THE NEWSLETTER

Today's Note from a Madman

Wednesday, December 29, 2005

 

 

A Joke
Marine Salutes Bush


As President Bush is getting off the helicopter in front of the White House, he has a baby pig under each arm.
The Marine guard snaps to attention, salutes, and says: "Nice pigs, sir."
President Bush replies: "These are not pigs, these are authentic Texan Razorback Hogs. I got one for VP Cheney, and I got one for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld."
The Marine again snaps to attention, salutes, and replies, "Nice trade, sir."

-Forwarded by Jenny Hanniver



The British Bulldog, Tony Blair Becomes GW's Lap Dog

The British government is trying to prevent the publication of memos which detail how information procured by torture in Uzbekistan is being used by the US and the UK. Former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan and author of the memos Craig Murray explains:

With Tony Blair and Jack Straw cornered on extraordinary rendition, the UK government is particularly anxious to suppress all evidence of our complicity in obtaining intelligence extracted by foreign torturers.

The British Foreign Office is now seeking to block publication of Craig Murray's forthcoming book, which documents his time as Ambassador to Uzbekistan. The Foreign Office has demanded that Craig Murray remove all references to two especially damning British government documents, indicating that our government was knowingly receiving information extracted by the Uzbeks through torture, and return every copy that he has in his possession.


***

I would say that Bush's poodle Tony Blair has been caught red faced in a lie. He denied that Britain ever used rendition - outsourcing torture to other nations. But, along comes Craig Murray with the goods. It's a shame that Blair elected to move in lock step with Bush - I think that the British could have influenced the United States in a more positive direction.

-Robert Scardapane



"Ghastly Ghosting"

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has admitted that he "ghosted" a detainee, meaning that he made the decision to hold a prisoner without keeping any records of the fact.

While prisoners of war can be theoretically stripped of their rights by calling them other names (like "unlawful combatants"), they are probably most effectively stripped of all rights by keeping their imprisonment secret. That is what Rumsfeld says he did.

An account of what we know on this matter can be found on page 110 of a new report by Congressman John Conyers called "The Constitution in Crisis; The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Cover-ups in the Iraq War."

Following a catalog of evidence of other crimes sanctioned by top Bush Administration officials, the report reads:

"We also have an admission that George Tenet specifically approved the ghosting in Iraq of a specific individual, and that Mr. Rumsfeld admitted to approving of ghosting of detainees as a special matter. During a press conference in June 2004, Secretary Rumsfeld confirmed not only that he was asked by CIA Director George Tenet to hide a specific detainee, but also that he hid the detainee and that the detainee was lost in the system for more than eight months:

"Q -- Mr. Secretary, I'd like to ask why last November you ordered the U.S. military to keep a suspected Ansar al-Islam prisoner in Iraq [Hiwa Abdul Rahman Rashul] secret from the Red Cross. He's now been secret for more than seven months. And there are other such shadowy prisoners in Iraq who are being kept secret from the Red Cross.

"SEC. RUMSFELD: With respect to the -- I want to separate the two. Iraq, my understanding is that the investigations on that subject are going forward. With respect to the detainee you're talking about, I'm not an expert on this, but I was requested by the Director of Central Intelligence to take custody of an Iraqi national who was believed to be a high-ranking member of Ansar al-Islam. And we did so. We were asked to not immediately register the individual. And we did that. It would -- it was -- he was brought to the attention of the Department, the senior level of the Department I think late last month. And we're in the process of registering him with the ICRC at the present time . . ."

-from David Swanson at www.afterdowingstreet.org


***

Resorting to a pun, I find this business of ghosting to be spooky. People disappear in totalitarian governments not in democracies. The right winger judge and jury types claim that terrorists don't merit human rights. Do we now believe that a person is guilty before being proven innocent? Such a fundamental change in judicial philosophy is indeed frightening.

-Forwarded and commented by Robert Scardapane



BUSH THE SPY
by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2005 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.


Nostalgia s rampant this time of year, as the holidays lead to reminiscing.

This year there's a bit more of that nostalgic feeling than usual, however, because the President has taken the nation for a holiday joyride. Not in Santa's sleigh, but in the political way-back machine. Last week it was 2005, today it's 1972. If someone should ask you who the president is, you might need a minute to be sure: George Bush or Richard Nixon?

After all, one illegal wiretap or warrantless search looks much like another and one president spying on Americans without their knowledge looks much like another.

More than 30 years ago the Washington Post revealed the corruption of Watergate. Last week the New York Times revealed the details of the Bush spy scandal. But the NYT sat on the information that the President was engaged in illegally spying on Americans for about as long as it takes for political hell to freeze over. It wasn't till the President himself broke the news that the New York Times began revealing the extent to which Bush has decided that he is, like his predecessor, above the law.

Back in the Watergate years, Nixon was either taping people or tapping them. After he was forced to resign for offenses not unlike those the current president is accused of, a series of checks and balances were instituted to safeguard both the privacy of Americans and their civil liberties from unwarranted surveillance. Post-Watergate no president could use wiretapping with impunity.

That's the law.

But as Bush asserted in a series of press conferences in recent days, he really doesn't have to abide by those rules because *we are at war.* According to the President, Congress granted him the power to illegally spy on Americans. Except that Congress doesn't have that power, only the judicial branch of government does. And taking a group of fewer than ten members of Congress into your private office and swearing them to secrecy doesn't exactly make for transparency.

True, the U.S. is at war–a war the President said last week he began based on faulty intelligence. But, he added (there is always a "but" with this president), it was still the right thing to do.


Okay. Even if you are one of the now only 28 percent of Americans who think the U.S. should have invaded Iraq, you might not be comfortable with the way the President has extended his wartime powers to pretty much include anything he wants, including warrantless searches and wiretaps. There's a reason why people are now calling him "King George."

Those wiretaps are far more than the government recording the phone conversations of Americans at the behest of the President. Since it is indeed 2005, not 1972, there is a whole new technological world that promises a far greater range of spying. There are mobile phones, computers, email and blackberries: a host of means by which we transmit information to other people in the course of a day. Do you want the government hearing or seeing every exchange in your daily life?

In fifth grade children learn about the various branches of government and what their powers are. They also learn the key element of American democracy so brilliantly designed by the Founding Fathers: checks and balances. In order to avoid any one branch of government gaining too much power over another, our government was designed with the power equalized into three parts: executive (the president), legislative (Congress) and judicial (the courts).

There is a secret court-- the FISA Court ( instituted through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act)---that is available daily to address wiretaps and other forms of surveillance on American citizens. That court can grant the President a warrant to instigate such surveillance. What's more, if the President feels it might take too long to get the warrant, that it's a matter of nation security to go straight to electronic eavesdropping without one, then he has 72 hours–three long days–to go back to the court and ask for one retroactively.

So why didn't Bush do that?

Perhaps because this President has always done exactly what he wants whether it means subverting the Constitution or not. The prime example of this, of course, is the war on Iraq. The war was not predicated on faulty intelligence as the President asserted last week in his address from the Oval Office. The intelligence clearly stated that Iraq had not been engaged in buying materials to create weapons of mass destruction. The President *knew* what the intelligence said and decided to go to war anyway.
The President has also engaged this nation in acts of torture, contravening the Geneva Convention.

And now we find the President spying on Americans, again contravening the law and violating the Constitution.

Thirty percent of Americans believe that giving up some civil liberties to catch terrorists is a good trade. But if you think that, consider this: I found out this week that the government thinks I might be a terrorist.

Do I have an arsenal in my basement? Have I bought large quantities of explosives lately? Have I traveled to the Middle East and trained in an al-Qeada camp? Am I aiding other terrorists?
None of the above. I am, however, a member of PETA, an animal rights organization under surveillance by the President. I am also a member of a Catholic anti-war group also under surveillance.

Is this really the best way to fight terrorism? Am I and Americans like me, such as the Quaker anti-war group in Florida under surveillance, so dangerous that the President needs to subvert the Constitution to protect other Americans against us? The Constitution is the fundamental document of our democracy. It should be treated like a sacred text, the veritable Bible of our freedom and our civil liberties.

In the four years since 9/11, Bush has made national security his personal catch phrase. It's his excuse for everything he wants to do from despoiling the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge to allegedly protect the U.S. from being dependent on foreign oil (fortunately Congress blocked Bush on this on December 21st) to invading Iraq and now spying on animals rights proponents and religious groups opposed to the war. Former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) expressed the response of many when he said last week, "The American people are going to have to say, 'Enough of this business of justifying everything as necessary for the war on terror.'"

On December 20th, U.S. District Court Judge James Robertson, appointed to the FISA Court by the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, did just that when he resigned in protest over the revelation that the President had by-passed the court and the legally necessary warrants. Robertson's resignation is reminiscent of when Attorney General Elliot Richardson resigned in protest after Nixon ordered him to fire Archibald Cox, the Special Prosecutor investigating Watergate.

Both men resigned because their President was subverting the law.

The debate here is not about surveillance itself. The argument is over secrecy, lies and illegality by the President. The argument is not about whether or not surveillance is acceptable; surveillance *is* acceptable–the court Robertson sat on grants warrants to wiretap every day. This is an aspect of national security which could at times save lives. But why did the President decide to contravene the Constitution and the laws that govern such surveillance, when he could easily have asked the court, before or after, for the warrants?
Did he think he wouldn't get them?

It's the misuse and abuse of power that makes this a criminal act.

Bush, like Nixon, has made himself above the law. Bush, however, has stated that he will continue to circumvent the FISA Court, despite protests from members of Congress .Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) is chairman of the Judiciary Committee and a staunch constitutionalist. He expressed his concern about the President's actions. About the handful of members of Congress informed by the President about the surveillance he said, "I think it does not constitute a check and balance. You can't have the administration and a select number of members [of Congress] alter the law. It can't be done."

Specter also noted that "This is going to be a big, big issue. There's a lot of indignation across the country, from what I see."

That indignation seems oddly muted in Congress where the legislature doesn't seem to know exactly how to respond to this latest infringement on the separation of powers by Bush. The President asserts that Congress, when it passed the war resolution for the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, essentially gave the President unlimited powers. But that would mean Congress abdicated its own power, an unlikely scenario. Intelligence committee members–the tiny group that met with the President–cannot authorize that he break the law. And if they were sworn to secrecy, doesn't that raise an important question: What was so secret that neither Congress nor the FISA Court could be told about it? Is this part of the torture scandal that was still in the news when this story broke or something even worse? Is the President doing something so wrong, so illegal that it must be kept secret from all but a handful of Americans sworn to secrecy under penalty of prison?

We now know the government has bugged thousands of people, but will we ever know exactly why? Those of us engaged in nothing more than traditional protest and activism have had our groups infiltrated and followed by the FBI. If people like me are on the wiretap list, how careful a process can this wiretapping be and how useful against real terrorists?

Nixon tarnished the presidency with his secrets and lies. Bush is doing the same. Congress must be vocal and succinct about this issue and proceed accordingly–Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has suggested impeachment.

Impeachment would slake the rage of many Americans, but it doesn't address the core issues, like the damage this Administration has done and continues to do here and globally. And while the President is busy shredding the Constitution, terrorism continues to be a serious and possibly immediate threat to this nation.

For five years this has been a Teflon presidency–no matter how egregious the actions, Bush has been able to shrug off each terrible event. It's past time for accountability. The spying scandal should be the incident that makes every American fear for the Constitution and the democracy it protects. It's been 30 years since Nixon and more than 2000 since the real King George ruled the colonies. The lesson of Watergate was succinct: no American, no matter how powerful, is above the law.

The Founding Fathers had a good plan for America, with those checks and balances. It's up to us to maintain them and to check Bush's unsubtle manipulations any way we can.



BANG!

I have a great many total gun control friends and respect their views, but as many of you know I'm not an opponent of the 2nd Amendment, hunting or sport shooting, although I find gun collecting creepy. I did some competition pistol shooting in the Navy, and found it challenging and fun.

My dad hated all firearms and would never permit them in our house, or allow me to shoot, not even a BB gun. He had some very good reasons, since as a teenager he watched his best friend die from a pistol bullet that was shot out into the street by some drunk inside a tavern, but he never quite sold me on it. That's not just because there's no meat more delicious than broiled venison steak, but also because the origin of Anglo-American freedom is founded on the 13th century Statute of Winchester, out of which the 2nd Amendment emerged in the late 18th century with only slight changes. Those changes, however, are critical! To furnish men for militias, the Statute of Winchester ordered men between 16 and 60 to own longbows and practice archery. Our 2nd Amendment permits the owning of weapons. That's a huge difference. Our law is certainly freer.

And I strenuously object to the gun lobby's policy of total anarchy. No hunter, collector or sports shooter should be allowed to possess workable semiautomatics, sawed off shotguns, grenades, or worse, and persons permanently maimed or their relatives should be able to sue manufacturers or sellers who sell WMDs to good citizens, or ANY weapons whatsoever to the demented or to criminals. The Brady Bill should be revived and strengthened. Checking on the past criminal and psychiatric history of a purchaser of weapons, sharing data between police forces, and keeping permanent records are all outstanding safeguards.

-Jenny Hanniver



Media Matters Quotes of the Year

Here's the typical sensitivity expected of Neo-con spokespersons.

I must say that I've never met a man, or a woman, so much in love with a donkey that they were considering marriage. Perhaps Dobson doesn't realize it, but most Americans these days live in cities, suburbs and towns where livestock is frowned on.

Some Americans DO adore donkeys, however. I invite you to see the dozens of "long ears" websites of those who claim to be rabid donkey lovers. All those people seem to be from Red States, however, and probably voted for Bush, which sets up some interesting possibilities.

Or perhaps Rev. Dobson was fantasizing--writing "donkey" but thinking "ass"? However you define it, that word just about sums up the mental and moral level of the people below.


-Jenny Hanniver

"[Y]ou could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down."
-Former Reagan administration Secretary of Education Bill Bennett frpm the Salem Radio Network's Bill Bennett's Morning in America
MADMAN: Doesn't it make you wish Bill Bennett's mother thought a bit harder about abortion some sixty years ago?

"If [Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez] thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it."
-Pat Robertson Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club
MADMAN: Oddly enough, the thing that bothers me most about The 700 Club is that it's hosted on the same channel as The Disney Channel.

"[I]f Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. ... You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead."
-Fox News' Bill O'Reilly to San Francisco (yes, all of San Fransisco) on Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly
MADMAN: Will Mr. O'Reilly be in the tower at the time?

"I think you could probably make an absolutely airtight case that more than 3,000 Americans have been either killed or injured, based upon the 11 million illegals who are here."
-Bill O'Reilly, agreeing with caller that illegal immigrants are "biological weapon[s]" on Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly
MADMAN: Hey, wait a minute there Bill... Those 3,000 Americans are the franchise of "G"lobal "W"arming Bush. Did you get his permission to say that?

"Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society."
-Rush Limbaugh, from his syndicated radio show
MADMAN: Remember, Rush is the guy who called all women who had the temerity to be individuals "FEMINE-NAZIS"! I often wonder how any self-respecting woman could listen to him without remember how he views their freedom.

"I'm telling you, folks, there's a part of me that likes this."
-Rush Limbaugh on the kidnapping of peace activists in Iraq
MADMAN: I say put a peace sign around Rush's neck, wrap him an a really, really, really big (HUGE) box (feel free to punch a couple of air-holes in the box - but not too many, you don't want all of that crap he's made out of to ooze out); and ship him off to Iraq, addressed to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi .

Bill Clinton "was a very good rapist"
"I'm getting a little fed up with hearing about, oh, civilian casualties"
"I think we ought to nuke North Korea right now just to give the rest of the world a warning."
-Ann (I wear a leather bustier on the cover of my new book to get lonely, old and desperate right-wingers to buy it and touch themselves) Coulter
MADMAN: Ah... Where to begin. Put Coulter in the box next to Limbaugh's on the same plane. NO AIR HOLES!

"Isn't it great to see Muslims celebrating something other than the slaughter of Americans?"
-Ann Coulter
MADMAN: Too bad that this is the nicest thing Ann (Leather Bustier) Coulter has ever said about anybody who isn't a member of PNAC.

"[Y]ou know it took me about a year to start hating the 9-11 victims' families? Took me about a year."
-Radio host Glenn Beck, from his show on the Premiere Radio Networks
MADMAN: I'm willing to bet that the families of the 9/11 victims were ahead of the curve on this one, Glenn.

"Canada is a sweet country. It is like your retarded cousin you see at Thanksgiving and sort of pat him on the head. You know, he's nice, but you don't take him seriously. That's Canada."

-Tucker Carlson from his MSNBC Show The Situation with Tucker Carlson
MADMAN: Tucker Carlson has finally done it. he has OUTSOURCED HATE.

Liberals "don't have the kind of family responsibilities most people have, and certainly not church responsibilities."
-Tim Wildmon, the American Family Association president from American Family Radio's Today's Issues
MADMAN: GW - arrested for drunk driving as a "youth" at the age of thirty; George P. Bush (son of Gov. Jeb Bush [R-FL]; arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct (IN TEXAS); Noelle Bush (Jeb's daughter) - DRUG ADDICT; Jenna and Barbara Bush (GW's daughters) - well at least they haven't been in jail... yet - but they do enjoy the "sauce", even as minors; Laura Bush - Whatever happened to he childhood boyfriend anyway?

"It's very hard to have respect for a woman who exploits the death of her own son and doesn't respect her own son's life. ... She portrays him as an idiot."
-David Horowitz on Cindy Sheehan from [MSNBC's Connected: Coast to Coast
MADMAN: And just when will MSNBC start using their new name - "Fox-Lite"? Remember, they will say anything, at anytime, using any justification for their assault on the middle class.

"[T]here will be riots in South Central Los Angeles and elsewhere. ... The rioting, of course, will lead to wide scale looting. There are a lot of aspiring rappers and NBA superstars who could really use a nice flat-screen television right now."
-Radio host Neal Boortz on the execution of Stanley "Tookie" Williams
MADMAN: And now you know why the African American community votes for the "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party at a nine percent clip.

"Our guys" in Iraq "have got every right to have good news put into the media and get to the people of Iraq, even if it's got to be planted or bought."
-Pat Buchanan from MSNBC's (Fox-Lits's) Hardball with Chris Matthews
MADMAN: Just like here in America - a bought-and-sold media. How else are you going to get them to write anything good about "G"lobal "W"arming Bush and the "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party?

Given EPA-mandated "small-flush" toilets, "[h]ow is it possible to flush a Quran down the toilet?"
-Rich Lowry, National Review editor, from his Young America's Foundation speech
MADMAN: I say let's get a good, old-fashioned, pull-string toilet... you know, the ones that use about fifty gallons of water to flush a tissue... to get rid of Lowry's big, fat head.

"I dare say she could walk out of that hotel and walk 100 yards in either direction on Fulton Industrial Boulevard here in Atlanta and have a job. What's that? Well, no, no, no. ... Well, you know what? [laughing] Now that you mention it ... [i]f that's the only way she can take care of herself, it sure beats the hell out of sucking off the taxpayers."
-Neal Boortz, from Cox Radio Syndication's The Neal Boortz Show, suggesting that a victim of Hurricane Katrina housed in an Atlanta hotel consider prostitution
MADMAN: That reminds me of the 2004 GOP convention in New York City - Pimps had to import hookers into the New York from Los Angeles, Las Vegas and other "sinful places", citing "supply and demand" to satisfy the sexual appetites of the GOP faithful. Believe it or not, there weren't enough hookers in the Big Apple.

Same-sex marriage would lead to "marriage between daddies and little girls ... between a man and his donkey."
James C. Dobson, Focus on the Family founder and chairman
MADMAN: Hey... What would you call the offspring of a man and a donkey? Give up? JAMES DOBSON. After all, there is no bigger "ASS" then Mr. Dobson.

"Have you noticed that many news organizations, in honor of former ABC News anchorman Peter Jennings, have embarked on a quit smoking campaign? So why don't our media launch a campaign advising people to quit engaging in the dangerous and addictive homosexual lifestyle? ... It appears that the homosexual lifestyle is as addictive as smoking."
Accuracy in Media editor Cliff Kincaid
MADMAN: <standing silently - mouth agape>

-as forwarded by Jenny Hanniver and commented by Jenny Hanniver and Noah Greenberg


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-Noah Greenberg