirt, which got her escorted out and off to jail. She was to meet some media people afterward for an interview about her opinion of the speech. Gonna be a bit hard to accomplish from her cell. But what a great way to get media attention on herself. And she plans to run against Sen Feinstein come Nov? What a joke. My opinion is that she started out honest, camping near Bush's ranch. How times have changed. Fame is a great intoxicant for some people and so is power. Obviously, she wants as much as she can harvest for herself. Good luck. Seen it too many times. Must have embarassed the hell out of the Congresswoman who supplied her with a ticket and a seat.

In any case, Bush did as he always does...he lied and he smirked and he made a damned fool of himself.

Sooner he's gone, the better.


Monday, January 30, 2006

LTG Sanchez ignored rapes of US women soldiers..

From truthout.org :

Military Hides Cause of Women Soldiers' Deaths
By Marjorie Cohn
t r u t h o u t Report
Monday 30 January 2006

In a startling revelation, the former commander of Abu Ghraib prison testified that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, former senior US military commander in Iraq, gave orders to cover up the cause of death for some female American soldiers serving in Iraq.

Last week, Col. Janis Karpinski told a panel of judges at the Commission of Inquiry for Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York that several women had died of dehydration because they refused to drink liquids late in the day. They were afraid of being assaulted or even raped by male soldiers if they had to use the women's latrine after dark.

The latrine for female soldiers at Camp Victory wasn't located near their barracks, so they had to go outside if they needed to use the bathroom. "There were no lights near any of their facilities, so women were doubly easy targets in the dark of the night," Karpinski told retired US Army Col. David Hackworth in a September 2004 interview. It was there that male soldiers assaulted and raped women soldiers. So the women took matters into their own hands. They didn't drink in the late afternoon so they wouldn't have to urinate at night. They didn't get raped. But some died of dehydration in the desert heat, Karpinski said.

Karpinski testified that a surgeon for the coalition's joint task force said in a briefing that "women in fear of getting up in the hours of darkness to go out to the port-a-lets or the latrines were not drinking liquids after 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and in 120 degree heat or warmer, because there was no air-conditioning at most of the facilities, they were dying from dehydration in their sleep."

"And rather than make everybody aware of that - because that's shocking, and as a leader if that's not shocking to you then you're not much of a leader - what they told the surgeon to do is don't brief those details anymore. And don't say specifically that they're women. You can provide that in a written report but don't brief it in the open anymore."

For example, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, Sanchez's top deputy in Iraq, saw "dehydration" listed as the cause of death on the death certificate of a female master sergeant in September 2003. Under orders from Sanchez, he directed that the cause of death no longer be listed, Karpinski stated. The official explanation for this was to protect the women's privacy rights.

Sanchez's attitude was: "The women asked to be here, so now let them take what comes with the territory," Karpinski quoted him as saying. Karpinski told me that Sanchez, who was her boss, was very sensitive to the political ramifications of everything he did. She thinks it likely that when the information about the cause of these women's deaths was passed to the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld ordered that the details not be released. "That's how Rumsfeld works," she said.

"It was out of control," Karpinski told a group of students at Thomas Jefferson School of Law last October. There was an 800 number women could use to report sexual assaults. But no one had a phone, she added. And no one answered that number, which was based in the United States. Any woman who successfully connected to it would get a recording. Even after more than 83 incidents were reported during a six-month period in Iraq and Kuwait, the 24-hour rape hot line was still answered by a machine that told callers to leave a message.

"There were countless such situations all over the theater of operations - Iraq and Kuwait - because female soldiers didn't have a voice, individually or collectively," Karpinski told Hackworth. "Even as a general I didn't have a voice with Sanchez, so I know what the soldiers were facing. Sanchez did not want to hear about female soldier requirements and/or issues."

Karpinski was the highest officer reprimanded for the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, although the details of interrogations were carefully hidden from her. Demoted from Brigadier General to Colonel, Karpinski feels she was chosen as a scapegoat because she was a female.

Sexual assault in the US military has become a hot topic in the last few years, "not just because of the high number of rapes and other assaults, but also because of the tendency to cover up assaults and to harass or retaliate against women who report assaults," according to Kathy Gilberd, co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild's Military Law Task Force.

This problem has become so acute that the Army has set up its own sexual assault web site.

In February 2004, Rumsfeld directed the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to undertake a 90-day review of sexual assault policies. "Sexual assault will not be tolerated in the Department of Defense," Rumsfeld declared.

The 99-page report was issued in April 2004. It affirmed, "The chain of command is responsible for ensuring that policies and practices regarding crime prevention and security are in place for the safety of service members." The rates of reported alleged sexual assault were 69.1 and 70.0 per 100,000 uniformed service members in 2002 and 2003. Yet those rates were not directly comparable to rates reported by the Department of Justice, due to substantial differences in the definition of sexual assault.

Notably, the report found that low sociocultural power (i.e., age, education, race/ethnicity, marital status) and low organizational power (i.e., pay grade and years of active duty service) were associated with an increased likelihood of both sexual assault and sexual harassment.

The Department of Defense announced a new policy on sexual assault prevention and response on January 3, 2005. It was a reaction to media reports and public outrage about sexual assaults against women in the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan, and ongoing sexual assaults and cover-ups at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, Gilberd said. As a result, Congress demanded that the military review the problem, and the Defense Authorization Act of 2005 required a new policy be put in place by January 1.

The policy is a series of very brief "directive-type memoranda" for the Secretaries of the military services from the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. "Overall, the policy emphasizes that sexual assault harms military readiness, that education about sexual assault policy needs to be increased and repeated, and that improvements in response to sexual assaults are necessary to make victims more willing to report assaults," Gilberd notes.

"Unfortunately," she added "analysis of the issues is shallow, and the plans for addressing them are limited."

Commands can reject the complaints if they decide they aren't credible, and there is limited protection against retaliation against the women who come forward, according to Gilberd. "People who report assaults still face command disbelief, illegal efforts to protect the assaulters, informal harassment from assaulters, their friends or the command itself," she said.

But most shameful is Sanchez's cover-up of the dehydration deaths of women that occurred in Iraq. Sanchez is no stranger to outrageous military orders. He was heavily involved in the torture scandal that surfaced at Abu Ghraib. Sanchez approved the use of unmuzzled dogs and the insertion of prisoners head-first into sleeping bags after which they are tied with an electrical cord and their are mouths covered. At least one person died as the result of the sleeping bag technique. Karpinski charges that Sanchez attempted to hide the torture after the hideous photographs became public.

Sanchez reportedly plans to retire soon, according to an article in the International Herald Tribune earlier this month. But Rumsfeld recently considered elevating the 3-star general to a 4-star. The Tribune also reported that Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, the Army's chief spokesman, said in an email message, "The Army leaders do have confidence in LTG Sanchez."

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, President-elect of the National Lawyers Guild, and the US representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists. She writes a weekly column for t r u t h o u t.


Rep. Nancy Pelosi & bloggers confer....

From Raw Story:

House Democratic leader Pelosi holds first blogger conference call
Miriam Raftery
Published: January 30, 2006

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) today called President George W. Bush's anticipated healthcare reforms "very bad medicine for the American people."

In her first-ever conference call with Internet bloggers on Monday, January 30th, Pelosi discussed healthcare proposals which the President is expected to announce during his State of the Union address and predicted that his proposals will trigger a "battle cry" among Democrats to vigorously oppose the plan.

"We've heard that the President will suggest health savings accounts, which are good if you're 21 years old, very wealthy and very healthy," she observed. "Everybody else will have a problem with it." Pelosi also criticized other health association provisions as "very damaging."

The President's anticipated healthcare proposals fail to lower the cost of healthcare or increase the number of Americans covered by health insurance, but would add to the deficit and increases costs for small businesses, she noted.

"This must be fought," said Pelosi, who envisions town hall meetings across America on healthcare similar to those which helped defeat Bush's Social Security privatization proposal. "This is the healthcare version of privatization ... It's just a rip-off for pharmaceutical companies ... These are brought to you by the same people who brought you the corrupt prescription drug bill. If you liked that, you'll love this."

Healthcare privatization is related to the culture of corruption pervading Washington, she believes. "We'll have to be very aggressive at ending the culture of corruption, which has had a price paid by the American people in terms of higher costs of home heating, higher gas prices at the pumps and higher prescription drug costs," she noted, adding that Democrats need to be more visible in informing the American public about the true costs of corruption. "In summer, Congress gave tax breaks to energy companies which were experiencing obscene profits at the expense of the American consumers."

Noting that Republicans have repeatedly obstructed ethics investigations, Pelosi observed, "This corruption contributes to the middle class squeeze." But she added, "None of this can be cleaned up unless we drain the swamp--and we have the reforms we need."

She faulted the mainstream media for portraying the Abramoff scandal as bipartisan, noting that no Democrats have taken Abramoff money. "Abramoff would laugh at that, because it was designed to be a Republican obliteration of the Democrats, " Pelosi added.

Pelosi praised House Democrats for showing the highest rate of unity under her Leadership since the mid-'50s, when Sam Rayburn was speaker of the House. "I'm proud of them," she said, noting that Democratic House members voted unanimously against the budget bill, energy bill, also standing united to defeat Social Security privatization.

"Now, Democrats must focus on presenting a positive agenda, said Pelosi.

Democrats recently unveiled an innovation agenda aimed at improving American competitiveness through investment in research, achieving energy energy independence in ten years, encouraging entrepreneurial innovation and job creation, guaranteeing affordable access to broadband technology, and improving education in science, math, engineering and information technology. Soon, the Party plans to unveil a Unity Agenda, Pelosi added. "We have to prioritize and skip full force to jobs, healthcare, and education…core values of the Democratic Party."

Republicans are expected to bring a six-week extension of the Patriot Act up for a floor vote on Wednesday, Pelosi revealed. "Republicans have joined in holding those provisions of the Patriot act that relate to invasion of privacy," she said, citing library records access as an example.

RAW STORY asked Pelosi about the Bush administration's contention that Iran is on the verge of developing nuclear weapons.

"As far as Iran is concerned, there is a real opportunity to challenge the diplomatic maturity of the President," the House Minority Leader replied. "Iran should not develop nuclear weapons…There has to be international objection to it, not just from the Security Council. I don't know if Russia and China will ever come around to it, but even if they did, there has to be a worldwide objection so that they know this is not in the interest of international security and peace in the world."

While acknowledging that Iran could endanger the Middle East if it obtained nuclear technology and delivery systems, Pelosi added that she finds the prospect of the U.S. using military force against Iran "disconcerting." Military force should not be considered unless all diplomatic and economic remedies have been exhausted—and "absolute certainty" of how close Iran is to developing nuclear weapons can be demonstrated. Unilateral military action against Iran could have "a huge cost in terms of the reputation of the U.S., economic costs and the cost of oil," she observed. "There are many ramifications, but they never seem to consider it."

Pelosi also criticized the Bush administration for failing to foresee the Hamas victory in Palestine. "I don't know why it came as such as surprise," she said. "The BBC was reporting that Hamas would win the election."

The House Minority Leader predicted that Democrats can win the November elections in the U.S. and take back control of the House by "energizing our base and telling our story of values."
Pelosi, who ran for the leadership position because she was "tired of losing" takes pride in upsetting the Washington pecking order by rejecting special interests and embracing progressive values.

"If we can get through March with Republicans still on the ropes," she predicted, "We can body punch them so hard that they won't come back."


Remember the coward Dems who voted "Yes"....

From the Washington Post:

Roll Call of the Cloture Vote
The Associated Press tallied the 72-25 vote:

On this vote, a "yes" vote was a vote to end the debate and a "no" vote was a vote to filibuster the nomination.
Voting "yes" were 19 Democrats and 53 Republicans.
Voting "no" were 24 Democrats and one independent.!

Democrats Yes
Akaka, Hawaii; Baucus, Mont.; Bingaman, N.M.; Byrd, W.Va.; Cantwell, Wash.; Carper, Del.; Conrad, N.D.; Dorgan, N.D.; Inouye, Hawaii; Johnson, S.D.; Kohl, Wis.; Landrieu, La.; Lieberman, Conn.; Lincoln, Ark.; Nelson, Fla.; Nelson, Neb.; Pryor, Ark.; Rockefeller, W.Va.; Salazar, Colo.

Democrats No
Bayh, Ind.; Biden, Del.; Boxer, Calif.; Clinton, N.Y.; Dayton, Minn.; Dodd, Conn.; Durbin, Ill.; Feingold, Wis.; Feinstein, Calif.; Kennedy, Mass.; Kerry, Mass.; Lautenberg, N.J.; Leahy, Vt.; Levin, Mich.; Menendez, N.J.; Mikulski, Md.; Murray, Wash.; Obama, Ill.; Reed, R.I.; Reid, Nev.; Sarbanes, Md.; Schumer, N.Y.; Stabenow, Mich.; Wyden, Ore.

Democrats Not Voting
Harkin, Iowa.

Republicans Yes
Alexander, Tenn.; Allard, Colo.; Allen, Va.; Bennett, Utah; Bond, Mo.; Brownback, Kan.; Bunning, Ky.; Burns, Mont.; Burr, N.C.; Chafee, R.I.; Chambliss, Ga.; Coburn, Okla.; Cochran, Miss.; Coleman, Minn.; Collins, Maine; Cornyn, Texas; Craig, Idaho; Crapo, Idaho; DeMint, S.C.; DeWine, Ohio; Dole, N.C.; Domenici, N.M.; Enzi, Wyo.; Frist, Tenn.; Graham, S.C.; Grassley, Iowa; Gregg, N.H.; Hatch, Utah; Hutchison, Texas; Inhofe, Okla.; Isakson, Ga.; Kyl, Ariz.; Lott, Miss.; Lugar, Ind.; Martinez, Fla.; McCain, Ariz.; McConnell, Ky.; Murkowski, Alaska; Roberts, Kan.; Santorum, Pa.; Sessions, Ala.; Shelby, Ala.; Smith, Ore.; Snowe, Maine; Specter, Pa.; Stevens, Alaska; Sununu, N.H.; Talent, Mo.; Thomas, Wyo.; Thune, S.D.; Vitter, La.; Voinovich, Ohio; Warner, Va.

Republicans No

Republicans Not Voting
Ensign, Nev.; Hagel, Neb.

Others No
Jeffords, Vt.

By Lexie Verdon January 30, 2006; 06:12 PM ET


Alito in. Shame on all who voted for him...

From the NY Times:

January 12, 2006
Judge Alito, in His Own Words

Some commentators are complaining that Judge Samuel Alito Jr.'s confirmation hearings have not been exciting, but they must not have been paying attention. We learned that Judge Alito had once declared that Judge Robert Bork - whose Supreme Court nomination was defeated because of his legal extremism - "was one of the most outstanding nominees" of the 20th century. We heard Judge Alito refuse to call Roe v. Wade "settled law," as Chief Justice John Roberts did at his confirmation hearings. And we learned that Judge Alito subscribes to troubling views about presidential power.

Those are just a few of the quiet bombshells that have dropped. In his deadpan bureaucrat's voice, Judge Alito has said some truly disturbing things about his view of the law. In three days of testimony, he has given the American people reasons to be worried - and senators reasons to oppose his nomination. Among those reasons are the following:

Judge Alito's extraordinary praise of Judge Bork is unsettling, given that Judge Bork's radical legal views included rejecting the Supreme Court's entire line of privacy cases, even its 1965 ruling striking down a state law banning sales of contraceptives. Judge Alito's membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton - a group whose offensive views about women, minorities and AIDS victims were discussed in greater detail at yesterday's hearing - is also deeply troubling, as is his unconvincing claim not to remember joining it.

In 1985, Judge Alito made it clear that he believed the Constitution does not protect abortion rights. He had many chances this week to say he had changed his mind, but he refused. When offered the chance to say that Roe is a "super-precedent," entitled to special deference because it has been upheld so often, he refused that, too. As Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, noted in particularly pointed questioning, since Judge Alito was willing to say that other doctrines, like one person one vote, are settled law, his unwillingness to say the same about Roe strongly suggests that he still believes what he believed in 1985.

Judge Alito has backed a controversial theory known as the "unitary executive," and argued that the attorney general should be immune from lawsuits when he installs illegal wiretaps. Judge Alito backed away from one of his most extreme statements in this area - his assertion, in a 1985 job application, that he believed "very strongly" in "the supremacy of the elected branches of government." But he left a disturbing impression that as a justice, he would undermine the Supreme Court's critical role in putting a check on presidential excesses.

Time and again, as a lawyer and a judge, the nominee has taken the side of big corporations against the "little guy," supported employers against employees, and routinely rejected the claims of women, racial minorities and the disabled. The hearing shed new light on his especially troubling dissent from a ruling by two Reagan-appointed judges, who said that workers at a coal-processing site were covered by Mine Safety and Health Act protections.

Judge Alito's explanation of his involvement with Concerned Alumni of Princeton is hard to believe. In a 1985 job application, he proudly pointed to his membership in the organization. Now he says he remembers nothing of it - except why he joined, which he insists had nothing to do with the group's core concerns. His explanation for why he broke his promise to Congress to recuse himself in any case involving Vanguard companies is also unpersuasive. As for his repeated claims that his past statements on subjects like abortion and Judge Bork never represented his personal views or were intended to impress prospective employers - all that did was make us wonder why we should give any credence to what he says now.

The debate over Judge Alito is generally presented as one between Republicans and Democrats. But his testimony should trouble moderate Republicans, especially those who favor abortion rights or are concerned about presidential excesses. The hearings may be short on fireworks, but they have produced, through Judge Alito's words, an array of reasons to be concerned about this nomination.

Copyright 2006The New York Times Company


Sunday, January 29, 2006

25 years waiting and planning to pack SCOTUS...

From the NY Times:

January 30, 2006
Conservatives See Court Shift as Culmination

In February of last year, as rumors swirled about the failing health of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, a team of conservative grass-roots organizers, public relations specialists and legal strategists met to prepare a battle plan for whomever the next Supreme Court nominee might be.

The leaders were Leonard A. Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society and informal adviser to the White House; Edwin Meese III, attorney general in the Reagan administration; and C. Boyden Gray, the White House counsel under the first President Bush and a veteran of confirmation battles. They had recruited 18 conservative lawyers to study the records of 18 potential nominees, including Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Judge Samuel A. Alito.

They trained more than three dozen lawyers across the country to respond to news media reports on the president's eventual pick. And they began weekly and eventually daily conference calls to fine-tune their strategy, for example, responding to the nomination of Judge Alito last October by recruiting Italian-American groups to protest the use of the nickname "Scalito," which would have linked Judge Alito to the conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.
"We boxed them in," one lawyer present during those strategy meetings said with pride in an interview over the weekend. This lawyer and others present who described the meeting were granted anonymity because the meetings were confidential and because the team had told its allies not to gloat publicly until the confirmation vote was cast.

With Judge Alito's all but certain confirmation Tuesday as the 110th justice of the Supreme Court, the conservative legal movement is on the brink of a triumph 25 years in the making.
In 1982, the year after Judge Alito first joined the Reagan administration, their movement was little more than the handful of legal scholars who gathered at Yale for the first meeting of the Federalist Society, a newly formed conservative legal group.

"At least 50 percent of the two guys who were there thought they could meet single law school girls who were conservative," said Spencer Abraham, one of the society's founders, a former secretary of energy under President Bush, and now the chairman of the Committee for Justice, one of many conservative organizations set up to support judicial nominees.

Reflecting on Judge Alito's near-certain ascent to join Chief Justice Roberts on the court, Mr. Abraham said, "It would have been beyond our best expectations." He added, "I don't think we would have put a lot of money on it in a friendly wager."

A movement that in 1982 sought only a haven from what its members considered the prevailing liberalism of the law schools and the federal courts has become a major force in the law. And with Judge Alito's confirmation, conservatives hope they may have at last begun to shift the balance of the Supreme Court in their direction on matters like abortion rights, school prayer, the death penalty and the limits on federal power.

Judge Alito's confirmation would also be the culmination of a disciplined campaign begun by the Reagan administration to seed the lower federal judiciary with like-minded jurists who could reorient the federal courts toward a view of the Constitution much closer to its 18th-century authors' original intent, including a much less expansive view of its application to individual rights and federal power. It was a philosophy promulgated by Mr. Meese that became the gospel of the Federalist Society and the nascent conservative legal movement. Both Chief Justice Roberts and Judge Alito were among the cadre of young conservative lawyers attracted to the Reagan administration's Justice Department. And both advanced to the pool of promising young jurists whom strategists like Mr. Gray sought to place throughout the federal judiciary to groom for the highest court.

"It is a Reagan personnel officer's dream come true," said Douglas W. Kmiec, a law professor at Pepperdine University who worked with Judge Alito and Chief Justice Roberts as young lawyers in the Reagan administration. "It is a graduation. These individuals have been in study and preparation for these roles all their professional lives."

As each progressed in legal stature, others were laying the infrastructure of the movement. After the 1987 defeat of the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Robert H. Bork, conservatives vowed to build a counterweight to the liberal forces that had mobilized to stop him.

With grants from major conservative donors like the John M. Olin Foundation, the Federalist Society functioned as a kind of shadow conservative bar association, planting chapters in law schools around the country that served as a pipeline to prestigious judicial clerkships.
During their narrow and politically costly victory in the 1991 confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas, the Federalist Society lawyers forged new ties with the increasingly sophisticated network of grass-roots conservative Christian groups like Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs and the American Family Association in Tupelo, Miss. Many Christian conservative pastors and broadcasters had railed for decades against Supreme Court decisions that outlawed school prayer and endorsed abortion rights.

During the Clinton administration, Federalist Society members and allies had come to dominate the membership and staff of the Judiciary Committee, which turned back many of the administration's nominees. "There was a Republican majority of the Senate, and it tempered the nature of the nominations being made," said Mr. Abraham, the Federalist Society founder who was a senator on the Judiciary Committee at the time.

By 2000, the decades of organizing and battles had fueled a deep demand in the Republican base for change on the court. Mr. Bush tapped into that demand by pledging to name jurists in the mold of conservative Justices Thomas and Scalia.

When Mr. Bush named Harriet E. Miers, the White House counsel, as the successor to Justice O'Connor, he faced a revolt from his conservative base, which complained about her dearth of qualifications and ideological bona fides.

"It was a striking example of the grass roots having strong opinions that ran counter to the party leaders about what was attainable," said Stephen G. Calabresi, a law professor at Northwestern University and another founding member of the Federalist Society.
In October, President Bush withdrew Ms. Miers's nomination and named Judge Alito. The network remobilized to back the new nominee.

As far back as the end of 2004, Mr. Leo of the Federalist Society tapped 18 conservative lawyers to research the records of 18 potential Supreme Court picks, including Chief Justice Roberts and Judge Alito, people involved in the effort said.

At the February 2005 meeting, a group of outside lawyers and organizers developed a two-part strategy to roll out behind whomever the president picked, people present said. The plan: First, extol the nonpartisan legal credentials of the nominee, steering the debate away from the nominee's possible influence over hot-button issues. Second, attack the liberal groups they expected to oppose any Bush nominee.

The team worked through a newly formed group, the Judicial Confirmation Network, to coordinate grass-roots pressure on Democratic senators from conservative states. And they stayed in constant contact with scores of conservative groups around the country to brief them about potential nominees and to make sure they all stuck to the same message.

In November, some Democrats believed they had a chance to defeat the nomination after the disclosure of a 1985 memorandum Judge Alito wrote in the Reagan administration about his conservative legal views on abortion, affirmative action and other subjects.

"It was a done deal," one of the Democratic staff members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the staff is forbidden to talk publicly about internal meetings. "This was the most evidence we have ever had about a Supreme Court nominee's true belief."

Mr. Leo and other lawyers supporting Judge Alito were inclined to shrug off the job application, people involved in the effort said. But executives at Creative Response Concepts, the team's public relations firm, quickly convinced them it was "a big deal" that could become the centerpiece of the Democrats' attacks.

"The call came in right away," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice and another lawyer on the Alito team.

Responding to Judge Alito's 1985 statement that he disagreed strongly with the abortion-rights precedents, for example, "The answer was, 'Of course he was opposed to abortion,' " Mr. Sekulow said. "He worked for the Reagan administration, he was a lawyer representing a client, and it may well have reflected his personal beliefs. But look what he has done as judge."
His supporters deluged news organizations with press releases, noting that on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Judge Alito had voted to uphold and to strike down abortion restrictions.

Democrats contended that those arguments were irrelevant because on the lower court Judge Alito was bound by Supreme Court precedent, whereas as a justice Judge Alito could vote to overturn any precedents with which he disagreed. By last week it was clear that the judge had enough votes to win confirmation. And the last gasp of resistance came in a Democratic caucus meeting on Wednesday when Senator Edward M. Kennedy, joined by Senator John Kerry, both of Massachusetts, unsuccessfully tried to persuade the party to organize a filibuster.

No one defended Judge Alito or argued that he did not warrant opposition, Mr. Kennedy said in an interview. Instead, opponents of the filibuster argued about the political cost of being accused of obstructionism by conservatives.

Still, some in the conservative movement say the battle over the court has just begun. Justice O'Connor was the swing vote on many issues, but replacing her with a more dependable conservative would bring that faction of the court at most to four justices, not five, and thus not enough to truly reshape the court or overturn precedents like those upholding abortion rights.

"It has been a long time coming," Judge Bork said, "but more needs to be done."

Copyright 2006The New York Times Company


"Look bad"? Dems will BE BAD if there's no filibuster..

From TheOstroyReport.blogspot.com

Thursday, January 26, 2006

An Alito Filibuster Would Make the Democrats "Look Bad?"

Sen. John Kerry told CNN Thursday that he's attempting to pull support together for a filibuster of right-wing Supreme Court nominee Samuel J. Alito Jr. Apparently he has the backing of fellow Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy. But many Democrats appear apprehensive about supporting such a measure, and the White House says a filibuster will make the Democrats look bad.

Come again? The White House? We're talking Bush administration officials saying Democrats will look bad?

Can a party possibly look any worse than the Republicans do right now with the litany of moral, ethical and criminal charges facing them? Are the Busheviks for real?

The Democrats must filibuster this activist judge, and they must do it with zeal and a public display of passion not seen from the left since FDR, rallying against similar GOP threats to the balance of power, declared in a 1932 campaign speech that "Were it possible to find ... men almost godlike in their ability to hold the scales of justice with an even hand, such a government might be in the interests of the country, but there are none such on our political horizon."

Democrats must fight tooth and nail to prevent Prince Alito, of "unitary executive" fame, of ever sitting on the bench and further strengthening the hand of King George and his monarchy.

Look bad? Wanna know what's gonna make the Democrats look bad? Lying down like dead sheep and letting the King's chosen one sail through without a fight. That's what the Democrats should worry about.

posted by The Ostroy Report @ 11:23 PM


NY Times gives BushCo hell....

From the NY Times:

January 29, 2006
Spies, Lies and Wiretaps

A bit over a week ago, President Bush and his men promised to provide the legal, constitutional and moral justifications for the sort of warrantless spying on Americans that has been illegal for nearly 30 years. Instead, we got the familiar mix of political spin, clumsy historical misinformation, contemptuous dismissals of civil liberties concerns, cynical attempts to paint dissents as anti-American and pro-terrorist, and a couple of big, dangerous lies.

The first was that the domestic spying program is carefully aimed only at people who are actively working with Al Qaeda, when actually it has violated the rights of countless innocent Americans. And the second was that the Bush team could have prevented the 9/11 attacks if only they had thought of eavesdropping without a warrant.

Sept. 11 could have been prevented. This is breathtakingly cynical. The nation's guardians did not miss the 9/11 plot because it takes a few hours to get a warrant to eavesdrop on phone calls and e-mail messages. They missed the plot because they were not looking. The same officials who now say 9/11 could have been prevented said at the time that no one could possibly have foreseen the attacks. We keep hoping that Mr. Bush will finally lay down the bloody banner of 9/11, but Karl Rove, who emerged from hiding recently to talk about domestic spying, made it clear that will not happen — because the White House thinks it can make Democrats look as though they do not want to defend America. "President Bush believes if Al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they're calling and why," he told Republican officials. "Some important Democrats clearly disagree."

Mr. Rove knows perfectly well that no Democrat has ever said any such thing — and that nothing prevented American intelligence from listening to a call from Al Qaeda to the United States, or a call from the United States to Al Qaeda, before Sept. 11, 2001, or since. The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act simply required the government to obey the Constitution in doing so. And FISA was amended after 9/11 to make the job much easier.

Only bad guys are spied on. Bush officials have said the surveillance is tightly focused only on contacts between people in this country and Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Vice President Dick Cheney claimed it saved thousands of lives by preventing attacks. But reporting in this paper has shown that the National Security Agency swept up vast quantities of e-mail messages and telephone calls and used computer searches to generate thousands of leads. F.B.I. officials said virtually all of these led to dead ends or to innocent Americans. The biggest fish the administration has claimed so far has been a crackpot who wanted to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch — a case that F.B.I. officials said was not connected to the spying operation anyway.

The spying is legal. The secret program violates the law as currently written. It's that simple. In fact, FISA was enacted in 1978 to avoid just this sort of abuse. It said that the government could not spy on Americans by reading their mail (or now their e-mail) or listening to their telephone conversations without obtaining a warrant from a special court created for this purpose. The court has approved tens of thousands of warrants over the years and rejected a handful.

As amended after 9/11, the law says the government needs probable cause, the constitutional gold standard, to believe the subject of the surveillance works for a foreign power or a terrorist group, or is a lone-wolf terrorist. The attorney general can authorize electronic snooping on his own for 72 hours and seek a warrant later. But that was not good enough for Mr. Bush, who lowered the standard for spying on Americans from "probable cause" to "reasonable belief" and then cast aside the bedrock democratic principle of judicial review.

Just trust us. Mr. Bush made himself the judge of the proper balance between national security and Americans' rights, between the law and presidential power. He wants Americans to accept, on faith, that he is doing it right. But even if the United States had a government based on the good character of elected officials rather than law, Mr. Bush would not have earned that kind of trust. The domestic spying program is part of a well-established pattern: when Mr. Bush doesn't like the rules, he just changes them, as he has done for the detention and treatment of prisoners and has threatened to do in other areas, like the confirmation of his judicial nominees. He has consistently shown a lack of regard for privacy, civil liberties and judicial due process in claiming his sweeping powers. The founders of our country created the system of checks and balances to avert just this sort of imperial arrogance.

The rules needed to be changed. In 2002, a Republican senator — Mike DeWine of Ohio — introduced a bill that would have done just that, by lowering the standard for issuing a warrant from probable cause to "reasonable suspicion" for a "non-United States person." But the Justice Department opposed it, saying the change raised "both significant legal and practical issues" and may have been unconstitutional. Now, the president and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales are telling Americans that reasonable suspicion is a perfectly fine standard for spying on Americans as well as non-Americans — and they are the sole judges of what is reasonable.

So why oppose the DeWine bill? Perhaps because Mr. Bush had already secretly lowered the standard of proof — and dispensed with judges and warrants — for Americans and non-Americans alike, and did not want anyone to know.

War changes everything. Mr. Bush says Congress gave him the authority to do anything he wanted when it authorized the invasion of Afghanistan. There is simply nothing in the record to support this ridiculous argument.

The administration also says that the vote was the start of a war against terrorism and that the spying operation is what Mr. Cheney calls a "wartime measure." That just doesn't hold up. The Constitution does suggest expanded presidential powers in a time of war. But the men who wrote it had in mind wars with a beginning and an end. The war Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney keep trying to sell to Americans goes on forever and excuses everything.

Other presidents did it. Mr. Gonzales, who had the incredible bad taste to begin his defense of the spying operation by talking of those who plunged to their deaths from the flaming twin towers, claimed historic precedent for a president to authorize warrantless surveillance. He mentioned George Washington, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt. These precedents have no bearing on the current situation, and Mr. Gonzales's timeline conveniently ended with F.D.R., rather than including Richard Nixon, whose surveillance of antiwar groups and other political opponents inspired FISA in the first place. Like Mr. Nixon, Mr. Bush is waging an unpopular war, and his administration has abused its powers against antiwar groups and even those that are just anti-Republican.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is about to start hearings on the domestic spying. Congress has failed, tragically, on several occasions in the last five years to rein in Mr. Bush and restore the checks and balances that are the genius of American constitutional democracy. It is critical that it not betray the public once again on this score.

Copyright 2006The New York Times Company


Saturday, January 28, 2006

US troops makin' music!

From the LA Times:

January 28, 2006
latimes.com : California

Being an Instrument of Happiness
A Huntington Beach shop owner sends ukuleles to U.S. troops. 'We didn't know this would explode, but it did,' she said.
By David Reyes, Times Staff Writer

When Shirley Orlando decided to reach out to U.S. troops in Iraq last year, she recognized that they had a lot of needs.So she sent them ukuleles.

What started seven months ago as a lark has mushroomed into a nearly full-time hobby for the Huntington Beach shop owner and ukulele instructor. Orlando, 57, has shipped more than 400 of the four-string instruments common in Hawaii to dozens of units in Iraq and Afghanistan — and plans to continue.

"I call the ukulele the happiest little instrument on earth," Orlando said.

Orlando and Anita Coyoli-Cullen, head of a regional National Guard family support group, founded "Ukes for Troops."For $25, they will send a ukulele to a soldier, together with song books, a tuner and extra strings. Their website is http://www.ukesfortroops.com .

A decent ukulele costs $75 and up. But Orlando contacted a manufacturer in Hawaii who agreed to provide them for $21 each. Orlando and Coyoli-Cullen didn't know which unit should get the first batch. "We picked a Hawaiian National Guard unit because we knew they would appreciate it," Coyoli-Cullen said. They did. As soon as the ukes were unwrapped, the e-mails followed.

"Our soldiers are not strangers to this instrument, but rather talented music entertainers who've learned how to play the ukulele from their ohana (families) and our tutus (elders)," wrote Lt. Col. Norman Saito, commander of the 29th Support Battalion of the Hawaii Army National Guard. "For just a brief moment while playing the ukulele and singing happily along, it brings out the best of ourselves; and reminiscing [about] our islands and families back home that we miss so much."

Another soldier wrote: "We were all very excited, knowing this will offer us an escape from our day-to-day work. 'Mahalo.' "

It helped that Coyoli-Cullen had experience sending packages and letters of support to the troops. Her daughter, California National Guard Sgt. Diane Gilliam, served in Afghanistan, where she was seriously injured in a helicopter crash.

In Iraq, as word of the ukuleles filtered to other combat units, soldiers began contacting Coyoli-Cullen, who told Orlando they needed more ukes."We didn't know this would explode," Orlando said. "But it did."

She contacted her ukulele students and two groups who practice at her Huntington Beach Hawaiian-themed gift store and asked for their help.

So far, they and others have raised about $10,000 — enough to buy and ship about 417 ukes. Susan Abbotson, a Rhode Island College English instructor who helps run the Web-based Ukulele Hall of Fame Museum, said it's not the first time ukuleles have gone to war.

"The British sent ukes to their troops during World War II because they thought they would cheer up the troops," she said. "You look at a ukulele and it's like a vaudeville instrument. But there's something very egalitarian about it. It's simple, and people don't feel threatened by it. They want to pick it up and play it."

In Iraq, the ukuleles from Huntington Beach have caught the fascination not only of U.S. troops, but also some Iraqis."We've gotten e-mails from troops that, when they strum the ukulele at night, the Iraqis tell them they like the music," Coyoli-Cullen said.


President Clinton at Davos...

Here's a real President. Not only is he respected, he knows how to talk and what to talk about.

From AP :

Jan 28, 2006 2:21 pm US/Eastern
Clinton: Climate Change World's Biggest Concern

(AP) Switzerland Former U.S. President Bill Clinton told corporate chieftains and political bigwigs Saturday that climate change was the world's biggest problem -- followed by global inequality and the "apparently irreconcilable" religious and cultural differences behind terrorism.

Clinton's comments provided something a freewheeling and philosophical finale -- ahead of Sunday's formal wrap-up -- to several days of high-powered discourse on the state of the world, and the mostly admiring audience seemed to hang on his every word.

"First, I worry about climate change," Clinton said in an onstage conversation with the founder of the World Economic Forum. "It's the only thing that I believe has the power to fundamentally end the march of civilization as we know it, and make a lot of the other efforts that we're making irrelevant and impossible."

Clinton called for "a serious global effort to develop a clean energy future" to avoid the onset of another ice age.He also said the current global system "works to aggravate rather than ameliorate inequality" between and within nations -- including in the United States, where he lamented the "growing concentration of wealth at the top," alongside stagnation for the middle classes and rising poverty.

"I don't think we've found the way to promote economic and political integration in a manner that benefits the vast majority of the people in all societies and makes them feel that they are benefited by it," he said. "Voters usually see... issues from the prism of their own experience."

Clinton won frequent enthusiastic applause -- not a common situation at the annual gathering in the Swiss Alps -- for articulating a global vision more conciliatory and inclusive than the one many of the assembled tend to associate with U.S. politics.

People around the world "basically want to know that we're on their side, that we wish them well, that we want the best for them, that we're pulling for them," he said.

Clinton called on current world leaders to seek ways of easing the "apparently irreconcilable religious and cultural differences in the world, that are manifest most stunningly in headlines about terrorist actions but really go far beyond that."

"You really can't have a global economy or a global society or a global approach to health and other things unless there is some sense of global community."

Former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans was listening. "He's a great performer and then he's got the greatest convening power of anyone now in the world, I think, and the greatest capacity to articulate things that matter," said Evans, who now heads the International Crisis Group, a think tank.

Clinton also dispensed advice on the issues of the day.

In Iraq, he said, the United States should not "give this thing up and say it can't work," but should consider "drawing down some of our troops and reconfiguring their components, trying to increase the special forces (and) putting them in places where they're not quite as vulnerable."

Iran, he argued, must not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons, and neither economic sanctions nor "any other option" should be ruled out as ways of preventing this. But he warned there would be "an enormous political price to pay if the global community ... looked like they went to force before everything else has been exhausted."

Clinton also suggested the West should be more open to eventual dialogue with Hamas, the radical Palestinian group whose election victory stunned the world this week and clouded the prospects of any resolution to the conflict with Israel. "One of the politically correct things in American politics ... is we just don't talk to some people that we don't like, particularly if they ever killed anybody in a way that we hate," he said. "I do think that if you've got enough self-confidence in who you are and what you believe in, you ought not to be scared to talk to anybody."

"You've got to find a way to at least open doors ... and I don't see how we can do it without more contact," he said. Hamas might "acquire a greater sense of responsibility, and as they do we have to be willing to act on that."

Klaus Schwab, the forum's founder and organizer, asked Clinton to advise the next U.S. president, noting that this person might either be married to Clinton or listening in the audience -- an apparent reference to Sen. John McCain, seated in the first row along with Microsoft's Bill Gates and other invitees.

"In this world full of culturally charged issues I think we should make it clear that Senator McCain and I are not married," Clinton joked as the audience burst into laughter.

The comment earned Clinton a slap on the back from the Arizona Republican, who fought a crowd to get to the former president after the event."Interesting talk," said the beaming possible 2008 presidential contender. "You got us both in trouble!"

(© 2006 The Associated Press.


House Ethics Committee round-up of.....

Hah! This is damned hilarious. With alligators up to their asses due to the Abramoff and other Repub scandals, the Repubs are suddenly wanting the ethics committee up and running to prosecute Dems, Novak says. Of course, with no defense all the Repubs can do is attack. This is a no-win proposition for those greedy fools. And of course Novak puts his Repub spin at the end of this opinion piece:

From TownHall.com :

Ethics wars
Jan 28, 2006
by Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- House Republicans, wounded by lobbyist scandals, have called on the House Ethics Committee to investigate more than 10 Democratic members headed by Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and Nydia Velazquez of New York.

Schakowsky's husband, consumer advocate Robert Creamer, has been indicted in a check-kiting scheme. The congresswoman co-signed Creamer's allegedly fraudulent tax returns. Velazquez is accused of violating House ethics guidelines by using her congressional office to endorse Judge Margarita Lopez Torres as Brooklyn Surrogate Court judge.

Democrats on the Ethics Committee are no more eager to explore these cases than Republicans are to investigate their accused colleagues. The only House committee evenly divided by party, Ethics is currently immobilized.


A word for the Democratic Senators on filibuster...

I take issue with Capitol Hill Blue's resistance to filibustering Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States. He feels it's a waste of time and due to fail and that will make the Dems look weak.

Well, tell you what...if they don't filibuster, they'll prove they're weak and not worth electing come Nov 2006.

Remember this? "It's better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all."

How about this? "You're either with us or against us."

Well, the "us" in this case happens to be the citizens of this nation who care about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Ever hear of courage?

Who the hell cares if they, being courageous, try and fail? At least they did try, did give it their best, and most importantly, they stood up for us.

What were our troops fighting for when they attacked Afghanistan's Taliban and al Queda after 9/11? Our freedom. Our liberty. Our Bill of Rights. Our Constitution.

Which, by the way, this president who so badly wants to be dictator, swore to uphold. He lied.
What that individual wants is to get Alito on SCOTUS because Alito will assist him in getting almost unlimited powers.

This nation needs a head of state like that like a hole in the head.


Sen Kerry flew back yesterday to filibuster....

Note: Senator Kerry is NOT in Davos. He started the filibuster from Davos but sure as hell didn't stick around there. Hopped on a plane and flew back to DC, arriving yesterday. Let's hear no more bull about him not caring or playing around at an elite resort overseas, okay?

From the Washington Post:

Kerry Defends Senate Filibuster on Alito as 'a Vote of History'
By Charles BabingtonWashington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 28, 2006; Page A08

Sen. John F. Kerry cut short a European trip yesterday and returned to Washington, where he was greeted with praise from liberal groups and ridicule from Republicans for his role in postponing a confirmation vote for Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr.

In a largely empty Capitol, Kerry (D-Mass.) defended his call for a filibuster that effectively delayed until Tuesday the Senate confirmation vote, which both parties say Alito will win. "Why are we so compelled to accept in such a rush a nominee who has so clearly been chosen for political and ideological reasons?" Kerry said in a 30-minute floor speech. "This is not the vote of Monday afternoon. This is a vote of history."

(cont. below)

Alito Revealed

Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. decided to study constitutional law because he was distressed over the liberal activism practiced under Chief Justice Earl Warren's leadership.

Database: Analyzing Alito's Votes
A Jan. 1 Washington Post story analyzed Judge Alito's rulings on the appellate court. To read the story and to read more information about the cases that were analyzed, click below:
Story: Alito, In and Out of the Mainstream
Graphic: Which Side Was Alito On?
Full List of Cases
Cases Listed by Issue
About The Analysis

Campaign for the Court

The Washington Post's Fred Barbash follows the step-by-step process of confirming Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. -- President Bush's pick to fill Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's seat on the Supreme Court. • Kerry Defends Senate Filibuster on Alito as 'a Vote of History'-The Washington PostRepublicans Clear the Way for Alito Vote-APReid: Not enough votes.Campaign for the Court Archive Sign Up for RSS Feed
Samuel A. Alito Jr.

President Bush nominated Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court on Oct. 31, 2005. If confirmed, Alito will fill the seat currently held by retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Profile: Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Sen. John F. Kerry cut short a European trip yesterday and returned to Washington, where he was greeted with praise from liberal groups and ridicule from Republicans for his role in postponing a confirmation vote for Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr.

He departed by a back staircase and kept walking as reporters chased him and asked why he had decided to interrupt his trip to a world economic forum in Davos, Switzerland. "I knew ahead of time that if there was a filing" to end debate, "I would be back," Kerry said before entering his car.

Kerry, the Democrats' 2004 presidential nominee, is considering another bid in 2008, and liberal groups that urged a filibuster will play important roles in the early primary process. Those groups strongly defended Kerry, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and others who refused to end debate on Alito this week despite the urging of Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.).

The Alliance for Justice "commends Senators Kerry and Kennedy for using all the means available to them to continue to fight the Alito nomination," said its president, Nan Aron. "We will continue to mobilize activists to support these senators in their principled stand."
If 60 senators vote Monday to end debate, the chamber will vote Tuesday on whether to confirm Alito, 55, to succeed retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Reid told reporters yesterday that he will vote against "cloture" -- or ending debate -- to emphasize that President Bush made a "bad choice" in tapping Alito. But he added: "Everyone knows there are not enough votes to support a filibuster."

Four of the Senate's 44 Democrats have signaled they are inclined to vote to confirm Alito. Three of them -- Kent Conrad (N.D.), Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Robert C. Byrd (W.Va.) -- face reelection this year in states that Bush carried against Kerry. Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) also supports Alito, and several other Democratic senators have said they will not support a filibuster.

Republicans mocked Kerry's role in extending the debate from Europe on Thursday, and they continued their sarcasm yesterday. The filibuster strategy "was apparently hatched in Davos, Switzerland, where Senator Kerry now is with those masters of the universe that are out there trying to figure our world economy out," Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said in a Senate speech, even though Kerry was back in Washington by then. White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters, "Even for a senator, it takes some pretty serious yodeling to call for a filibuster from a five-star ski resort in the Swiss Alps."

Aides to Kerry noted that several GOP senators also attended the Davos forum and that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) attended the meeting last year. They said Kerry had planned to spend another six days in Europe and was scheduled to speak in Ireland on Sunday.
Democratic activists said Kerry's actions will further endear him to liberals who support abortion rights, oppose Bush's domestic surveillance policies and desperately want to win the White House in 2008. But the filibuster drive is far less popular among Democrats running in GOP-leaning states. For example, Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.), who is seeking the Senate seat being vacated by Frist, issued a statement yesterday criticizing the filibuster even though the House plays no role in judicial confirmations.

Only five senators, including Kerry, spoke during a brief Senate session, and the chamber will be closed today and tomorrow.

Lawmakers devoted more time to outlining their agendas for the year, often focusing on education. Democrats have "pledged to create a new generation of innovators by calling for a qualified teacher in every math and science K-12 classroom" and by urging engineers and scientists to become teachers, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Republican senators, ending a two-day Washington "retreat," said their education initiatives will stress the need to prepare students for jobs in a global economy.