Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Springtime for Dubya

You may be of the same mind as I am regarding tonight's State of the Union speech. It has a dead-skunk-in-the-road factor. It's going to be ugly to look at, but so, so hard to look away from.

As of January 31st in the Year of our Lord 2006, the mask has come off of the Bush presidency. No more pretence about compassionate conservatism. No more hokum about uniting-not-dividing. This administration is about absolute power, Machiavellian power that exists for its own purpose and an end for which all means are justified.

The true state of our Union is a sad one. America has become a theocratic military empire.

As of this morning, with the confirmation of Sam Alito to the Supreme Court, we are a one party political system, and that party exists for the sole purpose of supporting the emperor. If the legislature accidentally passes a law the emperor doesn't like, the emperor can simply interpret it in a way that suits him, and the Supreme Court will affirm the emperor's constitutional right to do that as a wartime commander in chief.

The emperor will always be a wartime commander in chief because we are in a war against terrorism, and there will always be terrorism, so we will always be at war against it.

War is the core tenet of all American foreign and domestic policy. Like nineteenth century Prussia, we have become a country that exists to support its military force. We spend as much on the Department of Defense as the military spending of the rest of the world combined. That doesn't even include what we spend on homeland security. Our economy is dependent on a half trillion dollar a year dump into the military industrial complex. Our civilian service secretaries, who control weapon systems acquisitions, are former senior executives of the country's largest defense contractors and will ensure that we never kick our fiscal addiction to the machinery of war. Our diplomacy, such as it is, merely exists to deliver official threats of military action.

All federal social and health services are being outsourced to government sanctioned religious organizations. It won't be long before the faith based mob runs all secular charities out of business, and the day is coming when you'll have to go through an ordained minister to get so much as a freaking flu shot.

We'll maintain some vestiges of representative government. You'll still get to vote, for example. But if you don't vote for whomever your minister tells you to vote for, you'll burn in hell. And your minister is going to tell you to vote for the folks who are pouring federal tax dollars into his collection plate, and those folks will all be personal friends of the emperor.

Scoff all you like, but don't say I didn't tell you.

Monday, January 30, 2006

They Tried to Stop the Power Grab

Newsweek's Daniel Klaidman, Stuart Taylor Jr. and Evan Thomas tell the story of a "Palace Revolt."
They were loyal conservatives, and Bush appointees. They fought a quiet battle to rein in the president's power in the war on terror. And they paid a price for it.

This excellent story explores the administration lawyers who tried to stand up to John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, and David Addington.

Highly recommended reading.

The Bushketeers

From NYT's Steven R. Weisman:

Rice Admits U.S. Underestimated Hamas Strength
LONDON, Jan. 29 — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged Sunday that the United States had failed to understand the depth of hostility among Palestinians toward their longtime leaders. The hostility led to an election victory by the militant group Hamas that has reduced to tatters crucial assumptions underlying American policies and hopes in the Middle East.

"I've asked why nobody saw it coming," Ms. Rice said, speaking of her own staff. "It does say something about us not having a good enough pulse."

A good enough pulse. Brother. It helps if you know where to look for one, Condi.

This underestimating Hamas comes as no surprise to me whatsoever. The Bush administration has gotten everything wrong from day one. Either that or they've screwed up everything on purpose, a possibility that I'm not entirely prepared to dismiss.

#

Speaking of screw ups:

Right wing Polly Cracker Mary Matlin was on Imus this morning, braying about celebrating the "fifth year of the economic recovery." Wow. Man. Wow. You just can't pile it any higher that that. It's not humanly possible.

Here's the part that gets me about Matlin and neo-wonks like her. She's way too smart not to know how full of it she is, in which case she knows good and well how much she's lying. You think she kisses her children out the other side of her mouth?

#

Even Screwier…

This from NYT's Eric Lichtman:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 — As Hurricane Katrina passed across the Gulf Coast last August, the federal Interior Department offered hundreds of trucks and flat-bottomed boats, thousands of law enforcement officers and even 11 aircraft to help with the rescue effort. But much of the equipment and personnel were not used as part of the federal response, or at least not used effectively, according to an account prepared by department officials.

[…]

The Interior Department was not the only government agency to offer assistance that was not used, or at least not used effectively. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, said in September that Amtrak had offered, before the storm, to carry residents out, but that its train had left nearly empty. New Mexico offered National Guard troops, but for days officials waited for formal approval to use them.

Funny how when it comes to spying on Americans, Mister Bush has absolute powers, but when it comes to disaster relief, he doesn't.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Home Again

Today was my first full day at home after the Carolina road trip.

On Press the Meat this morning, Bill Frist said Mr. Bush didn't need the FISA bill to spy on Americans. He's authorized to do it under the Constitution and the AUMF. I wonder if that's the official White House line now or if Frist fell off the playbook, and isn't going to have to go to for a session in the woodshed with Karl and 'Berto.

Frist also said that administration and NSA lawyers said the domestic surveillance was okay.

But your honor, my lawyer gave me permission to rob that liquor store!

#

While I was away...


According to Robert Burns, one of my favorite military writers, a recent study says that the Army has reached the breaking point.

Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer who wrote the report under a Pentagon contract, concluded that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency. He also suggested that the Pentagon's decision, announced in December, to begin reducing the force in Iraq this year was driven in part by a realization that the Army was overextended.


[...]


He wrote that the Army is "in a race against time" to adjust to the demands of war "or risk `breaking' the force in the form of a catastrophic decline" in recruitment and re-enlistment.


Of course, Donald Rumsfeld isn't buying any of this Henny Penny talk.

Rumsfeld has argued that the experience of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan has made the Army stronger, not weaker.


"The Army is probably as strong and capable as it ever has been in the history of this country," he said in an appearance at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington on Dec. 5. "They are more experienced, more capable, better equipped than ever before."



This is the same Donald Rumsfeld who said we sent enough troops to Iraq in the beginning and denied there was an insurgency going on in that country until about ten months into it.  


Krepinevich is a military scholar and analyst whose views I often disagree with, but on the assessment of the state of the U.S. Army, I'm a sight more inclined to agree with him than I am to agree with Rummy.


One school of thought says that Rummy isn't worried about the Army falling apart because that's precisely what he wants it to do.  One of his explicit objectives from the outset of his tenure as Bush's SecDef was to transform the service into a lighter, faster force over the objections of many senior Army generals.  He got rid of those generals, and now he's grinding the Army down to parade rest.  He may figure that it's easier to build a new Army from scratch than to try to change the old one.  Of course, building a new Army from the ground up will require a big increase in defense spending, but that too was one of Rumsfeld's prime objectives as a member of the Project for a New American Century in the 90s.  


So whether he's done all this on purpose or not, things are working out the way he wanted them to.  


#


And I see that Hamas was the big winner in the Palestinian elections.  Boy, there's a surprise.  We covered this ground last September in an ePluribus article called "Wars and Empires."

The "democratic domino effect" [of the Iraq war] on the rest of the Middle East has transformed terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas into legitimate, popularly elected political parties.


Robert Kagan, the prominent neoconservative, said in an NPR interview that political victories for terrorist organizations could turn out to be a good thing, that they'll have to change themselves in order to govern.  I kind of hope Kagan is right, but I'm not real confident about any of his ideas and opinions.  Bob Kagan, you may recall, was one of the head cheerleaders of the Iraq invasion, and we all know how that turned out.  


Kagan is one of the most influential foreign policy thinkers in America today, which should give you an idea of just how horribly screwed up our foreign policy is.  In terms of international relations, we'd be far better off to do nothing than to listen to the likes of Robert Kagan.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Warrant Officer Wins!

The Army interrogator originally charged with murder over the death of an Iraqi general and found guilty of negligent homicide and dereliction of duty will face no jail time. A military jury deemed that he be reprimanded and pay a $6,000 fine.


According to AP, the jury sentence drew applause from soldiers.

David Danzig of Human Rights First, however, thought the sentence was too light.

"My concern is that it suggests the United States doesn't take these kinds of
issues seriously. There's no indication anything more will be done to account
for the death of this detainee who was in U.S. custody."

Danzig doesn't get it. The interogator, an Warrant Officer, was just another pawn in the torture game. The real culprits, including Donald Rumsfeld and Major General Geoffrey Miller, have yet to be charged with anything.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Remote War Powers

Reposting a few things while I'm still on the road in the Carolinas. Since presidential powers are still a hot button item, let me invite you to revisit "Smoke, Mirrors and War Powers" from December 2005 at ePluribus Media Journal.

The War on Errorism

Georgia 10 at dKos gives us the real score in Mister Bush's Global War of Errors.

More Notes from the Road

In light of the recent release of the documentary film Why We Fight and the resurfacing of the Body Armor scandal in the mainstream media, I invite your attention to my article from last October titled "In an Arms Race with Ourselves."

Read it at ePluribus Media Journal.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Roadtrip Fly By

Lurch at Main and Central points out this piece on the Body Armor Scandal from the NYT (click on the title of this article).

It appears that Armor Point CEO David H. Brooks had a little run in with the Securities Exchange Commission a few years back.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Maybe Not What It Seems

A quick post before I hit the road.

I always say you should never assume you can read the opponent's mind, and you can never be sure how the signals you're sending are being perceived by the target. Nonetheless, I'd say bin Laden's latest speech is a classic exercise in reverse psychology.

Consider the possibility that the best way to keep bin Laden's followers whipped up is for us to stay in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also imagine, for a moment, that bin Laden knows nothing will draw the desired reaction from Bush and his followers better than a "double dog dare ya!"

Then postulate that Americans who want the U.S. out of Iraq aren't bin Laden's real target audience.

#
My message to you is about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how to end them. I did not intend to speak to you about this because this issue has already been decided. Only metal breaks metal, and our situation, thank God, is only getting better and better, while your situation is the opposite of that.

But I plan to speak about the repeated errors your President Bush has committed in comments on the results of your polls that show an overwhelming majority of you want the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. But he (Bush) has opposed this wish and said that withdrawing troops sends the wrong message to opponents, that it is better to fight them (bin Laden's followers) on their land than their fighting us (Americans) on our land.

I can reply to these errors by saying that war in Iraq is raging with no let-up, and operations in Afghanistan are escalating in our favor, thank God, and Pentagon figures show the number of your dead and wounded is increasing not to mention the massive material losses, the destruction of the soldiers' morale there and the rise in cases of suicide among them. So you can imagine the state of psychological breakdown that afflicts a soldier as he gathers the remains of his colleagues after they stepped on land mines that tore them apart. After this situation the soldier is caught between two hard options. He either refuses to leave his military camp on patrols and is therefore dogged by ruthless punishments enacted by the Vietnam Butcher (U.S. army) or he gets destroyed by the mines. This puts him under psychological pressure, fear and humiliation while his nation is ignorant of that (what is going on). The soldier has no solution except to commit suicide. That is a strong message to you, written by his soul, blood and pain, to save what can be saved from this hell. The solution is in your hands if you care about them (the soldiers).

The news of our brother mujahideen (holy warriors) is different from what the Pentagon publishes. They (the news of mujahideen) and what the media report is the truth of what is happening on the ground. And what deepens the doubt over the White House's information is the fact that it targets the media reporting the truth from the ground. And it has appeared lately, supported by documents, that the butcher of freedom in the world (Bush) had decided to bomb the headquarters of the Al-Jazeera in Qatar after bombing its offices in Kabul and Baghdad.

On another issue, jihad (holy war) is ongoing, thank God, despite all the oppressive measures adopted by the U.S Army and its agents (which is) to a point where there is no difference between this criminality and Saddam's criminality, as it has reached the degree of raping women and taking them as hostages instead of their husbands.

As for torturing men, they have used burning chemical acids and drills on their joints. And when they give up on (interrogating) them, they sometimes use the drills on their heads until they die. Read, if you will, the reports of the horrors in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prisons.

And I say that, despite all the barbaric methods, they have not broken the fierceness of the resistance. The mujahideen, thank God, are increasing in number and strength — so much so that reports point to the ultimate failure and defeat of the unlucky quartet of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz. Declaring this defeat is just a matter of time, depending partly on how much the American people know of the size of this tragedy. The sensible people realize that Bush does not have a plan to make his alleged victory in Iraq come true.

And if you compare the small number of dead on the day that Bush announced the end of major operations in that fake, ridiculous show aboard the aircraft carrier with the tenfold number of dead and wounded who were killed in the smaller operations, you would know the truth of what I say. This is that Bush and his administration do not have the will or the ability to get out of Iraq for their own private, suspect reasons.

And so to return to the issue, I say that results of polls please those who are sensible, and Bush's opposition to them is a mistake. The reality shows that the war against America and its allies has not been limited to Iraq as he (Bush) claims. Iraq has become a point of attraction and restorer of (our) energies. At the same time, the mujahideen (holy warriors), with God's grace, have managed repeatedly to penetrate all security measures adopted by the unjust allied countries. The proof of that is the explosions you have seen in the capitals of the European nations who are in this aggressive coalition. The delay in similar operations happening in America has not been because of failure to break through your security measures. The operations are under preparation and you will see them in your homes the minute they are through (with preparations), with God's permission.

Based on what has been said, this shows the errors of Bush's statement — the one that slipped from him — which is at the heart of polls calling for withdrawing the troops. It is better that we (Americans) don't fight Muslims on their lands and that they don't fight us on ours.

We don't mind offering you a long-term truce on fair conditions that we adhere to. We are a nation that God has forbidden to lie and cheat. So both sides can enjoy security and stability under this truce so we can build Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been destroyed in this war. There is no shame in this solution, which prevents the wasting of billions of dollars that have gone to those with influence and merchants of war in America who have supported Bush's election campaign with billions of dollars — which lets us understand the insistence by Bush and his gang to carry on with war.

If you (Americans) are sincere in your desire for peace and security, we have answered you. And if Bush decides to carry on with his lies and oppression, then it would be useful for you to read the book "Rogue State," which states in its introduction: "If I were president, I would stop the attacks on the United States: First I would give an apology to all the widows and orphans and those who were tortured. Then I would announce that American interference in the nations of the world has ended once and for all."

Finally, I say that war will go either in our favor or yours. If it is the former, it means your loss and your shame forever, and it is headed in this course. If it is the latter, read history! We are people who do not stand for injustice and we will seek revenge all our lives. The nights and days will not pass without us taking vengeance like on Sept. 11, God permitting. Your minds will be troubled and your lives embittered. As for us, we have nothing to lose. A swimmer in the ocean does not fear the rain. You have occupied our lands, offended our honor and dignity and let out our blood and stolen our money and destroyed our houses and played with our security and we will give you the same treatment.

You have tried to prevent us from leading a dignified life, but you will not be able to prevent us from a dignified death. Failing to carry out jihad, which is called for in our religion, is a sin. The best death to us is under the shadows of swords. Don't let your strength and modern arms fool you. They win a few battles but lose the war. Patience and steadfastness are much better. We were patient in fighting the Soviet Union with simple weapons for 10 years and we bled their economy and now they are nothing.

In that there is a lesson for you.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Southbound

Headed down to the land of Lindsey Graham for a few days of business and family get together. Hope to get a chance to interview Max Cleland of Georgia over the weekend. I'll have plenty to report on that if it comes to pass.

More to come on P&S early next week!

Jeff

Let Them Eat Yellowcake

NYT's Eric Lichtblau on Nigergate:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 - A high-level intelligence assessment by the Bush administration concluded in early 2002 that the sale of uranium from Niger to Iraq was "unlikely" because of a host of economic, diplomatic and logistical obstacles, according to a secret memo that was recently declassified by the State Department.

Among other problems that made such a sale improbable, the assessment by the State Department's intelligence analysts concluded, was that it would have required Niger to send "25 hard-to-conceal 10-ton tractor-trailers" filled with uranium across 1,000 miles and at least one international border.

Yeah, that would probably be a dead giveaway. Even the CIA couldn’t miss a thing like that.
The analysts' doubts were registered nearly a year before President Bush, in what became known as the infamous "16 words" in his 2003 State of the Union address, said that Saddam Hussein had sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

Hmm. Who was the State Department's guy in charge of arms control at the time? Hey, it was John Bolton, wasn't it? You wonder how Bolton could have gone a whole year without telling anyone at the White House about those analysts' doubts. Maybe it slipped his mind. Or maybe those analysts never told him about it.

And I think most of us still remember about this:
In early 2002, the Central Intelligence Agency sent the former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV to Niger to investigate possible attempts to sell uranium to Iraq. The next year, after Mr. Wilson became a vocal critic of the Bush administration's Iraqi intelligence, the identity of his wife, Valerie Wilson, a C.I.A. officer who suggested him for the Niger trip, was made public. The investigation into the leak led to criminal charges in October against Mr. Libby, who is accused of misleading investigators and a grand jury.

According to Lichtblau, General Carlton W. Fulford Jr., a four-star, also went to Niger to investigate the uranium purchase claims. He too had doubts that a sale was likely to occur. But, Lichtblau says, the State Department memo contained the most comprehensive argument that the uranium sale intelligence was false.

Who read it?
The memo, dated March 4, 2002, was distributed at senior levels by the office of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and by the Defense Intelligence Agency.
A Bush administration official, who requested anonymity because the issue involved partly classified documents, would not say whether President Bush had seen the State Department's memo before his State of the Union address on Jan. 28, 2003.

It seems as though everybody knew the uranium sale intelligence was bogus except Mr. Bush.

How could that have happened?

Point Blank War Profits

“I’ve told many family I’ve met with, ‘We’re doing everything we possibly can to protect your loved ones.’”

-- George W. Bush, December 2004

The history of the Point Blank Interceptor OTV body armor vest and the company that manufactures it is a shameful tale of the state of war profiteering in the Rumsfeld age.

The Interceptor OTV is the body armor jacket recently revealed by Defense Watch to have been identified by a U.S. Marine Corps forensics report as being responsible for the deaths of "as many as 42 percent of Marines who died from isolated torso injuries." The Point Blank vest is not only inferior in design--it leaves the shoulders and upper arms unprotected--it was fielded despite that fact that it did not pass tests of its designed capabilities.

As The Army Times reported, senior officers in the Marine Corps Systems Command knew that and bought and fielded the Point Blank body armor anyway, without telling commanders in the field about the vests' shortcomings.

And the company that manufactured the vests made a whole lot of money.

#

In September of 2005 Trevor Aaronson of the Broward-Palm Beach New Times ran a comprehensive report on the company that produced the armor.
Point Blank…was once a struggling, New York-based manufacturer teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. In 1995, another body-armor producer, DHB Industries, rescued the company from insolvency and moved its operation to a factory in Oakland Park.

[…]

In 1999, DHB Industries, whose Point Blank division accounts for most of its revenue, lost $22.3 million on $35.1 million in revenue. The next year, the company eked out a $5.7 million profit on $70 million in sales. Then came 9/11, and DHB/Point Blank's profits soared. In 2001 and 2002, thanks to several multimillion-dollar contracts from the Department of Defense, which was reacting to a well-publicized shortage of body armor in the military, the company earned $10.1 million and $16 million, respectively, on a combined $228.3 million in revenue.

"We believe the uptick in state, federal, and military spending on body armor is still in the early stages," CEO Brooks told investors on August 6, 2002. "The war on terrorism and a heightened focus on homeland security bode well for the business prospects at DHB."

One day later, Point Blank received yet another order from the military. This one, worth $9.2 million, required the company to manufacture body armor to be used by Army engineers charged with disposing of landmines.
But around the same time, a heated labor dispute exposed a policy at Point Blank that apparently put profits before quality.

Allegations that Point Blank Body Armor has sold defective or improperly sized body armor first came in 2002.

Company line employees were paid at or close to minimum wage and suffered from miserable working conditions. They staged a demonstration and demanded the right to form a union under the UNITE (Union of Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees) umbrella.

That led to three lawsuits filed in local and federal courts. In one suit, Point Blank alleged that UNITE officials had falsely accused the company of quality assurance negligence. In response, UNITE submitted 150 pages of documentation.

One of those documents described an April 2002 evaluation by the New York Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau of 1,000 body armor vests that Point Blank had sold to the New York Police Department. 900--90 percent--failed the tests the were submitted to. Some vests were improperly sized, which would have left officers' abdomens exposed. Others failed to stop bullets they were designed to protect against.

Similar documented complaints of improper sizing were reported by U.S. military troops in Afghanistan.

One Point Blank quality control worker testified that he was dismissed from his quality control job because he was finding too many quality control problems.


Yet another employee stated that her whole job consisted of changing the size labels to match the requirements of the batch order. "Sometimes I erase the old size with alcohol, and I use a stamp to place a new size on the vest," she said.

#

In a separate court case, the Southern States Police Benevolent Association (SSPBA) filed a class action lawsuit against Point Blank in April of 2005, claiming that Point Blank knew it was selling defective body armor.

#

In 2004, DHB industries Point Blank Body Armor chairman David H. Brooks earned $70 million plus $180 million in company stock sales.

In December of 2005, Brooks reportedly spent $10 million on his daughter's bat mitzvah party. Entertainment was provided by Tom Petty, Aerosmith, and 50 Cent.

#

From the Broward-Palm Beach New Times:
On Point Blank's catalogs and website, Old Glory is draped behind soldiers and the company's trademark: "Protecting America's Heroes." At the company headquarters in Pompano Beach, three flagpoles stand high above a plaque that reads: "These flagpoles erected and dedicated to the memory of America's fallen heroes by Point Blank Body Armor, Inc."

Support the troops.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Point Blank Rage: the Body Armor Scandal

Nathaniel Helms of Soldiers for the Truth brings us this bit of information concerning the ongoing body armor scandal.
Two deploying soldiers and a concerned mother reported Friday afternoon that the U.S. Army appears to be singling out soldiers who have purchased Pinnacle's Dragon Skin Body Armor for special treatment. The soldiers, who are currently staging for combat operations, reported that their commander told them if they were wearing Pinnacle Dragon Skin and were killed their beneficiaries might not receive the death benefits from their $400,000 SGLI life insurance policies. The soldiers were told to leave their privately purchased body armor at home or face the possibility of both losing their life insurance benefit and facing disciplinary action, they said.

Not surprisingly, these two soldiers asked remain anonymous for fear of reprisals from their superiors in the chain of command.

On Saturday, another soldier affected by the ban told Helms that U.S. Special Operations Command had issued a directive banning "all" commercially available armor.
The soldier reiterated Friday's reports that any soldier who refused to comply with the order and was subsequently killed in action "could" be denied the $400,000 death benefit provided by their SGLI life insurance policy as well as face disciplinary action.

At issue is the inferiority of standard military issue Interceptor OTV vests manufactured by Point Blank Body Armor to Dragon Skin and other commercially available body armor.
Last week DefenseWatch released a secret Marine Corps report that determined that 80% of the 401 Marines killed in Iraq between April 2004 and June 2005 might have been saved if the Interceptor OTV body armor they were wearing was more effective. The Army has declined to comment on the report because doing so could aid the enemy, an Army spokesman has repeatedly said. [Italics added.]

It sounds like this Army spokesman has picked up on the standard Rumsfeld Pentagon double talk. A casual observer might question whether sending soldiers into battle with inferior armor isn't the thing that aids the enemy, and whether talking about the problem might not actually fix it and defeat the enemy.

Of course, we've become so used to denial from the Pentagon and the administration's supporters we don't expect honesty.

According to Liz Sidoti of the Associated Press, Senator John Warner R-Va claims that he's satisfied the military is ensuring the troops have adequate body armor. "Everything that can be done, is being done," he says.

Marine Major General William Cato says, "We're fielding the best body armor and equipment available, we think, in the world today, and as we have the opportunity to upgrade the equipment, we do that."

And of course, renowned military affairs expert Michelle Malkin says the body armor situation is totally hunky dory, so I guess that's the last word on that.

The Bomb That Keeps On Ticking

Ms. Malkin also quotes General Cato as saying, "There is nothing more important to the Marine Corps than protecting Marines."

That's big pill to swallow in light of an article filed last May by Christian Lowe of the Army Times.

Lowe reported that in July of 2004…
The Marine Corps issued to nearly 10,000 troops body armor that government experts urged the Corps to reject after tests revealed critical, life-threatening flaws in the vests.

In all, the Marine Corps accepted about 19,000 Interceptor outer tactical vests from Point Blank Body Armor Inc. that failed government tests due to “multiple complete penetrations” of 9mm pistol rounds, failing scores on other ballistic or quality-assurance tests, or a combination of the two.

The ballistics expert who initially rejected the vests was James MacKiewicz, who works at the Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass. MacKiewicz has 18 years of experience with ballistics and armor systems.

The Defense Contract Management Agency concurred with Mackiewicz's assessment and recommended the vests be rejected.

But the Marine Corps program manager in charge of acquiring and fielding the vests overrode those recommendations. Lieutanant Colonel Gabriel Patricio and Sandra Hatfield, Point Blank's chief operating officer. Over the course of ten months, Patricio waived and accepted over 20 lots of tactical vests that had not passed government tests.

Patricio did not do this solely on his own authority. The waivers were approved by none other that Major General William Cato. In a written memo, he said…
I concurred with the program manager’s decision to waive the 11 lots in order to rapidly replace the PASGT flaks with a superior, advanced body-armor system. Due to the massive deployment associated with [Operation Iraqi Freedom], this was considered to be an urgent need, and was deemed to be in the best interest of deployed Marines at that time.

One might be tempted to forgive Patricio and Cato for sending Marines rejected modern body armor to replace Vietnam era flak jackets as a choice of the lesser of two evils. However, any sympathy they may warrant has to be tempered with the fact that field commanders were not informed about the flaws in the Interceptor vests.

The Marine Corps eventually recalled over 5,000 of the flawed vests, but only under pressure of imminent publication of an eight-month investigation on the story by the Marine Corps Times.

As author Lowe describes at length, the history of acquisition horseplay and finger pointing between Point Blank and the government goes back to 2003, when ballistics inspector MacKiewicz first drafted memos warning of a problem with the Point Blank's vests. But questions about Point Blank's product had arisen elsewhere a year earlier.

Trevor Aaronsen of the Broward-Palm Beach New Times reveals that in 2002, 900 out of 1,000 Point Blank vests sold to the New York Police Department were found to be defective by New York Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau.

But even more alarming, in Lowe's view, were the indications that the company knew it was shipping defective products.

Next: The War Profits of Point Blank CEO David H. Brooks

Counterproductive Counterterrorism

The New York Times brings us this on the NSA domestic spying.
In the anxious months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the National Security Agency began sending a steady stream of telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and names to the F.B.I. in search of terrorists. The stream soon became a flood, requiring hundreds of agents to check out thousands of tips a month.

But virtually all of them, current and former officials say, led to dead ends or innocent Americans.

[…]

As the bureau was running down those leads, its director, Robert S. Mueller III, raised concerns about the legal rationale for a program of eavesdropping without warrants, one government official said. Mr. Mueller asked senior administration officials about "whether the program had a proper legal foundation," but deferred to Justice Department legal opinions, the official said.

President Bush has characterized the eavesdropping program as a "vital tool" against terrorism; Vice President Dick Cheney has said it has saved "thousands of lives."

But the results of the program look very different to some officials charged with tracking terrorism in the United States. More than a dozen current and former law enforcement and counterterrorism officials, including some in the small circle who knew of the secret program and how it played out at the F.B.I., said the torrent of tips led them to few potential terrorists inside the country they did not know of from other sources and diverted agents from counterterrorism work they viewed as more productive.

The administration breaks laws and spends money it doesn’t have to conduct counterproductive counterterrorism. And if you criticize them for it you're aiding the enemy. Ain't that grand?

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush says we're going to defeat this notion that America is an internationally bull by getting out in the world and letting them see what we're about. "Let 'em see first hand."

Um, Mr. Bush, we are out in the world, and they are seeing us first hand.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Neostooges

Can anyone remember when exactly MSNBC's Dan Abrams became an administration echo chamberlain? His pro-Alito stances during the confirmation hearings were so blatant as to be embarrassing. And have you seen him, the past few weeks, interviewing these eighteen year old Young Republican lawyers who make off-the-wall claims about Mister Bush's "plenary" constitutional powers and not challenge a single thing they say?

It's hard to say what the Rovewellians have on Dan Abrams, but it's clear that he's rolled over for them.

The Ex Post Facto Constitution

The Bush administration's latest lollapalooza is still flying under the radar.

Last week, it asked the Supreme Court to make Lindsey Graham's bill that suspends Guantanamo detainees' right to habeas corpus appeals retroactive. This would effectively dismiss more than 180 pending petitions.

It would also turn the habeas bill into something the United States Constitution expressly forbids: an ex post facto law.

Dictionary.com defines "ex post facto" as "Formulated, enacted, or operating retroactively. Used especially of a law."

So how Alberto Gonzales will argue that a retroactive habeas bill would not be an ex post facto law is something of a mystery. Maybe he'll say that this ex post facto law isn't the kind of ex post facto law the Constitution talks about because the Constitution was written before 9/11/2001, and 9/11 changed everything.

Or some incredible Orwellian rot like that.

#

I don't know why Gonzales wastes his time with these nickel and dime assaults on the Constitution. He should just sit down and write a new one that says exactly what his boss wants it to say. It would read something like this…

Legislative power will move to the executive branch, but there will still be a Congress. That way, the people can still vote for their own congressional representatives, and even though their representatives can't vote on anything themselves, the people will still be represented because they got to elect their representatives. Plus, whenever anything goes wrong, everybody can blame it on Congress.

Gonzales will write all the laws, but the Mr. Bush must approve them. And Gonzales will not write any laws that Mr. Bush hasn't already approved, so there will still be checks and balances.

The new Constitution will drastically streamline the Executive and Judicial branches. The courts will come under direct control of the Gonzales Justice Department, and Homeland Security will fold into the Department of Defense. All other cabinet functions will be outsourced to subsidiaries of Halliburton.

There will be no enumerated presidential war powers because that might imply that there are limits to Mr. Bush's war powers, which there won't be. Mr. Bush will have sole authority to declare peace. But don't worry; he'll never do that.

The Bill of Rights will be replaced by the Bill of Goods. Americans citizens will still have rights, but if they abuse those rights by exercising them, they'll be declared enemy combatants and rendered to a third world country where they don't have any rights to abuse.

The new Constitution will be ratified two thirds of Mr. Bush's immediate family.

The most important aspect of the new Constitution is that it will be retroactive, going into effect the day before the old Constitution went into effect. Anything in the old Constitution that prohibits anything in the new Constitution won't matter because the old Constitution will be null and void before it ever existed.

And it won't matter that the new Constitution is ex post facto law because ex post facto laws are allowed in the new Constitution. In fact, they're required.

The Silence of the Sheep...

Incredible. None of the cable news networks are carrying Gore's speech.

What's up with this?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Sunday Drive By

Alternet has an interview with Noam Chomsky. Some of my favorite snippets:
The fact of the matter is that there is no War on Terror. It's a minor consideration. So invading Iraq and taking control of the world's energy resources was way more important than the threat of terror.

[…]

There is almost no serious discussion, I'm sorry to say, across the spectrum, of the question of withdrawal. The reason for that is that we are under a rigid doctrine in the West, a religious fanaticism, that says we must believe that the United States would have invaded Iraq even if its main product was lettuce and pickles, and the oil resources of the world were in Central Africa. Anyone who doesn't believe that is condemned as a conspiracy theorist, a Marxist, a madman, or something. Well, you know, if you have three gray cells functioning, you know that that's perfect nonsense. The U.S. invaded Iraq because it has enormous oil resources, mostly untapped, and it's right in the heart of the world's energy system.

[…]

Now, any discussion of withdrawal from Iraq has to at least enter the real world, meaning, at least consider these issues. Just take a look at the commentary in the United States, across the spectrum. How much discussion do you see of these issues? Well, you know, approximately zero, which means that the discussion is just on Mars. And there's a reason for it. We're not allowed to concede that our leaders have rational imperial interests. We have to assume that they're good-hearted and bumbling. But they're not.

[…]

China isn't any kind of threat. We can make it a threat. If you increase the military threats against China, then they will respond.

Like Chomski says, if you have three functioning brain cells, even if you haven't studied the key Project for the New American Century policy documents, you know darn good and well that the Bush machine invaded Iraq for the oil. Denying that truth because the head spin merchant says its unpatriotic is clear and present symptom of national insanity.

Equally insane is the administration's Sino-phobia. China has no plans to overtake the United States militarily. Nobody does. Why bother? Better to sit back and let America squander its national treasure on high dollar defense systems that have little or nothing to do with the real security threats it faces, and watch as it permanently transforms itself into a military industrial welfare state.

#

I just caught Senator Feinstein on Face the Nation referring, once again, to the President's "plenary" (absolute) powers. I wish she'd stop that. "Plenary powers" is a red herring buzz phrase cooked up by former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo. Nothing in the Constitution or the law gives a President absolute powers, wartime, peacetime, or any time. But every time someone like Feinstein barks "plenary powers" in the media, it reinforces the perception in the public subconscious that he does have absolute powers, even though that's contrary to the point they're trying to make.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Big Smear

From HuffPost:
The Huffington Post has learned the Bush administration recently asked high ranking military leaders to denounce Congressman John Murtha.

"The Huffington Post has learned" almost certainly means that one of Arianna's D.C. buddies told her that. Not exactly my idea of high journalistic integrity.

Nonetheless, the story rings true for me. Using active duty and retired military types to spread the conservative public line is nothing new. And being "asked" to do something like smear an opponent of the administration doesn't exactly amount to a direct order, but it might as well be. If you don't do what you're "asked," you can kiss your next promotion goodbye, and any lucrative job you may have had in the military industrial complex. And if that next promotion or job might have financed your kids' education and futures, well, you can kiss that goodbye too.

So if you're asked by the people in power to do something unscrupulous, you damn well better do it.

This is the State of the Union in the Year of our Lord 2005.

Weekend Drive By

Truthout reveals NSA was spying on Americans before 9/11.
On orders from Defense Department officials and President Bush, the agency kept a running list of the names of Americans in its system and made it readily available to a number of senior officials in the Bush administration, these sources said, which in essence meant the NSA was conducting a covert domestic surveillance operation in violation of the law.

We still don't know what information John Bolton was hiding, do we?

Friday, January 13, 2006

Stone, Paper, and Scissors of Power

I was heartened in a way to hear so much discussion about separation of powers among the branches of government during the Alito hearings. Some of that discussion, though, gave cause for concern about just how badly a constitutional showdown might turn out.

The Senate Judicial Committee did manage to squeeze a statement from Alito about no one, including the President, being "above or below the law." But they never quite pinned him down on the matter of whether a President can dictate his own interpretation of laws passed by Congress, as Mr. Bush did in the case of John McCain's torture amendment to the defense appropriations bill.

Arlen Specter and others seemed to be pushing for some sort of statement from Alito to the effect that the Supreme Court doesn't have authority to declare a law passed by Congress unconstitutional. One has to consider: if the Supreme Court can't check Congress from passing unconstitutional legislation, then who can? A president can veto a bill, but Congress can override that veto. Do Specter and like-minded members of the legislature believe they should be able to pass laws contrary to the Constitution without going through the process of amending the Constitution itself?

Some Committee members pressed Alito for an opinion on whether Congress can limit or change the courts' jurisdictions. Alito, correctly, I think, replied that the issue has not been decisively decided.

But let's imagine for a moment that it has been, or soon will be. What if Congress had full authority to override anything the Supreme Court decided through simple legislation or by limiting the judicial branch's jurisdiction whenever it wanted to. Let's further imagine that the Court ruled the President could interpret Congressional legislation in any manner he chose to. If those things were to happen, we would have a power structure in which no branch of government could effectively check another: stone beats scissors, scissors beat paper, paper beats stone…

If you think this scenario could never come to pass, think again. A fairly good argument says this is precisely what's happening right now.

#

The daisy chain in our current constitutional power struggle begins at the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by Congress in 2001 the week after the 9/11 attacks, which authorized Mr. Bush to…
…use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

This "specific statutory authorization" is the rubric under which the Bush administration has legally justified everything from torture to rendition to secret interrogation camps to domestic spying to holding U.S. citizens in custody without due process. Time and again, they have argued that Mr. Bush has authority to ride roughshod over the Constitution, treaties, and other laws of the land because Congress told him he could.

That's how Mr. Bush interprets the AUMF, anyway.

And wittingly or not, the Supreme Court has upheld Mr. Bush's interpretation.

In June of 2004, the majority ruled that Yaser Hamdi, a U.S. citizen detained as an enemy combatant, should be given "a meaningful opportunity to contest the factual basis for that detention before a neutral decisionmaker."

However, the decision written by Sandra Day O'Connor also affirmed that Mr. Bush's detention of Hamdi was an acceptable "exercise of the 'necessary and appropriate force' Congress has authorized the President to use."

With this statement, the Supreme Court tacitly legitimized Mr. Bush's claims of authority to interpret congressional legislation in a way that allowed him to treat the AUMF as a bill of attainder (which the Constitution clearly prohibits) and to ignore rights guaranteed to U.S. citizens under the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment.

#

Senator Lindsey Graham's (R-South Carolina) habeas corpus amendment to the defense appropriations bill provides another opportunity for cynical separation of powers manipulation. Graham's amendment denies the right of "enemy combatants" in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to file habeas petitions. This is fuzzy constitutionality at best. Section 9 of Article I allows the legislature to suspend habeas only "when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it." One has to wonder how Graham and others consider our present situation to be one of "rebellion or invasion," but for the time being we'll grant them their point.

More alarming is what the Bush administration is trying to do with it. As reported by The Observer, the administration has asked the Supreme Court to make the habeas bill retroactive. That would nullify over 200 cases in which Guantanamo prisoners already asked for court review of their detentions.

It would also amount to an ex post facto law, which, like bills of attainder, the Constitution expressly prohibits.

If the Supreme Court goes along with the latest Bush administration stratagem, mark that day on your calendar. It will become the official anniversary of America's transition from a constitutional republic to a militaristic dictatorship.

And your great-great grandchildren will know it as "Patriot Day."

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Smoking Letter?

From the Kennedy for Senate staff, here's the letter Kennedy sent to Arlen Specter back in December of 2005 that Specter says he never received. Based on the info Kennedy provides, one can see why he's concerned about Alito's membership in "Concerned Alumni of Princeton."
December 22, 2005

The Honorable Arlen Specter
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Mr. Chairman:

As you know, when Judge Samuel Alito applied for his job in the Office of Legal Counsel in the Meese Justice Department in November 1985, he submitted a list of his memberships and other activities to impress Attorney General Meese and Assistant Attorney General Charles Cooper with his enthusiastic “philosophical commitment” to their particular constitutional, legal, and political point of view.

Among the organizations he listed was “Concerned Alumni of Princeton” (CAP), an organization created in 1972, the year Judge Alito graduated. The organization was described in the press at the time and in its own literature as opposed to the increasing number of women, African Americans and Hispanics at the university. The organization also published articles critical of the rights of the disabled.

Our former Senate colleague Bill Bradley, a graduate of the university in1965, initially joined the advisory board for the group’s magazine, “Prospect,” but publicly separated himself from the group in 1973, because he felt it promoted a “right wing view” rather than the “balanced view” he had been led to believe it would present. In 1975 an official report by a committee of Princeton alumni that included William Frist, now Senator Frist, concluded that CAP’s “distorted, narrow and hostile view of the University” had “misinformed and even alarmed many alumni” and “undoubtedly generated adverse national publicity.”

The heated debate in the University community and in the press continued throughout the life of the organization from 1972 through 1986. For example, Senator Bradley’s resignation letter was published in “Prospect” in September 1973, a New Yorker article covered the controversy in 1977, and the Princeton Alumni Weekly carried articles on the group as late as April and June of 1986. “Prospect” was originally mailed to CAP members and contributors, and beginning in 1974 to all graduates listed in the Alumni Directory. The Alumni Weekly was mailed to all living Princeton graduates.

It appears from recent press interviews that Judge Alito became involved with CAP through one of CAP’s founders early in CAP’s history. In spite of the prominence he gave to CAP in his 1985 application to the Justice Department and its well-known and controversial activities, Judge Alito’s participation in CAP was not disclosed in the public documents relating to his 1987 nomination as U.S. Attorney for New Jersey or his 1990 nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The subject was not discussed at his 1990 hearing. In fact, Senator Bradley, based on a recommendation Judge Alito had obtained from the judge for whom he had served as a law clerk, introduced and endorsed Judge Alito “one hundred percent” for the Third Circuit.

In view of CAP’s troubling opposition to equal educational opportunity for women, minorities, and the disabled, it is important for the Committee to learn more about Judge Alito’s involvement in this organization. However, even after his recollection was refreshed by a “document I recently reviewed” (presumably his 1985 job application to the Justice Department), Judge Alito’s response to our recent questionnaire states that he cannot remember anything about his membership in CAP beyond what is stated in that document. Unless a further reading of the many documents relating to this issue restores his memory of the matter, we are unlikely to obtain any further information from him on this potentially important subject.

Clearly, to understand fully the importance of the partial facts known from secondary sources, and to avoid the prospect of a delay in our schedule to obtain the full story, we need answers to a number of questions before our hearings:

- Was Judge Alito a member of or contributor to CAP, a participant in any of its meetings or on its mailing list, (1) in 1973, when Senator Bradley’s resignation letter was published in Prospect; (2) in 1974, when the controversy was first aired in the New York Times; (3) in 1977, when a lengthy article on CAP appeared in the New Yorker; or (4) in 1986 when the debate over CAP continued in the pages of the Alumni Weekly?

- What was the exact nature of Judge Alito’s participation in CAP and his contacts or correspondence with its officers and staff during the years 1972-87?

- Judge Alito lists other Princeton alumni activities in his 1990 and 2005 Committee forms, indicating that he has remained an active and interested alumnus throughout the relevant period. Did he ever personally express a view either publicly or privately on the CAP controversy or the positions advocated by CAP, as many alumni did?

- Was anyone connected with CAP contacted regarding Judge Alito’s involvement with CAP, either in connection with his New Jersey Bar application (1975), or in connection with his federal job applications and security clearances (1977, 1981, and 1985), his U.S. Attorney and Judicial nominations (1987, 1990), or his possible selection for the Supreme Court (2001, 2005)?

- At any time before Senator Bradley appeared before our Committee in 1990 to introduce then-U.S. Attorney Alito to the Committee and to endorse his Third Circuit nomination, did Judge Alito write, say or do anything documenting his general attention to CAP news or his specific awareness that Senator Bradley had been a public critic of CAP?

- Did Judge Alito inform Senator Bradley that he had been a participant in CAP before requesting or allowing Senator Bradley to recommend his confirmation as a judge on the Third Circuit?

- During his 1987 or 1990 confirmation processes, did Judge Alito, the Justice Department (including the FBI), or the ABA provide the Committee with any information relating to Judge Alito’s membership in CAP?

- Would Senator Bradley’s unqualified endorsement of Judge Alito for the Third Circuit have been affected if he had known of Judge Alito’s involvement in CAP and his voluntary listing of his CAP membership in support of his selection as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General, the position which put him on track toward his later judicial appointment?

Answers to a large number of these questions are likely to be found in files in the possession of the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress as part of the “Papers of William A Rusher 1940-1989.” Mr. Rusher was Publisher of the National Review and an active founder and leader of CAP. According to the Library’s Register of that collection, at least four of its boxes (142, 143, 144, 145) contain the files of “Concerned Alumni of Princeton,” including clipping files, background information, correspondence and memoranda, financial records, fund-raising material, lists of supporters, minutes of meetings, issues and other items relating to “Prospect.” Box 46 also contains materials relating to T. Harding Jones, a founder of CAP and editor of “Prospect,” and a person who reportedly involved Judge Alito in CAP. There may also be other files with records of CAP leaders who were familiar with the nominee’s role.

The Congressional Research Service has attempted to gain access to these files, following its usual policy of not disclosing its requestor, but Mr. Rusher has refused to permit access unless he is told which member(s) or committee(s) are seeking it, and unless he can control the use of the materials released.

It is likely that a formal request for access directly from you on behalf of the Committee would be received with more cooperation than the CRS has received so far, and we urge you to make such a request as soon as possible. In view of the importance of the material and its intended use as part of an official Senate inquiry, the request should be for access to the documents without any restrictions on the Committee’s use of the information, unless he is aware of specific documents in those files that merit confidential treatment for a stated reason. The request should include the specified boxes and any other boxes containing materials relating to CAP, its activities, or personnel, including “Prospect.”

Judge Alito’s assertion that he cannot recall anything about his controversial involvement in CAP, requires us to find other ways of fulfilling our constitutional responsibility to get at the facts. The Rusher papers provide a readily available means of doing so. Certainly we do not want to leave the Committee, the Senate, and the nation open to an unwelcome surprise when the papers eventually become public after Mr. Rusher’s death.

As always, we thank you for your cooperation and leadership, and your commitment to making the confirmation process as thorough as possible.

Sincerely,

Edward M. Kennedy

Arguably, the transmission of this letter through the Internet within moments of Senator Kennedy mentioning it on live television indicates that a stratagem was in place, but stratagems are part and parcel of politics. And the presence of politics in a judicial hearing doesn’t make the concerns expressed by Kennedy any less valid or crucial.

Alito is up for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in our land, and if he was a member of a misogynistic, racially biased alumni group, and used that membership to obtain a job in the Justice Department, I want to know about it.

Sparks in the Senate

Whew! Talk about "Clash of the Titans."

Ted Kennedy and Arlen Specter just butted heads over whether or not to subpoena records of Alito's connection to an allegedly discriminatory group he belonged to at Princeton.

You'll probably see about this on the news later.

Some fun!

More Power to Him: Habeas Ex Post Facto

Lurch at Main and Central points out this interesting item from The Observer:

Last week, President Bush signed into law a measure removing detainees' right to file habeas corpus petitions in the US federal courts. On Friday, the administration asked the Supreme Court to make this retroactive, so nullifying about 220 cases in which prisoners have contested the basis of their detention and the legality of pending trials by military commission.


The fact of the habeas bill alone is fuzzy constitutionality at best. Article I allows Congress to suspend the privilege to the writ of habeas corpus "when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it."

Alberto Gonzales has probably already drafted the memo that says "honest criticism" of the administration constitutes "rebellion" and that the Guantanamo detainees invaded the United States by being captured and flown to Cuba.  With Bush appointees like John Roberts on the Supreme Court, that sort of legal argument might stick.


But a retroactive habeas bill would be an ex post facto law, something the Constitution expressly forbids Congress to pass: wartime, peacetime, any time.  Maybe that's why the administration is asking the Supreme Court, not Congress, to make it retroactive.  Gonzales will likely argue that it won't be an ex post facto law if the court makes it retroactive, because judges like Roberts are strict Constitutional constructionists, and strict constructionists don't legislate from the bench.  


So the retroactive habeas bill won't be an ex post facto law, it will be an ex post facto decision, which the Constitution doesn't prohibit.  


Or some Orwellian humbug like that.  

Pavlov's Veterans of Foreign Wars

On Tuesday, in a bold move, Mr. Bush addressed remarks on the Iraq war to members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. All the active duty folks must have been busy. Or maybe Bush is afraid to talk to them any more.

From NYT's David Sanger:
President Bush issued a stark warning to Democrats on Tuesday about how to conduct the debate on Iraq as midterm elections approach, declaring that Americans know the difference between "honest critics" and those "who claim that we acted in Iraq because of oil, or because of Israel, or because we misled the American people."

"Honest critics," apparently, aren't allowed to address the issues honestly. In their letter to President Clinton in January of 1998, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, and others in the Project for the New American Century couldn't have made their motives clearer. If Saddam Hussein were allowed to remain in power, they warned, "our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world’s supply of oil will all be put at hazard."

The American people--and the rest of the world--were told that Saddam Hussein had close ties with al Qaeda and possessed a robust weapons of mass destruction program. If that's not being "misled," cigarettes are a cure for coal miner's lung.
In some of his most combative language yet directed at his critics, Mr. Bush said Americans should insist on a debate "that brings credit to our democracy, not comfort to our adversaries." That follows a theme that Vice President Dick Cheney set last week, when he said critics of the administration's conduct of the war risked undercutting the effort to defeat the insurgency.

The best way to "comfort" our adversaries and undercut the effort to defeat the insurgency would be to stop criticizing the administration and let them continue to mismanage this woebegone war of theirs.
"We have a responsibility to our men and women in uniform, who deserve to know that once our politicians vote to send them into harm's way, our support will be with them in good days and in bad days," Mr. Bush said. "And we will settle for nothing less than complete victory."

Responsibility to our men and women in uniform? Two words, Mr. Bush: body armor. And when you get around to it, could you explain once and for all what exactly "complete victory" constitutes? It wouldn't happen to have something to do with, um, oil, would it?
By referring to a vote, Mr. Bush was apparently alluding to the Congressional resolution authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein, if necessary. Part of the White House strategy in recent months has been to note how many of the administration's critics voted for that resolution, and turned against the war only after it became difficult.

It wasn't Mr. Bush, or Dick Cheney, or Donald Rumsfeld, or Paul Wolfowitz who wanted to invade Iraq. Those dadburn Democrats in Congress made them do it.

#

The "nonpartisan" crowd of 425 Veterans of Foreign Wars members gave Mr. Bush a standing ovation. No doubt that's Bush's idea of "honest criticism." And his idea of "taking responsibility" for the Iraq fiasco is to blame it on Congress.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Weekly Standard Line of Bull

Predictably, Bill Kristol's Weekly Standard has jumped on the presidential powers bandwagon, claiming that Mr. Bush has inherent extraordinary authorities in time of war. "The Law and the President" is the Standard's standard compendium of fabrications, sophistry, and neo-non sequiturs.

Its author, Harvey Mansfield, is a Professor of Government at Harvard University. Professor Mansfield has been at Harvard almost continuously, as a student or a member of the faculty, since 1949. His article gives us reason to be concerned over what Harvard is teaching its students about government.

Like many of the administration's echo chamberlains, Professor Mansfield bases his arguments on the specious notion of "extra-legality." The Founders created an extra-legal office of the president, he says, and the Constitution gives the executive extra-legal powers to be commander in chief of the military, make treaties, veto legislation, and grant pardons.

This is, of course, Orwellian Newspeak poppycock. The Constitution and the laws and treaties derived from it are the supreme law of the land. Any powers granted to the president are legal, not extra-legal, and when a president acts outside his legal constitutional authority, those acts are not extra-legal, they're illegal.

Half Truths and Total Mendacities

Mansfield conveniently neglects to mention the constitutional checks on presidential authority. Yes, the president is commander-in-chief of the military, but Article I of the Constitution assigns all other war powers to the legislature. Among the congressional war powers are the authority to declare war, regulate the military, suspend habeas corpus and call out the militia in cases of rebellion or invasion.

Mansfield also fails to note that a president can only make treaties with approval of two thirds of the Senate. He doesn't explain that Congress can override presidential vetoes, or that a president's powers of pardon do not apply to cases of impeachment. He also blithely skips over the parts of the Constitution that give Congress sole authority to remove public officials from office--including the president and any justices he may appoint--through the impeachment process.

One has to wonder how a distinguished Harvard Professor of Government could have failed to mention those things, since he was talking about the Constitution and all, especially considering that he lectures on American constitutionalism.

Maybe all that checks and balances stuff just slipped his mind.

The Standard Line of Bull

Having framed his position on a false main assumption ("extra-legality") and half-truths (partial explanation of constitutional executive powers), Mansfield embarks on a graduate level exercise in pretzel logic on executive responsibility. "To be held responsible," he says, "the executive must be able to act independently." A major component of independent executive action, Mansfield asserts, is the president's ability to act in secrecy.
…secrecy is compatible with responsibility because, when one person is responsible, it does not matter how he arrives at his decision. To blame or reward him, one does not have to enter into "the secret springs of the transaction," as would be necessary if responsibility were shared.

If we were to buy Mansfield's off-the-tracks train of thought, we would accept the notion that a president can only be held responsible if he's allowed to do things nobody can hold him responsible for because nobody knows what he did.

#

It's possible that Professor Mansfield has been locked in the highest ivory tower in our land for so long that he can't see the nonsense in his own nonsense.

But I doubt it.

Professor Mansfield's article is endemic of the sort of thing we see in The Weekly Standard, The National Review and other conservative media venues. It's a cynically crafted piece of partisan advocacy disguised in the sheep's clothing of honest scholarly analysis. The Bill Kristols and William F. Buckleys of this world are always on the lookout for academic guns-for-hire who will support the neoconservative agenda, and the Harvey Mansfields of this world are always happy to take their money.

That's the saddest aspect of the state of the national discussion today. Intellectual debate is both intellectually and morally bankrupt. "Professors of truth" like Doctor Mansfield have no more regard for the truth than do 1984-style "Hate Week" hacks like Bill O'Reilley and Ann Coulter.

Sorry for the Delay (heh, heh)

I've been knee deep in article research. We'll have another piece on war powers up later this afternoon.

Thanks for your patience.

Jeff

Saturday, January 07, 2006

It's Still the Armor

From NYT's MICHAEL MOSS:
A secret Pentagon study has found that at least 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to their upper body could have survived if they had extra body armor. That armor has been available since 2003 but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according to military officials.

The ceramic plates in vests currently worn by the majority of military personnel in Iraq cover only some of the chest and back. In at least 74 of the 93 fatal wounds that were analyzed in the Pentagon study of marines from March 2003 through June 2005, bullets and shrapnel struck the marines' shoulders, sides or areas of the torso where the plates do not reach.

[…]

For the first time, the study by the military's medical examiner shows the cost in lost lives from inadequate armor, even as the Pentagon continues to publicly defend its protection of the troops. Officials have said they are shipping the best armor to Iraq as quickly as possible. At the same time, they have maintained that it is impossible to shield forces from the increasingly powerful improvised explosive devices used by insurgents. Yet the Pentagon's own study reveals the equally lethal threat of bullets.

[…]

The Pentagon has been collecting the data on wounds since the beginning of the war in part to determine the effectiveness of body armor. The military's medical examiner, Craig T. Mallak, told a military panel in 2003 that the information "screams to be published." But it would take nearly two years.

[…]

The shortfalls in bulletproof vests are just one of the armor problems the Pentagon continues to struggle with as the war in Iraq approaches the three-year mark, The Times has found in an ongoing examination of the military procurement system.
The production of a new armored truck called the Cougar, which military officials said has thus far withstood every insurgent attack, has fallen three months behind schedule. The small company making the truck has been beset by a host of production and legal problems.

You really need to read the whole thing. It's a compendium of cover-ups, inter-service infighting, procurement SNAFUs and fraud, and underestimates of the strength and duration of the insurgency in Iraq.

The "secret report" on body armor deficiencies was brought to light by Soldiers for the Truth, the advocacy group founded by the late Colonel David Hackworth.

Sadly, the Pentagon will likely spend more time and energy finding out who leaked the report than it did on fixing the armor problems.

9/11 Victim Spouses Condemn NSA Spying

An old friend whose mother died in the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon called my attention to this press release from the 9/11 Citizens Watch.
Statement of September 11th Advocates Regarding NSA Surveillance

As a group of women whose husbands were killed by terrorists on 9/11, we strongly believe that all available means should be utilized to stop terrorists in their tracks. It is for this reason that we lobbied and fought for the creation of a 9/11 Independent Commission.

While fighting for this Commission, we learned that prior to September 11th our intelligence apparatus held all of the puzzle pieces (the proverbial dots) needed to prevent 9/11. The problem was not that we didn't have and use enough of the right tools, but rather that our intelligence community failed to connect the dots and puzzle pieces that it already had. Therefore, the terrorists were able to achieve their goal by murdering 3,000 innocent people on 9/11.

Recently, President Bush has stated that his NSA surveillance program is a tool that was lacking in our government's arsenal prior to 9/11. He repeatedly argues that such a program will prevent another 9/11. Moreover, President Bush justifies his breach of our constitutional laws by arguing that following the FISA law would cause our intelligence community to be too clumsy and slow while dealing with a nimble enemy.

Respectfully, we call President Bush's attention to two points of fact that negate his position.

One: Our government intercepted two al Qaeda communications, during routine monitoring, on September 10, 2001 - "tomorrow is zero hour" and "the match begins tomorrow."

Unfortunately, those crucial intercepts were reportedly not translated until September 12, 2001. It was certainly not any FISA court issue that delayed such translation. Rather, the delay was ostensibly due to NSA's overwhelming workload created by its voluminous influx of information that needed to be translated and analyzed on a daily basis. Nevertheless, our government was able to routinely and effortlessly gather such sensitive communications well before the 9/11 attacks.

Two: The "need for speed" with regard to eavesdropping on potential terrorists is already built into the FISA court system, as it currently exists. For example, the President can start eavesdropping immediately on anyone he deems it necessary to eavesdrop on and take 72 hours to subsequently ask for a FISA warrant. Moreover, in a time of war, the President is given a full fifteen days to retroactively ask for such a warrant.

Thus, why is there any need for the President to circumvent the law?

Additionally , with no formalized FISA court approval, there is no paper trail as to what our government knows and when it knows it. In truth, the FISA court provides an excellent repository that not only provides the necessary "checks and balances" with regard to civil liberties, but it also yields accountability that can be borne out in the days after the next terrorist attack.

Such circumvention of our nation's laws by our very own President raises grave concerns. His action is unfounded, illegal and unnecessary. Moreover, it threatens the very principles of democracy that our military is so courageously defending overseas.

Our nation must not, under the guise of national security and protecting citizens, allow any person holding the office of President of the United States to trample the sacred Constitution that this great country was founded on.

Retaining our civil liberties and our cherished democracy in the face of a looming terrorist threat is the only way we will win this "war on terror".

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Machinery of Perpetual War

The good news: we're training more and more Iraqi security forces.

The bad news: we may be training them to become the bad guys.

Eric Schmitt of NYT reports:
The top American operational commander in Iraq has offered a sober assessment of the hurdles facing a new Iraqi government, voicing concerns that sectarian rivalries and incompetence could cripple major ministries and turn newly American-trained Iraqi security forces into militias for hire.

Lt. General John R. Vines, commander of the Iraq theatre of operations, warns that "the development of the Defense and Interior Ministries that sustain Iraqi security forces lags behind the fielding and prowess of more than 220,000 Iraqi soldiers and police officers."

Two and a half years after the fall of Hussein's statue, the top U.S. general in Iraq is concerned that the nearly quarter million Iraqi security forces we're training may turn on us and the fledgling Iraqi government. That's reassuring, I guess, if your objective is to create a never-ending state of conflict.

Looking back at how Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, and the rest of the neo-cabal have run this woebegone war, it's apparent that they couldn't have screwed things up worse if they'd planned it that way.

And it makes one wonder if maybe they did plan it that way.

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From the Irony is Dead department:

The administration is accusing war critics of aiding and abetting the enemy even as General Vines cautions that our own forces may be training the enemy.

Support the troops?

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Continue to be very wary of the administration's happy talk about troop drawdowns. Keep in mind that the neocons' original goal was not a "reduced footprint" in the Middle East. To the contrary, a key component of their vision of the New American Century was to maintain "a substantial American force presence in the Gulf."

The dreams of megalomaniacs die hard, and they seldom just fade away.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Big Brother is Squashing

From John at AMERICAblog: Jim Moore, author of Bush's Brain, his book about Karl Rove, got put on the no-fly list.

Talk about "Rovewellian!"

More Three Ring Power Circus

The habeas corpus amendment to the defense bill proposed by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) could be a decisive card in the separation of powers game presently being played among the three branches of America's federal government.

Glenn in NYC of dKos has posted Graham's amendment to the defense bill. This is the key passage:
No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien outside the United States…who is detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

This piece of the legislation does a number of things. To begin with, it trumps a 2004 Supreme Court decision that allowed imprisoned "enemy combatants" to challenge their detentions by filing habeas corpus petitions in the courts. In exercising its constitutional power to suspend the privilege of habeas corpus in wartime, the Republican controlled Congress also supports the administration's claims of sweeping executive power.

More importantly, it reinforces the prerogative of Congress to limit the jurisdiction of the courts. This authority is inferred in Article III of the Constitution, and has been upheld by the courts in ex parte McCardle and other cases.

This is significant when viewed through the lens of the Jack Abramoff scandal. If Congress has the power to restrict jurisdiction of the courts, it can remove itself from the courts' jurisdiction in all criminal prosecutions arising from Abramoff's testimony, and take those matters over to its own review and discipline. That would be a politically risky action, but if push comes to shove and congressional Republicans see it as the only way to maintain their majority, they may consider it a risk worth taking.

The possible ramifications are the stuff of an Orwellian nightmare. The Republican controlled government could place itself above the law by exploiting the law itself, and the concepts of separation of powers and checks and balances would be quaint memories.

Cross posted at ePluribus Media

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

More on Graham's Habeas Ammendment

More perspectives on Linsdey Graham's defense bill habeas corpus amendment…

From Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith of The Nation:
Thousandsof well-meaning people are mobilizing to pressure Congress to pass legislation banning torture. But the Bush Administration is maneuvering to turn it intol egislation that would instead protect the torturers by eliminating a basic legal right. To stop them, torture opponents will need to be not just as innocent as doves but also as cunning as foxes.

When Congress returns to Washington on Monday, a campaign will unfold in support of Senator JohnMcCain's legislation banning torture, which is attached to a defense bill.But McCain's amendment is accompanied by one from Senator Lindsey Graham that bans the appeals that prisoners at Guantánamo have used to take theircases to civilian courts.

From WaPo's Josh White:
Thedefense authorization bill approved by Congress this week includes landmarkprotections for military detainees suspected of terrorist activities fromabuse or mistreatment at the hands of their U.S. captors.

But themeasure awaiting President Bush's signature also would limit the access ofdetainees held at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to federal courts.And it would allow the military to use confessions elicited by torture whendeciding whether a detainee is an enemy combatant.

[…]

SusanBaker Manning, a lawyer representing a group of ethnic Uighur detainees atGuantanamo Bay, said she believes the legislation is unconstitutional. Shewarned that it could create a legal bubble of sorts around the prison thatwould allow the government to do what it wants behind closed doors.

"We'relooking at cutting off access and information about what our executive branchis up to," Manning said, adding that nine detainees who have been clearedfor release are still being held in Cuba. "They are trying to isolate GuantanamoBay."

Other lawyers are concerned that such isolation could mean badthings for U.S. citizens captured by foreign governments. David P. Sheldon,a Washington lawyer and military law expert, said the implications "are stunning."

"What ability would the U.S. have to challenge, in foreign courts, the detainment of Americans who are overseas?" Sheldon said.

Humanitarian Workers Face Prison Time

This isn't typical P&S subject fare, but it's a story worth spreading. Over at ePluribus, Vivian Pettyjohn tells us of the plight of Daniel Strauss and Shanti Sellz, humanitarian workers with No More Deaths, one of several humanitarian organizations committed to ending the suffering in the Sonoran desert.
This particular Saturday, Strauss and Sellz found a group of 3 migrants who were suffering from drinking stagnant cow tank water. Migrants who are literally dying of thirst often drink from cow ponds as they get desperate. Ingesting water contaminated with bacteria and cow dung causes severe vomiting and a diarrhea that can be fatal. The on-call doctor instructed Strauss and Sellz to take the vomiting migrant to St. Mary's Emergency Room. They were arrested en route by the Border Patrol, charged with transport of illegal aliens, and now face a 15-year sentence in federal prison.

Jumpin' Jack

John in DC of AMERICAblog has a list of 299 donations Jack Abramoff made to Republicans and conservative special interest groups.

Scroll all the way down and next to the bottom you'll find an interesting name: Oliver North.

Birds of a feather, I guess.

No Habeas for GITMO Prisoners

NYT's Neal A. Lewis reports:
The Bush administration notified federal trial judges in Washington that it would soon ask them to dismiss all lawsuits brought by prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, challenging their detentions, Justice Department officials said Tuesday.

The action means that the administration is moving swiftly to take advantage of an amendment to the military bill that President Bush signed into law last Friday. The amendment strips federal courts from hearing habeas corpus petitions from Guantánamo detainees.

Lewis tells us this action is legal because "…the Constitution allows Congress to define the scope of jurisdiction for all federal courts below the Supreme Court."
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I'm not sure where Lewis got this piece of legal interpretation. Article I of the Constitution empowers Congress "To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court." In contemporary times, "constitute" means "form or compose." I suppose that in the act of forming or composing an inferior court, Congress would define its legislation, but does that mean it can change a court's jurisdiction to suit the whims of the executive department?

It seems that a better legal justification for passing this sort of legislation would be the legislature's constitutional power to suspend "the privilege of the write of habeas corpus" unless "when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it."

Of course, we might well quibble over whether America faces a rebellion or an invasion, but I like using congressional power to suspend habeas corpus than interpreting an inferred power to gerrymander an established court's jurisdiction.

I'll be interested to see the actual wording of the amendment to the defense bill.

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A chief sponsor of the habeas corpus amendment is Senator Lindsey Graham (R South Carolina.) Why is it that every time Congress kowtows to the administration, Graham seems to be one of the ringleaders?

One can't help but wonder to what extent the habeas corpus amendment was part of a Senate dope deal: McCain could have his torture amendment if he'd back down on giving the GITMO detainees access to due civilian courts.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Voice from the GOP "Base"

I couldn't resist posting this recent comment on a P&S post from October on the front page. I left the conrubutor's name off intentionally.
uninformed people thinks they are informed by new york time,cnn,ect ect,look it takes both partys to make the usa work and it TOOK BOTH to go to war not just bush so stop the hate stop
feeding the enemy with hope that we may quit they are the baby killers, leaving iraq ,even if we had never gone there they would still try to kill us the musselums
own koran tells them if we do not beleve in what they beleve its their duty to kill us DON,T YOU GET IT they are just like cristian zelots here except they kill so lets win get the boys home then let the political games begin so get over it

You need a license to hunt, fish, and drive, but anybody can make kids and vote.

Good thing those hunting, fishing, and driving tests are multiple choice, huh?

Beware of Neocons Bearing Gifts

“No one starts a war--or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so--without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it.”

-- Carl von Clausewitz

Of all the facetious arguments for staying the course in Iraq, none is more morally or intellectually bankrupt than the one that says we must do so to honor our dead. As father of a Marine killed in Iraq Paul Schroeder puts it:
Are the lives of Americans being killed in Iraq wasted? Are they dying in vain? President Bush says those who criticize staying the course are not honoring the dead. That is twisted logic: honor the fallen by killing another 2,000 troops in a broken policy?

No one ever honored those killed in war, or made their deaths more heroic, by adding to their number. The Bush administration and its supporters know that. They're not continuing to send troops to Iraq to honor our casualties. They're sending our troops over there to achieve what they intended to accomplish from the outset.

The Tangled Web

A visit to the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) web site makes it clear what Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton, Paul Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush and others were up to in the nineties. The neoconservative cabal had a clear vision of how they intended to establish a post-modern American empire once they could bring the GOP back into power. A key component of that vision was regime change in Iraq through armed invasion as a means of ensuring a steady flow of oil from the Middle East.

In September of 2000, the PNAC published a manifesto titled Rebuilding America's Defenses. This 78 page document reveals that even before the November election, current and former members of the Bush administration were already determined to occupy the Middle East even if Saddam Hussein were no longer in control of Iraq.
The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.

But the neocons realized that the process of realizing their vision would "likely be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event--like a new Pearl Harbor."

The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon gave them just the "catastrophic and catalyzing event" they were looking for.

Beware of Neocons Bearing Gifts

We may never know the true nature of the "intelligence failures" that led to the 9/11 attacks and the bogus assessments on Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and ties to al Qaeda. A reasonable assumption questions whether that many supposedly smart people could possibly have made that many honest mistakes, but assumptions aren't proof.

Still, we should be wary of administration claims of intentions to begin a troop drawdown in Iraq. It could well be a feint, a stratagem designed to maintain a GOP majority in the House and Senate during the 2006 elections. If the administration maintains partisan control of Congress, we're likely to see a return to the administration's original plan.

By 2008, we'll have gone so far down the neoconservative path of never ending war and conquest that the religious right's God himself won't be able to step in and save us from the perpetual motion machinery of our national self destruction.