Today's Note From a Madman
Monday, January 9, 2006
facts, no matter what the Bushies say about their
"mis-information" or their being
"misunderstood"... No matter what they say about
it all comes down to one basic observation:
It's not bad intelligence, it's simply bad leadership.
A Health Care Thought
Baby Noor al-Zahra, who was found by US troops in Iraq, was diagnosed with spina bifida and needed help right away. It was the humanitarian thing to do, and the right thing to do.
However, I find it ironic and a little disturbing that a child on Iraq would be flown all the way to America for medical care by a top-notch pediatric neurosurgeon while American children, whose parents can't afford health care insurance, don't have that same ability to see that same doctor, or any doctor for that matter.
Sure, I know that I'm coming off as heartless and maybe even a little but of a jerk, but when I go into an urban American hospital (and I've been to more than my share, believe me) and I see American children waiting hours in the emergency room, I can't help but wonder why we don't do something that amounts to more than just "talk".
The Bushies used this child as a photo-op while American children are left to whatever fate their health insurance (or lack thereof) provides them. I'm happy that Baby Noor is going to get well, but I am sad for the 48 million Americans who can't afford to see a doctor, and am embarrassed for our nation when one of them dies because of it.
BLITZER: Should Democrats who took money from Jack Abramoff, who has now pleaded guilty to bribery charges, among other charges, a Republican lobbyist in Washington, should the Democrat who took money from him give that money to charity or give it back?
DEAN: There are no Democrats who took money from Jack Abramoff, not one, not one single Democrat. Every person named in this scandal is a Republican.
Every person under investigation is a Republican. Every person indicted is a Republican. This is a Republican finance scandal. There is no evidence that Jack Abramoff ever gave any Democrat any money. And we've looked through all of those FEC reports to make sure that's true.
BLITZER: But through various Abramoff-related organizations and outfits, a bunch of Democrats did take money that presumably originated with Jack Abramoff.
DEAN: That's not true either. There's no evidence for that
either. There is no evidence...
BLITZER: What about Senator Byron Dorgan?
DEAN: Senator Byron Dorgan and some others took money from Indian tribes. They're not agents of Jack Abramoff. There's no evidence that I've seen that Jack Abramoff directed any contributions to Democrats. I know the Republican National Committee would like to get the Democrats involved in this. They're scared. They should be scared. They haven't told the truth. They have misled the American people. And now it appears they're stealing from Indian tribes.
The Democrats are not involved in this.
BLITZER: Unfortunately Mr. Chairman, we got to leave it right there.
We need to keep saying this over and over because the Republicans, including Bush, are spinning this into a bipartisan scandal. Cornyn (R-TX) did that yesterday on Meet The Press. I could not believe that Schumer (D-NY) didn't call him a liar to his face. At most, a couple of Democrats took money from groups that Abramoff at one time represented. That means absolutely nothing! The Indian Tribes for instance retained Abramoff as a lobbyist.
They also contributed money to Democrats. That is irrelevant as Abramoff was not in the middle!
More Media Madman
The Missing Main Stream Media
FYI - last week I noted how absolutely pathetic it was that the media is providing no context in covering former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's supposed outrage over the GOP's corruption scandals. They are mentioning nothing about how Gingrich was actually the architect of the corruption in the first place. This refusal by many major political reporters to provide context and history in their coverage is one of the big reasons journalism is suffering a major crisis of confidence. It is also one of the big reasons average Americans have
become so cynical about politics - it's nearly impossible to get any picture of reality or fact anymore if you read the papers. But let's be clear - this journalistic malpractice does not have to exist.
WILL PEACE PROCESS END WITH SHARON?
by Victoria A Brownworth
copyright c 2006 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.
Ariel Sharon had one great love in his life: Israel. Like many love affairs, Sharon's did not always go smoothly. Mistakes were made, some catastrophic. But for 57 years–most of Sharon's life and all of Israel's–his focus was the state of Israel and his actions were inextricable from those of the nation. Sharon *was* Israel in many ways: over more than five decades he held almost every political position the government offered. He was a founder of the Likud Party in 1973. He led two of the major wars–1967 and 1973.
As a soldier, military expert, Defense Minister and finally Prime Minister, Sharon was both loved and reviled. Palestinians as well as some Israelis saw him as a murdering monster, others viewed him as the only man capable of creating a safe and secure Israel with a Palestinian state next door. Sharon was never less than a hardliner, never wavered in his love for Israel. He was politically expedient to that end always, even as he did things that shocked many Israelis, like uprooting the Jewish settlements in Gaza.
Sharon was a man with a plan and that plan was always for a Greater Israel–at least until recently–and thus nearly everything he did enraged someone: Palestinians often, Israelis nearly as much, American Jews and other supporters frequently. After his stroke last week, Palestinians were handing out celebratory sweets in the West Bank while right wing Jews did the same in the settlements. In America, evangelical leader Rev. Pat Robertson, whose perspective echoes Jewish extremists, declared on TV that Sharon's stroke was God's punishment because Sharon had returned Gaza to the Palestinians.
No one merely shrugged over Sharon; he was a man who demanded response and always got it–for good or ill.
When Sharon suffered that massive stroke last week, requiring three surgeries and treatment that included an induced coma, the long and complicated relationship between the Prime Minister and Israel was ended–politically, if not emotionally. Thus even though Sharon remained alive, his political future was officially over and the struggle to find a new leader for Israel–and someone to continue the so-called Road to Peace between Israelis and Palestinians–began in earnest.
The timing of Sharon's stroke and his subsequent exit from the political landscape could not have been worse. Palestinian elections are scheduled for January 25th and elections in Israel are set for March. Both, at present, will go on as planned, but Sharon's shadow will loom large over these elections. Sharon was expected to win in March with a wide margin, but now the field is open and none of the players has Sharon's political weight or popularity.
It has been only a few months since Sharon socked Israel and broke his long association with the right-wing Likud Party. He formed his own centrist political party, Kadima, which had the support of left- and right-wing Israelis and a majority of Israeli voters. Sharon was expected to lead Israel toward whatever the next phase of the political process was, and it is difficult to imagine who will fill his capacious shoes.
Because his stroke effectively rendered him a political cipher, all discussion of Sharon, who is expected (at press time) to recover, is more or less a eulogy, which only makes the process of moving forward more complex.
Since his election as Prime Minister in a landslide election in February 2001, Sharon has been the representative face of Israeli politics. There have been other voices–many leftist and Arab Israelis abhorred Sharon's brutish tactics and restrictive policies–but none has come close to Sharon's power. Sharon's sheer longevity made him iconic. Sharon had to reinvent himself politically after his disastrous decision to invade Lebanon in 1982. The subsequent massacre for which he was responsible–and for which he apologized–left a political stain on him that could not be erased, and yet he found ways to redeem himself politically and rose once again in the ranks of Israeli politics.
Sharon was, as American politician David McReynolds noted last week, the Churchill of Israel: Many of his policies were wrong, for Israel and Palestine alike, but Sharon was able to discern the importance of change for the future and forced those changes on Israel as a whole. The immense political import of his break with Likud–a party he helped to found and of which he was a signal leader for decades–cannot be minimized. In leaving Likud he left the politics of Likud behind as well, most definingly the refusal to recognize that there will be a Palestinian state and that land-for-peace is a policy that must be adopted if Israel is to survive as a nation.
The lack of real recognition for Sharon's leaving Likud and forming Kadima was part of another failure of realization from the West: Many in the U.S. and Europe never acknowledged that the so-called peace process post-Oslo has really been the Sharon peace process. Every move in the past six years has been dictated by Sharon and no one else. PLO President Yasser Arafat became a non-player in the process once Sharon became Prime Minister and the U.S. abdicated all responsibility with the election of George Bush. The slow, complex and arduous three-way policy crafting that was a keystone of the Clinton Administration, orchestrated first between Itzak Rabin and Arafat, then between Ahud Barak and Arafat, ended with Bush's presidency. There were no further summits at Camp David or Oslo or anywhere. Bush had never been to the Middle East and had no interest in Israel–and has shown little interest in the past five years for peace or anything else there.
The U.S. abdication from the peace process allowed Sharon a policy leeway that his predecessors had not enjoyed. The hardline Sharon refused to deal with Arafat, despite Arafat's having been the only elected Arab leader in the world. For the last two years of his life, Arafat lived in virtual exile in the West Bank, increasingly powerless. His death was ignominious; like Sharon himself, he was a man considered by some to be a monster and by others to be a savior of a nation. But with his death came some measure of hope that change would evolve with a new Palestinian leadership, and to a certain extent that was true.
Cynics considered Sharon's recent decisions to expel Jewish settlers from Gaza and split from Likud as political expediency. But Sharon never made any pretensions of being other than politically expedient. His critics could claim, rightly, almost anything about Sharon from corruption (he was never very far from indictments) to anti-Arab hardline policies (which he never denied). But they could not claim him as a liar: Sharon always told the truth about his actions from Lebanon to the withdrawal from Gaza to the founding of Kadima and all of it had the same predicate: His love for Israel. Even as he worked to establish some measure of peace between Israel and Palestine he never claimed dovishness; he was a hawk throughout his long career.
This complex history, however, leaves Sharon's would-be successors in both quandary and peril. At present Ehud Olmert is acting Prime Minister and will continue in that role until the March elections when he may or may not win the support of Kadima Party voters. Olmert shares the same complex history as Sharon. One of the most hardline politicians in Israel's history, Olmert was an iron-fisted Mayor of Jerusalem and has held many posts in government over the decades. He has been Deputy Prime Minister since 2003.
Like Sharon, Olmert's politics have softened in recent years and for the same reasons: Olmert once backed Jewish settlement-building in the West Bank and Gaza but now believes the survival of Israel is dependent on the establishment of a Palestinian state and that land-for-peace is inevitable.
Despite his wealth of political experience, however, as well as his centrist views, Olmert lacks Sharon's charismatic popularity among the Israeli voters, and unlike Sharon, does not have the supernova military career to mitigate any complaints over his attempts at peace.
Thus since Israel is not immune to charismatic leadership and Olmert has none of Sharon's physical and political presence, he has little time to secure a position for himself as an essential figure in the new political landscape. In addition, Kadima is so newly formed it remains unclear to many what the Kadima party is beyond Sharon and if Olmert indeed will follow his legacy.
Nevertheless, Olmert can and should use his connection to Sharon and the Sharon legacy as a political tool to bring the country together. Unlike other possible candidates, Olmert could breakdown some of the current political blockades and has the opportunity to undertake policy advances that were not feasible prior to Sharon's illness. Olmert *does* have gravitas and as a former hardliner could sway the right further toward the center and toward more humane policies that would benefit Israelis and Palestinians.
Others would like to subvert Olmert and ascend to Sharon's place: Likud leader and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu desperately wants the Prime Minister position back, but his previous leadership was fraught with both scandal and ineffectiveness. His hardline tactics now seem out of place post-Sharon and he has little support even among his own fractured party membership. From a peace-process perspective, there could be no worse choice than Netanyahu for Prime Minister. He led the charge against Sharon in the Gaza withdrawal and was a signal reason for Sharon's leaving Likud. Netanyahu refuses to deal with any Palestinian leaders, including the current President of the Palestinian Nation Authority, Mahmoud Abbas (commonly known as Abu Mazen). Netanyahu refuses land-for-peace initiatives and has been outspoken in his declaration that he would use nuclear force against Iran. Polls put him last in an election, but the West should be as alarmed by the prospect of Netanyahu in power as most Israelis seem to be.
Another former leader who would like to return to the Prime Minister's post is former Labour party leader and Nobel Prize winner Shimon Peres, who recently joined Sharon's Kadima party. But Peres's age–82–and his failure to secure his own party's nomination mitigate against his ascendancy.
Among the other players are Tzipi Livni, Justice Minister of the Kadima Party. As the highest-ranked woman in Israeli politics and former lawyer for Israel's secret service, Mossad, and immigration minister since 2002, Livni, whose father was a co-founder of Likud, has her own political legacy. But Israel has not had a woman Prime Minister since Golda Meir and Livni, 47, although extremely popular among Israelis, may be perceived as simply too young and "delicate" to succeed the strapping Sharon.
Shaul Mofaz, 57, is another admired Israeli politician, but he has credibility problems in the peace process having, as former chief of staff under Sharon, approved air strikes against Palestinian militants, incursions and house demolitions. Mofaz did support Sharon's withdrawal from Gaza, but wavered prior to leaving Likud for Kadima.
The only left-leaning candidate with any chance of succeeding in the March elections is Amir Peretz ,who assumed the leadership of the Labour party in November 2005 in a stunning victory over Shimon Peres.
Peretz, 53, was born in Morrocco and is the first Sephardic Jew and trade union chief to head the traditionally Ashkenazi-dominated party. Dovish and dedicated to equalizing the economics of Israel where half the population is living at the poverty level, Peretz's has never held a governmental post, which could mitigate against him in an election to succeed Sharon.
All eyes will be on Sharon's bedside in the coming weeks and on how Olmert proceeds with Sharon's better policies and how he mitigates the worst ones. The Bush Administration has yet to meddle in the internal politics of Israel since Sharon's stroke, but no doubt Bush will choose this time–after five years of ignoring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict–to make a posturing political move.
As the only titular democracy in the Middle East, Israel's role in the region is significant. What happens in the next weeks prior to the Palestinian election and immediately following will be the key. For now those concerned over Israel's future, Palestine's future and a future for everyone in both nations sans endless bloodshed will be watching and no doubt, praying.
No President is Above the Law
Senator Robert C. Byrd
December 19, 2005
Americans have been stunned at the recent news of the abuses of power by an overzealous President. It has become apparent that this Administration has engaged in a consistent and unrelenting pattern of abuse against our Country's law-abiding citizens, and against our Constitution.
We have been stunned to hear reports about the Pentagon gathering information and creating databases to spy on ordinary Americans whose only sin is choose to exercise their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble. Those Americans who choose to question the Administration's flawed policy in Iraq are labeled by this Administration as domestic terrorists.
We now know that the F.B.I.'s use of National Security Letters on American citizens has increased one hundred fold, requiring tens of thousands of individuals to turn over personal information and records. These letters are issued without prior judicial review, and provide no real means for an individual to challenge a permanent gag order.
Through news reports, we have been shocked to learn of the CIA's practice of rendition, and the so-called "black sites," secret locations in foreign countries, where abuse and interrogation have been exported, to escape the reach of U.S. laws protecting against human rights abuses.
We know that Vice President Dick Cheney has asked for exemptions for the CIA from the language contained in the McCain torture amendment banning cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment. Thank God his pleas have been rejected by this Congress.
Now comes the stomach-churning revelation through an executive order, that President Bush has circumvented both the Congress and the courts. He has usurped the Third Branch of government - the branch charged with protecting the civil liberties of our people - by directing the National Security Agency to intercept and eavesdrop on the phone conversations and e-mails of American citizens without a warrant, which is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment. He has stiff-armed the People's Branch of government. He has rationalized the use of domestic, civilian surveillance with a flimsy claim that he has such authority because we are at war. The executive order, which has been acknowledged by the President, is an end-run around the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which makes it unlawful for any official to monitor the communications of an individual on American soil without the approval of the Foreign Intelligence S! urveillance Court.
What is the President thinking? Congress has provided for the very situations which the President is blatantly exploiting. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, housed in the Department of Justice, reviews requests for warrants for domestic surveillance. The Court can review these requests expeditiously and in times of great emergency. In extreme cases, where time is of the essence and national security is at stake, surveillance can be conducted before the warrant is even applied for.
This secret court was established so that sensitive surveillance could be conducted, and information could be gathered without compromising the security of the investigation. The purpose of the FISA Court is to balance the government's role in fighting the war on terror with the Fourth Amendment rights afforded to each and every American.
The American public is given vague and empty assurances by the President that amount to little more than "trust me." But, we are a nation of laws and not of men. Where is the source of that authority he claims? I defy the Administration to show me where in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or the U.S. Constitution, they are allowed to steal into the lives of innocent America citizens and spy.
When asked yesterday what the source of this authority was, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had no answer. Secretary Rice seemed to insinuate that eavesdropping on Americans was acceptable because FISA was an outdated law, and could not address the needs of the government in combating the new war on terror. This is a patent falsehood. The USA Patriot Act expanded FISA significantly, equipping the government with the tools it needed to fight terrorism. Further amendments to FISA were granted under the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2002 and the Homeland Security Act of 2002. In fact, in its final report, the 9/11 Commission noted that the removal of the pre-9/11 "wall" between intelligence officials and law enforcement was significant in that it "opened up new opportunities for cooperative action."
The President claims that these powers are within his role as Commander in Chief. Make no mistake, the powers granted to the Commander in Chief are specifically those as head of the Armed Forces. These warrantless searches are conducted not against a foreign power, but against unsuspecting and unknowing American citizens. They are conducted against individuals living on American soil, not in Iraq or Afghanistan. There is nothing within the powers granted in the Commander in Chief clause that grants the President the ability to conduct clandestine surveillance of American civilians. We must not allow such groundless, foolish claims to stand.
The President claims a boundless authority through the resolution that authorized the war on those who perpetrated the September 11th attacks. But that resolution does not give the President unchecked power to spy on our own people. That resolution does not give the Administration the power to create covert prisons for secret prisoners. That resolution does not authorize the torture of prisoners to extract information from them. That resolution does not authorize running black-hole secret prisons in foreign countries to get around U.S. law. That resolution does not give the President the powers reserved only for kings and potentates.
I continue to be shocked and astounded by the breadth with which the Administration undermines the constitutional protections afforded to the people, and the arrogance with which it rebukes the powers held by the Legislative and Judicial Branches. The President has cast off federal law, enacted by Congress, often bearing his own signature, as mere formality. He has rebuffed the rule of law, and he has trivialized and trampled upon the prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizures guaranteed to Americans by the United States Constitution.
We are supposed to accept these dirty little secrets. We are told that it is irresponsible to draw attention to President Bush's gross abuse of power and Constitutional violations. But what is truly irresponsible is to neglect to uphold the rule of law. We listened to the President speak last night on the potential for democracy in Iraq. He claims to want to instill in the Iraqi people a tangible freedom and a working democracy, at the same time he violates our own U.S. laws and checks and balances? President Bush, I dare say in this country we may have reached our own sort of landmark. Never have the promises and protections of Liberty seemed so illusory. Never have the freedoms we cherish seemed so imperiled.
These renegade assaults on the Constitution and our system of laws strike at the very core of our values, and foster a sense of mistrust and apprehension about the reach of government.
I am reminded of Thomas Payne's famous words, "These are the times that try men's souls."
These astounding revelations about the bending and contorting of the Constitution to justify a grasping, irresponsible Administration under the banner of "national security" are an outrage. Congress can no longer sit on the sidelines. It is time to ask hard questions of the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the Director of the CIA. The White House should not be allowed to exempt itself from answering the same questions simply because it might assert some kind of "executive privilege' in order to avoid further embarrassment.
The practice of domestic spying on citizens should halt immediately. Oversight hearings need to be conducted. Judicial action may be in order. We need to finally be given answers to our questions: where is the constitutional and statutory authority for spying on American citizens, what is the content of these classified legal opinions asserting there is a legality in this criminal usurpation of rights, who is responsible for this dangerous and unconstitutional policy, and how many American citizens lives' have been unknowingly affected?
-Forwarded by Robert Scardapane
An Immigration (Plus) Thought
How hard is this? make the Rio Grande into a real, uncrossable waterway. Make it deep enough and wide enough for ships to pass through it, thus negating the Panama Canal, of course, or at least for some shipping to utilize it. Make it long enough to stretch from the gulf of Mexico to the West Coast.
Besides adding a deterrent that would make those who want to cross, illegally, into the US from Mexico harder, we could then use the silt that was removed to rebuild the barrier islands that protect New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.
Yeah, it might not be doable... Yeah it might be a dumb idea, but...
...Dont'cha think that somebody ought to do a study or something?
It's Scary at the Top
If all of these Right Wing radio propagandists on the radio dials feel so safe and so secure with the Bush administration's policies regarding homeland security. why don't they all move their offices to the new World Trade Center when it is built? I bet they won't even move their transmitter back there when it's complete.
While we're at it, I recommend that the United Nations move their office to the top of the new World Trade Center. Take down the buildings on the East Side of Manhattan and put all of the offices and the general assembly on the top floors of what will be America's newest target. Right there are the top should be the offices of all of the middle-east theocracies like Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Madman's Take on Global Warming
Even if you believe the arguments made by the Bushies regarding the existence of Global Warming, I ask you this: Isn't it better to be safe than sorry? Wouldn't it be better to err on the side of caution when it comes to the ONLY planet we have to inhabit, you know, just in case?
I guess it is possible that you could allow the Godless corporations the "right" to police themselves, but wouldn't it be smarter no to?
I put this to all of you:
The Bushies may debate that man doesn't contribute to Global Warming, a position I disagree with, but, just the same, we all know that cleaning the environment is better than NOT cleaning the environment.
I received a really hate-filled email from a socialist newsgroup. Bear in mind, I didn't ask to be put on this newsgroup, but I am on it nonetheless. So when I found something that needed a reply, this is the message I got back in return:
"You are not allowed to post to this mailing list, and your message has been automatically rejected. If you think that your messages are being rejected in error, contact the mailing list owner at firstname.lastname@example.org."
Sounds a bit like the Bush White House, doesn't it?
If ever there was a reason to hate communism, this is it.
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