Senate Votes for Retroactive Immunity

The Senate voted today on the Dodd/Feingold amendment, which would have struck provisions providing immunity from civil liability to members of the telecom industry that participate in the government’s warrantless wiretapping program.

Despite the best efforts of Senator Chris Dodd, the Senate voted 67-31 against the bill; Hillary Clinton and Lindsey Graham did not vote. Dodd was quite disappointed with the outcome and claimed: “We’ve just sanctioned the single largest invasion of privacy in American history.”

telecom immunity

Republican Electoral Scheme in California Fails

The campaign by California GOP strategists to reallocate the states’ electoral votes by congressional district has failed.  The effort was pushing to propose a ballot measure that would redistribute California’s 55 electoral votes by congressional district, instead of the normal winner-take-all system. If approved, the ballot measure would ensure an estimated twenty extra electoral votes to the GOP nominee.

The campaign failed to turn in the 400,000 signatures by February 4th; they also sited a lack of funding to get the measure on the ballot. “It’s not going to make the ballot this year,” said David Gilliard, a Republican organizer of the campaign. “The money never materialized to put it on the ballot.”

Many Democrats claimed the effort was an attempt to steal the 2008 election for the Republicans.  In fact, Paul Singer (a financial backer of Rudy Giuliani) revealed himself as the source of an anonymous donation, creating questions that the measure could be violating election laws.

So, at least for this election, California’s 55 electoral votes will continue to be awarded to the winner of the states’ popular vote.

Murdoch’s New Fox: Rove

Karl RoveMurdoch

From smh.com:

Karl Rove, the strategist behind President George W Bush’s ascendancy to the White House, will join Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel as a contributor starting with Super Tuesday.

Rove was chief strategist for Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign and joined him in the White House in several capacities, including deputy chief of staff. He left the White House in August.

Rove has been contributing opinion pieces to The Wall Street Journal, which also belongs to Murdoch’s News Corp, and will debut on the television network with live coverage on the biggest day of the presidential primary election season, Fox said today.

Fox News Channel was the top-rated US cable news network in 2007 in terms of viewership, ahead of rival CNN, according to Broadcasting & Cable magazine.

Fair & Balanced…as usual.

Taunting Iran: A Delicate Balance

Last week, the US government and the media warned of a dangerous incident in the Persian Gulf. The accounts dramatized a serious threat posed by Iranian speedboats to three U.S. warships in the Strait of Hormuz.

The Pentagon released a video of the Hormuz confrontation, parroted here by CNN. Their version of the incident contained an Iranian officer saying, “I am coming for you…you will explode after a few minutes.

However, new information has shown that the incident did not involve such a threat. From Gareth Porter:

The new information that appears to contradict the original version of the incident includes the revelation that U.S. officials spliced the audio recording of an alleged Iranian threat onto to a videotape of the incident. That suggests that the threatening message may not have come in immediately after the initial warning to Iranian boats from a U.S. warship, as appears to do on the video.

Also unraveling the story is testimony from a former U.S. naval officer that non-official chatter is common on the channel used to communicate with the Iranian boats and testimony from the commander of the U.S. 5th fleet that the commanding officers of the U.S. warships involved in the incident never felt the need to warn the Iranians of a possible use of force against them.

Further undermining the U.S. version of the incident is a video released by Iran Thursday showing an Iranian naval officer on a small boat hailing one of three ships.

Here is a video of the Iranian version of the incident.

Despite the substance of the video, the administration still used the incident to warn of an Iranian threat. Bush said there would be ‘serious consequences‘ if Iran attacked US ships and maintained that Iran is a ‘threat to world peace‘. The president has now embarked on a tour of the Middle East, which is sure to be hailed as evidence of his strong commitment to peace (despite the historical record). In reality, the trip is nothing more than a PR stunt which will attempt to warn other Arabs of a dangerous Iran. “Iran’s actions threaten the security of nations everywhere,” Bush said Sunday, “So the United States is strengthening our longstanding security commitments with our friends in the Gulf, and rallying friends around the world to confront this danger before it’s too late.”

An event like the Strait of Hormuz incident brings to mind another misunderstood event, the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, which led to the massive build-up of American armed forces in Vietnam. The Tonkin incident (though it never occurred) resulted in a joint resolution of Congress that granted President Johnson the authority to conduct military operations in SE Asia without a declaration of war. Ten years, 2 million Vietnamese and 58,000 American deaths later, where is an apology or an admission of error?

Our country must be overly questioning and critical when a supposed ‘dangerous incident’ occurs. We cannot afford to be duped yet again into another costly war.

Check here for more info on the Hormuz incident.

George McGovern’s Call For Impeachment

Former presidential candidate George McGovern (lost to Nixon in ’72) has written an op-ed piece in the Washington Post calling for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney:

Why I Believe Bush Must Go
Nixon Was Bad. These Guys Are Worse.

By George McGovern
Sunday, January 6, 2008

As we enter the eighth year of the Bush-Cheney administration, I have belatedly and painfully concluded that the only honorable course for me is to urge the impeachment of the president and the vice president.

After the 1972 presidential election, I stood clear of calls to impeach President Richard M. Nixon for his misconduct during the campaign. I thought that my joining the impeachment effort would be seen as an expression of personal vengeance toward the president who had defeated me.

Today I have made a different choice.

Of course, there seems to be little bipartisan support for impeachment. The political scene is marked by narrow and sometimes superficial partisanship, especially among Republicans, and a lack of courage and statesmanship on the part of too many Democratic politicians. So the chances of a bipartisan impeachment and conviction are not promising.

But what are the facts?

Bush and Cheney are clearly guilty of numerous impeachable offenses. They have repeatedly violated the Constitution. They have transgressed national and international law. They have lied to the American people time after time. Their conduct and their barbaric policies have reduced our beloved country to a historic low in the eyes of people around the world. These are truly “high crimes and misdemeanors,” to use the constitutional standard.

From the beginning, the Bush-Cheney team’s assumption of power was the product of questionable elections that probably should have been officially challenged — perhaps even by a congressional investigation.

In a more fundamental sense, American democracy has been derailed throughout the Bush-Cheney regime. The dominant commitment of the administration has been a murderous, illegal, nonsensical war against Iraq. That irresponsible venture has killed almost 4,000 Americans, left many times that number mentally or physically crippled, claimed the lives of an estimated 600,000 Iraqis (according to a careful October 2006 study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) and laid waste their country. The financial cost to the United States is now $250 million a day and is expected to exceed a total of $1 trillion, most of which we have borrowed from the Chinese and others as our national debt has now climbed above $9 trillion — by far the highest in our national history.

All of this has been done without the declaration of war from Congress that the Constitution clearly requires, in defiance of the U.N. Charter and in violation of international law. This reckless disregard for life and property, as well as constitutional law, has been accompanied by the abuse of prisoners, including systematic torture, in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

I have not been heavily involved in singing the praises of the Nixon administration. But the case for impeaching Bush and Cheney is far stronger than was the case against Nixon and Vice President Spiro T. Agnew after the 1972 election. The nation would be much more secure and productive under a Nixon presidency than with Bush. Indeed, has any administration in our national history been so damaging as the Bush-Cheney era?

How could a once-admired, great nation fall into such a quagmire of killing, immorality and lawlessness?

It happened in part because the Bush-Cheney team repeatedly deceived Congress, the press and the public into believing that Saddam Hussein had nuclear arms and other horrifying banned weapons that were an “imminent threat” to the United States. The administration also led the public to believe that Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks — another blatant falsehood. Many times in recent years, I have recalled Jefferson’s observation: “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.”

The basic strategy of the administration has been to encourage a climate of fear, letting it exploit the 2001 al-Qaeda attacks not only to justify the invasion of Iraq but also to excuse such dangerous misbehavior as the illegal tapping of our telephones by government agents. The same fear-mongering has led government spokesmen and cooperative members of the press to imply that we are at war with the entire Arab and Muslim world — more than a billion people.

Another shocking perversion has been the shipping of prisoners scooped off the streets of Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other countries without benefit of our time-tested laws of habeas corpus.

Although the president was advised by the intelligence agencies last August that Iran had no program to develop nuclear weapons, he continued to lie to the country and the world. This is the same strategy of deception that brought us into war in the Arabian Desert and could lead us into an unjustified invasion of Iran. I can say with some professional knowledge and experience that if Bush invades yet another Muslim oil state, it would mark the end of U.S. influence in the crucial Middle East for decades.

Ironically, while Bush and Cheney made counterterrorism the battle cry of their administration, their policies — especially the war in Iraq — have increased the terrorist threat and reduced the security of the United States. Consider the difference between the policies of the first President Bush and those of his son. When the Iraqi army marched into Kuwait in August 1990, President George H.W. Bush gathered the support of the entire world, including the United Nations, the European Union and most of the Arab League, to quickly expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait. The Saudis and Japanese paid most of the cost. Instead of getting bogged down in a costly occupation, the administration established a policy of containing the Baathist regime with international arms inspectors, no-fly zones and economic sanctions. Iraq was left as a stable country with little or no capacity to threaten others.

Today, after five years of clumsy, mistaken policies and U.S. military occupation, Iraq has become a breeding ground of terrorism and bloody civil strife. It is no secret that former president Bush, his secretary of state, James A. Baker III, and his national security adviser, Gen. Brent Scowcroft, all opposed the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq.

In addition to the shocking breakdown of presidential legal and moral responsibility, there is the scandalous neglect and mishandling of the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe. The veteran CNN commentator Jack Cafferty condenses it to a sentence: “I have never ever seen anything as badly bungled and poorly handled as this situation in New Orleans.” Any impeachment proceeding must include a careful and critical look at the collapse of presidential leadership in response to perhaps the worst natural disaster in U.S. history.

Impeachment is unlikely, of course. But we must still urge Congress to act. Impeachment, quite simply, is the procedure written into the Constitution to deal with presidents who violate the Constitution and the laws of the land. It is also a way to signal to the American people and the world that some of us feel strongly enough about the present drift of our country to support the impeachment of the false prophets who have led us astray. This, I believe, is the rightful course for an American patriot.

As former representative Elizabeth Holtzman, who played a key role in the Nixon impeachment proceedings, wrote two years ago, “it wasn’t until the most recent revelations that President Bush directed the wiretapping of hundreds, possibly thousands, of Americans, in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) — and argued that, as Commander in Chief, he had the right in the interests of national security to override our country’s laws — that I felt the same sinking feeling in my stomach as I did during Watergate. . . . A President, any President, who maintains that he is above the law — and repeatedly violates the law — thereby commits high crimes and misdemeanors.”

I believe we have a chance to heal the wounds the nation has suffered in the opening decade of the 21st century. This recovery may take a generation and will depend on the election of a series of rational presidents and Congresses. At age 85, I won’t be around to witness the completion of the difficult rebuilding of our sorely damaged country, but I’d like to hold on long enough to see the healing begin.

There has never been a day in my adult life when I would not have sacrificed that life to save the United States from genuine danger, such as the ones we faced when I served as a bomber pilot in World War II. We must be a great nation because from time to time, we make gigantic blunders, but so far, we have survived and recovered.

Over the Holidays…

My apologies for the lack of posts the last couple weeks.  It’s been a hectic holiday season of returning home, battling sickness, and seeing friends and family.  I’ll try to post more often.

In case you missed them, here are a couple stories that occurred over the holidays:

  • Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on December 27th. Riots have erupted across the country as Pakistan’s political future remains unclear. President Pervez Musharraf has blamed Islamic militants for carrying out the assassination, but Bhutto associates have accused Musharraf of having a role, claiming his government did not do enough to provide for her security.
  • Violence has erupted in Kenya after a disputed election that gave Kenyan president Kibaki a second term. Over 300 civilians have been killed by police in what is said to be the worst outbreak of violence in Kenya since 1982.
  • The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) last week voted three-to-two to approve a measure that would increase media consolidation. The new rule lifts a 30-year-old ban on companies seeking to own both a newspaper and television or radio station in the same city.
  • The New Orleans City Council voted unanimously to demolish of 4,500 units of public housing. Under the plan, the city’s four largest public housing developments will be replaced with mixed-income housing. Hundreds of people were turned away from the City Council meeting as police shot protesters with pepper spray and tasers.
  • And of course, the Iowa Caucus happens tonight, January 3rd. Tomorrow, a few choice candidates in the 2008 election will gain some new momentum.

Happy New Year everyone! 2008 is sure going to be an interesting one.

Mid-week Roundup 12/12

Losing our minds over Illegal Immigration

NAFTA has the power to trump state laws!

The Historical Truth of Our Relations with Iran

Report shows Bush manipulated climate science, suppressed scientists.

Nigeria battles Pfizer in court for conducting an illegal, unauthorized drug trial on Nigerian children.

Bad News for Prescription Drugs: pharmaceutical sales reps may be given licenses.

Murdoch Ready to Makeover the Wall Street Journal

Did you know Venezuela is a Constiutional Democracy?

Taiwan and mainland China: conflicting amnesiacs

New Orleans Homes to be Demolished (with video)

Why Won’t the Candidates talk about Americans’ Economic Pain?

Nuclear Disarmament and Peace on Earth…what’s that?

A Decent Article by Sean Penn calling on Americans to do what’s right

Meet a Millionaire with a Lower Tax Rate than You! (with video)