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Consider:

"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"







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Tuesday, 7 June 2005

Topic: Selling the War

Clueless –

Some of us old folks remember the when we were young we played a board game named "Clue." Is that still around? Are board games still around? The game was a murder-mystery thing, and you got to say things like "it was it Colonel Mustard in the conservatory with the candlestick." Then you found out you were wrong. There was a movie based on the game - a bit of fluff, although maybe the last time Leslie Ann Warren ever looked sexy.

Anyway, that’s the gimmick of this summary of how we got to where we are in this Iraq business -

President Bush, With the Candlestick...
Robert Parry, Consortium News, June 7, 2005

The contention: "The clues are falling into place, pointing to the incontrovertible judgment that George W. Bush willfully misled the United States into invading Iraq, in part, by eliminating the possibility of the peaceful solution that he pretended to want."

Yeah. So?

Well, sometimes pulling all the clues together in one place helps solve some mysteries. So the following might be useful in that sort of way.

And what should we consider?

Clue One:
The latest piece of the puzzle was reported by Charles J. Hanley of the Associated Press in an article on June 4 describing how Bush’s Undersecretary of State John Bolton orchestrated the ouster of global arms control official Jose Bustani in early 2002 because Bustani’s Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW] was making progress toward getting arms inspectors back into Iraq. If Bustani had succeeded in gaining Iraq’s compliance with international inspection demands, Bush would have been denied his chief rationale for war, even before U.S. military divisions were deployed to the Persian Gulf. Bustani had made himself an obstacle to war, so he had to go.
The Hanley item is here - and the whole thing was Bolton’s employment for a bit. We said Bustani had to go because he was corrupt – some of us remember that. Some of us were puzzled at the time. And Hanley notes that if Bustani’s Iraq plan had worked out in 2002, "Bustani’s inspectors would have found nothing, because Iraq’s chemical weapons were destroyed in the early 1990s. That would have undercut the U.S. rationale for war." Ah, a back-story.

Clue Two: The Downing Street memo – discussed in the press in the UK and a bit on this side of the pond. Covered in these pages many times, bit mainly here on 8 May and here on 29 May. Enough said.

Clues Three and Four: War Hysteria and Blind Journalists
In November 2002, Hussein let UN inspectors back into Iraq where they searched dozens of sites ? including some suggested by U.S. intelligence ? but found no WMD. The Bush administration reacted to the negative WMD findings by instigating war hysteria inside the United States. The UN inspectors were ridiculed as incompetent; Bush?s domestic critics were called traitors; European allies urging patience were denounced as the "axis of weasels"; French wine was poured into gutters; and "French fries" were renamed "Freedom fries" in flag-waving diners across America.

As Bush?s followers were lusting for war in March 2003, however, UN inspectors were citing good cooperation from the Iraqis as the search for WMD continued. The inspectors? greater obstacle soon became Bush?s insistence on an invasion.

? Despite the UN inspectors? negative WMD findings and Bush?s failure to win a war resolution from the UN Security Council, Bush launched the invasion on March 19, 2003. After three weeks of fighting, U.S.-led forces toppled Hussein?s government and Bush?s popularity ratings soared.
Yep. We remember that. But then things went sour and there were no WMD and so on ? and the explaining got even stranger. As discussed before here, on July 14, 2003 Bush said this about Hussein, "we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn?t let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power."

What? He wouldn?t let them in? He did. Oh well.

Parry reminds us too that on Jan. 27, 2004, Bush said, "We went to the United Nations, of course, and got an overwhelming resolution ? 1441 ? unanimous resolution, that said to Saddam, you must disclose and destroy your weapons programs, which obviously meant the world felt he had such programs. He chose defiance. It was his choice to make, and he did not let us in."

But, but, but?.

Journalists played along. Bush got the facts wrong -to put it bluntly either he lied or he was on another planet - but it was unpatriotic to point that out, or something ?
? ABC?s veteran newsman Ted Koppel fell for the administration?s spin, using it to explain why he ? Koppel ? thought the invasion was justified. "It did not make logical sense that Saddam Hussein, whose armies had been defeated once before by the United States and the Coalition, would be prepared to lose control over his country if all he had to do was say, ?All right, UN, come on in, check it out," Koppel said in a July 2004 interview with Amy Goodman, host of "Democracy Now."

As Koppel obviously was aware, Hussein had told the UN to "come on in, check it out," but even prominent journalists were ready to put on blinders.

Not even disclosures by administration insiders seemed to matter. When former Treasury Secretary Paul O?Neill and ex-counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke described Bush?s early obsession with invading Iraq, Bush?s defenders fended off the accounts by questioning the motives of the witnesses. O?Neill and Clarke must be bitter or jealous or delusional or simply liars, the Bush defenders said.
Ah, those were the days! Now its only Fox News and a few others.

Clue Five: The Presidential Debates

What?s to say? "I went there [the United Nations] hoping that once and for all the free world would act in concert to get Saddam Hussein to listen to our demands. They [the Security Council] passed a resolution that said disclose, disarm or face serious consequences. I believe when an international body speaks, it must mean what it says. But Saddam Hussein had no intention of disarming. Why should he? He had 16 other resolutions and nothing took place. As a matter of fact, my opponent talks about inspectors. The facts are that he [Hussein] was systematically deceiving the inspectors. That wasn?t going to work. That?s kind of a pre-Sept. 10 mentality, the hope that somehow resolutions and failed inspections would make this world a more peaceful place." How could Kerry respond?

Back to the game of "Clue" ? Parry?s conceit -
Observing the behavior of the national news media over the past three years has been like watching incompetent players in the mystery game "Clue" as they visit all the rooms and ask about all the suspects and weapons, but still insist on guessing at combinations that are transparently incorrect.

Indeed, the major U.S. news outlets appeared to have been so cowed by the Bush White House that they only grudgingly reported on the Downing Street Memo last month ? and then only after the leaked document had become a cause celebre in Great Britain and on the Internet.

So far, there?s also been next to no bounce on the AP?s reporting about the real motive behind Bustani?s ouster in April 2002. That story would seem to be the final clue ? if one were needed ? to prove that Bush has consistently lied about how and why the United States went to war in Iraq.

At this point, a trickier question might be why the mainstream U.S. news media has performed so badly for so long.

To some extent, the news media?s reluctance to solve the Mystery of Bush?s Iraq War Lies may be explained by a well-founded fear of retaliation from Bush?s powerful defense apparatus ? from the Wall Street Journal?s editorial page to the screamers on Fox News and right-wing talk radio.
Oh, more press bashing. They we just reporting what Bush was saying. It is not their job to say what he is saying does not match any known facts. That?s our job, or something.

But Parry suggests another motive, other than fear of retaliation - a fear of the logical consequence that would follow a conclusion that Bush willfully deceived the American people into this war. He says if that conclusion were to be accepted as true, it would force mainstream editors into a tough decision about whether they should join the supposedly fringe position advocating Bush?s impeachment.

Impeachment? He says that?s the only logical remedy for "a leader who so grievously violated the public trust and sent so many American soldiers to unnecessary deaths."

Oh, really?

Well, out the mainstream you get this -
The Downing Street Minutes are deserving, in the words of constitutional lawyer John Bonifaz, of an official "Resolution of Inquiry directing the House Judiciary Committee to launch a formal investigation into whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to exercise its constitutional power to impeach George W. Bush, President of the United States."

Bonifaz, who two years ago took the Bush Administration to court on behalf of a coalition of US soldiers, parents of soldiers and twelve Members of Congress (including John Conyers Jr., Dennis Kucinich, Jesse Jackson Jr., Jim McDermott, Jose Serrano, Sheila Jackson Lee) to challenge the constitutionality of the Iraq war, adds:

"The question must now be asked, with the release of the Downing Street Memo, whether the President has committed impeachable offenses. Is it a High Crime to engage in a conspiracy to deceive and mislead the United States Congress and the American people about the basis for taking the nation into a war? Is it a High Crime to manipulate intelligence so as to allege falsely a national security threat posed to the United States as a means of trying to justify a war against another nation based on 'preemptive' purposes? Is it a High Crime to commit a felony via the submission of an official report to the United States Congress falsifying the reasons for launching military action?"

As in previous investigations of "High Crimes and Misdemeanors," such a "Resolution of Inquiry is the appropriate first step in launching this investigation." ?
John Bonifaz? Not a household name.

Also note that on the June 5 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, moderator Tim Russert questioned Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman about the Downing Street memo, and Russert was told the "findings" of this Downing Street Memo "have been totally discredited by everyone who's looked at it," including the 9-11 Commission and the Senate. Not true unless time sometimes runs backward and there's an alternative universe (details here) - but what are you going to do? Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair Tuesday afternoon publicly said: "The facts were not being fixed, in any shape or form at all."

Who are you going to trust?

And here's a useful list of Bush saying we didn't want to go to war at all. You can read the memo or trust what they said, side by side outside the White House.

After the Downing Street Memo: The Case for Impeachment Builds.

No. Impeachment is a non-starter.

Keith Olbermann over at MSNBC on "Countdown" explains why -
Last Wednesday, Senator John Kerry told the editorial board of the newspaper in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the "Standard-Times," that he was amazed at the lack of American media coverage of the so-called "Downing Street Memo" - notes of a July, 2002 British cabinet meeting that suggested the U.S. was making all the evidence fit a pre-planned invasion of Iraq.

The words of the Democrats' 2004 standard-bearer?: "When I go back (to Washington) on Monday, I am going to raise the issue. I think (the memo) is a stunning, unbelievably simple and understandable statement of the truth..."

Now, let's play Blogosphere-Telephone with that statement.

By Saturday, those quotes, and the original New Bedford story, had been transmuted by a series of foreign and conservative websites into an article that included the line: "Failed presidential candidate Kerry advised that he will begin the presentation of his case for President Bush's impeachment to Congress, on Monday."
Kerry never said that but it was all over the web - Kerry was going to call for the impeachment of President Bush! Olbermann reports getting lots from the right - "You're covering up Kerry's traitorous comment!" ? and lots from the left ? "Corporate lapdog! Why didn't you cover this? Do your job!"

Yeah, well, Olbermann called Kerry's office -
The Senator's office told "Countdown" last night that he never said anything about impeachment and asked our reporter where he'd read that line. The answer was: the websites of NewsMax and Al-Jazeera.

The story originated - on Al-Jazeera.

The New Bedford newspaper story, exactly 746 words long, literally does not include the words impeach, or impeachment.

If this detail is still relevant in these super-heated political times, the story is not true. But at places as disparate as Al-Jazeera and NewsMax, they wanted it to be.
Well, you can't always get what you want.

NewsMax, of course, is the conservative news service funded by Richard Mellon Scaife (Mellon Bank was founded in Pittsburgh by his family), and mentioned in this commentary from May 26, 2003 ? the first item in the first issue of Just Above Sunset. Those guys have their agenda. So does Al-Jazeera.

So all the "clues" lead up to impeachment. And Kerry won't go there, but for good reason.

Why? With the president's party in firm control both houses of congress and most of the judiciary, well, what's the point? You'd ruin yourself, and achieve nothing.

Fight the battles where you, maybe, could win. Winning a game of "Clue" is winning nothing.

Posted by Alan at 19:32 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 8 June 2005 09:08 PDT home


Topic: In these times...

Dispatches from Cincinnati –

Remind me to ask my brother in Cincinnati to come visit me out here. I’m not going there, considering this -
On May 10, the Sheriff of Hamilton County, Ohio - which includes Cincinnati - delivered a fascistic tirade against “the forces of moral corruption,” at a public rally in the heart of the city’s downtown district. According to Sheriff Simon Leis, Jr., Cincinnati and police departments across the US are engaged in a battle against Satan and his minions - i.e., “liberal judges,” “atheists,” homosexuals, “feminists” and “liberals.”

Delivering the keynote address at the annual Police Memorial Day ceremony and parade at Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati, Sheriff Leis denounced “proselytizing parasitic groups” like “gay and lesbian coalitions, rabid feminist groups, and the American Civil Liberties Union.” Leis’s backward, Christian fundamentalist-laced speech called on the return of “God and the Ten Commandments back [into] our schools and the workplace” to address America’s social problems.

Casting Christians as a beleaguered and persecuted minority, Sheriff Leis preached, “Our country is in great peril, not from an approaching army, but from a satanic pestilence that has already invaded our nation.” In fundamentalist Sheriff Leis’s xenophobic and patriarchal worldview, “our nation” consists primarily of “god fearing people...paying taxes and trusting public officials to run the daily business of their government in their best interest.” Excluded from “our nation” are the “deviates” and “depraved” that he feels it is his duty to protect “true Americans” from—i.e., homosexuals, “liberals,” non-Christians and atheists, etc….
A careful reading of the whole item at the link will let you know he actually cribbed the speech from another fundamentalist sheriff. But his heart is in the same place.

Details? As for the youth, the working class, African-Americans and the poor? These are “the criminal element.” It seems we have “a drug-infested culture [that is] littering our country and neighborhoods with untold corpses.”

Why are things so bad? The Supreme Court. All those rulings! Those led to an epidemic of teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, juvenile crime, teen suicide and depression among children. “We stood by silently and watched atheists abolish school prayer and replace it with the all-too-familiar yellow crime scene tape, metal detectors and drug-sniffing dogs.”

Other contentions? “Depression among children is up 1,000 percent.” Supreme Court decisions “made in the 60s” are the reason for spread of AIDS.

And this - “Daily we learn of the mass killing of students in our schools, shootings taking place in day-care centers and places of worship. Is there any wonder why so many young people are committing such horrible crimes against innocent victims, when we protect the rights of atheists, and abolish the recognition of Almighty God in our classrooms?”

I hadn’t heard of these mass killings. As Rick Blaine would say, “I was misinformed.” (One of Bogart’s best lines.)

The item mentioned Leis gained national attention for his prosecution of Hustler magazine founder Larry Flynt on obscenity charges. And this - appointed as Sheriff of Hamilton County in 1987, Leis gained national notoriety in 1990 when he brought obscenity charges against the Contemporary Arts Center museum in Cincinnati for its exhibition of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe’s artwork.

Ah, been there. See October 5, 2003 Photography - The Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art - for photographic evidence.

And this web log is published from the very center of evil – a few blocks from the Larry Flynt building. The evidence is here.

If I do visit Cincinnati I should interview this guy for Just Above Sunset.

Posted by Alan at 13:19 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 7 June 2005 14:07 PDT home

Monday, 6 June 2005

Topic: Making Use of History

Where Have All the Good Men Gone?

Over the weekend in this - Who Cares? Irony is all we have left these days. - it seemed we were done with the Watergate business - Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, and I, and others, said what needed to be said. But some trailing comments are necessary.

Many have been commenting on what Ben Stein, one of the Nixon guys from long ago, said here in the American Spectator -
Re: The "news" that former FBI agent Mark Felt broke the law, broke his code of ethics, broke his oath and was the main source for Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward's articles that helped depose Richard Nixon, a few thoughts.

Can anyone even remember now what Nixon did that was so terrible? He ended the war in Vietnam, brought home the POW's, ended the war in the Mideast, opened relations with China, started the first nuclear weapons reduction treaty, saved Eretz Israel's life, started the Environmental Protection Administration. Does anyone remember what he did that was bad?
Oh, some of us do.

He had this idea it would be a good idea to no some nasty things at the Brookings Institute.

John Dean here -
"Even by the standards of the Nixon White House, the plan to blow up Washington’s pre-eminent think tank seemed crazy" presidential counselor John W. Dean III recalled here Monday.

But there was White House aide John Ehrlichman on the phone one day in 1971, telling Dean that "Chuck Colson wants me to firebomb the Brookings (Institution)." Describing the incident Monday to several hundred presidential history junkies at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum, Dean said he was dumbfounded.

"I said, ‘John, this is absolute insanity,’ " he remembered. "People could die. This is absurd."

… It seemed incredible, but now that he has listened to earlier tapes, Dean said he has heard Nixon "literally pounding on his desk, saying ‘I want that break-in at the Brookings (Institution).’"
Well, maybe he was just venting, as they say. What we have on the Nixon tapes is this - "Did they get the Brookings Institute raided last night? No? Get it done. I want it done. I want the Brookings Institute's safe cleaned out and have it cleaned out in a way that it makes somebody else responsible."

See, that’s not as bad. He was just kidding about the firebombing business, one supposes. Venting, as it were.

Did his staff take him seriously when he vented?

See William F. Buckley here - "On January 5, 1973, Howard Hunt, an old friend and my sometime boss in the CIA, came to see me, accompanied by one of his daughters (my goddaughter, as it happened). He told me the appalling, inside story of Watergate, including the riveting news that one of the plumbers was ready and disposed to kill Jack Anderson, the journalist-commentator, if word came down to proceed to that lurid extreme."

But the word didn?t come down. Jack Anderson lived. Not so bad.

Ben Stein is angry that this all is blown out of proportion ? the man had a temper and he lied a little -
Oh, now I remember. He lied. He was a politician who lied. How remarkable. He lied to protect his subordinates who were covering up a ridiculous burglary that no one to this date has any clue about its purpose. He lied so he could stay in office and keep his agenda of peace going. That was his crime. He was a peacemaker and he wanted to make a world where there was a generation of peace. And he succeeded.

That is his legacy. He was a peacemaker. He was a lying, conniving, covering up peacemaker. He was not a lying, conniving drug addict like JFK, a lying, conniving war starter like LBJ, a lying, conniving seducer like Clinton -- a lying, conniving peacemaker. That is Nixon's kharma.

When his enemies brought him down, and they had been laying for him since he proved that Alger Hiss was a traitor, since Alger Hiss was their fair-haired boy, this is what they bought for themselves in the Kharma Supermarket that is life:

1.) The defeat of the South Vietnamese government with decades of death and hardship for the people of Vietnam.

2.) The assumption of power in Cambodia by the bloodiest government of all time, the Khmer Rouge, who killed a third of their own people, often by making children beat their own parents to death. No one doubts RN would never have let this happen.

So, this is the great boast of the enemies of Richard Nixon, including Mark Felt: they made the conditions necessary for the Cambodian genocide. If there is such a thing as kharma, if there is such a thing as justice in this life of the next, Mark Felt has bought himself the worst future of any man on this earth. And Bob Woodward is right behind him, with Ben Bradlee bringing up the rear. Out of their smug arrogance and contempt, they hatched the worst nightmare imaginable: genocide. I hope they are happy now -- because their future looks pretty bleak to me.
So Mark Felt and Ben Bradlee are responsible for the killing fields in Cambodia. Got it.

And Nixon saved Israel? Would that be the guy who said this? - "Please get me the names of the Jews. You know, the big Jewish contributors of the Democrats. Could we please investigate some of those cocksuckers?" That is on the tapes.

This all summarized here with the comment - This is not just "what all politicians do." This was different: a completely lawless White House whose corruption went way beyond normal.

Maybe so.

Anyway, Ben Stein was one of Nixon?s speechwriters, and it loyal still. And he?s knows Mark Felt was just a bad Jew. Stein elsewhere says this (my emphases) -
Now, we read that Mark Felt's family and Mark Felt put out their story solely to make money off it. So, this makes the family's karma even more unnerving. The father, patriarch, Mark, took out his anger and frustration for being passed over at the FBI, by ruining the career of the peacemaker, Richard Nixon. So, he condemned a whole subcontinent to genocide and slavery and poverty to please his own wounded vanity. (Maybe his nickname should be "sour grapes" and not "deep throat" because he has as much in common with that fox as with a porn star.) And, blood will tell, as the old saying goes: his posterity is now dragging out his old body and putting it on display to make money. (Have you noticed how Mark Felt looks like one of those old Nazi war criminals they find in Bolivia or Paraguay? That same, haunted, hunted look combined with a glee at what he has managed to get away with so far? )

And it gets worse: it's been reported that Mark Felt is at least part Jewish. The reason this isworse is that at the same time that Mark Felt was betraying Richard Nixon, Nixon was saving Eretz Israel. It is a terrifying chapter in betrayal and ingratitude. If he even knows what shame is, I wonder if he felt a moment's shame as he tortured the man who brought security and salvation to the land of so many of his and my fellow Jews. Somehow, as I look at his demented face, I doubt it.

? But there was and is a bigger story here. Frankly, Nixon is no longer alive. If he was a hero, he is a deceased hero. Bob Woodward is no one's idea of a hero. A super businessman and accomplished writer, but no hero. Mark Felt is only Richard Ben-Veniste's hero. But there are major heroes out there every day. There are 140,000 of them in Iraq and about 15,000 in Afghanistan, at lethal risk every minute of every day. There are a million more ready to go. There are millions of family members of these heroes. Can we possibly, possibly, conceivably forget them? Somehow, I think we have. The lead news stories are almost never about them. The story is about Michael Jackson or about Mark Felt. This is desperately wrong, and I do mean desperately.

? let's remember there's a war on, and the best and bravest of our nation are dying every day - to protect a great nation, but one which seems lately to have forgotten even what the nation is all about.
So, there?s a war on, Nixon was heroic, and Felt is one bad Jew. Got it.

There are a million more ready to go? To Iraq? Look at the current Army recruiting figures. That part doesn?t seem so. But you see his argument.

And what is the nation all about? See Lawrence Eagleburger, former Secretary of State, on Nixon and Felt here - "You know, President Nixon once suspected Mark Felt. I'm surprised he didn't end up dead somewhere because of that."

Well, heroes have tempers.

I?m an old guy. All the Watergate stuff was breaking when I was in my early twenties in graduate school. Those who don?t remember all this breaking in odd story after odd story now see the ex-cons who went to jail over these things - G. Gordon Liddy and the rest - on Fox News, and the other Nixon speechwriter Pat Buchanan on MSNBC, saying Nixon was a hero and Felt some evil self-hating Jew betrayer, and this all was no big deal until Felt went over to the dark side. I guess they believe that must be so.

History is different for those of us who were there. But the ex-con plumbers and burglars, who plotted fire bombings and murders, have seized the narrative. Can anyone even remember now what Nixon did that was so terrible?

And I did not see this on television back in 1973 ? even though I thought I did ? Senator Herman Talmadge asks John Ehrlichman during the Watergate hearings, "If the president could authorize a covert break-in and you don?t exactly know where that power would be limited, you don?t think it could include murder or other crimes beyond covert break-ins, do you?" Ehrlichman - "I don?t know where the line is, Senator."

I could have sworn I saw that. Oh well, Fox News and Ben Stein tell me I didn?t.

__

Peter Rodino was a fairly obscure Democratic member of Congress from Newark, New Jersey who became chairman of the House Judiciary Committee early in 1973. Once the demand to impeach Nixon grew, it was that committee's responsibility to open up an impeachment inquiry, which it did in October of 1973. Rodino chaired that committee. Peter Rodino passed away a few weeks ago. Our friend, the Wall Street attorney, knew Rodino well; in fact, they were friends. Rodino was his advisor at law school, at Seaton Hall. And the comments above do get to our friend in Manhattan -
There is just so much to comment on here during the work day.

As you all know, I try to keep my comments to myself, but on what would have been Peter Rodino's 96th birthday, I have to respond to Ben Stein's new show - "Ben Stein's Dementia."

So our friend Ben writes, "If he even knows what shame is, I wonder if he felt a moment's shame as he tortured the man who brought security and salvation to the land of so many of his and my fellow Jews. Somehow, as I look at his demented face, I doubt it."

How Israel is secure and safe escapes me. As far as I can tell the entire Middle East is still a powder keg ready for the right spark. As for one Jew calling another Jew bad, evil, and all the rest, this serves no purpose except for the hate mongers. As a Jew I find Ben Stein's comments truly offensive. Of course, I'm also not crazy about that constant stupid expression of boredom on Ben Stein's face, but that is getting too personal.

Now, about Watergate, I was a few years younger than Alan, but I did spend that summer in front of the television and have many scary memories. I suspect that what was truly scary was the lack of remorse of the perpetrators. However, it was during Watergate that I became interested in constitutional law and theory. It would, however, be 25 years before I found myself in Peter Rodino's advanced constitutional theory class in law school. I remember his leadership, and to a lesser extent the showmanship of Sam Irvin on the Senate side. What is amazing is to have heard Rodino speak of his first hearing the Watergate Tapes. He didn't like Nixon's reference to dagos, wops, and kikes. It literally made him sick. If Nixon did do anything positive for the country, it was far outweighed for his reckless disregard of the truth and more importantly the Constitution. (As I wrote that last sentence I realized how easily one could substitute Bush for Nixon without losing context.)

What we need is another "bad Jew" or anyone else out there with the information and knowledge to expose our present administration for what it is and what it has done to the United States. In speaking to a mutual friend at Rodino's wake, I was told that in the weeks before his death he had a tough time deciding who posed a greater hazard to the Constitution, Nixon or Bush. In the end he started thinking that Bush had really surpassed Nixon in this area.

At some point, several of Rodino's mentees, colleagues, and others who knew him will start comparing stories that Rodino told to each of us at various times. In fact, Rodino was in the middle of writing a biography that would have covered many of the areas that we discuss in these pages. I kept telling him to wrap up the book over the past few years but it was never completed. Perhaps his students will finish it for him sometime.

One last thought. I worry that we all have such negative opinions of politics and politicians. While I understand how politics can bring out the worst in people, I was lucky enough to know someone who really exemplified what a politician could and should be.

Unfortunately, I have to get back to work now.
So our friend returns to the day?s issues with corporate regulations and SEC filings and the like ? but when he?s clear of that, will he be the one to compile what Rodino thought of all this?

Monday, 6 June, the New York Times reported on what one current political figure had to say about things right now. Is Hillary Rodham Clinton, the junior senator from New York, channeling Peter Rodino?
There has never been an administration, I don't believe in our history, more intent upon consolidating and abusing power to further their own agenda. I know it's frustrating for many of you, it's frustrating for me. Why can't the Democrats do more to stop them? I can tell you this: It's very hard to stop people who have no shame about what they're doing. It is very hard to tell people that they are making decisions that will undermine our checks and balances and constitutional system of government who don't care. It is very hard to stop people who have never been acquainted with the truth.
Strong words, but she spoke them at a Democratic fundraiser, after all. Bush surpassed Nixon, as our friend says Rodino was thinking.

Clinton on her fellow colleagues in Congress, the Republicans across the aisle ? they "honestly believe they are motivated by the truth, they are motivated by a higher calling, they are motivated by, I guess, a direct line to the heavens."

On the media today? "It's shocking when you see how easily they fold in the media today. They don't stand their ground. If they're criticized by the White House, they just fall apart. I mean, c'mon, toughen up, guys, it's only our Constitution and country at stake."

Is she running for president? New polling shows she has a shot - her current numbers are 55 percent favorable and 39 percent unfavorable, seven points better than Bush.

We could do worse. Rodino is gone. And our attorney friend in New York hasn?t decided to run for office ? yet.

__

Footnote:

For more perspective on this all you might to catch what Seymour Hersh recalls in the current New Yorker in Watergate Days. He was with the New York Times back then.

On this Jewish business -
I had called Kissinger to get his comment on a report, which the Times was planning to run, that he had been involved in wiretapping reporters, fellow Administration officials, and even his own aides on the National Security Council. At first, he had indignantly denied the story. When I told him that I had information from sources in the Justice Department that he had personally forwarded the wiretap requests to the F.B.I., he was silent, and then said that he might have to resign. The implicit message was that this would be bad for the country, and that the Times would be blamed. A few minutes later, the columnist James Reston, who was a friend of Kissinger?s, padded up to my desk and asked, gently, if I understood that ?Henry? was serious about resigning. I did understand, but Watergate was more important than Kissinger.

Alexander Haig, Kissinger?s sometimes loyal deputy, had called a few times during the day to beat back the story. At around seven o?clock, there was a final call. ?You?re Jewish, aren?t you, Seymour?? In all our previous conversations, I?d been ?Sy.? I said yes. ?Let me ask you one question, then,? Haig said. ?Do you honestly believe that Henry Kissinger, a Jewish refugee from Germany who lost thirteen members of his family to the Nazis, could engage in such police-state tactics as wiretapping his own aides? If there is any doubt, you owe it to yourself, your beliefs, and your nation to give us one day to prove that your story is wrong.? That was Watergate, circa 1973. The Times printed the story the next day, and Kissinger did not resign.
Bad Jew?

But what it was all about?
By May of 1973, the White House cover-up was unraveling, and the stalking of Richard Nixon by the wider press corps had begun. Woodward and Bernstein had been more than vindicated. The Nixon Administration, mired in a losing war in Vietnam, was also losing the battle against the truth at home. Throughout the two-year crisis, Watergate was perceived as a domestic issue, but its impact on foreign policy was profound. As memoirs by both Nixon and Kissinger show, neither man understood why the White House could not do what it wanted, at home or in Vietnam. The reason it couldn?t is, one hopes, just as valid today: they were operating in a democracy in which they were accountable to a Constitution and to a citizenry that held its leaders to a high standard of morality and integrity. That is the legacy of Watergate.
Indeed.

___

A comment from someone else who remembers things differently than Ben Stein - Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta -
Something that seems to be missing in all this current discussion of Mark Felt being Jewish is what I heard last week in one of the White House tape transcripts, in which Haldeman, I think it was, was heard informing Nixon that most of the information being leaked seemed to be coming from Mark Felt -- to which Nixon immediately asked something like, "He's a Jew, isn't he?"

(I'm pretty sure I heard this version on NBC Nightly News, although I think ABC played that same segment, but dropped out before the Jewish part.)

None of this may have any real meaning beyond historical curiosity, but coupled with other examples (especially those taped conversations between Nixon and Billy Graham, in which Nixon really lets loose), one would think Ben Stein might want to reconsider nominating his old boss for posthumous induction into any Anti-Defamation League "Hall of Heroes".

I can't recall if there others than Chuck Colson from that Watergate crowd who went to prison and found Jesus, but I speculate from Ben Stein's apparent obsession with "kharma" that if you worked for Nixon and didn't go to prison, you found Buddha. In any event, to paraphrase some bumper stickers I've seen out there, I think Ben's Dogma is chasing Ben's own Kharma.

But prime among his many memories that need retooling is whether Nixon ever really brought peace to anyone, much less Vietnam. In my own recollection, Nixon had supported that war waged by the "lying, conniving war starter," LBJ, but realized when the election came around that he didn't need no weathermen to show him which way the wind was blowing, so he campaigned in 1968 saying he had a "secret plan" to end it.

(This "secret" election strategy was reprised years later by Pat Robertson, who claimed to lead an "invisible army" of voters. Nobody ever could be sure his army ever showed up at the polls; maybe they did, but since they were invisible, nobody saw them. And maybe Nixon did have a real "secret plan," but maybe the "secret" part was that it didn't actually exist.)

Anyway, sure enough, four years later - and just in time for the 1972 election - Nixon and Kissinger finally talked the Vietnamese into letting us out of the conflict, leaving the south to fight on without us. Three years later, we were seen hastily boarding choppers from the roofs of Saigon buildings, and Nixon's famous "peace, with honor" was finally realized.

So as for Stein's claim that Nixon "was a lying, conniving, covering up peacemaker," I, for one, really must beg to differ.

PS: By the way, how can anyone these days speak of Ben Stein without mentioning his gig as a game show host?
Our Wall Street friend mentioned that. And as for the source of Nixon?s comments? See this - one of about three hundred citations of the item on Google -
The infamous Nixon tapes revealed that when the president was told that Felt might be the Post's source, he wondered aloud if Felt was a Catholic.

No, he was told by his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, he's a Jew.

And Nixon replied: "[Expletive], [the bureau] put a Jew in there?"

And Haldeman responded "Well, that could explain it."
Nixon. A hero. Yeah, right.

Posted by Alan at 19:35 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 7 June 2005 14:38 PDT home


Topic: The Law

Gonzales v. Raich, case no. 03-1454: Oh well….

The basic news story –

Supreme Court allows prosecution of medical marijuana
Bill Mears - CNN Washington Bureau - Monday, June 6, 2005 Posted: 2:58 PM EDT (1858 GMT)
The U.S. Supreme Court Monday ruled doctors can be blocked from prescribing marijuana for patients suffering from pain caused by cancer or other serious illnesses.

In a 6-3 vote, the justices ruled the Bush administration can block the backyard cultivation of pot for personal use, because such use has broader social and financial implications.

"Congress' power to regulate purely activities that are part of an economic 'class of activities' that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce is firmly established," wrote Justice John Paul Stevens for the majority.

Justices O'Connor, Rehnquist and Thomas dissented.

… The decision means that federal anti-drug laws trump state laws that allow the use of medical marijuana, said CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Ten states have such laws.

"If medical marijuana advocates want to get their views successfully presented, they have to go to Congress; they can't go to the states, because it's really the federal government that's in charge here," Toobin said.

At issue was the power of federal government to override state laws on use of "patient pot." …
The plaintiff, Angel Raich, has brain cancer. She was growing her own. But the Justice department successfully argued that homegrown marijuana represented interstate commerce, because what she grew for herself would affect "overall production" of this stuff, "much of it imported across American borders by well-financed, often violent drug gangs." I think that’s a "slippery slope" argument.

California's Compassionate Use Act, approved by fifty-six percent of the voters out here, is now null and void – along with parallel laws in Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Oh, and Arizona too. Looks like Montel Williams will have to deal his multiple sclerosis with something more expensive, but legal, from Merck or Squibb.

CNN adds this detail -
In its hard-line stance in opposition to medical marijuana, the federal government invoked a larger issue. "The trafficking of drugs finances the work of terror, sustaining terrorists," said President Bush in December 2001. Tough enforcement, the government told the justices, "is central to combating illegal drug possession."
You see, it is all part of GWOT™ – the Global War on Terror.

Bob, our columnist for Just Above Sunset emailed me a reaction - "Compassionate Conservatives? Not for cancer patients."

I sent him back this comment from Andrew Sullivan that has been bouncing around the web -
Regardless of how you feel about medical marijuana - I'm strongly for it - the Supreme Court case was really about the right to the federal government to tell states what to do. If the feds can forbid someone who grows pot in his own garden, sells none of it, uses it for his own medical use and is allowed to by his own state, it's still covered by the Interstate commerce exemption.

Yeah, right.
And Sullivan had earlier quoted Milton Friedman in Forbes on the federal government spending billions to deal with our drug problems -
There is no logical basis for the prohibition of marijuana. $7.7 billion is a lot of money, but that is one of the lesser evils. Our failure to successfully enforce these laws is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in Colombia. I haven't even included the harm to young people. It's absolutely disgraceful to think of picking up a 22-year-old for smoking pot. More disgraceful is the denial of marijuana for medical purposes.
Milton is an economist, not a politician.

The lawyers?

Over at Talk Left the immediate reaction was this -
The decision seems counter-intuitive to me from a practical standpoint. Under federal law, possession of marijuana for personal use is a misdemeanor. Growing even one plant is a felony. So, what the decision does is encourage pot smokers to engage in a business transaction by buying marijuana in the marketplace, so as not to get tagged with a cultivation felony. Had the court ruled the other way, the marketplace would be diminished for these users as they could grow their own in the privacy of their own homes. Go figure.
And at the UCLA constitutional law site, The Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein offers this -
The five-member majority of the Court simply does not take federalism seriously. ? It seems we do to some extent live under a system where the personal preferences of the Justices, having nothing to do with the history, text, or logic of the Constitution, dictate when the Supreme Court will or will not intervene to overturn particular regulations.
Ah, perhaps it was a political decision?

If you like law stuff, you can visit Lawrence Solum's Legal Theory Blog which, he says, comments and reports on recent scholarship in jurisprudence, law and philosophy, law and economic theory, and theoretical work in substantive areas, such as constitutional law, cyberlaw, procedure, criminal law, intellectual property, torts, and contracts. That is not everyone?s cup of tea, but you can find an excruciatingly detailed analysis of the ruling there.

For a political comment of note James Bartlett at The Best of the Blogs offers this -
Of all the pandering stunts John Ashcroft engaged in as Attorney General, his desire to prosecute medical marijuana users always struck me as one of the worst. Never mind the inconsistency of an unreconstructed Confederate arguing for federal intervention in a state issue. What's worse is the jackbooted intrusion by the feds into the lives of people with cancer or AIDS, who already have more than enough to worry about. Yet the Supremes voted 6-3 today that federal laws banning medical marijuana take precedence over the laws legalizing it in 10 states ?

John Paul Stevens wrote the majority opinion, but he suggested that all was not bleak for medical marijuana's future. "More important than these legal avenues is the democratic process, in which the voices of voters allied with these respondents may one day be heard in the halls of Congress." In other words, don't worry - Congress could, after all, legalize medical marijuana.

Mr. Justice Stevens, what are you smoking?
I don?t have a dog in this hunt, as they say, but I see this from the Associated Press ?

Marijuana Plaintiffs to Defy Court Ruling
Plaintiffs in Medical Marijuana Case Say They'll Defy Supreme Court Order, Continue to Smoke Pot
David Kravets - Monday, June 06, 2005
The two plaintiffs in the medical marijuana case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday say they will defy the ruling and continue to smoke pot, even at the risk of arrest by federal authorities.

"I'm going to have to be prepared to be arrested," said Diane Monson, who smokes marijuana several times a day to relieve back pain.

? "If I stop using cannabis, unfortunately, I would die," said Raich, who estimates her marijuana intake to be about nine pounds a year.

Raich, 39, suffers from scoliosis, a brain tumor, chronic nausea and other problems. She said she uses marijuana every few waking hours, on the advice of her doctor, who said dozens of other medications were of little help.
Oh, this is going to be fun.

__

Footnote ?

The Los Angeles Times in their editorial on these matters on Tuesday, June 7, points out the problem with arguing that the federal government superceding the states is wrong is itself a two-edged sword -
? Before you get indignant at the Supreme Court, however, think about how you might have reacted in the reverse situation. Suppose Congress did as we asked and enacted a federal law allowing compassionate use of marijuana. And suppose that California continued to arrest doctors and patients under its own drug laws, which had no such exception. Would you have said: "Well, that's federalism for you?" Or would you have found the arguments of the majority in this case, Gonzales vs. Raich, strangely compelling?

The commerce clause authorizes the federal government to regulate trade within the U.S. and abroad. For decades, during and after the New Deal, this clause became the all-purpose authority for anything the federal government wanted to do, or to prevent individual states from doing. Sometimes this was a stretch. The 1964 Civil Rights Act, for instance, was justified constitutionally by the need to regulate interstate commerce.

Federalism and the commerce clause bring out the hypocrite in all of us. If you're against some government policy, you tend to believe that the problem would be better handled at the state level. If you're for it, you believe that it is one of the nation's core functions and must be addressed nationally. There are enough contradictory Supreme Court declarations to allow either case to be made.
Yes, and the Times comes to this conclusion -
... Given how many policies this page has happily urged the federal government to impose on ? well, Alabama and Mississippi and South Carolina, if not California, that clearly means supporting the court's decision.
What?s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander? Maybe.

But that avoids the essential question. What?s the big deal here with denying these patients this relief? Where?s the harm?

Posted by Alan at 17:24 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 7 June 2005 12:33 PDT home


Topic: Couldn't be so...

Decline and Fall

Our friend, the high-powered Wall Street attorney, from his offices thirty-two stories above lower Manhattan, with a view down on the Statue of Liberty, sends us a note about recent current events items we’ve discussed –
The news is disturbing, but then, you just report it, you don't make it.

I do wonder how this will all look in fifty to one hundred years. If the 20th Century was the American Century, I would posit that the 21st Century will be known as the Anti-American Century - or the century in which America no longer was America in terms of ideals and its potential place in the world.
Perhaps so. Maybe things will move in another direction after the 2008 elections. Maybe not. No one can be sure.

I do note that Patriot Act II - now under consideration in Washington – has a provision for stripping Americans of their citizenship for supporting terrorist organizations – and could that apply, eventually, to registered Democrats? Well, I’m sure the Republican-controlled administration, congress and courts would never go that far.

And here a fellow argues Guantanamo should be closed because it was conceived as the beginning of the end of the American Republic. Juan Cole, that professor of history at the University of Michigan, the middle-east expert on Iraq who now and then travels down to Washington to testify before congress, has this to say - Monday, June 6, 2005 -
Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware has now called for Guantanamo to be closed down. Absolutely right.

The main reason is not that it is a continued scandal and creates a very poor image among Muslims worldwide of the United States. This allegation is true, and the US press has done a poor job of covering the continued fall-out of the Quran desecration story among Muslims world-wide. But it isn't the main reason the prison should be closed.

The main reason is that the Bush Administration established the prison at Guantanamo in hopes of gutting the Bill of Rights. They wanted the prisoners there to be beyond the law, outside the framework of judiciality. They would have no lawyers. They would be tried only if the administration wanted to try them. They would be held indefinitely. They would be outside the framework of US law and also of the Geneval Conventions-- though Rumsfeld keeps slipping and calling them prisoners of war.

Terrorists are dirty criminals who should be tried, and if found guilty, put away for life. Terrorists are criminals. They are not non-human, and any attempt to create a category of human beings to whom the protections of the law do not apply is an attempt to undermine the Republic. It is a return of the Bill of Attainder, a feature of absolute monarchy that the Founding Fathers stood against. It is something to which even Rehnquist is opposed.

Once it was established that these Muslims could be treated in this way, Bush would be a sort of absolute monarch over all such detainees (remember that some of them might be innocent for all we know) And then gradually others could be added to the category of the "rights-less." The Patriot Act II envisages stripping Americans of their citizenship for supporting terrorist organizations. Without citizenship, they would not be afforded the protections of the Constitution. And gradually, in this way, the American nationalist Right would be able to circumscribe that pesky Bill of Rights, which so interferes with Executive (i.e. Royal) Privilege. The legal minds on the American Right have clearly been annoyed with the Bill of Rights for some time and the speed with which they foisted the so-called PATRIOT Act (makes it kinda hard to oppose, calling it that, huh?) on an unwary Congress, which had no time to read it, suggests that they had a lot of these ideas on the shelf ready to go.

Guantanamo Prison should be closed because it was conceived as the beginning of the end of the American Republic.
If you click on the Cole item he had embedded links so you can check out all the items to which he refers.

But this is all happening for good reason – to keep us safe. As noted Sunday here, the historian Walter Russell Mead has argued that the Bush administration fits into the "Jacksonian tradition" in American politics. One of this tradition's core beliefs is that normal rules of warfare are suspended when dealing with "dishonorable enemies." Mead gives the example of the Indian wars in which American soldiers, enraged by Indian fighting tactics, waged battle ruthlessly and with no holds barred.

If you buy that the rest follows. All of it.

Posted by Alan at 09:42 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
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