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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Friday-Sunday, June 22-24, 2007


Due to a possible late night at the office tomorrow night, there may be no Monday madman.-NG



Cheney "had the understanding with President Bush that he would be -- I'm just going to use the word 'surrogate chief of staff,'"
-Former Vice President Dan Quayle referring to a conversation with Vice President-elect Dick

If there was any doubt before, there isn't any now. What many of us had assumed from the beginning - that Dick Cheney would, in fact, be in charge at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue - has turned out to be true. In a series of articles published by the Washington Post, and though eye witness accounts and actual documents made available to the writers, we find out just how much the VP is more of a "co-president" rather than a "surrogate chief of staff." The following are excerpts from the first in the Post's articles published today, Sunday, June 24, 2007.

WAPO: Other recent vice presidents have enjoyed a standing invitation to join the president at "policy time." But Cheney's interventions have also come in the president's absence.
MADMAN: John Adams, our nation's first Vice President, and later President Number Two, was angered when he was silenced by the very first US Senate. Attempting to contribute to a debate, the Senators refused to let one of the heroes of the American Revolution to speak on the floor, delegating him to a silent figure whose only job was to break a tie. Cheney has taken Adams' office and turned it into an alternate oval office. he has made himself "!-A" t Bush's Number One status without any mandate from the people who elected President Bush in the first place.

WAPO: Cheney took on "the economic issues, the security issues . . . the energy issues" -- and the White House legislative agenda, Matalin said, because he became "the go-to guy on the Hill." Other close aides noted, as well, a major role for Cheney in nominations and appointments.
MADMAN: Lest we forget, it was Cheney's Secret Energy Commission which instituted policies that were beneficial to his friends in Big Oil. Remember it was Cheney, as CEO of Oil giant Halliburton, who made deals with the likes of Saddam Hussein and others now considered our enemies.

WAPO: As constitutional understudy, with no direct authority in the executive branch, Cheney has often worked through surrogates. Many of them owed their jobs to him.
WAPO: In the years that followed, crossing Cheney would cost some of the same officials their jobs. David Gribben, a friend from graduate school who became the vice president's chief of legislative affairs, said Cheney believes in the "educational use of power." Firing a disloyal or poorly performing official, he said, sometimes "sends a signal crisply." Cheney believes he is "using his authority to serve the American people, and he's obviously not afraid to be a rough opponent," Gribben said.
MADMAN: An interesting way of stating our of the fray while controlling the whole debate. Cheney's idea of governing is to make sure that there is no debate. his idea of equal opportunity is to make sure that only cronies get placed in position and any and all who might disagree are sent packing.

WAPO: Even talking points for reporters are sometimes stamped "Treated As: Top Secret/SCI." ...By adding the words "treated as," they said, Cheney seeks to protect unclassified work as though its disclosure would cause "exceptionally grave damage to national security."
MADMAN: Much like today where we see the VP using terminology like "national security" to hide the deeds which he, and those who do his bidding, have done. Cheney hides behind the President's robes in order to do, basically, anything he wants. And it works, too.

WAPO: His general counsel has asserted that "the vice presidency is a unique office that is neither a part of the executive branch nor a part of the legislative branch," and is therefore exempt from rules governing either
MADMAN: Doesn't that mean that any and all of his conversations has to be admitted to congress? Today dick Cheney is claiming that anything he says and any documents which he deems "secret" are privileged through the President's "sovereign immunity". Just where does this put Dick Cheney and his office? Are we to believe that an elected official has the right to do as he pleases without any form of oversight? That's exactly what they want us to believe.

WAPO: In fact, the triumvirate knew very well what would come next: the interception -- without a warrant -- of communications to and from the United States. Forbidden by federal law since 1978, the surveillance would soon be justified, in secret, as "incident to" the authority Congress had just granted. Yoo was already working on that memo, completing it on Sept. 25.
MADMAN: The "Authorization for Use of Military Force" is the document which the Bushies point to that, they say, allows them to do as they please. The triumvirate: Cheney, Gonzales, David S. Addington (a Cheney legal advisor and leader of the group), John C. Yoo (from DoJ) and Timothy E. Flanigan (Cheney's lawyer) have used this document to trash the FISA law even as President Bush said that a "wiretap" requires a "court order".

WAPO: It was an extraordinary step, bypassing Congress and the courts, and its authors kept it secret from officials who were likely to object. Among the excluded was John B. Bellinger III, a man for whom Cheney's attorney had "open contempt," according to a senior government lawyer who saw them often. The eavesdropping program was directly within Bellinger's purview as ranking national security lawyer in the White House, reporting to Rice. Addington had no line responsibility. But he had Cheney's proxy, and more than once he accused Bellinger, to his face, of selling out presidential authority for good "public relations" or bureaucratic consensus.
"We met in the vice president's office," recalled former senator Bob Graham (D-Fla.). Bush had told Graham already, when the senator assumed the intelligence panel chairmanship, that "the vice president should be your point of contact in the White House." Cheney, the president said, "has the portfolio for intelligence activities."
MADMAN: When the Senate finally found out, this cat was already out of the bag. Senator Graham and the Democrats were, at that time, still the majority party in the Senate at that time. It's just too bad that, because of 911 and President Bush's soaring approval rating at that time, that Graham didn't see fit to put a halt to "the program" by calling for Senate hearings right then and there.

CHENEY (in 1999, according to the Washington Post): It's not in anyone's interest to get an "oh by the way decision" -- & all have to understand that. Can hurt the Pres. Bring it up at a Cabinet meeting. Make sure everyone understands this.
Two years later, at his Nov. 13 lunch with Bush, Cheney brought the president the ultimate "oh, by the way" choice -- a far-reaching military order that most of Bush's top advisers had not seen.
Madman: GITMO& Torture were ideas which began in the VP's office and ended up being signed by President Bush without the benefit of being reviewed by the Secretary of State, the National Security Advisor or the Attorney General. In fact this "gang of six" actually bypassed the DoJ (Department of Justice) head, John Ashcroft and, instead, used the opinion of one of the six, John Woo, to justify the legality of their policies. In this, the President of the United States became just a authorization signature.

WAPO: (Ashcroft) was enraged to discover that Yoo, his subordinate, had recommended otherwise -- as part of a strategy to deny jurisdiction to U.S. courts.
Three days after the Ashcroft meeting, Cheney brought the order for military commissions to Bush. No one told Bellinger, Rice or Powell, who continued to think that Prosper's working group was at the helm.
At the White House, Bellinger sent Rice a blunt -- and, he thought, private -- legal warning. The Cheney-Rumsfeld position would place the president indisputably in breach of international law and would undermine cooperation from allied governments. Faxes had been pouring in at the State Department since the order for military commissions was signed, with even British authorities warning that they could not hand over suspects if the U.S. government withdrew from accepted legal norms.
One lawyer in his office said that Bellinger was chagrined to learn, indirectly, that Cheney had read the confidential memo and "was concerned" about his advice. Thus Bellinger discovered an unannounced standing order: Documents prepared for the national security adviser, another White House official said, were "routed outside the formal process" to Cheney, too. The reverse did not apply.
MADMAN: This proves that there is no getting to the President without going through the Vice President's office. The President, known as a "headline reader", at best, seems to be getting all of his news and views right from the mouth of Dick Cheney. It should be obvious to anyone and everyone that the real power in the White House comes from the Number Two spot.

WAPO: A White House lawyer with direct knowledge said Cheney's lawyer, Addington, wrote the memo. Flanigan passed it to Gonzales, and Gonzales sent it as "my judgment" to Bush. If Bush consulted Cheney after that, the vice president became a sounding board for advice he originated himself.
MADMAN: And this means that Gonzales is no better than a tool for Dick Cheney as well. With John Ashcroft, and for a time, acting AG James Comey in office, thee was opposition and oversight from the top cop position. Cheney, who expects everyone to agree with him or be gone has made sure that Ashcroft and the entire DoJ have now become merely tools of the Veep's office today. believe it or not, Ashcroft wasn't enough of a "tool" himself. Who would have thought that we'd be longing for the days of AG Ashcroft and his DoJ?

WAPO: Late that afternoon, as the "Gonzales memo" began to circulate around the government, Addington turned to Flanigan, "It'll leak in 10 minutes."
MADMAN: Addington blamed the State Department for leaking the memo which they, themselves, leaked. I wonder if Gonzales realized that Cheney was setting him up as the fall guy, just in case they needed one? Or does Cheney merely think that anyone under his wing can't be touched?

-Noah Greenberg

A FISA Court Judge Speaks

"What we have found in the history of our country is that you can't trust the executive,"
"We have to understand you can fight the war (on terrorism) and lose everything if you have no civil liberties left when you get through fighting the war,"
"The executive has to fight and win the war at all costs. But judges understand the war has to be fought, but it can't be at all costs," Lamberth said. "We still have to preserve our civil liberties. Judges are the kinds of people you want to entrust that kind of judgment to more than the executive."
-Judge Royce Lamberth, a Washington, DC district court judge who was also a FISA judge

I couldn't have said it better myself. Let's remember that Judge Lamberth was appointed by none other than the GOP deity Ronald Reagan. He is not what you'd consider to be "Liberal" justice out to make law. As a matter of fact, after reading his statements, one might say that it is his job to interpret laws, including the FISA law, which the Constitution tells us is, in fact, every judge's responsibility.

"it's the executive branch's job to interpret law"
-President Bush

(BUZZ noise from a game show buzzer) WRONG President Bush. Thank you for playing "What Our Founding Fathers Meant". Here's a copy of our home game (the host hands GW copy of the US Constitution.) Read it, (Dummy).

Those guys and gals in the black robes... It's their job to interpret the Constitution; it's the Congress' job to debate and create bills which could become laws; and it's your job to review those bills and decide if you agree with the men and women on Capital Hill. If you don't agree, then, Mr. Bush, you have the option of using your veto power and the Congress has the right to override that veto. And then, if you still don't agree and think that this new law might be unconstitutional, you have to option of asking those very same judges if they think he's right.

Of course, if the President surrounds himself with a bunch of Yes-Men and yes-Women, he would never know what the Constitution really means. Asking cronies such as Alberto Gonzales and Harriet Miers if they think he's right is a lot like a Marine drill instructor asking a recruit for his opinion.

"As president, I strongly believe that my first duty as president is to support and serve the president. I promise the American people that I will not abuse this new power, unless it becomes necessary to grant myself the power to do so at a later time."
-Bush, during a televised address East Room bill signing after signing an executive order

Bear this in mind: The FISA court has approved more than 99 percent of all warrants which they have been asked for.

Although judges like Judge Lamberth disagree, the warrant less wiretap program is still being pushed by the Bushies as lawful and necessary.

The program "is lawful, limited, safeguarded and — most importantly — effective in protecting American citizens from terrorist attacks. It's specifically designed to be effective without infringing Americans' civil liberties."
-White House spokesman Tony Fratto

The secret NSA wiretapping program isn't lawful, that's for sure. We don't know if it's "limited" because without the FISA court's supervision, we have no idea who the Bushies are spying on. And as far as not infringing on our right... C'mon... We don't trust our government and that's why our founding fathers - people like Madison and Adams and such - put safeguards in the form of checks and balances into the most important document ever written by modern man.

"I haven't seen a proposal for a better way than presenting an application to the FISA court and having an independent judge decide if it's really the kind of thing that we ought to be doing, recognizing that how we view civil liberties is different in time of war."
"I have seen a proposal for a worse way and that's what the president did with the NSA program."
-Judge Lamberth

Well I guess that Judge Lamberth can kiss a Bush Supreme Court appointment good-bye. After all, you have to be a part of the "inner circle", and a complete lackey as well, to get to the Highest Court in the land through a Bush White House.

And don't believe the Bushies when they tell you that obtaining a FISA warrant is a hardship that delays justice. Lamberth tells of an interesting story - his. On September 11, 2001, the District Court judge was stuck in the car pool lane when the terrorists struck. More to the point, he was stuck in the car pool lane as roads were closed after the Pentagon was hit. He wasn't going anywhere. He called Federal Marshals in an attempt to get him out of traffic and into his court where, he assumed, his presence might be needed. By the time the marshals got there, Lamberth had already approved five - count 'em, five - FISA warrants. he also tells of times where he approved warrants after three o'clock in the morning on a Saturday (or is that Sunday)?

I got it! maybe the Bushies don't like waking Federal Judges. nah... That can't be it. After all, this is the who flew back from Crawford, TX to sign a bill into law for one person (Terri Schiavo). So waking a judge really doesn't seem like it would be much of an impediment.

To show just how simple it was to get a FISA warrant approved, Lamberth said, "In a time of national emergency like (911), changes have to be made in procedures. We changed a number of FISA procedures." And instead of waiting for 40 to 50 page warrant applications, he said that he approved warrants, "based on the oral briefing by the director of the FBI to the chief judge of the FISA court."

It's simple... The reason we have the FISA court is because we don't trust those we put into office and the way our government is arranged, it appears that we never did. It's the reason we have courts to make sure they follow the law. We elect representatives to perform oversight, just in case. it's the reason we don't allow the end of debate in the Senate without the approval of 60 Senators. And it's the reason we have (supposedly) a free press we call "The Fourth Estate."

"We're making sure there's not some political shenanigan going on or some improper motive for the surveillance. The fact that they have to submit it to us keeps them honest."

It wasn't right or proper for Robert Mueller's FBI to present non-FISA "National Security Letters" to phone companies in an attempt to obtain regular citizens' phone records and Internet Service Providers. Under the Bushies, from 2002 to 2005 there were approximately 3,000 violations of the FISA law.

"Once they saw how the field offices had screwed this all up, I thought that would be a good time to centralize the approvals" in one Washington office that could enforce the rules uniformly. "Unfortunately, Mueller and (Attorney General Alberto) Gonzales did not do that."

They weren't looking towards making the system work better, although, it appears, it wasn't broken. The likes of Mueller and then-Bush White House counsel Alberto Gonzales were looking to break the law, claim it doesn't work, and go along their merry way doing as they pleased.

Make no mistake about it, if the Bushies had their way there would be no court system at all. They have already shown their distaste for anything which might be considered a speed bump in their lust for unfettered power and, even though the courts in this land are more Conservative than at any time in recent history, they still want more.

Don't believe the Bushies when they tell you that if they can't usurp the FISA Courts the terrorists win. When our leaders usurp our laws, ad our freedoms are placed under siege, that's when the terrorists truly win.


-Noah Greenberg


by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2007 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

Why won’t George Bush save my life?

I am a hard-working American citizen. I was born in Philadelphia, the so-called birthplace of liberty, where American democracy was founded. I’ve lived and worked in some of America’s great cities–New York, New Orleans, San Francisco, Los Angeles. I pay taxes. I am civic-minded and patriotic. I have never missed an election since I was old enough to vote. I spent four years in the Peace Corps. I taught literacy programs in the inner city as well as in prisons for more than a decade. I have worked on the front-lines of several civil rights movements. I am active in my community. I go to church. I founded and run an animal rescue shelter. I have been an award-winning journalist for more than 25 years. I have published more than 20 books. I teach college. I mentor kids. I have spent my life helping other people. I have even been given awards for doing so, awards that deemed me and my work a role model for others.

So why won’t the President help me? Why won’t he save my life? I’m a model citizen in many ways. And yet Bush refuses to commute my death sentence with just a few strokes of his pen.

I could understand if it were just *my* life that was at stake. But it isn’t. It’s the lives of *one in six* Americans–about 55 million people. That is how many Americans are suffering from life-threatening diseases that might be cured by embryonic stem cell research–research that the President has refused to fund not once, but twice in one year.

I wasn’t really surprised when the announcement came June 20th that Bush had once again vetoed a stem-cell research bill. Bush has only vetoed three bills in his entire presidency and each time it has been to set Americans up to die. Twice he has vetoed stem-cell research and several weeks ago he vetoed the bill that would have set limits on how many more Americans have to die in Iraq.

He says it’s about morality.

So even though I wasn’t surprised, I took this veto personally. One in six Americans has a disease that could be helped by stem-cell research. Which means *every* American knows someone whose life could be saved by stem-cell research. Which means even the President knows someone whose life could be saved by stem-cell research. Which means his decision to veto the bill is even more callous than it appears to me and to those 55 million other Americans.

I have been in a wheelchair for 13 years. That’s almost a quarter of my life–a long time not to be able to go for the long walks I used to take, or ride my bike to work as I did for years, or dance the night away as I was famous for. A long time to suffer.

I have a few good hours every day. Those hours are invariably spent working. Sometimes they are spent having dinner with family and friends, or seeing a film, or going to Mass. But none of those hours are spent walking or bicycling or dancing. I miss those things. A lot. Mostly I miss being able to do everything for myself, without asking others for help.

George Bush doesn’t care that I have been in a wheelchair for 13 years. He doesn’t care that my life is incredibly limited by having a serious degenerative disease of the central nervous system for which there is no cure or even treatment. He doesn’t care that this disease restricts my breathing, my vision, my ability to sit and stand and even swallow. Or, as a writer, hold a pen.

Of course, I am still fortunate. Although I have been in a wheelchair for more than a decade, I wasn’t *always* in a wheelchair. I *used*to walk, bicycle and dance. I traveled around the world as an investigative journalist.

But a lot of those 55 million other Americans who might benefit from stem-cell research have never had the choices I had because they were disabled from birth. *Always* in a wheelchair. *Always* kept from being the full person they could have been, if the disease they suffer from hadn’t altered their bodies irreparably.

I have a good friend who is going blind. She uses the white cane blind people use when they go outside and she wears thick glasses. She suffers from a rare disease that may or may not be helped by stem-cell research.

Even going blind–she has special software on her computer that allows her to read–she reads more than anyone I know, and everyone I know reads a lot. She’s a superb editor, one of the best I have ever had. I don’t want to think about the day she is no longer able to be my editor. I would like to save her sight.

Why won’t the President help her?

I guess it’s easy for some people to dismiss the needs of 55 million people–more people than live in *all* of Canada and Australia combined. But I suppose if you’ve spent your life in service to others, as I have, your perspective is a little different.

I simply do not like to see people suffering and dying.

The President, however, believes that to be an emotional response, not a scientific one. Which would be a solid enough answer to my query *if* Bush were relying at all on science, rather than his own ideology, his own alleged morality.

When Bush vetoed the bill proposed by the Democrats, he said it was because the science was unproven, which isn’t true. He also said that we can’t take life to save lives.

Okay, I’m confused–isn’t that exactly what we are supposed to be doing in Iraq: taking lives to save lives?

But let’s pretend that what the President said is true, even though it’s not.

What life are we taking in embryonic stem-cell research?

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), a government agency, answers the question-- What stages of early embryonic development are used to generate embryonic stem cells?–with the following answer:

“Embryonic stem cells, as their name suggests, are derived from embryos. Specifically, embryonic stem cells are derived from embryos that develop from eggs that have been fertilized *in vitro*--in an*in vitro* fertilization clinic–and then donated for research purposes with informed consent of the donors. They are *not* derived from eggs fertilized in a woman's body. The embryos from which human embryonic stem cells are derived are typically four or five days old.”

Thus the embryos used in embryonic stem-cell research come from leftover cells that might have been used for in-vitro fertilization. These embryos will be discarded–tossed in the trash–if they are not used in stem-cell research.

President Bush thinks it’s better to toss these embryos in the trash than to use them to save the lives of 55 million Americans.

Readers of this column know I am pro-life: against war, against the death penalty, against abortion. I don’t eat animals, because I don’t believe in killing. The embryos in question are cells in petri dishes. They are about the size of the period at the end of this sentence.

Embryonic stem-cell research is not experimentation on babies, as the President has tried to present it. This research is using a series of cells ready to be *put in the trash* that might be used instead to *save millions of lives.*

If these embryonic cells were children, wouldn’t there be a mass effort by the President to preserve them and then give them a Christian burial? Of course there would–we don’t throw babies in the trash in America. And when some people do–there are a few cases of this each year of young and desperate teenagers giving birth and putting their newborns in the trash–it is a crime. So if these stem cells are indeed babies, as the President contends, why isn’t it a crime to toss them in the trash?

In point of fact it *is* a crime to discard these cells, because doing so deprives millions like myself of the possibility of cures for our heretofore incurable diseases. Think of the genius of Stephen Hawking, limited by his suffering from ALS, unable to speak or move for years. Think of the children trapped in bodies tortured by Muscular Dystrophy, or those who won’t live beyond their twenties due to Cystic Fibrosis. Think of the young man in China with a 33-pound tumor on his face from neurofibromatoma which has ruined his whole life, deforming his body, making him a pariah in his village and obscuring his vision, hearing and speech. He told doctors this week that he’s never had a day in his life that wasn’t full of incredible misery and pain.

Think of all the suffering that could be stopped by research on cells the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Think of all the stem cells being thrown in the trash or washed down the sink rather than being used to save lives.

More than three-quarters of Americans believe stem-cell research is vital. Americans overwhelmingly want it–perhaps because they all know someone with diabetes, MS, ALS, MD or other diseases that could be cured by this research.

By vetoing the Democrats’ bill, President Bush has once again chosen to ignore the needs and desires of the American people whom he represents. That bill would have funded life-giving research for the 55 million Americans already suffering from diseases that could be cured through embryonic stem-cell research.

But it’s not just the 55 million, myself among them, already sick or dying from these diseases. It is about all the children who will be born with these diseases. It’s about all the people who will wake up one morning in their 20s or 30s like I did, or Stephen Hawking did, to a body suddenly inexplicably and irrevocably changed, destined to spend the rest of our lives in pain and suffering, till we are killed by that disease.

White House press secretary Tony Snow, who has been battling advanced colon cancer himself, said on June 20th: “This is, certainly not an attempt to muzzle science. It is an attempt, I

think, to respect people’s conscience on such an issue.”

The President said, “Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical–and it is not the only option before us.”

These statements, by Snow and Bush, are lies. Three-quarters of Americans *want* embryonic stem-cell research. Bush is, once again, disregarding the will of the American people and putting his own ideology above the needs of all Americans, and most especially, the 55 million whose suffering could be alleviated by embryonic stem-cell research. This *is* muzzling science and what’s more, it is totally unethical, not to mention disingenuous of Bush to say that embryonic stem cells that are about to be–literally–flushed down the drain, are better off as trash than as succor for millions of suffering *live human beings.*

When Bush last vetoed a bill, it was for supplemental spending for Iraq and it had a timeline for bring the troops home. He once again put his own personal agenda above the needs and demands of the American people–in that instance, to end the war in Iraq and bring our troops home.

The President has shown amazing arrogance toward people worldwide, but to Americans in particular, because this is the country he is supposed to be leading. That arrogance may be why his approval rating dropped another couple of points after the stem-cell research veto. Bush’s approval rating is now the second-lowest in presidential history, having dropped lower than Jimmy Carter’s during the hostage crisis. The only president to have an approval rating lower than Bush’s current 26 percent was Richard Nixon on the eve of his resignation, when his approval rating was 23 percent.

If the President continues to ignore the will of the American people on issues of grave concern to them, like the war or stem-cell research, his approval rating is bound to drop well below Nixon’s. Because like Nixon, Bush is utterly out of touch with what America needs and wants.

The stem-cell research debate is not over. The President may have given those of us who are dying his second veto on the importance of our lives, but Congressional Democrats have pledged to continue to present Bush with the same bill again and again until they have the two-thirds majority needed to override his veto or until there is a new president in Washington.

I wish George Bush valued life as much as I do. I wish he understood what it is like to know every muscle that keeps me alive–moving, swallowing, seeing, breathing, heart pumping–is degenerating. Perhaps it is selfish of me to want to live. But I know it isn’t selfish of me to want others to be free of the suffering I have experienced.

As a Catholic, I have my own deeply entrenched ideologies, but I guess unlike the President, I remember Jesus cured the sick. Bush has the power to do the same. He just won’t. And millions will suffer and die due solely to his willful, destructive arrogance.

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-Noah Greenberg