This story touched me deeply this morning, and angered me. It was hard for me to leave for work without posting about it but I had an appointment and a job to do. And by the way, this has to get the Photo of the Week award.
The Bush administration, with odd-bedfellows support from liberal Democrats, has called for allowing the purchase of some food in poor countries to quicken responses to emergencies.
Families participating in an American-financed irrigation project from 2002 to 2006 were promised payment in corn for clearing the land and digging canals. The Kenyan government objected to the importation of American corn because the country was awash in a bumper harvest that had caused corn prices to plunge.
The result: American officials, prohibited by law from buying the corn locally, could not deliver it. As the impoverished families waited in vain for sustenance from the American heartland, malnutrition among the youngest children worsened and five people died of hunger-related causes.
Most farmers I've known were, or claimed to be, Christians. However, the opposition behind this are hardly Christlike.
Across Africa, the United States is more likely to give people a fish — caught in America — that feeds them for a day than to teach them to fish for themselves. Since last year, for example, the United States has donated $136 million worth of American food to feed the hungry in Kenya, but spent $36 million on agricultural projects to help Kenyan farmers grow and earn more.
And even that small budget for long-term projects in Kenya is expected to dwindle.
Pay close attention to all of the dollar figures quoted in this article, which I am emphasizing in bold and/or red.
The Senate Agriculture Committee chairman, Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, where growers and landowners got $1.58 billionin corn subsidies in 2005, is advocating a $25 millionpilot program to test buying food in poor countries for both emergency and long-term aid.
Even that modest proposal is meeting stiff resistance from farm state legislators. The House Agriculture Committee’s version of the farm bill includes no such pilot. The committee chairman, Collin C. Peterson, Democrat of Minnesota, said of his members,` “They’re still of the mode that this should be American products we’re using our tax dollars to provide them.”
Mr. Peterson’s district got $367 million in corn subsidies in 2005, according to government data analyzed by the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit research organization.
It's really obnoxious to me that a wealthy nation such as America (apparently filled with selfish spoiled brats who put their own financial gain ahead of small compromises to aid those in dire need) can display such brazen disregard for the have-nots of the world.
It's sickening. How in the hell do we explain our broken promises, and do we even care?
Things have been...a little busy here at Chez Evil/Gothland lately. School Girl has been going to school for the past 3 1/2 weeks, and is missing out on her summer. Fortunately, the only kids who do have summer are far too old for her to play with. I've been catching up on little things, like housecleaning and painting the bathrooms, that have been neglected for the past five years.
But I'm not here to talk about that today. Right now, I'd like to talk about health insurance.
We all know people who are uninsured. To put it bluntly, it sucks. What sucks even more is having health insurance and finding out that your health insurance won't be enough. Even worse, it won't cover the illness that you or your loved ones are dealing with. And there can be so many more expenses beyond one's medical bills, ones that no medical insurance - not even the best, the expensive ones that deal with everything - will begin to cover. Stitch Diva Studios, home to some fantastic knitting and crochet patterns, is featuring two families hit hard by this - as well as offering some ways to help.
Allison of Super Crafty has a baby son who has a benign brain tumor. He experiences seizures every 15 minutes or so, 24 hours a day. If allowed to go on, it will cause brain damage. The family is having an extremely difficult time getting their medical insurance to pay for his treatment; he will require surgery, and soon. Like so many other artists and artisans, she relies on her spouse's medical insurance, and they're fighting having to pay.
As a lot of her fellow knitters know, Annie Modesitt's husband is very ill. Ms. Modesitt is a knitting designer and teacher; her family recently relocated to Minnesota from New Jersey so that, among other things, she could pursue her designing full-time and her husband could be a houseguy. He has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, which can be treated - sort of - with a stem-cell transplant. His is scheduled for August. The prognosis afterward doesn't look too good, either. Ms. Modesitt has drastically cut back on her teaching schedule, and they have very little savings left. You can donate or purchase the Red Convertible pattern at the link. You could also...
...buy something at Stitch Diva sometime between now and midnight PDT August 1, 2007. All of their patterns are 25% off, and 75% of the proceeds will be donated to Ms. Sanka and Ms. Modesitt to help with their medical and non-medical related expenses. Now, this has been posted in multiple places, so I know for a fact that most of you are not fiber people. I can say knitting/crochet/spinning are popular enough these days that everybody knows someone who is a fiber person. Send your fiber buddy a present that will be deeply appreciated; or donate money directly to either Super Crafty or Annie Modesitt.
Because the next person who needs help could be me. Or you. Every one of us, as Michael Moore aptly pointed out in SiCKO, is a breath away from having the same thing happen. I wasn't quite sure where to put this, so "Health and Medicine" it is.
NOTE: 11-5-10: This entry was edited at the request of one of the people mentioned, to remove her last name.
Q Mr. President, music is one of our largest exports the country has. Currently, every country in the world -- except China, Iran, North Korea, Rwanda and the United States -- pay a statutory royalty to the performing artists for radio and television air play. Would your administration consider changing our laws to align it with the rest of the world?
THE PRESIDENT: Help. (Laughter.) Maybe you've never had a President say this -- I have, like, no earthly idea what you're talking about. (Laughter and applause.) Sounds like we're keeping interesting company, you know? (Laughter.) Look, I'll give you the old classic: contact my office, will you? (Laughter.) I really don't -- I'm totally out of my lane. I like listening to country music, if that helps. (Laughter.)**
**see comment #11 in above link (laughter laughter!!)
What's even MORE AMAZING is the White House Transcript of this ACTUAL, marvelous, fabulous gathering that took place in Nashville last week.
w visited the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center to discuss the budget and reach out to the "good, solid Tennessee citizens who are entrepreneurs, risk takers, dreamers. (Applause.)"
This actually took place. At first I thought it was a spoof or something. I felt like I was reading a SNL transcript. I must be losing it - it appears to be a true blue 'meeting of the minds'. A real ho-down - lots of laughter and applause!
He spoke of our soldiers:
".....there's no more amazing experience than to meet those who have served in harm's way and to realize the strength of spirit of American citizens who volunteer during a time of danger. And one of the young men I have met during my presidency -- I did so in my home state of Texas -- who is with us today, a man who is recovering from terrible injury, but has never lost the spirit of life: Kevin Downs. (Applause.) He's a good man. We're going to get him some new legs, and if he hurries up, he can outrun me on the South Lawn of the White House. Proud that Kevin's mom and dad are here with us, too."
"I want to spend a little time on the economy -- more particularly, the budget. You've got to worry about your budgets; we've got to worry about your budget, too, since you're paying for it. (Laughter.)"
"We were confronted -- this administration has confronted some difficult economic times, particularly earlier in this administration. There was a recession. There were the terrorist attacks that affected the economy in a very direct way. There were corporate scandals which created some thousand -- uncertainty about our system that needed to be corrected. And we responded to those problems by cutting taxes."
and something about the Nashville Bun Co. and English Muffins:
"The Nashville Bun Company folks are organized so that they pay tax at the individual income tax level...
English muffin manufacturing company -- English muffin machine manufacturing company is more likely to have work. In other words, there's an effect, the tax code can affect commerce. And that's exactly what we did, and we cut the taxes and it's worked. This economy is strong. Unemployment has dropped........"
So....there you go!
There you have it --
Where's Toby? - I need to borrow your fucking boot.
CNN is reporting that United States Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, appointed to the High Court in 2005 by President George W. Bush, has suffered a seizure of unknown cause at his summer home in Maine and has been taken to a hospital in nearby Rockport, where doctors are at this time downplaying the severity of the incident.
Roberts suffered a similar seizure in 1993. Doctors are claiming that there is no cause for concern and are characterizing the episode as a "benign idiopathic seizure." His previous seizure was blamed on stress.
Although Roberts' seizure 14 years ago was duly reported to Senate Judiciary Committee members when they were considering his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, no concern was expressed at the time because of how long ago it had happened.
This is a legendary Southern California Beach thing. They probably originated somewhere in Baja around Ensenada or Rosarito.
Take a good meaty deep water fish. I'm using yellowtail and dorado from yesterday's fishing trip and cut into boneless chunks. Soak the chunks in buttermilk overnight.
Before you begin with the fish, take your large, 5 or 6" corn tortillas (now there are some gringo heathens that use flour tortillas for this, they also fry the shells crunchy like chips or something, but I gots me zero fucking time for bastards like that) and get them over by a stove burner, or, if you're making them for a grip of folks, get a griddle heated.
Dice some tomato, crumble up some queso fresca, and shred up some cabbage. (there are also some heartless bastards who will use coleslaw from the deli section here, but they are probably putting it into crisped flour tortillas so that's all you need to know about their character). Have some good ranch dressing on the side.
Minstrel's quick and easy Ranch dressing
1 packet Good Seasons® instant Zesty Italian Mix
1 cup Mayonnaise
1 cup Buttermilk
Mix and serve
To assemble your tacos, take the fish chunks out of the buttermilk, roll in a good fry coating (I'm using Mrs. Green's legendary stuff from Point Loma Seafood) and deep fry in 360° oil to a golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
Heat the tortillas on the griddle to make them pliable and then hold a tortilla in your hand folded in half but open enough to pile in the fish chunks. Put that back on the griddle until it is deep brown and semicrisped to where it will just hold its shape, flip. When the second side is done crumble the queso over the hot fish, put on a layer of shredded cabbage and tomato, hose that down with dressing.
This is where I would serve with rice and beans if people didn't keep snatching them out of my hands.
I fucking HATE having to walk into an Aveda store in a mall. I don't even like malls. I hate them. And I HATE Aveda stores. And here's why:
When I walk into a store, I'm often browsing, and want to be unannoyed. When I walk into a store and know exactly what I want, I definitely want to be unannoyed and LEFT THE FUCK ALONE.
Such is not possible at your local neighborhood Simon Properties megafuckingmall.
I was promptly greeted by an ironclad bitch from the depths of hell.
I can't remember her phrase or phrasing, but her attitude was, you don't belong in here now go away.
Bitch. Listen to me. This is why I shop at the Wildflower Salon. They have a similar approach but it's not quite so garish.
I told her I was befuddled and could not remember the name of the product I had come to purchase. This is not an unusual konagod trait, I tend to get befuddled in social situations in FUCKING MEGAMALLS.
Then she got rather condescending on my ass. She said roughly (I'm paraphrasing), "Well, perhaps if you could tell me the type of product you're looking for, I could help you find it."
God damn yes I'm paraphrasing, because the bitch was rubbing me raw with her choice of words and tone.
I struggled to find the words "shampoo" and "conditioner" as txrad simultaneously found my Sap Moss product. Thank God.
Things never did really improve. That gal was just an obnoxious cunt from start to finish.
I already spent over $100 and we asked about the Elixir. It's been discontinued but she still had a small stash in the back. I got one bottle.
We left after I had to show my ID for my purchase and had a slight miscommunication about their buyer incentive program (translation: we screw you; you think you got something, and you did: a good screwin'.)
A short time later we passed by this Beverly Hills-esque boutique from the bowels of SATAN himself, and decided to re-enter. After all, that damn ELIXIR has been discontinued and no replacements of any adequate performance have proven effective, I decided I'd buy two more bottles. They were only $9 and some change.
The bitch did not look happy to see us return to spend more money. Her sidekick associate has the opposite reaction but never opened her mouth on either visit. That's my kind of sales associate. But alas, we were not so lucky.
I announced that I'd like another two bottles of Elixir to the... "sales person" who let out a sigh and trudged to the back room again for two more bottles.
I spent another $19 and something. That bitch acted like she had to work for the transaction.
What is it about living in 2007 that I don't understand? Have these people never had difficulty? Perhaps I should have confessed.
AVEDA: The Art and Science of Pissing Off a Konagod and Making Him Rant Like the Fires of Hell Were Burning His Ass Hairs.
Roasting Marshmallows on the American Reichstag Fire to Come
By Phil Rockstroh
In this summer of angst and grim foreboding about what further assaults against common sense and common decency the Bush administration might inflict upon the people of the world, how many times during the day do those of us --still possessed of mind, heart and conscience-- take pause, hoping we've seen the worst of it, then, fearing we haven't yet, attempt to push down the dread rising within us, so that we might simply make it through the day and be able to rest at night?
Accordingly, those who have been paying attention are aware that the outward mechanisms of martial law are in place. We shudder knowing that Bush has issued an executive decree that grants him dictatorial power in the event of some nebulously defined national emergency. In addition, the knowledge nettles us that a vast network of internment camps bristle across the length of the U.S., standing at wait for those who might raise objections to the fascistic fury unloosed by the American empire's version of the Reichstag fire.
It has been noted that the mindset, methods, and procedures of America's punitive, profit-driven prison-industrial complex was a prototype for the systemic cruelty of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib; furthermore, it is a given that those institutional affronts to human decency will have served as prototypes for the methods and procedures that will be practiced upon those who are swept-up in the purges and detainment mania following the declaration of martial law in the United States.
We experience this dislocation of the life force as a sense of nebulous dread. Everything, these days, the architecture and accouterment of our lives seems so fragile and unreal; it feels as if everything could just fly apart at any given moment. The world and our place in it seems so flimsy: an empire built of eggshells; it could all shatter in an instant.
Keep yourself as healthy and as sane as possible: we're going to need you around after the inevitable collapse of the present system.
If the tenets of democratic discourse are to survive, it is imperative that writers and thinkers begin to engage in a passionate defense of themselves against the kvetching armies of crackpot realists that have encircled and laid siege to our collective hearts and minds.
But don't expect to be lauded with praise for the effort. It's doubtful our adversaries will be moved by our entreaties: There cannot be a rapprochement with reality for those who have never had a relationship with it in the first place.
Another way to separate the wheat from the chaff. As if the fraternity/sorority thing wasn't bad enough, appearing soon at a college near you, a two tiered educational system. So much for the illusion that attending college prepares you for a better financial future, it really does matter what your major is and it better reflect big business. Pharmacy, engineering, business and journalism (!) students are paying more for their classes at schools across the country. It's dressed up as paying for better equipment and teachers, but the end result is the same. The message is that controlling people is much more effective and financially rewarding than helping people.
“Where we have gone astray culturally,” he said, “is that we have focused almost exclusively on starting salary as an indicator of life earnings and also of the value of the particular major.”
Ah yes, one should always let a decision you made at eighteen control the rest of your life. If you won't take advice from a twenty year old because they don't have any life experience, why would you let a decision you made at the same age determine the rest of your life? And pay (borrow) more money for it?
One of the major reasons that medical care is in the state that it is, is because it became a way to make money and not help people because you wanted to. People who want to be healers, leave the professions in droves because it has been reduced to a businesslike concept with the human element all but nonexistent. The practice of medicine has been automated to the point that if you interrupt the routine by asking a question, everything screeches to a halt just like the debit card commercial. Since when did huh? become an appropriate response in a medical setting? When did the vacant look in the office staffs eyes become standard? Do you know the color of your doctor's eyes?
The wrong people have been encouraged to practice the wrong professions because of money and once again the message is being spread that one should focus on the material aspects of one's personal existence at the expense of helping others. Even if they have to charge you more. Because paying more for something makes it better, doesn't it?
In recognition of the bravery and daring of those astronauts now revealed to have been intoxicated while driving vehicles worth hundreds of millions of dollars propelled by millions of pounds of roaring high explosives cooking away about a hundred feet behind their inebriated asses, the graphic at left is herewith presented for the consideration of readers.
Yes, this fine picture would look good on the bedroom wall of any little boy or girl who aspires one day to reach for the Heavens, fearless of heart and three sheets to the wind.
The Dark Wraith does advise that people in airplanes give the space shuttles a wide berth.
Since Monday's BBQ here at the beach will include some very special guests (like an old girlfriend who traded up when she ditched me and is coming to show off her three lovely daughters) I decided to pull out all the stops.
Tomorrow's agenda is to go fishing. We leave about two hours before dawn and come back just after sunset. This should give us plenty of time on the albacore holes. I'll be posting those recipes once I know what the catch of the day is. You can help by thinking ALBACORE, DORADO, or, should you wish to throw out incredible vibes BLUEFIN. Any or all of those would be welcome at the table. As would any readers who are near San Diego. You'd be on your own for parking, but on Mondays that usually isn't an issue.
Since the company is special I am pulling out my Nana's old recipe for Peppermint Stick Ice Cream. This stuff is incredible. I will translate some of her proportions for you, since we are working with a recipe from the nineteen thirties.
7 five cent peppermint sticks (see? in 1930 that was about a pound of peppermint candy)
1 pint whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cake flour
1 teaspoon each vanilla extract and almond extract
1/3 cup white Karo
1 can Eagle Brand® sweetened condensed milk
equal proportions heavy cream and 1/2&1/2
I do this the day before. Although since tomorrow's about fishing, I'm doing it today.
Break up the peppermint candies (the puffs you can buy in bulk are the easiest, and a pound is a pound) and dissolve them in the 1 pint of milk over a medium heat in a heavy saucepan.
When completely dissolved, remove from the heat and whisk in the three eggs, sugar, cake flour, extracts, salt, syrup, and condensed milk.
Pour this into the freezing container for the ice cream maker and add, in equal amounts, heavy cream and 1/2&1/2 to fill the container to the full mark. (remember that when it freezes this will expand by about 1/3 in volume). Refrigerate until ready to freeze.
Since I'm one of those frontier throwback type of guys my freezer is the old timey hand crank variety. There's no discernable difference between the ice cream made in one of these and the ice cream that comes from an electric freezer, but I enjoy having people take a turn on the crank and being able to remain with my guests while we are doing this. The electric freezers make a horrendous noise and the person on freezer is isolated off in a secluded, noisy part of the house, away from all the fun. That's not my idea of a party.
Layer about 2 inches of crushed or small cube ice into the freezer bucket around the canister of ice cream, then sprinkle with rock salt. When it is about an inch from the top of the canister, commence to cranking. When your arm tires pass it off to someone. Because you are starting with cold ice cream base it should only take about 20 minutes of good cranking to achieve a decent freeze. One tip though, vigorous cranking introduces more air bubbles into the ice cream, which makes for a fluffier and smoother end result.
Once the ice cream is at a soft freeze, where it will cling to a wooden spoon without dripping right off, call over all the kids and hand out plastic spoons. Remove the dasher from the container and put it in a big bowl and tell the kids to have at it. They will swear later that this is when the ice cream is at its peak flavor. Put the rest of the canister into the freezer for another half an hour to bring it to a nice, firm state.
Give this one a try. It won't make your old girlfriends wish they had never left you, but it will keep her thinking about the good times you had together, much more than the tawdry endings. And, yes, Louise, I know it was all, completely my fault. I was a shithead who did not treat you as well as I should have and you were absolutely right to leave. I am looking forward to helping you spoil your lovely daughters on Monday.
Just a short piece to inform about the foibles I still find myself in. My silence is not because I don't have something to say, stoopid or no, but last week this device some call a modem (I call it a two-pound coffee can, complete with coat button and staging) gave up the ghost so I was forced to rely on less than satisfactory sources to see what was going on in the real world. Just a few days after that I came down with a fever related to my surgery and did not screw around at all. I checked into the hospital. Now I'm back, feeling reasonably well (except for that damned bag) and have managed to get a five-pound coffee can with a new coat button to connect to them internets.
Pardon while I pop an antibiotic..., gulp. Yetch! Always sticks on the way down and tastes terrible!
Well, now I'm playing catchup and it seems like a whole lot of feces has come to pass in the last few days. Also seems to me to be a fair measure of foreboding in the tone of some of the posts I've read. Not that I can hold that against any thinking being, there is not much good news out there. I would have made a comment over at blondesense on the Mo Mule's post about make-out music, but it is really tough to feel amarous with a bag hanging off your stomach.
No pun intended, but all things shall pass. Change is the natural order, at least the only one I am aware of. For the time being I am comforted by my buddy, the real blackdog who is reminding me now that it is approaching chow time. It's hot and muggy as hell outside, the mosquitoes are staging a riot, but most things here are predictable and stable. I envy the Minstrel for his beachfront exposure, looks great.
Everyone take heart as you can, sometimes I think about the serenity prayer. It works for a little while.
Several weeks ago, I posted an informal poll at Big Brass Blog wherein I posed the simple question, "Will the Presidential Election of 2008 be held?" A slim majority of respondents to the admittedly unscientific survey indicated that, no, the election that's supposed to be held next year will not be. The title of the poll was "The (Once upon a Time) Unthinkable."
The very idea that more than a tiny minority of generally rational citizens would contemplate a real chance of the suspension of elections is indicative of just how profoundly the Right-wing Republicans in their many guises have eroded confidence in the rule of law. Indeed, the very term "rule of law" is revealed as being insubstantial when the laws, themselves, have been reworked to cynically, and with greater and greater openness, favor the wealthy, the hateful, and the belligerent.
"Assuming an administration has no intentions of surrendering the office, what are the chances they would be successful? Would the general populace be accepting of such a situation? Even with an "external" provocation, would there be acceptance beyond the very short term?
"9/11 was very shocking to the American psyche: if 2001 had been an election year, would the suspension of elections have been accepted? No matter how horrible another attack would be, nothing is as shocking as the first time. After 7 years of a secure homeland and the growing cynicism about GWOT, would the shock of an another incident be enough for a majority to completely dispense with democracy?
Even if a majority was accepting, there would no doubt still be widespread active dissent; how would that dissent be controlled? And what about international political and economic sanctions that would no doubt be imposed by extremely concerned other democratic countries?
If this is their intent, I wonder if they have planned the aftermath any better than they did... after the "regime change" they engineered in Iraq? Or do they expect that Americans will greet the riot squads with flowers and candy?
My response, edited and expanded, to that comment is intended to challenge those who oppose this Administration and see, as I and others now do, the gravity of the peril now facing the Republic.
With no intention whatsoever to respond in what might seem at first blush a cynical matter, the "People" as a body capable of dispensing collective will on the timely executors of the laws of the Republic are entirely irrelevant in this matter. This Presidentindeed, this entire Administration in its dizzying array of agencies, departments, and personnelhas already put on wanton display a raw, daring gauntlet for any who would pose to stop the progressive engine of repressive laws and radically antiquated judicial interpretation of the Constitution.
Over the course of the past nearly seven years, Mr. Bushor, more accurately, those who animate Right-wing will through the vessel he provideshas shaped an entirely facile federal judiciary, which is now creating a new body of law by separating statutory and common law into that which is useful to the agenda of the Right and that other which is irrelevant by judges' simple, casual refusal to recognize, much less enforce, it. Judge Bates, the jurist who swept aside the complaint by Valerie Plame, simply declared in utterly sweeping terms that his court is jurisdictionally forum non conveniens by the argumentive fiat of "separation of powers." Directly consequential is that Ms. Plame, wronged as she wasboth individually and as an agent of the United States Constitutionhas no right of redress. Should this determination be upheld at appellate, it will mean that the President and all of those who serve him are above the law.
Much more importantly, though, is this: because the decision of a court creates law, it establishes a rule of law containing an exemption from laws for the President and his agents. In other words, within the rule of law as it is now evolving in this country is immunity from prosecution for a class of individuals by virtue of their public station. At a longer time frame, as more Right-wing judges affirm this principle, it takes on a life of its own, providing clear ratio decidendi (underlying reason and principle) for other courts to rule similarly.
In street-level, practical terms, all the way from the U.S. Marshals Service to the offices of the United States Attorneys, federal law enforcement instrumentalities answer to the Executive Branch. Congress, and even judges ruling contrary to the mounting precedents, have no independent power to either physically or in his activities arrest a criminal President.
Mr. Bush is free to commit such acts as he deems necessary to protect himself, his position, and the office he holds; and when it comes right down to the licklog, no lawful power exists that can stop him. None.
In truth, this is not at all a matter of the President being "above the law": the federal judiciary is specifically constructing a new direction arguably, a new bodyof common law through recent decisions. Adding to this emergent body of common, the last several Congresses have enacted legislation (i.e., the Military Commissions Act and the Patriot Acts) providing statutory basis for extraordinary powers vested in the Executive Branch; and the President, himself, through such vehicles as signing statements and Executive Orders, has further set forth the foundation for the veil of legality for what Mr. Bush is now doing.
That, unfortunately, is the reality of the situation right now: George W. Bush may do whatever he wishes, and the Congress cannot stop him, the federal judiciaryemanating as it does from the United States Supreme Courtwill not stop him, and such law enforcement instrumentalities that could exercise an arrest warrant upon him cannot if he orders them not to do so because they would then be in breach of their duty to him. (And in this regard, duty to the Constitution is entirely vague, as it always has been, requiring the concession of those who are sworn to uphold it to act to that end without so much as a hint in statutory law that such a choice would not be punished by courts already demonstrating fealty to the Administration's positions and activities.)
That leaves two potential, countervailing forces: the armed forces and the common mob. While the former would have restive, potentially troublesome brigades that would chafe at the prospect of accepting orders to martial law, discipline would be restored in due time, and the authority of the commander-in-chief would prevail, hopes by some to the contrary notwithstanding.
As for the mob, even if it were to become significant in numbers, tactics, and will, historical examples are not particularly encouraging. To that point, I invite interested readers to review my article, "The Ancient Future," for an exemplary primer on the likely outcome of rebellion.
Now, does all of what I've written above mean hope is lost?
Certainly not; but I strongly encourage those deeply concerned about the near future of this Republic to consider, in their bleakest scenarios, the challenge I have set forth on previous occasions: Given all that you have found in this world for which to live, for what, if anything, are you willing to be vilified, beaten, imprisoned, and perhaps even killed?
Before anyone raises a hand or stabs a fist into the air, think carefully. Are you really, really ready to stop Krystalnacht? Can you contemplate being in a running gun battle through the alleys of the Warsaw Ghetto? Can you honestly say you could watch your own face pouring across television screens as a known, villainous enemy of the Soviet Republic? Could you hide on a hill and watch the men of a small village in Guatemala forced to dig their own graves and then get shot so they fall into them? Could you stand in a collapsing phalanx of unarmed protesters at Tiananmen Square getting machine gunned like so many cattle?
Would you be ready at some as-yet ill-defined point to stop the mealy-mouthed rhetoric about "working within the system" so you can get down with the idea of being an honest-to-God enemy of the State? (Who knows?you might already be a winner on that score just by virtue of what you're doing right this very minute on the Internet.)
Could youI mean reallyeven believe it if the horror show you claim is happening at the behest and hand of this Administration manifestly became the living, breathing, incontrovertibly visible Reality TV of the United States of America?
Wouldn't it be better just to watch some television, maybe catch a movie and have dinner with friends?
Wouldn't it be more fun to have a round of tee-hee-hee-aren't-we-naughty, joyless, empty sex and listen to some mind-dulling music thumping away your consciousness?
Wouldn't it be nicer to stay indoors and have Me-Time with a good book and some computer games?
Wouldn't it be the best thing to simply let it go?
The future story of a nation might very well one day hinge upon the honest answers millions upon millions of people whisper, then cry or roar, to questions like those.
I'm reading that Michael Moore has been supboenaed by the Bush Administration because of his trip to Cuba. Don'tcha suppose Michael Moore should respond by saying that he will show up for his subpoena right after Harriet Mier and Josh Bolten show up for theirs?
FBI Director Robert S. Mueller said Thursday the government's terrorist surveillance program was the topic of a 2004 hospital room dispute between top Bush administration officials, contradicting Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' sworn Senate testimony.
Mueller also affirmed, under lawmakers' pointed questioning, that Ashcroft sided against the two White House officials and with then-Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey, who believed the eavesdropping program was illegal.
Mueller's testimony cast fresh doubt on Gonzales' credibility. Hours earlier, Senate Democrats called for a perjury investigation against Gonzales and subpoenaed top presidential aide Karl Rove in a deepening political and legal clash with the Bush administration.
"It has become apparent that the attorney general has provided at a minimum half-truths and misleading statements," four Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote in a letter to Solicitor General Paul Clement.
They dispatched the letter shortly before Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., announced the subpoena of Rove, the president's top political strategist, in remarks on the Senate floor. The White House has claimed executive privilege to block congressional demands for documents or testimony by some current and former presidential aides.
The call for a perjury probe focuses on conflicts between testimony Gonzales gave the Judiciary Committee in two appearances, one last year and the other this week. That issue revolves around whether there was internal administration dissent over the president's warrantless wiretapping program.
As for the firing of the prosecutors, e-mails released by the Justice Department show Gonzales' aides conferred with Rove on the matter.
Leahy also said he was issuing a subpoena for J. Scott Jennings, a White House political aide. The deadline for compliance by Rove and him was set for Aug. 2.
In a separate letter Thursday to Gonzales, Leahy said he would give the attorney general eight days to correct, clarify or otherwise change his testimony "so that, consistent with your oath, they are the whole truth."
At issue is what was discussed at a March 10, 2004, congressional briefing. A letter from then-Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte said the briefing concerned the administration's terrorist surveillance program on the eve of its expiration.
Gonzales, at Tuesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, testified that the issue at hand was not about the terrorist surveillance program. Instead, he said, the emergency meetings on March 10, 2004, had focused on an intelligence program that he would not describe. He said the meeting prompted him to go to Ashcroft's bedside to recertify the surveillance program, but he denied pressuring Ashcroft to do so. Ashcroft, recovering from gall bladder surgery, refused.
During the July 24 testimony by embattled U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, a curious exchange took place, highlighted in an article at Raw Story. Freshman Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) zeroed in on a little-noted memorandum signed by Mr. Gonzales in May of 2006. From the Raw Story article:
"[The] memorandum signed by Gonzales... showed that the Office of the Vice President had been granted parallel privileges with the Executive Office of the President on communicating directly with the Justice Department's staff on criminal and civil matters.
"'What - on earth - business does the Office of the Vice President have in the internal workings of the Department of Justice with respect to criminal investigations, civil investigations, and ongoing matters?' the Senator asked.
Gonzales was stumped, 'As a general matter, I would say that's a good question.'
Whitehouse then pointed out that in the same memo, the Chief of Staff and Counsel of the Vice President were also explicitly granted the same authority.
"'On its face - I must say - sitting here, I'm troubled by this,' Gonzales added."
Because of the Attorney General's self-admitted, broad lack of recall, many day-to-day events might "trouble" him, but that 2006 memorandum should be considerably more than just bothersome to others.
A recognition of "parallel" authority is a legal basisone emanating from the Department of Justice, itselffor Mr. Cheney's recent claim that privileges of the Office of the President are also held by the Office of the Vice President separately from the authority the latter derives from the former. Mr. Cheney's office had suggested that it need not comply with certain laws affecting the Office of the President because the Vice President serves legislative roles not available to the President, himself. His spokespeople later stopped using that argument in defending Cheney's refusal to comply with the regulation in question, but they did not repudiate it, nor did they even suggest that they had previously erred in advancing it.
Although roundly derided, ridiculed, and condemned for arguing that the Office of the Vice President is essentially a branch of government separate from the Executive Branch, the May 2006 memorandum signed by the Attorney General of the United States most decidedly establishes written evidence that the President, through a legally binding directive signed by his subordinate, the head of the Department of Justice, recognizes the Vice President, at least with respect to law enforcement matters, as his co-equal. Because this is contrary to statutory law, common law, and constitutional guidance regarding the status of the Vice President, at this point it stands as a de facto Executive directive establishing a new capacity—essentially, a new portfolio—for the Vice President.
In other words, Cheney was not incorrect in asserting that his Office had a privilege not extant within the boundaries of the Vice Presidency in its historical, traditional form.
If there exist similar written directives by other agents of the President recognizing co-equality of the Office of the Vice President with the Office of the President, the legal basis of Mr. Cheney’s claim further strengthens as a matter of administrative law; and it would be unlikely that a Congress could successfully challenge or otherwise prohibit this arrangement because a sitting President would immediately invoke a "separation of powers" argument with regard to an attempt by the Congress or the federal courts to defeat an organizational choice entirely within the Executive Branch, despite the fact that such structuring of authority had the practical effect of creating a branch separate from the Presidency, itself.
This is neither a moot nor theoretical matter: it is quite possible that a new structure of the Executive Branch has been created, one somewhat similar to what exists in some countries in Europe and other parts of the world, where Presidents (or monarchs) and Prime Ministers coexist, the former often times being weaker and more ceremonial, at least in day-to-day affairs of governance. In some such governmentsand, here, the details from country to country vary rather considerablythe Prime Minister carries a broad slate of authorities that are compactly devolved, either by the Prime Minister or by the President, as "portfolios" to ministerial offices, which may hold varying degrees of import and rank and in their collective authority serve as what is usually called a "Cabinet," in so doing separating the aggregation of their portfolios from the originating issuer of them, whether it was the President or the Prime Minister.
This model is frequently used by corporations wherein the by-laws establish a board-level office called "president," as well as other positions ("treasurer," "secretary," etc.), and then establish a separate, senior-level slate of managerial positions headed by a "chief executive officer," hired by and accountable to, yet still separate from, the board of directors. This structuring fulfills the corporate ideal of separating the shareholders (the owners of the corporation), as represented by the board of directors they elect, from the management of the corporation, carried out as it should be by the CEO and subordinates.
In American municipal governance, a variation on the general model has become quite popular in modern times, too. Many U.S. cities have a "mayor" with substantive and/or ceremonial duties, as well as a "city manager," who carries out day-to-day duties and who often is a key participant in strategic planning.
This seems to be the general structure, in all but nomenclature, of the relationship between Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush, but most observers had operated under the assumption that this was almost exclusively an informal arrangement based upon the intellectual and emotional dominance Mr. Cheney exercises over his putative superior. The May 2006 memorandum is clear indication that, although the power Mr. Cheney wields might very well have originated from a position of psychological power, it is now a matter of documentary administrative law; and despite what might be consternation on the part of some in Congress, this new sub-structure within the government of the United States will stand for the duration of this Administration.
And because it has proven successful to the President in his duty to administer the Executive Branch and, more recently, in his efforts to thwart the probative and investigatory efforts by the Congress, it might very well become the norm for subsequent holders of the Office of the President.
The Dark Wraith has thus offered an interpretation of the current state of the White House with which most American citizens will be uncomfortable and will, as a result, reject out of hand as being the reality of the situation.
Bill Moyers gets in on the joke with two impersonators who use satire to make serious points about media consolidation, journalism, business ethics, and separating fact from fiction in a world of spin.
US Senators bluntly told President George W. Bush's embattled attorney general Tuesday that they didn't trust him, accused of him of dodging questions and raised doubts about his integrity.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales endured a fearsome grilling at his latest appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, over a scandal over fired prosecutors and the Bush administration's legal strategy in the "war on terror."
"With a history of civil liberty abuses and cover-ups, this administration has squandered our trust," said Democratic committee chairman Patrick Leahy.
"I don't trust you," said Leahy directly to Gonzales, who has defied repeated calls from members of Congress for his resignation.
Republican Senator Arlen Specter engaged Gonzales in a testy debate, and raised the prospect of a special prosecutor being appointed to investigate the under-fire Justice Department.
And he told Gonzales his credibility had been breached "to the point of being actionable."
Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer told Gonzales: "You just constantly change the story, seemingly to fit your needs to wiggle out of being caught, frankly, telling mistruths."
"The attorney general's lost the confidence of the Congress and the American people," said Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat. He described the department as "shrouded in scandal," and told Gonzales: "I don't trust you."
"It looks to me ... as if the department is dysfunctional," added Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the committee's ranking Republican and a leading critic of Gonzales, particularly for his firing of nine federal prosecutors.
"What keeps you in the job, Mr. Attorney General?" asked Sen. Herbert Kohl, a Wisconsin Democrat.
Gonzales refused to answer when asked if the White House was on solid legal ground in contending Congress cannot force the Justice Department to pursue a possible congressional contempt citation against the administration or its current or former aides.
"Your question relates to an ongoing controversy which I am recused from," Gonzales told Leahy. "I can't -- I'm not going to answer that question."
Congress is also examining Gonzales' role in Bush's warrantless domestic spying program, which critics have denounced as illegal.
Lawmakers noted that although Gonzales testified earlier this year "there has not been any serious disagreement" about the surveillance program, former Deputy Attorney General James Comey told Congress in May that a number of top Justice Department officials threatened to quit over the issue.
The dispute was heated enough that Gonzales, then White House counsel, and Andrew Card, then Bush's chief of staff, went to a hospital in 2004 to discuss it with a critically ill John Ashcroft, who was then attorney general but had handed over his powers to his deputy.
"The disagreement that occurred ... was about other intelligence activities," Gonzales insisted under questioning. "It was not about the terrorist surveillance program."
"Mr. Attorney General, do you expect us to believe that?" Specter fired back.
That new wrinkle stemmed from Gonzales' testy exchange with Senator Arlen Specter, the panel's top Republican. Specter opened up with former Deputy Attorney General James Comey's testimony to the panel in May over Gonzales' actions while serving as White House Counsel. Comey had alleged that Gonzales tried to convince an ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was in the hospital recovering from gallbladder surgery, to sign off on Bush's warrantless wiretapping program. "There are no rules saying he couldn't take back authority," Gonzales said, trying to explain that they had hoped Ashcroft might be able to sign off on an intelligence program due to expire the next day, a program that Comey as acting AG had refused to renew.
But what Specter really wanted to know was how that meeting squared with Gonzales' previous testimony that there had been no serious internal disagreements over the program. Gonzales seemed to believe he had a simple explanation. "The disagreement that occurred was about other intelligence activities, and the reason for the visit to the hospital was about other intelligence activities," the Attorney General said. "It was not about the terrorist surveillance program that the president announced to the American people."
Both Specter and later Senator Chuck Schumer latched onto Gonzales' puzzling comment. Schumer in particular brought up several examples where in sworn testimony Gonzales has named the Terrorist Surveillance Program as the one at issue during the hospital visit to Ashcroft's room. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy then ordered a complete review of Gonzales' statements to the committee. "This is such a significant and major point," Leahy said. "There's a discrepancy here in sworn testimony and we're going to find out who's telling the truth."
Specter later circled back to Gonzales on the matter, warning him: "My suggestion to you is you review your testimony to find out if your credibility has been breached to the point of being actionable," Specter said.
Senator Jay Rockefeller, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, who was involved in the briefings at the time of the hospital visit, said the so-called Gang of Eight - the eight top bipartisan members of Congress on intelligence issues - were not briefed about any sunset the program was facing, as Gonzales claimed. He also emphatically refuted Gonzales' statements that there was more than one program under discussion at the time and that the Gang of Eight had agreed the program was so important that if it had been allowed to lapse they were considering emergency legislation.
"Once again he's making up something to protect himself and creating situations that never happened," Rockefeller said, adding that "based on what I know about it, I'd have to say" Gonzales has committed perjury.
Much of Gonzales' time was spent telling the committee he couldn't remember…
House Democrats, preparing for a vote today on contempt citations against President Bush's chief of staff and former counsel, produced a report yesterday that for the first time alleges specific ways that several administration officials may have broken the law during the multiple firings of U.S. attorneys.
The report says that Congress's seven-month investigation into the firings raises "serious concerns" that senior White House and Justice Department aides involved in the removal of nine U.S. attorneys last year may have obstructed justice and violated federal statutes that protect civil service employees, prohibit political retaliation against government officials and cover presidential records.
The investigation "has uncovered serious evidence of wrongdoing by the department and White House staff," Conyers says.
It also says that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and senior Justice aides "appear to have made false or misleading statements to Congress, many of which sought to minimize the role of White House personnel."
Documents indicate eight congressional leaders were briefed about the Bush administration's terrorist surveillance program on the eve of its expiration in 2004, contradicting sworn Senate testimony this week by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
The documents underscore questions about Gonzales' credibility as senators consider whether a perjury investigation should be opened into conflicting accounts about the program and a dramatic March 2004 confrontation leading up to its potentially illegal reauthorization.
A four-page memo from the national intelligence director's office says the White House briefing with the eight lawmakers on March 10, 2004, was about the terror surveillance program, or TSP.
Schumer called the memo evidence that Gonzales was not truthful in his testimony.
"It seemed clear to just about everyone on the committee that the attorney general was deceiving us when he said the dissent was about other intelligence activities and this memo is even more evidence that helps confirm our suspicions," Schumer said.
Stocks slid hard Tuesday as new worries about the credit arena and a profit shortfall at DuPont
.....Weighing further on the market were renewed concerns about debt, which have popped up several times in recent months. After the previous close, American Express topped analysts' profit estimates, but the financial services giant said it had to increase its loan-loss reserve because of a higher rate of delinquencies.
.....lender Countrywide missed by a wide margin, citing increased credit-related costs, and lowered its 2007 guidance, saying the second half will be challenging.
"There's fear entering certain parts of the market, and we're seeing a risk adjustment taking place," said Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist with Windham Financial. "This shift could be foreshadowing something bigger, as everyone could run for the door at the same time. Once markets start picking up momentum, they tend to keep moving because everyone's on the same side."
Virtually every sector finished with losses. Among the worst decliners, the Amex Oil Index dropped 3.5%, the Philadelphia Utility Index slumped 3.5%, the Nasdaq Financial Index fell 3%, and the KBW Bank Index lost 3%.
Apple, which will post earnings late Wednesday, contributed to the tech sector's slide amid speculation the iPhone maker will miss sales targets for the new gadget. Shares tumbled 6.1% to $134.89.
Trading curbs were put into effect on the New York Stock Exchange for the first time since March 13, when subprime fears surrounding New Century and Accredited Home Lenders first became a force and sank the major averages"
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), weary of fighting to get honest answers out of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in the political firings of eight federal prosecutors, took the unexpected step last week of sending Gonzales a list of the questions he should expect when he appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
Leahy, the committee's Chairman, sent a letter to Gonzales on July 17 pointing out the number of times the embattled Attorney General said he could "not recall" in response to previous direct questioning on his department's operations and saying that he "would like to avoid a repeat of that performance."
"When you last testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 19, 2007, you often responded to questions from Senators on both sides of the aisle that you could 'not recall,'" wrote Leahy in his letter to Gonzales.
So Leahy sent questions in advance hoping to give Gonzales a week to think about some better responses to the questions surrounding the U.S. Attorney firings, National Security Letter abuses and the White House's warrantless domestic spying program.
According to Leahy's office, the Judiciary Chairman "put the Attorney General on notice that the Committee would expect answers on inconsistencies in the Attorney General’s public statements and testimony involving the firing of several U.S. Attorneys as well as the President’s warrantless wiretapping program" [snip]
Update at 10:55 p.m., July 22, 2007: As a graphical treat for concerned American citizens everywhere, the Dark Wraith offers this animated image, suitable for sidebar placement on any Weblog or legitimate Website. (Click on it to see a really big version.) However, those contemplating posting this graphic should first consider the possibility that doing so will trigger performance by federal law enforcement and/or other instrumentalities of the White House under the Executive Order: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq, promulgated on July 17, 2007.
Keep in mind that expressions of deep discontent with the Bush Administration are unacceptable to the leader of the United States Senate Democrats: On Sunday, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) renewed his call for a vote of censure against the President, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) responded that the Senate has more pressing matters (presumably most of which involve the Democrats showing off their ability to get nothing done to which Mr. Bush doesn't give his blessing).
So, if a completely useless, unenforceable gesture that serves as nothing more than a slap on Mr. Bush's wrist is out of the question to the political party so aptly represented by a stupid animal sometimes mistaken for an ass, that means impeachment, trial, and conviction of the President and Vice President don't exist even as possibilities in this universe.
In other words, we're on our own against Mr. Bush, his self-made laws, and his unaccountable law enforcement apparatus.
The Dark Wraith therefore urges utmost caution by persons seeking to further destabilize what this Administration's lies, corruption, mendacity, and incompetence have already thoroughly and magnificently destabilized.
One of our best friends keeps telling hubby and I to read:
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, by Julian Jaynes. I found the above site while looking for info on the book, which references it:
" an interesting explanation of how the development of consciousness took place. Although Jaynes fails to fully recognize the strong role that plant-drugs may have played in the development of consciousness he has come up with what I think is a most revolutionary concept. It is explained on the book's back cover as follows:
Based on recent laboratory studies of the brain and a close reading of the archeological evidence, psychologist Julian Jaynes shows us how ancient people from Mesopotamia to Peru could not `think' as we do today, and were therefore not conscious. Unable to introspect, they experienced auditory hallucinations - voices of gods, actually heard as in the Old Testament or the Iliad - which, coming from the brain's right hemisphere, told a person what to do in circumstances of novelty or stress. This ancient mentality is called bicameral mind... Only catastrophe and cataclysm forced mankind to `learn' consciousness, and that happened only 3000 years ago.
It was in Terrence McKenna's Food of the Gods, that I was first introduced to Jaynes' book, and McKenna's articulate description of Jaynes' theory is worth quoting.
He proposes that through Homeric times people did not have the kind of interior psychic organization we take for granted. Thus what we call ego was for the Homeric people "god". When danger threatened suddenly, the god's voice was heard in the individual's mind: an intrusive and alien function was expressed as a kind of metaprogram for survival called forth under moments of great stress. This psychic function was perceived by those experiencing it as the direct voice of a god, of the king, or of the king in the afterlife. Merchants and traders moving from one society to another brought the unwelcome news that the gods were saying different things in different places, and so cast early seeds of doubt. At some point people integrated this previously autonomous function, and each person became the god and reinterpreted the inner voice as the `self' or, as it was later called, the `ego'.
Another amusing read - Part 4 of "When Smoke Gets in my I" a series on the history of cannabis and human consciousness Cannabis and the Christ
"Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law', because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual."
"The spirit of the times may alter, will alter. Our rulers will become corrupt, our people careless. A single zealot may commence persecution, and better men be his victims. It can never be too often repeated, that the time for fixing every essential right on a legal basis is while our rulers are honest, and ourselves united. From the conclusion of this war [for Independence] we shall be going downhill. It will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They will forget themselves, but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights. The shackles, therefore, which shall not be knocked off at the conclusion of this war, will remain on us long, will be made heavier and heavier, till our rights shall revive or expire in a convulsion."
"We have the greatest opportunity the world has ever seen, as long as we remain honest -- which will be as long as we can keep the attention of our people alive. If they once become inattentive to public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, judges and governors would all become wolves."
"Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of a day; but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period, and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate systematical job of reducing us to slaves."
"Aware of the tendency of power to degenerate into abuse, the worthies of our country have secured its independence by the establishment of a Constitution and form of government for our nation, calculated to prevent as well as to correct abuse."
~ Quotes from Thomas Jefferson
"The makers of the Constitution conferred, as against the government, the Right to be let alone; the most comprehensive of rights, and the right most valued by civilized men."
~ Olmstead v. United States
United States Supreme Court Justice Brandeis
"All laws which are repugnant to the Constitution are null and void."
~ Marbury vs. Madison
5 US (2 Cranch) 137, 174, 176, (1803)
Ruling written by Chief Justice John Marshall
"The general rule is that an unconstitutional statute, though having the form and name of law, is in reality no law, but is wholly void, and ineffective for any purpose; since unconstitutionality dates from the time of its enactment, and not merely from the date of the decision so branding it."
"An unconstitutional law, in legal contemplation, is as inoperative as if it had never passed. Such a statute leaves the question that it purports to settle just as it would be had the statute not been enacted. Such an unconstitutional law is void, the general principles follow that it imposes no duties, confers no rights, creates no office, bestows no power or authority on anyone, affords no protection, and justifies no acts performed under it..."
"A void act cannot be legally consistent with a valid one."
"An unconstitutional law cannot operate to supersede any existing valid law. Indeed, insofar as a statute runs counter to the fundamental law of the land, it is superseded thereby."
"No one is bound to obey an unConstitutional law and no courts are bound to enforce it."
~ Sixteenth AMERICAN JURISPRUDENCE
Second Edition, Section 256, page 177
"Oh, my countrymen! What will our children say, when they read the history of these times? Should they find we tamely gave away without one noble struggle, the most invaluable of earthly blessings? As they drag the galling chain, will they not execrate us? If we have any respect for things sacred; any regard to the dearest treasures on earth; if we have one tender sentiment for posterity; if we would not be despised by the whole world - let us in the most open, solemn manner, and with determined fortitude, swear we will die, if we cannot live free men!"
~ Josiah Quincy, Jr., 1788 Boston Gazette
"It is not the function of our government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the Citizen to keep the government from falling into error."
~ American Communications Association vs. Douds
339 U.S. 382, 442
"...So long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannize will do so; For tyrants are active and ardent, and will devote themselves in the name of any number of gods, religious and otherwise, to put shackles upon sleeping men."
I'm sliding easily into the rhythms of beach life. Although the slowness of my daughter's laptop tells me she is due for an upgrade before she dives into 3rd year of medskool.
Usually our main meal is lunch. I'm paying for this beach time by performing at night, so the evening meal will be barfed up before I go on. I mostly make it something like a peanut butter sandwich or another thing that won't be missed.
One whole chicken
one jar of prepared molé sauce
one half a sleeve of Maria's Gamesa wafers
one half disc of Arbeulita® or Ibarra® chocolate
The day before, take and wash the chicken well. Remove the giblets and either discard the liver or give it to the cats. Put the neck, gizzard, heart and the whole carcass in the crockpot or other slow cooker and cover with water, add onion, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Cook on low setting until the chicken legs feel loose and you're certain that the chicken is completely cooked. Put the whole thing into the refrigerator.
The next morning, take the chicken out and pick off the fat and remove any onion or other vegetable chunks. Cut the chicken into pieces and put it back in on top of the broth. Put it back on low setting.
Take one half of the jar of prepared molé sauce. I am a big ass fan of homemade but the prepared molés do a very adequate job without the forty'leven ingredients and the eighteen pans and the four days of standing there in the kitchen drudgery. Call me a pussy. I don't care. Put that into a saucepan with about half a cup of the chicken broth. Add in one half of the chocolate disc and whisk over a low heat until the sauce is smooth.
NOTE: There are passionate discourses about the superior qualities of both Arbuelita® and Ibarra® chocolate. The arguments are about the same as the Coke/Pepsi debate. If you can tell the difference enough to have a preference then, by all means, follow your preference. I use the one that I see first.
Take half a sleeve of the Gamesa wafers and put them into a sauté pan with a little splash of oil over a medium flame until they are toasted dark brown. It won't hurt a thing if they get a wee bit scorched but try to get them off the heat before they turn into charcoal. Put them in a blender with a touch of olive oil and make a paste. Stir this paste into the molé.
Now put this into the chicken and broth, stirring until it is smooth and completely bathes the chicken parts in sauce. Reduce the heat control on the crock pot to its lowest setting.
Serve over rice with plenty of tortillas on the side.
Updated 7/20/07 at 1:55 p.m. EDT Sources indicate that President George W. Bush is scheduled for a Saturday colonoscopy and will, because of the heavy sedation typically used on patients during the procedure, temporarily transfer presidential power, for perhaps 2½ hours or so, to Vice President Richard V. Cheney.
I don't remember seeing this story talked about over the past couple of days. It's about an Executive Order, issued and signed by the President on Tuesday very quietly. Very quietly indeed...a quick Google search found the only "news" item to be this story at Wonkette. There were some links from Tailrank and other blogs as well, but I didn't see much in the way of actual news stories.
Section 1. (a) Except to the extent provided in section 203(b)(1), (3), and (4) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(1), (3), and (4)), or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the date of this order, all property and interests in property of the following persons, that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of United States persons, are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in: any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense,
(i) to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of:
(A) threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq; or
(B) undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people;
(ii) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, logistical, or technical support for, or goods or services in support of, such an act or acts of violence or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; or
(iii) to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.
(b) The prohibitions in subsection (a) of this section include, but are not limited to, (i) the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order, and (ii) the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person. (emphases mine)
As you might have noticed, the word "person" is not limited to an individual; it's also referring to a group or business, for profit or non-profit.
For comparison, let's take a look at the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution:
Amendment 5 - Trial and Punishment, Compensation for Takings. Ratified 12/15/1791.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
On second thought, there's nothing in that Executive Order that should concern anybody. Since, you know, if we're not actually blowing up buildings, we've got nothing to worry about. Right? And nobody would ever use this against ordinary US citizens who are anti-war.
Cross-posted (with a different title) at Evil Mommy.
Edited to add: Here's the link to Nightshift66's story at Shakesville that Minstrel Boy mentioned in the comments below. It's terrific, and far more frightening than the Slashdot story.
U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, appointed to the federal bench in 2001 by President George W. Bush, has dismissed a lawsuit filed by outed non-official cover operative Valerie Plame against Bush Administration officials. In his 41-page opinion, Bates held that White House officials were acting within the scope of their duties in talking with the press about Plame and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had exposed lies the Administration was using to justify the necessity for a pre-emptive war against Iraq.
The highly controversial judge has been a favorite of powerful Right-wing judges. Former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist appointed him to serve on the U.S. Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management, and current U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts last year appointed him as a judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Judge Bates has demonstrated extraordinary willingness to allow the Bush Administration to act in secrecy and without repercussions. Among his previous controversial decisions, Bates ruled that Congress had no standing to sue Vice President Richard V. Cheney in the matter of Cheney's refusal to turn over the names of participants in a White House energy task force. For that and other decisions, Judge Bates has been strongly criticized for his transparent use of non-standard interpretation of the purpose and application of procedural law concerning standing of plaintiffs to advance a 'separation of powers' rationale for throwing out cases filed against the Bush Administration. In dismissing the lawsuit filed by Plame, he has once again used technical grounds to shield the White House and its personnel from facing consequences for their actions. The arc of these decisions is constructing a significant basis in common law for the so-called "unitary executive" doctrine by which a President of the United States is freed from oversight and punishment by Congress and the judiciary so that he or she may have wide, extra-legal latitude in decision-making and actions.
Judge Bates is listed as being on the "Judicial Faculty" of Pepperdine University, whose president is former Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, best known for spending tens of millions of dollars of public money at the behest of congressional Republicans trying to find grounds to impeach then-President Bill Clinton. Starr was ultimately able to get an indictment against Clinton because the President had lied to a grand jury about being fellated by an intern. Rendering further evidence of his deep connections to Right-wing legal activism in the United States, Judge Bates served as Deputy Independent Counsel during the Whitewater investigation, another attempt in the 1990s by Republicans to damage or prematurely end the Clinton Presidency.
With the growing body of his decisions from the bench to protect Bush Administration officials from civil punishment for wrong-doing that harmed the national security of the country, and after having previously made his mark on the legal landscape aiding fellow Republicans trying to wreck a Democratic President of the United States, Judge John Bates has now clearly found a President and White House staff worthy of being held above the law.
Update, July 20, 2007, 9:40 EDT: Attorneys for Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson have stated that they will appeal the dismissal of the case by Judge Bates.
A federal judge dismissed former CIA operative Valerie Plame's lawsuit against members of the Bush administration Thursday, eliminating one of the last courtroom remnants of the leak scandal.
U.S. District Judge John D. Bates dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds and said he would not express an opinion on the constitutional arguments. Bates dismissed the case against all defendants: Cheney, White House political adviser Karl Rove, former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.
While Bates did not address the constitutional questions, he seemed to side with administration officials who said they were acting within their job duties. Plame had argued that what they did was illegal and outside the scope of their government jobs.
The new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) is not an argument to continue the status quo disaster but an argument to end it.
The NIE makes it clear why American troops should not give their lives to perform the function of the Baghdad police supporting a corrupt Iraqi government, a death squad-infiltrated Iraq police, and an Iraqi army that after years of alleged American training has gone down in readiness after the surge, according to our own commanders.
George Bush will be morally impeached by history for that blood-stained moment when we could have killed bin Laden at Tora Bora, and George Bush said no to our Special Forces, who were pleading for reinforcements, because he was so obsessed with fighting this Iraq war that has done so much damage to our country, our troops, our credibility in the world, and the real threat that George Bush neglected.
The war against the real enemy, bin Laden, was neglected to create a war against a threat that only existed in the Big Lie talking points of neoconservative delusions, pushed by a president who is an incompetent commander in chief, promoted through fear, advanced by lies, deformed by cruel deployment of troops, pursued with torture that created countless new terroristis, covered up by commutations and protected with coming pardons, issued by leaders who fear convicted criminals and liars will turn state's evidence against those who abused the oath of office.
The Big Lie that we had to invade Iraq because of bin Laden; the Big Lie that have to continue this tragedy because we should be afraid of terrorism; the Big Lie that we promote liberty and fight terrorism with torture chambers; the Big Lie that we should be ruled by fear rather than courage; the Big Lie that we win hearts and minds with corrupt occupations and over a hundred thousand unregulated mercenaries; the Big Lie that we support our troops with cruel deployments and preventable deaths and scandals that plague wounded troops and disabled heroes.
George Bush's Big Lie is based on the deadly falsehood that something has gone terribly and tragically wrong and we should continue it, and escalate it, and repeat the catastrophes in even larger ways, with ever greater death, and even greater damage to our military and our spirit.
If the Democrats really want to prevail over George W. Bush on the Iraq War and on his authoritarian vision of presidential powers, they would put back on the table two options that their leaders have removed: a cut-off of war funding and impeachment.
Rather than all-night debates about resolutions that will go nowhere, the Democrats would make the case to the American people that Bush has trampled on the Constitution; he has ensnared the nation in a catastrophic war by lying; and he has his eyes set on more dangerous chicanery in the months ahead.
The Democrats would explain that Bush has refused to compromise when offered the chance; he has told the people's representatives that their only war role is to finance whatever "the decider" wants to do; he has declared that he has the right to ignore or break the law; he has engaged in cover-ups of serious wrongdoing by his subordinates and is now counting on his right-wing judicial appointees to protect him from oversight.
The Democrats would call on the American people to stand up at this dangerous moment in their history – when the president and vice president have become enemies of the constitutional system devised by the Founders, a Republic based on the idea that all people possess inalienable rights and governments must ensure those rights.
Never have a president and vice president abused the public trust to the extent that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have. They have engaged in a consistent pattern of deception, not just political spin or cover-ups of petty matters, but lying about the most profound of issues, including war and the meaning of "freedom" and "democracy."
Bush apparently believes that he is not only a law onto himself but that he gets to define reality, creating his own fantasyland that everyone else must accept as true. He is an imperial president living in an anti-empirical world.
Psychologists may debate whether Bush is delusional or just an extremely accomplished liar, but either way he represents an unprecedented threat to the future of the American Republic and to the survivability of the planet.
So, what can be done?
If Bush is to be deterred, the country – and the Congress – must make clear that the public response will be commensurate to the threat personified by Bush and Cheney. In other words, half-hearted half-measures won't do. The stakes must be raised and the battle joined.
Since Bush already has made clear he will spurn any constraining war resolutions from Congress, the Democrats must face up to their real options (aside from surrender): move to cut off war funding (beyond what is needed for an orderly withdrawal) and/or commence impeachment hearings for both Bush and Cheney.
From the most recent information filed with the Federal Elections Commission by declared candidates competing in the 2008 President Election, the graphics below offer broad and detailed views on the individual contributions, and the beneficiaries thereof, made during the campaign to date. The first graphic shows total individual contributions to all candidates of each party, and the graphics below it break down the individual contributions by candidate within each party. Strikingly evident in the first graphic is the overwhelming edge the Democrats have realized in fundraising from individuals; they have received a total of almost $160 million in individual campaign contributions, compared to less than $105 million received by the Republican candidates, meaning the Dems have raised more than half again as much overall as the Republicans have. In fact, as can be seen from the third graph below, the two Democratic front-runners, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, have between just the two of them raised more in individual contributions than all the GOP candidates combined.
None of the graphs presented here include campaign contributions from sources other than individuals; but even at that, because money raised by a candidate and overall fundraising strength by his or her party are highly reliable predictors of election success, it is quite apparent that any of the leading Democratic Presidential candidates is in a commanding position to defeat whichever candidate eventually emerges from the lackluster Republican pack. In plain terms, the GOP candidate, regardless of who it is, will march into the general election next year with a purse full of coins to do media battle against a Democratic nominee who will be waiting with the bludgeon of a war chest full of gold.
While a number of interesting talking points can be drawn from the graphs, one curious if subtle feature is that individual contributions to Republican candidates are considerably more focused on the front-runners, while individual giving is slightly more evenly distributed to the Democrats. Although arguments could be offered exactly to the contrary, conventional wisdom holds that this may, if the trend persists, lead for the Republicans to two or three powerful candidates going deep into the primary season, possibly draining resources from one another in a protracted, high-profile fight that could theoretically spill even onto the floor of the GOP national convention next year.
On the other hand, the more even distribution of money among the Democrats could allow several candidates with no hope of winning to remain in the contest long enough to force their more powerful counterparts to face tough issues they might otherwise try to avoid. Nevertheless, the swollen coffers of both Clinton and Obama, along with the persistence and still respectable fundraising ability of Edwards, ensure that the Democratic Presidential nomination will not be a slam-dunk for Clinton or for Obama.
All of the above having been noted as rough and summary analysis, the graphics do speak volumes on their own. Readers are encouraged to make their own assessments of the implications for a race to the White House that is already looking more and more more like a slaughter waiting to happen rather than a Presidential election waiting to be held.
The Dark Wraith finds no small irony in how Republican President George W. Bush has turned his party and its still-groveling politicians from what was once an unstoppable fundraising machine into the party bankrupt not just of ideas, but also of the money it used to raise to hide that embarrassing truth.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn't have enough staff to protect Americans from tainted food imports, lawmakers and congressional investigators said.
The FDA inspects less than 1 percent of imported food and takes samples of only a fraction of those products, said Representative Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat and chairman of a House panel holding a food-safety hearing today in Washington. The FDA plans to close seven of 13 labs that inspect food as well as other imports, posing new dangers, he said.
The FDA is under criticism from lawmakers who say the agency didn't do enough to protect the public from contaminated spinach last year and tainted peanut butter and pet food this year. The agency also was slow to react to contaminated seafood from China being shipped to the U.S., they said.
The FDA shouldn't go forward with plans to consolidate labs, said David Nelson, an investigator with the Energy and Commerce Committee, during the hearing. The agency hasn't provided proof that the closures would save money, he said.
"The Federal food-safety system is in dire need of reform: It is fragmented, understaffed, inefficient, and lagging in state-of-the-art tracking systems,'' said John Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan and chairman of the Energy and Commerce panel, at the hearing. "FDA has largely abdicated its regulatory role to the food industry itself, which is expected to police itself.''
The Food and Drug Administration is giving workers more than $8 million in bonuses to keep them from defecting to pharmaceutical and other regulated industries, at the same time the agency is being pressed to spend more on food and drug safety.
The retention bonuses, worth $5,000 or more per employee, are triple what it paid in 2002 and more than any other federal agency pays. As recently as 2005, the FDA accounted for more than 40 percent of the overall $21.6 million the government paid in retention bonuses, according to FDA and other government records.
FDA officials say the bonuses are necessary to keep vital employees from moving to the private sector; congressional critics say the money would be better spent on improving safety.
The bonuses are expected to be an issue at a congressional hearing Tuesday to examine the FDA's efforts to protect the nation's food supply, as the total nearly matches the additional amount the agency is spending to strengthen food safety next year. A spate of high-profile outbreaks of foodborne illness, including salmonella-tainted snack foods that sickened dozens of toddlers, has drawn scrutiny from Congress.
"Congress puts in extra money in for food safety and what does FDA spend it on? Bonuses," said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of the oversight and investigations subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
I have gotten sloppy about keeping the "what I'm reading" part of the sidebar current. I finally gave up totally on "Against the Day." Pynchon just never grabbed me with this one. I kept at it longer than I probably should have because he's one of those writers you're supposed to appreciate, and, I will admit that the failure was mine. I'm sure it's a fucking masterpiece that will be studied in lit departments all over the goddamned world. But, I'm done.
For my beach stay I have a stack of
"The Religion" by Tim Willocks. The first of a proposed trilogy, the first book is looking like a telling of the Turkish siege of Malta. So far it's pretty good. I like it anyway.
"The Queen of Subtleties - A Novel of Anne Boleyn" by Suzanne Dunn
I love the full-contact politics of the Tudors.
"Nelson - A Dream of Glory, 1758-1797" by John Sugden
This got a great review in the Sunday Times (London)
"The Bone Parade" by Mark Nykanen
This was on the bargain listing at Barnes & Noble, but I got it because I went to High School with the author. I would hope that he would rescue something of mine from the bargain bin at Tower records. I'm looking forward to it.
And of course, as soon as it arrives (and I made sure to amend the shipping info on my pre-orders)
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"
quite possible the only MUST READ of the season.
Before opponents of continued American involvement in Iraq elevate their hopes too much over what appears to be new-found vigor in congressional Democrats baiting Republicans into a filibuster on a resolution for a troop withdrawal timetable, it might be worth the effort to read what Time magazine has to say about what's really going on behind the scenes in Washington.
The all-nighter is a public relations stunt by the Democrats stung by growing voter dissatisfaction with their inabilityor, less charitably, unwillingnessto change the course of the nation in either its international affairs or its domestic trajectory. The Tuesday all-nighter is a golden, well-staged, carefully planned setup to force Republicans into a show so constituents can see that something is being done, and that something is being done by the hard-working opposition party as it tries just about anything to get past the virtually impenetrable obstacle of an obstinate President and his loyal allies.
Here's the reality: this spectacle, produced by Sen. Harry Reid and his merry band of followers, will materially change nothing whatsoever, either about the course of the American-Iraqi War or about how the Democrats in Congress and the Bush Administration are going to get their respective wishes granted, all while Iraq, itself, continues to disintegrate, taking a good chunk of the Middle East around it into the maelstrom of political instability, sectarian mini-wars, massive refugee movements, homegrown and imported violence, and finallyfor the home team's consumptiona direct military confrontation between the United States and Iran that at least some powerful Democrats, as well as Republicans, already know is virtually inevitable.
Oh, yes, American soldiers will be continuing to die in our favorite, home-away-from-home, God-forsaken Mesopotamian Hell-hole while the political theater currently running in the Capitol Building plays itself out for the C-Span crowd and the Sunday talking heads circuit.
More solemnly than even that, American soldiers (and a whole lot more Iraqis) will still be dying next week, next month, and for the foreseeable future. The Democrats cannot stop this. All they can do is make sure the show they're putting on gets better, lest people start looking for the real exit from the theater instead of the phony prop the Democrats use for their grand and repeated entries to the stage of battle with a President who is more than their match.
Is the above an unduly, unfairly harsh assessment? Count the bodies of dead American soldiers between now and the end of the year; then ask, "How many fewer would there have been if the Democrats had begun impeachment proceedings against George W. Bush and Richard V. Cheney on Tuesday, July 17, 2007?"
Of course, one might argue that timing is everything in politics.
To the next dead American soldier, though, timing means nothing.
Goes to the stupid bitch in our neighborhood who drives the Toyota SUV with these asinine bumper stickers:
1. Peace - The Old Fashioned Way (a bomber over an American flag was the imagery accompanying the punch line.)
2. If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a soldier.
Now, pardon my French, but what the fuck? What soldier can claim responsibility for me reading in English? And what difference does it make what language I'm reading as long as I can read? And if I couldn't read her stupid-ass sticker, should I not thank a soldier? What if I could read it in English but didn't know what I was saying? What if I could read it in English and didn't know what the fuck she was on about?
Senate Majority leader Harry Reid has called for an all-night session to force Republicans to either "put up or shut up" on an up-or-down vote on the Reed-Levin amendment which would "commence the reduction of the number of United States forces in Iraq not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment" and "mandates a withdrawal of most combat forces by April 30, 2008."
"Now, Republicans are using a filibuster to block us from even voting on an amendment that could bring the war to a responsible end," said Reid. "They are protecting the President rather than protecting our troops. They are denying us an up or down – yes or no – vote on the most important issue our country faces."
Reid will be using the provision of Rule 22 that allows for up to 30 hours of continuous debate once it's made clear -- in this case, by Republicans trying to avoid an up-or-down vote on Reed-Levin -- that there is a desire to continue debating the issue.
In other words, the Majority Leader is saying "You want to debate? We'll stay all night and debate."
"I would like to inform the Republican leadership and all my colleagues that we have no intention of backing down," said Reid this afternoon. "If Republicans do not allow a vote on Levin/Reed today or tomorrow, we will work straight through the night on Tuesday. The American people deserve an open and honest debate on this war, and they deserve an up or down vote on this amendment to end it."
Protesting the unfairness of Mr. Moore's detailed criticism, the CNN.com defensiveness has this declaration in the preamble to its supposedly point-by-point ramble: "We have zero vested interest in shading the numbers to tell a certain story," a claim rather amazing on its face, given the corporation's complete dependence on advertising dollars from other corporations that know how to use the power of that money to shape news, and given CNN's long-standing dependence upon the Bush Administration's discriminating willingness to grant or deny access to the halls of administrative power in Washington.
But the kicker comes in the sixth paragraph, where we learn, "CNN has always prided itself on balanced reporting of claims made by special-interest groups."
At the bottom of the article, CNN.com offered a feedback link, which takes the reader to a screen where, along with survey-type features, a person can write a comment, restricted to no more than 500 characters; that is apparently, in the judgment of CNN.com, sufficient latitude for anyone to have a well-formed, substantive say.
I used my 500 characters to the end of getting a few broad points across, and I herewith share with the public that which I just finished roaring at CNN.com:
While I am not a fan of Michael Moore when he holds Cuba up as a positive socio-political model for anything, I am just amazed by the disingenuousness in your claim that, "CNN has always prided itself on balanced reporting of claims made by special-interest groups."
The very use of the term 'special interest groups' serves no purpose other than to degrade and demean those who have strongly opposed the Bush Administration in its systematic prevarications that led to the American-Iraqi War, a war for which CNN served as nothing other than a propaganda outlet for the neo-conservatives, as Michael Moore pointed out in blistering terms to Wolf Blitzer last week.
And by the way, were those 'special interest groups' that pointed out how CNN.com was publishing photos handily provided by the Department of Defense of North Korean 'nuclear facilities' that were the same photographs DoD had also claimed were Iranian nuclear facilities?
Perhaps I am a 'special interest group'; but you are just shills.
The Dark Wraith has thus spoken not Truth to Power, but instead, Hell-Fire and Damnation to Propagandists.
No, not an actual picture but just a little flash of life on the road.
We are filing onto the bus to make the trip from L.A. to Palm Springs. I am minding my own business, taking a biography of Alexander the Great which was written in the 1870's by an American autodidact. I oversee the loading of my harps onto the bus and follow them in and choose a seat. I figure to settle in, read, maybe nap for the couple hours of riding until we reach the resort and concert hall where we will play two sold out shows to crowds of 1,200. So far, the tour has been great fun. Here in L.A. I was joined by the beautiful April and we have been having a great time together. Every time he sees April walking from place to the place the other guitar player starts to sing the Sir Douglas Quintet's "She's About a Mover" under his breath. April notices this and is her usual gorgeous, merciless self about it, sometimes pausing to do a little hitch thing with her hip just to hear the sharp hiss of him sucking wind.
I am settling into the seat, give a glance to April to see if she wants for anything when StarLady plops right down next to me and without any preliminaries says "Is everything OK with you?" I say "Of course. Why do you ask?" StarLady says "You haven't said a word to anybody for at least three days. I was wondering if somebody had made you angry or something." April is by now laughing quietly and tells StarLady "It took me a couple of years to get used to that with him. He's an Apache to the bone about that. He doesn't talk much, that's all. If he was pissed off, trust me, EVERYBODY would be knowing."
StarLady smiles her enigmatic and etherial smile which just doesn't quite reach her legendary blue eyes and says "Alright. I was just wondering." I figure it's time for me to say something and take her hand in mine, give it a quick gentleman's kiss and say "I am having a wonderful time playing for you. It's great to get a job where I am able to say that I'm making real music and not just money. Thank you for calling me."
Her smile broadens but still stops short of her eyes telling you that they believe. We do the first show in the early evening. Palm Springs shuts down early on a good night so we have to have at least one early show for the geezer set. After the show I am sitting backstage with April and icing my wrists down with bags held in place by ace bandages. StarLady is passing by with her daughter, an actress, and a couple of thoroughly spoiled grandchildren in tow. Our eyes meet. I smile and say "You were superb tonight BossLady darlin'."
She blows me a quick kiss and smiles from the inside all the way out.
Their crimes stand open on the table before us. Their lies about Iraqi ties to al Qaeda are on videotape and in writing, and they continue to make them to this day. Their claims about Iraqi weapons have been shown in every detail to have been, not mistakes, but lies. Their threats to Iran are on videotape. Bush being warned about Katrina and claiming he was not are on videotape. Bush lying about illegal spying and later confessing to it are on videotape. A federal court has ruled that spying to be a felony. The Supreme Court has ruled Bush and Cheney's system of detentions unconstitutional. Torture, openly advocated for by Bush and Cheney and their staffs, is documented by victims, witnesses, and public photographs. Torture was always illegal and has been repeatedly recriminalized under Bush and Cheney. Bush has reversed laws with signing statements. Those statements are posted on the White House website, and a GAO report found that with 30 percent of Bush's signing statements in which he announces his right to break laws, he has in fact proceeded to break those laws. For these and many other offenses, no investigation is needed because no better evidence is even conceivable. And rather than taking three months, the impeachment of Cheney or Bush could be completed in a day.
But the investigations that Congress has pursued at its glacial pace over the past six months, while thousands upon thousands died, have produced another impeachable offense, the refusal to comply with subpoenas. That is what President Richard Nixon did; and his refusal to comply with subpoenas constituted the offense cited in one of the three Articles of Impeachment approved by the House Judiciary Committee on July 27, 1974 as warranting "impeachment and trial, and removal from office."
Bush and Cheney are claiming executive privilege. Nixon also tried that one. It didn't work then; and it won't work now. Condoleezza Rice is claiming, with more frankness, that she's just not inclined to comply. Even Nancy Pelosi ought to understand by now that the removal of the threat of impeachment is what empowers the White House to ignore subpoenas, and that the threat of impeaching the White House for its stonewalling would break down the wall even before we reached impeachment.
This is the second in the series, "The Economics of Wreckage," which surveys the way in which the economy has been managed in recent times both by the Bush Administration and, more broadly, by Presidents and Congresses during the post-World War II era. Part One of the series was the most recent in a continuing demonstration of how the major stock market indices have fared poorly during the Bush Administration, thereby rendering stark evidence that the putative owners of capital, the shareholders of public corporations, have not garnered their share of what has clearly been a robustly growing economy. The present article presents the much longer term case for the extent of and reasons for the workers of the United States having not realized their share of that real economic growth.
Sustained, robust economic growth is a key goal of modern policymakers both in Washington and in state capitols. Recent articles have highlighted, somewhat to the consternation of President Bush's critics, what has apparently been surprisingly strong growth during much of his Presidency. Right-wing explanations master George Will, writing in a June 10, 2007, op-ed piece for the Washington Post, crowed about "65 months... of uninterrupted growth," among other breath-taking economic performance numbers. Over a much longer term than Mr. Will described, given his interest in focusing attention on his favored politician, the real (that is, inflation-adjusted) economy of the United States has grown with barely a pause, as can be seen in the simple graphic below, drawn from real GDP data provided by the St. Louis Federal Reserve.
But that remarkable run of sustained economic expansion strikes many as profoundly contrary to the course their own economic circumstances have taken over the past several decades. Writing at Debswebwith a cross-post of her article at Big Brass Blogblogger Debra tore into Mr. Will:
Oh George, please stop trying to pull the wool over our eyes. In the eighties I made more money than I do now and I had benefits. In the nineties I made minimum wage while studying for my Masters and was able to live on it. Not very well but I could survive and still go to the movies. Now I have said Masters and make more than minimum wage but I can't pay all my bills and I certainly can't attend the movies because the price of the ticket is ridiculously high. I can honestly say that the only thing that has increased in the last 25 years is my level of debt and my inability to pay it off. It isn't that I'm still paying for a meal that I ate in 1989, I'm paying for the schooling that was supposed to improve my ability to earn money but is instead an anchor pulling me to the bottom of the debt sea.
Indeed, Debra hit squarely on one of several curious features of the economic wonder of the past two-and-a-half decades: while the economy has grown with only modest and rare recessionary downturns, the living standards of millions and millions of American households have eroded, and they have done so noticeably, certainly to the occupants of those households, who know very well that they were living better earlier in their lives, and they were doing so without incurring a mounting pile of debt.
The sense among so many of losing economic ground is given quantitative evidence in the graphic below, derived from average annual hourly earnings data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and consumer price indices offered by the Minnesota Federal Reserve. It shows that, while "nominal" hourly wagesthe wages workers see, with no correction for inflationhave risen steadily for a very long time, real wages (wages corrected for the purchasing power erosion of inflation) have been pretty much stagnant.
The two visual depictions above, taken together, go a long way toward explaining the feeling among many Americans that their shared economic situation has been deteriorating: purchasing power has gone nowhere, but the percentage of that stagnant purchasing power committed to paying fixed bills every month has gone up and up.
The graphic below depicts more strikingly, if a bit more complexly, the difference in changes in real and nominal wages that have been going on. It shows not the levels of real and nominal wages, but how those real and nominal wages have changed as percentages from one year to the next over the past several decades.
Note in particular in the graphic above how the year-to-year percentage changes in real average hourly wages have pretty much canceled each other out over a long period of time, meandering with a seeming aimlessness around the zero-percent axis.
How could it be that the labor force propelling an economy to ever-greater real value would not share in that expanding pool of value? Is this evidence of the Marxist description of the controllers of capital systematically expropriating the fruits of labor from those who render it; or is it perhaps some late-20th Century plot whereby the government has participated in an alliance with the wealthy to ensure a more and more unequal distribution of income to the end of destroying the ability of average citizens to live their lives independent of some over-arching government entity providing all their needs for them?
Such possibilities must be left to those more attuned to the nuances of conspiracy theories and all the many forms and supposed proofs thereof. Practically speaking, the explanation is somewhat simpler, although perhaps no less troubling; but a few background terms and concepts must first be set forth.
"Factors of production" are the things needed to turn raw materials into final products. At least for pedagogic purposes, there are five: land, labor, human capital, physical capital, and entrepreneurial skill.
Land is the physical platform on which production occurs. Although extraordinary counter-examples might exist, virtually all production needs at least some land. It could be a lot, as in acres and acres on which are located horizontal assembly line factories; or it could be just enough on which to put a computer and a Webmaster to publish a backwater blog about economics.
Labor is brute human force, the kind of animal energy that simply moves physical objects. Often, the word "labor" is used broadly to encompass another factor listed above, human capital; but technically speaking, the two are different.
Human capital is the transformed, refined, developed, educated result of labor resulting from its natural (and, to some extent, entirely unconscious) tendency for improvement. Labor is always on the move to becoming human capital, whether it be through on-the-job learning, through personal trial-and-error development, or through education in school. Certainly, however, in most expositions the word "labor" includes the improved production factor technically defined as "human capital," and there's nothing wrong with that blurring of the distinction unless it becomes an unintended veil that hides an erosion of compensation to workers when their productivity is improving through their transformation of labor skills into human capital skills.
Physical capital is buildings, equipment, machinery, computers, telecommunications equipment, and all the other inanimate objects that are used in production.
Entrepreneurial skill is the factor of production characteristic of market economies or sub-economies. It is the factor of production that willingly (or perhaps unknowingly) bears risk for an expected reward by bringing together the other factors of production and combining them in such a way that some output is created.
So much for the factors of production. The next set of principles and definitions has to do with the paper used as a store of value, a medium of exchange, and a unit of account, as those features were set forth in Part 1 of "A Brief Story of Money" published here at Big Brass Blog and at The Dark Wraith Forums.
With respect to the matter of inflation and money, a rock-solid principle of economics is that inflation will necessarily result when the growth rate of the money supply exceeds the real growth rate of the economy. Inflation is not "caused" by money-grubbing merchants "jacking up their prices"; inflation is not caused by soul-depleted capitalists extracting larger and larger profits at the expense of consumers and workers; inflation is not caused by greedy unions demanding and then getting huge wage increases; and inflation is not caused by raising the minimum wage.
Not one of those things can cause inflation, which is defined as an increase in the aggregate (the "overall") price level. Any sector of the economy that tries to extract higher prices, be they for final goods or as rewards to one productive factor or another, can do so only to the pricing detriment of some other sector, unless too much money has been put into the system thereby allowing one sector to draw higher prices without others having to reduce their prices.
It is just about as simple as that. It might look very much like a price or wage increase has "caused" inflation, but that's only because the increase allowed the already over-printed money to express its presence through the aggregate price level. The rule, then, is straight-forward: when the growth rate of the money supply exceeds the real (physical) growth rate of the economy, in the long run, inflation will result. Part 2 of the series, "A Brief Story of Money" explained exactly how over-printing of money becomes inflation and provided a simple formula called the "equation of exchange" that mathematically captures the relationship among the critical factors, which are the size of the standing money supply, its velocity (how many times the money supply "turns over" per period in an economy), the aggregate price level, and the real output level of an economy.
Having stated the long-run consequence of over-printing money, it is crucial to point out that, in the short run, a money growth "overhang" can cause a punch of real economic stimulus, as was demonstrated in the aforementioned second part of "A Brief Story of Money." One necessary condition for this surge in real output to occur is that at least one factor of productionand it has to be a major factorhas to be incapable of capturing its share of the inflationary price spiral being caused by the money overhang. Such a factor unable to move its reward upward would be forced to create more real output to earn enough to pay the higher prices of everything else.
Guess what factor of production has historically borne this burden.
That's right: labor. As long as the growth of wages and salaries lags behind the inflation rate for everything else, workers have to work harder (more hours and at greater and greater productivity) to be able to maintain their established consumption patterns.
A persistent myth among the more well-informed students of economics has to do with the role of so-called "neo-Keynesian" economists of the last half of the 20th Century. John Maynard Keynes, the magnificent architect of the economics that inspired Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, knew very well that wages were "sticky." This is a persistent phenomenon because of the nature of labor retention by the businesses that hire workers. No worker's wage is adjusted on a day-by-day basis, and virtually no worker can instantly shift employment to capture a better wage if his or her present employer refuses to adjust wages to prevailing price conditions and labor demand. In plain terms, workers are stuck, at least in the short term, in the jobs they're in; as such, they are stuck with the pay they've already negotiated until such time as they can either renegotiate through a normal contract renewal or through expending time and money in search of a better compensation package, if one even exists.
Neo-Keynesians, among the most notable of them such luminaries as John Kenneth Galbraith, envisioned a partnership of government and industry (perhaps what Eisenhower warned about as the infamous "military-industrial complex") that could keep a huge economy like that of the United States growing at an aggressive rate through fiscal policy intervention that might of necessity have periodic shots of overproduction of money. Notwithstanding Dr. Galbraith's claim that large unions would provide one aspect of a countervailing force against industrial economic and political power, this model simply cannot use over-production of money in its inventory of macroeconomic stimulators if unions were persistently powerful enough to keep wages rising in lock-step with other prices. Powerful, effective unions (in particular, the industrial ones) pose a show-stopping threat to the success of monetary economic stimulus because they have the potential to force wages to move at nearly the same growth rate, in nearly the same time frame as other prices (both final and factor), thereby absorbing for labor a "fair share" of the excess money being printed. Such a situation would wreck the way the over-printing of money could lead to actual, real growth of the economy, since it is only if wages and salaries are "sticky" that labor is forced to work more and harder to handle the price shocks pushing everything people buy upward.
The graphic below shows the nominal effect in terms of year-over-year percentage changes in the nominal average hourly wage rate and the associated percentage changes in real GDP.
Upon careful inspection, the key feature reveals itself: nominal wage changes slide during the booms in real economic expansion, and then those nominal wage changes begin to capture better increases just in time for the Federal Reserve to clamp down on the money supply, throwing the economy into a downturn with layoffs and unemployment, thereby suppressing the nascent upsurge in nominal wages. In other words, when the American economy is in a growth phase, that's the most likely time the wages people are getting (their nominal, or "apparent" wages) are unable to capture their share of the growth. It's only when the booms are petering out that wages begin to get "unstuck," and by then, purchasing power erosion has already permanently corroded real living standards, thus pushing upon the workers in their consumption mode the incentive to draw higher debt loads to compensate.
Neo-Keynesians are not now, nor have they ever been, fools: they know very well, as do others, that Keynesian-style government intervention would have no real effect were the vast majority of well-paid workers to keep wages moving in rigid lock-step with other prices.
The same goes for the politics of the minimum wage, which cannot be raised very frequently, and certainly not one-for-one with true inflation, if over-production of money is to cause real economic growth. Minimum wage workers, like their better-paid union and middle-class white-collar brethren, must face an aggregate (overall) price level that is going up faster than their wages are, since "losing ground to inflation" will force them to work more hours and induce them to increase productivity in an effort to move to a higher wage bracket.
Were the minimum wage to rise in lock-stepsay, month by month or even quarter by quarterwith the government-published consumer price index, the lowest-paid workers in this country would not have to work more hours and with greater productivity as other prices were rising because of the over-printing of money. Timely indexing of the minimum wage would defeat the whole purpose of government macroeconomic intervention, which in its correct design is to the purpose of generating real economic growth.
It is one of the great and continuing follies of business shills to claim that raising the minimum wage is "inflationary." In fact, the only thing that can cause inflation is printing money at a rate in excess of the real growth rate of the economy; all that happens if the minimum wage is raised is that the previous over-printing of greenbacks gets expressed fully throughout the matrix of productive factors instead of being restricted to only those under the direct control, and to the direct benefit, of business interests and the wealthy who can impose willful price rises through market power. This same rule applies to union wages, too: no inflation that was not already pending in the economy arises because of a new bargaining agreement that gives members a wage increase somewhere near the rate of inflation. In fact, no inflation not already seething below the surface would be "created" even if there were some extra compensation, because that component could very well be nothing more than a proactive payment for the expectation that prices will rise faster because wages are about to reflect labor's share of excessive growth of the money supply.
To claim that raising the statutory minimum or any other wage is "inflationary" is getting cause and effect exactly reversed. The inflation is already there; and to the extent that labor does not or cannot capture its share of the erosion of purchasing power with better pay, the economy experiences less inflation, but that's only because it is wages and salaries not moving upward quickly enough that keeps inflation from rising at the rate it otherwise would, given the rate at which money is being printed excessively.
As it is, wages and salaries really have been successfully and systematically suppressed over a long period of time, at least on average. This is arguably the principal reason the U.S. economy has grown so robustly in the post-World War II era.
The final graph, below, of this article shows the year-over-year percentage change in real GDP and real average hourly wages. It is remarkable for several reasons, one long-term, and one quite recent.
Note first in the graphic above how, over the course of the past two decades or so, changes in real average hourly wages have moved in general synchrony with changes in real GDP; but almost always, the wage movements came after the associated GDP movements. The changes in real wages are, in effect, an echo of the changes in real GDP. That's the "unsticking" of the wages, as labor finally gets a piece of the action after at least some of the other factors of production have gotten their respective shares. Notice also in this same regard that the percentage changes in real wages go more deeply into negative territory (that means actual losses in real purchasing power) and never go more positive than the correlated real GDP rise on the upsides. That's why the economy can grow in real terms, yet leave people feeling further and further behind, relatively speaking.
And finally, in the graph above there is a short-term phenomenon that should be noted. It happened in the last half-decade or so. The relationship between the two lines is starkly different from what it was before. Notice how the echo of real wages from real GDP is completely gone. In fact, if anything, real wages have become an inverse echo of real GDP during the presidency of George W. Bush!
But the President and his Republican allies in Congress have certainly been nothing if not hard-core neo-Keynesians. Wildly large federal deficits year over year to spend on massive wars and other gargantuan pork; huge tax cuts; and a Federal Reserve Board that, by its own admission, was "accommodative" until mid-2004 and perhaps remained so long after claiming to rein in its overproduction of money. Those are purely Keynesian and neo-Keynesian macroeconomic policy prescriptions for government intervention to make an economy grow.
So what happened to the neo-Keynesian real wage echo effect? It's gone; or, at the very least, it's occurring far later than it had in the past. Either way, the corrosive effect that was always part of the lag between real economic growth and wages has become stronger because that lag has become longer. Why the echo has become either inverted or more perilously delayed will be explained in a subsequent installment of this series.
The Dark Wraith will now allow some time for readers to absorb what has just been presented.
and also over at Shakesville (back up an running! yay 'Liss!)
There has been a rash of, shall we say, intensly phallic architecture lately. Although I am of the mind that even the most perverse christopathic builders cannot hold a candle to the wonders of nature.
In this spirit I offer a couple of wonders from my own beloved Arizona.
From Monument Valley we have the appropriately named Organ Rock. Which is visible from the highway to Lake Powell.
But, from my very own, nearby Superstition Mountains we have:
Weaver's Needle (taken from a point on the Peralta Trail called "low saddle pass")
Which, along with being a prime navigational point for hikers and pilots is, by traditional lore, the main landmark to finding the "Lost Dutchman" gold mine.
Hard to beat phallic symbolism and the promise of gold for the taking when it comes to republican dreams.
Prez "pre-emptively" saves all Repubs from becoming "prison bitches."
Dems: "Can he do that?"
(Satire … ??)
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Allegedly reacting to some sort of hallucinogenic fever dream following an overlong bubble bath during which he reportedly sputtered lots of motorboat noises and ate one too many purple crayons, President Bush today made the stunning yet somehow entirely understandable announcement that all Republicans in his administration are hereby officially excused from any and all crimes they have committed, are in the process of committing, are planning to commit, or even merely fantasize about committing while encased in sweaty latex bodysuits in any one of a number of GOP-friendly D.C. fetish dungeons.
"People! My people!" Bush shouted suddenly during an otherwise completely useless press conference, raising his arms over his head and tilting his head back and convulsing slightly, just as a nameless reporter finished asking a question about... oh like it even matters because we all know the answer would've been complete bulls--- anyway so let's just say, immigration policy reform.
"Come to me, you shockingly large numbers of corrupt and disgraced Republican senators, representatives, aides, deputies, secretaries, lobbyists, governors and mayors and secretly gay meth-snorting right-wing Christian evangelists, and I shall remove from you the burden of legal, ethical, spiritual and yes even genital responsibility for all crimes you have almost certainly committed under the dark umbrella that is me! I am the walrus!"
Bush was apparently emboldened by his unprecedented and widely reviled commutation of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's prison sentence just recently, a move widely considered to be one of the more repellent abuses of power in a kaleidoscopic drunken funhouse of abuses lo these past 6.5 years, though he appeared to be staring up at the heavens as he spoke, just little bit astonished that lightning was not striking him dead on the spot.
"DeLay! Gonzales! Abramoff! Rumsfeld! Frist and Scalia and Ashcroft and Rove! Hastert and Duke Cunningham and Dusty Foggo! Ralph Reed! Mark Foley, Ted Haggard and Jeff Gannon! Abu Ghraib instigators! Guantanamo endorsers! WMD believers! FEMA! Plamegate! Terry Schaivo hypocrites! Torturers and influence peddlers and domestic wiretappers, Halliburton bribers and no-bid contractors and dark Carlyle Group overlords!
"Also: Sex education misinformers, global warming deniers, scientist muzzlers, Energy Task Force liars, Iraq Study Group deniers, 9/11 Report ignorers, Medicare scammers, Diebold voting machine swindlers! Bogus Jessica Lynch and Saddam statue and fake Thanksgiving turkey event stagers! And all the rest I can't remember because wow there are just so damn many! Come to me and be not someone's prison bitch despite how you really, really deserve it! I hereby pardon you aaaaaalllll!"
We didn’t need any further proof that Congressional Republicans really don't give a damn about the troops or their families but we just got it in the United States Senate anyway.
Just moments ago, Senate Republicans succeeded in a filibuster in which they refused to end debate on Virginia Democrat Jim Webb's S. 2012, which would have placed strict limits on National Guard and reserve deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan as well as mandating more downtime at home before active-duty combat troops are returned to battle.
The vote was 56-41 to end debate, with 60 votes needed to move to a full, up-or-down vote on the Webb measure. Once again, the GOP has been successful at destroying another Democratic attempt at helping service members and their families caught in the buzzsaw of the Bush administration's lies and incompetence.
This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible," said Vitter in a statement. "Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling. Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there-with God and them. But I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way."
From 1999 to 2004, Vitter served as a congressman in Louisiana's 1st district. The 46-year-old politico is also the southern regional chair of Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign.
In 2004, Vitter campaigned with a promise of "protecting the sanctity of marriage," and was a co-author of the "Federal Marriage Act" that sought to prohibit courts from interpreting same-sex marriage laws.
"This is a real outrage. The Hollywood left is redefining the most basic institution in human history," he said then.
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales assured Congress in 2005 that the FBI had not abused powers granted under an anti-terrorism law despite having received reports of potential violations, The Washington Post reported in Tuesday editions. Internal FBI documents indicate that in the three months before he sought to renew the USA Patriot Act, Gonzales received at least half dozen reports of legal or procedural violations, including one six days before his Senate testimony, the Post said.
Internal FBI documents indicate that in the three months before he sought to renew the USA Patriot Act, Gonzales received at least half dozen reports of legal or procedural violations, including one six days before his Senate testimony, the Post said.
As he sought to renew the USA Patriot Act two years ago, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales assured lawmakers that the FBI had not abused its potent new terrorism-fighting powers. "There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse," Gonzales told senators on April 27, 2005.
Six days earlier, the FBI sent Gonzales a copy of a report that said its agents had obtained personal information that they were not entitled to have. It was one of at least half a dozen reports of legal or procedural violations that Gonzales received in the three months before he made his statement to the Senate intelligence committee, according to internal FBI documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.
The acts recounted in the FBI reports included unauthorized surveillance, an illegal property search and a case in which an Internet firm improperly turned over a compact disc with data that the FBI was not entitled to collect, the documents show. Gonzales was copied on each report that said administrative rules or laws protecting civil liberties and privacy had been violated.
The reports also alerted Gonzales in 2005 to problems with the FBI's use of an anti-terrorism tool known as a national security letter (NSL), well before the Justice Department's inspector general brought widespread abuse of the letters in 2004 and 2005 to light in a stinging report this past March.
The American Civil Liberties Union expressed its outrage that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales lied to Congress in order to make a case for reauthorization of the Patriot Act in 2005.
The following may be attributed to Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:
"Congress has been hoodwinked by the Attorney General and it's time for consequences. From the US Attorney scandal to warrantless wiretapping, this administration has misled the American people time and again. We know now that Mr. Gonzales provided false testimony in order to build a case for reauthorization of the Patriot Act. It is now apparent that Congress and the public simply cannot afford to take anything this administration says about the war on terror at face value.
"No government should have these broad powers in the first place and it has become painfully obvious that our government cannot be trusted to police itself. This administration seems to think that the end justifies the means and when it comes to the means, it's anything goes. Without Mr. Gonzales' false testimony, the Patriot Act may not have been authorized in its current form. Now, more than ever, is the time to reopen and re-examine the Patriot Act."
In a related development, Congress has asked the administration for information on the domestic spying program nine times, and has now issued subpoenas to the administration. The White House must comply by July 18 at 2 p.m. For updates visit www.subpoenawatch.org.
CONYERS: We're hoping that as the cries for Cheney and Bush now reach 46% and 58%, respectively, for impeachment, that we could begin to become a little bit more cooperative, if not even amicable in trying to get to the truth of these matters.
We have so much more work to do, George, as you know. And we keep getting stalled. They keep pressing us. We’re seeking cooperation. This is not partisan in any way whatsoever. I would have the same attitude if it were a Democratic president.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman, we’re just about out of time. But I’m surprised you put impeachment on the table there. Are you open to pursuing that?
CONYERS: No, I didn’t put impeachment on the table. I was just telling you that 46 percent of the American people polled want Bush impeached, and 58 percent want Cheney impeached. I’m saying…
A defiant White House on Monday dared the Democratic-led Congress to take it to court for refusing to provide information and testimony demanded in an investigation into the firing of federal prosecutors.
Congressional leaders disagreed, and made it clear they were prepared to battle in court -- unless they reach a compromise with the White House on access to documents and witnesses.
"While we remain willing to negotiate with the White House, they adhere to their unacceptable all-or-nothing position, and now will not even seek to properly justify their privilege claims," said House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat.
"Contrary to what the White House may believe, it is the Congress and the courts that will decide whether an invocation of executive privilege is valid, not the White House unilaterally," Conyers said.
Congress can hold a person in contempt if that person obstructs proceedings or an inquiry by a congressional committee. Congress has used contempt citations for two main reasons: (1) to punish someone for refusing to testify or refusing to provide documents or answers, and (2) for bribing or libeling a member of Congress.
It's not in the Constitution. It is an implied power of Congress, just like executive privilege is an implied power of the presidency.
The Supreme Court said as early as 1821 that without the power to hold people in contempt of Congress, the legislative branch would be "exposed to every indignity and interruption that rudeness, caprice, or even conspiracy, may mediate against it."
Contempt of Congress is a federal misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum $100,000 fine and a maximum one-year sentence in federal prison.
Thanks to Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), the head of the House Judiciary Committee, we'll soon find out.
Rep. Conyers has a theory as to why "Scooter" Libby was pardoned had his sentence commuted last week. It was to keep him from telling someone - like a federal grand jury, for example - exactly what he knew about the outing of former CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson. He wants to have the Judiciary Committee test this theory. Beginning on Wednesday (7-11-07), he has proposed to compare and contrast the pardons issued from, among other people, former President Bill Clinton's office during the last months of his presidency. Specifically, what each pardonee was charged with, and the reasons given for each pardon.
"What we have here - and I think we should put it on the table right at the beginning - is that the suspicion was that if Mr. Libby went to prison, he might further implicate other people in the White House, and that there was some kind of relationship here that does not exist in any of President Clinton's pardons, nor, according to those that we've talked to... is that it's never existed before, ever," Conyers said.
To which the White House responded, "nyah, nyah, nyah":
A White House spokesman, Tony Fratto, said in response: "That's a fairly ridiculous and baseless assertion. It may be impossible to plumb the depths of Chairman Conyers' 'suspicions,' but we can hope this one is near the bottom."
I can't wait to see what conclusions the Judiciary Committee will come to about this. It's going to be very interesting indeed. Not that much can be done at this point, but interesting all the same.
Edited to fix a teensy grammatical problem that was getting on my nerves.
I need to share some comments with you from various links that make a lot of sense to me and have fueled my support for Ron Paul over the past few months. I'm not very knowledgeable with regard to "politics" and look to all the opinions I can find in order to understand what is going on.
Before the internet, I pretty much believed whatever our elected officials said because I had been told over and over again that our country and government was STILL the best in the world. And it is -- WHEN THE CONSTITUTION IS OBEYED. His "radical" views and opinions (IMHO) are all about freedom and the Constitution. We need to defend our constitution because OBVIOUSLY, as we have come to learn, IT CANNOT DEFEND ITSELF.
Since it looks like we will never have publicly funded elections, (which would solve MOST of our problems - imho) I believe we need to look at individuals who openly state that this system is broken and that we must have a new start. I can't even tell the difference between the left and right anymore. It's ALL a joke.
So far, Ron Paul is the only one not going along with this good cop/bad cop scam that has taken over our two party system.
Here are some random comments and links from Ron Paul supporters that make me believe he is our man:
We have a corporate, fascist state now. The government is run by the Banking and Military Industrial Complex. Ron Paul has vowed to end this.
Ron Paul foreign policy IS THE REASON Ron Paul domestic policy WILL work.
Paul has been very clear that he would continue to fund domestic programs with the increased national revenues that don't go to war. He has also said that any going away from these programs would require a transition period (JC's bold) and would never leave the elderly or those on welfare to just SUDDENLY fend for themselves. His campaign is about accountability and common-sense in government and not a cold-blooded approach to leave the needy starving and homeless. He would like to seem them capable of taking care of themselves and he'd definitely like to see the government playing a much limited roll in a lot of spheres.
You seriously need to consider your statements by looking at statistics and history.
Not a single government controlled economic policy has ever served its intended purpose.
Listen to Milton Friedman explain why only limited Government Helps the poor.
"Insanity is attempting to do the same thing over and over again, expecting to accomplish a different result; Government policies are no different...."
(Maybe the Dark Wraith can help me with this economic view point. He's the only "one armed economist" I know.)
I understand the concern, but even Dr Paul admits that there would have to be a transitional period of around a decade (in regards to the dismantling of entitlement programs). We have at least two generations who have been taught to expect too much from government and that are far too dependant on it.
And don't forget that he's not saying to cut assistance, he's saying let the local governments handle it (city, county, state) and keep the massive federal government out of it.
If the the definition of insanity is to continue doing what is not working, then Ron Paul is the only man to lead America.
All the others keep saying the same thing and doing the same thing. The only common sense guy with common sense solutions is Ron Paul.
We all know that in this 'TEAM Politics' Era he will NEVER be nominated, including him. They will choose who they want to work their agenda and Paul and his ideas will be out of the public consciousness the moment the race starts. And we will be on the usual path until this system change, which we will happen when Ron Paul or his present day equivalent gets the nomination. I don't know if he's the right guy but i am all for the one with the most radical WTF ideas, not because i know if they will work or not but because i know the other way sure as hell doesn't and this HAS to be worth a shot.
Instead we hear, 'here's another guy with 'radical' ideas for us to mock, and here are six other candidates robotically spewing out the same information that you have to hear but have no choice in selecting.' when the whole thing is a charade because they've already made their decision. Guliani will get the not because he's the one that said, President Bush reviewed the libby case and made the right choice. And for the very statement that will get him the republican nod, is the very one that shows that he will be an extension of the Bush administration and as usual there will be no consequences. Just like with bush. I say abolish parties they don't work.
Ron Paul demands that the government exists to protect our freedom and civil liberty not constantly destroy and limit them.
Fight for freedom. Fight to save the minority communities from your drug war. Fight to stop imperialism. Support the only candidate that can defeat Hillary and bring peace.
We have lost our free Constitutional nation. Ron Paul wants to reduce the Federal Government back to a reasonable level. Centralized power leads to corruption and endless war.
Everything the government touches turns to shit. The war on education, drugs, poverty, terror, everything, they make worse.
America is in a crisis similar to the rise of Hitler and Stalin. The people, that means you, must defend the Constitution. It is almost too late. What can you do?
free markets are a MUCH better option than a government monopoly. Free markets stimulate competition. Since when has any government run anything efficiently or cost effectively?
Ron Paul wants to reduce the power held by the Executive branch first and foremost. If you don't hear any other candidate talking about that, then ask yourself why.
As for economic theory...
The market is so corrupted by government forces, and vice versa, that it's almost ridiculous to use any of those examples as reasons that a free market isn't superior to a government controlled market.
What you guys are railing about is government coddled corporations. This has been going on a long time. Corporations wouldn't get so big and powerful if the government stayed out. If you want to point out the robber barons such as the railroads, etc., I think you have to look at who was paying those corporations so many dollars a mile to lay track. Uncle Sam himself. The huge demand for steel rails and wooden railroad ties built the huge timber companies and the huge steel companies. Hell the government even gave away free ammo to kill off the pests called buffalos
First, there is no possibility of having a market without Government. Dr. Paul knows that. The Government controls and builds the Market. Without government, there are no rules, there is no currency, hence no marketplace. As I understand it, Rep. Paul wants to reign in big business, stabilize our economy and monetary system, and empower the lower classes (to which I belong) to own a greater share of A merican wealth. The richest Americans are increasing in number rapidly. When you look at the numbers, it is staggering. The current system we have in place is not working. It's time to try something different.
Inflation is caused by the Federal Reserve, the Government and the Wall Street interests. They know how to profit from it, the average man gets screwed. Ron Paul would stop this
Ron Paul will kill the Military Industrial Complex. He is the only candidate that can defeat Neo-Con war goddess Hillary.
Let me tell you, your programs help no one. Minority communities are war zones now after 40 years of liberal influence. The elderly live in poverty because they were told the government would care for them. The liberal influence on education has turned our young people into some of the most poorly educated in the civilized world. Everything you liberals touch turns to shit.
Now Liberals have fostered so much centralized federal control that GW Bush has nearly declared himself a dictator.
Why are you people so dedicated to turning America into a communist dictatorship? Haven't you seen what has happened to past communist dictatorships? It did not end well for the people.
This is not about whether the bankrupt social security system should be privatized, this about going back to the roots of freedom in America.
Medicare sucks, so does social security, and so does every other federal program that isn't outlined in the Constitution. If we got the government out of our lives, we wouldn't have all the poverty to need these programs
I am telling you right now that a communist health care system would be nothing more that the fascist corporate system we have now except, you will no longer have any control. Doctors will have no control and patients will have no control.
Through the government, the corporations will own you. Everything our government touches turns to shit. Why would you trust them to ration your health care?
Thanks for listening my friends.
Oh, and here is a link to ronpaulforums and a discussion about his "racist" comments.
As a longtime attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, I can honestly say that I have never been as ashamed of the department and government that I serve as I am at this time.
The public record now plainly demonstrates that both the DOJ and the government as a whole have been thoroughly politicized in a manner that is inappropriate, unethical and indeed unlawful. The unconscionable commutation of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's sentence, the misuse of warrantless investigative powers under the Patriot Act and the deplorable treatment of U.S. attorneys all point to an unmistakable pattern of abuse.
In the course of its tenure since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has turned the entire government (and the DOJ in particular) into a veritable Augean stable on issues such as civil rights, civil liberties, international law and basic human rights, as well as criminal prosecution and federal employment and contracting practices. It has systematically undermined the rule of law in the name of fighting terrorism, and it has sought to insulate its actions from legislative or judicial scrutiny and accountability by invoking national security at every turn, engaging in persistent fearmongering, routinely impugning the integrity and/or patriotism of its critics, and protecting its own lawbreakers. This is neither normal government conduct nor "politics as usual," but a national disgrace of a magnitude unseen since the days of Watergate - which, in fact, I believe it eclipses.
The sweeping, judicially unchecked powers granted under the Patriot Act should neither have been created in the first place nor permanently renewed thereafter, and the Act - which also contributed to the ongoing contretemps regarding the replacement of U.S. attorneys, by changing the appointment process to invite political abuse - should be substantially modified, if not scrapped outright. And real, rather than symbolic, responsibility should be assigned for the manifold abuses. The public trust has been flagrantly violated, and meaningful accountability is long overdue. Officials who have brought into disrepute both the Department of Justice and the administration of justice as a whole should finally have to answer for it - and the misdeeds at issue involve not merely garden-variety misconduct, but multiple "high crimes and misdemeanors," including war crimes and crimes against humanity.
I realize that this constitutionally protected statement subjects me to a substantial risk of unlawful reprisal from extremely ruthless people who have repeatedly taken such action in the past. But I am confident that I am speaking on behalf of countless thousands of honorable public servants, at Justice and elsewhere, who take their responsibilities seriously and share these views. And some things must be said, whatever the risk.
"Democrats are failing in their responsibility to make tough decisions and spend the people's money wisely," Bush said in his weekly radio address.
The White House has said the failure of a broad immigration overhaul was proof that Democratic-controlled Capitol Hill cannot take on major issues.
The main reason the immigration measure died, however, was staunch opposition from Bush's own base — conservatives. The president could not turn around members of his own party despite weeks of intense effort.
"Democrats have a chance to prove they are for open and transparent government by working to complete each spending bill independently and on time," Bush said. "I urge Democrats in Congress to step forward now and pass these bills one at a time."
Democratic leaders say they are behind because an emergency spending measure funding the war in Iraq came first. They also had to pass an omnibus measure cleaning up last year's appropriations mess. Then, the Republicans who then controlled Congress failed to pass into law a single spending bill for domestic agencies save the Homeland Security Department — a situation that brought little complaint from Bush.
With the Senate and House now in Democratic hands, this year's bills are producing skirmishes with the White House that also are causing delays. Almost every domestic bill already has attracted a veto threat because it exceeds Bush's proposed budget in certain areas.
All told, Democrats plan spending increases for annual agency budgets of about $23 billion above the White House budget request. Bush put it in terms of a five-year outlook, and said their budget plan would be $205 billion bigger than his over that period, and would include "the largest tax increase in history" by allowing some of his tax cuts to expire as planned.
"Democratic leaders in Congress want to take our country down a different track," he said.
With approval ratings driven down to lows of his presidency largely by the Iraq war, Bush is trying to turn the tables on the Democratic-led Congress.
Bush's sharpened criticism reflects increased tensions with Congress, which came under Democratic control in November's midterm election, slowing his domestic agenda.
Since then, Democratic lawmakers have started to challenge Bush not only on the unpopular Iraq war but with their broad authority to investigate his administration.
Bush also has had trouble keeping Republicans in line. Several influential senators have broken with him over his Iraq policy, and once-loyal conservatives contributed to last week's collapse of his planned immigration overhaul.
Bush has proposed a $933 billion spending cap for the fiscal year starting on October 1 and has vowed to enforce it.
Democrats have sketched out a budget blueprint $22 billion higher. They say Bush's insistence on heavy spending on Iraq has starved domestic programs and they also accuse him of fiscal irresponsibility for pushing through large tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, which they say have mostly benefited the rich.
Bush seeks to make those tax cuts permanent while Democrats want to let tax reductions for the wealthiest expire.
Bush's fiscal policies also have come under criticism by conservatives furious that he allowed spending to surge when Republicans led Congress.
I've just about had it with Blogger. Recently, I've had trouble with posting. I will click "post" and the new post doesn't appear. I think this might have something to do with their recently enhanced auto-save feature which I do (did) like.
Today I put up a restaurant review and then went back to add a comment about how the portions were adequate and we brought home half our meal. I kept hitting post but the added sentences never appeared on my blog.
txrad went to my blog this afternoon and my entire post wasn't even showing up for him, let alone the added sentences. The post does appear on my computer.
Then I tried to put up a post titled "Blogger Sucks" in which I was going to rant about the situation, and that post wouldn't even go up.
I've had this problem before with new posts where they don't appear until I hit post 3 or 4 times.
Earlier this evening, I actually copied my post, created a new post and pasted it in, then deleted the old post, and yet all I see is the old post.
Blogger can kiss my ass. I'm getting away from Googleblogger asap. Suggestions are appreciated. Help is appreciated more. Attributes are not out of the question.
Ahh, I see Dark Wraith has added a category which suits my needs. Fancy that.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has decided to abandon net neutrality and allow telecoms companies to charge websites for access.
The FTC said in a report that, despite popular support for net neutrality, it was minded to let the market sort out the issue.
This means that the organisation will not stand in the way of companies using differential pricing to make sure that some websites can be viewed more quickly than others. The report also counsels against net neutrality legislation. [snip]
The news story about the FTC report notes that "the FTC sided with high-speed Internet providers such as AT&T and Verizon," and trotted out once again hollow justifications like "such rules could stifle innovation" and "This report recommends that policy makers proceed with caution in the evolving, dynamic industry of broadband Internet access, which generally is moving toward more - not less - competition," which it probably didn’t even think up itself, but copied from industry propaganda. [snip]
Technological innovation in broadband access is a threat to corporate profits, and the FTC report comes down on the side not of the public interest but of the private interests.
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by the ACLU against the warrantless domestic spying that was being conducted by the National Security Agency. The order by the appeals court overturns a 2006 ruling by U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor. By a 2-1 majority, the Circuit Court found that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate that it has standing to sue, regardless of the fact that, since the ACLU has no access to the secret records of the NSA, it cannot prove its suspicion that its members were targets of the spying.
Writing for the majority, U.S. Circuit Court Judge Alice Batchelder, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush, stated, "The plaintiffs have no evidence... that the NSA has actually intercepted (or will actually intercept) any of their conversations." While remaining curiously silent on the fact that, because the spying program was secret, the records of who was targeted cannot be accessed by those who suspect that they were subjected to judicially unsanctioned surveillance, Bachelder sharply criticized District Judge Diggs' original ruling from the facts, and even at one point scorned the plaintiff group, itself, by using the term "thinly veiled ruse" to describe a claim by the ACLU that the warrantless spying by the Bush Administration was an infringement on the right of free speech enshrined in the First Amendment.
Bachelder was joined, but on far narrower grounds, by U.S. Circuit Court Judge Julia Smith Gibbons, appointed by the current President, George W. Bush.
Writing in dissent, U.S. Circuit Judge Ronald Lee Gilman cited multiple court precedents in which plaintiffs were found to have standing despite defects in capacity to show personal effect of the alleged acts against them.
Although the ACLU could file a petition for grant of writ of certiorari, thus seeking release from the Circuit Court for appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, it is unlikely that the high court would hear the case solely on its own merits since the Bush Administration claims its warrantless domestic spying program is not in operation at the present time. However, more than three dozen other cases have been brought together before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. If that decision is contrary to the one just issued by the Sixth Circuit Court, the existence of conflicting precedents might compel review by the Supreme Court in order to set uniform, mandatory precedent for the entire country.
Besides all his other gifts, Thomas Jefferson appears to have been prophetic.
In his first presidential inaugural address in 1801, he ticked off a long list of essential principles of government, featuring highlights of the Bill of Rights, and called preservation of the government "in its whole constitutional vigor" the "anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad." These principles "should be the creed of our political faith," he said. "Should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty and safety."
On this 231st anniversary of Jefferson's eloquent Declaration of Independence from British rule, the United States is desperately in need of restoring the rights and freedoms surrendered in a false bid for security that has perversely put the nation at greater risk.
Consider what has been lost.
Sweeping federal measures, most of them heavily cloaked in secrecy, have robbed Americans of privacy, due process of law, even freedom of movement. Warrantless wiretaps, e-mail surveillance, national security letters secretly demanding information on thousands of citizens and, soon to come, the equivalent of national ID cards - all would be abominations to Jefferson.
America's suspected enemies have fared worse. They have been tortured, held indefinitely without charge and spirited away to secret prisons abroad so no one knows who they are or what has happened to them.
An open, accountable government is the best protection against tyranny and incompetence.
The portrait now emerging of Vice President Dick Cheney as the unseen hand behind many of the more outrageous violations of civil liberties, aided in part by Alberto R. Gonzales, the lapdog of an attorney general, powerfully underscores Jefferson's point that the time has come to retrace these missteps and get back on the road to peace, liberty and safety.
Americans have a right - and a responsibility - to know what's being done in their name and what effect it's having.
Some might argue that such a public review would allow America's enemies to learn its secrets. Experience suggests, though, that secrecy often shields abuse and simple bungling. For example, Justice Department auditors reported in March that the FBI had misused, sometimes illegally, the national security letters through which it demands, with no prior court approval and no notice to the individual involved, personal information about Americans. The FBI acknowledges perhaps 1,000 such instances.
Public outrage at the discovery of such clandestine abuses has typically resulted in the sort of corrective action Jefferson recommended. Such a process may be under way soon again as Congress and the courts begin to apply some restraints on an administration that as much as or more than any other has considered itself above the law. There's little time to waste before Americans become so accustomed to their lost liberty that the loss becomes acceptable.
A government that spies upon its citizens, evades the courts and feels no compulsion to explain itself beyond vague warnings of security threats must be brought into check.
Here's a blurb from President 26%'s July 4th message to a unit of the WV Air National Guard:
"Our first Independence Day celebration took place in a midst of a war -- a bloody and difficult struggle that would not end for six more years before America finally secured her freedom. More than two decades later, it is hard to imagine the Revolutionary War coming out any other way."
Another brilliant example of simply how ignorant this man is. So many mistakes, where to begin?
From news wire reports, the following are quotes by leading Republican candidates in the 2008 Presidential race regarding President Bush's commutation of the prison sentence imposed upon convicted felon I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
Call out the Instigator
Because there's something in the air
We got to get together sooner or later
Because the revolution's here
You know it's right!
I'm not backing off. I tried to remove myself from the political realm of the US, what BushCo is turning into an Evil Empire, but the blatant audacity of George commuting Scooter's sentence (he's not ruling out a full pardon ---and you know he will) has dragged me kicking and screaming back in. I can't sit back and let this BushCo drag our country further down into the murky quagmire of Fascism and violence, taking the rest of the world with them!
The recent commutation of I. Scooter Libby's sentence, however, was the straw that broke my camel's back of exhausted ennui.
"Ain't gonna let nobody turn me around":
We are going to walk from Atlanta, GA to Congress beginning July 13th and ending up in DC on July 23rd to send the mis-leaders back home to face the music of justice in their own districts.
It is about time us "peasants" (in the eyes of the Fascist Ruling Elite) march on DC with our "pitchforks" of righteous anger and our "torches" of truth to demand the ouster of BushCo. I have a dream of the detention centers that George has built and filled being instead filled with Orange Clad neo-cons and neo-connettes.
If Congress won't dig BushCo's political grave, it is the People's job to do so.
Is still a time to remember the time when a large number of great men gathered. Yes, they were, some of them, hypocrites who wrote passionately about freedom while owning slaves, who spoke at length about free trade while smuggling themselves to great fortunes.
Yet, for all their human failings they gathered, they prosecuted an eight year rebellion and at the end of that struggle did not turn upon each other in a frenzy to continue the bloodshed.
They created something significant to the world. For that, and that alone they are deserving of our honor.
Tomorrow night, at some point during the show, I intend to turn my shit up very, very loud, and with the strat in open G and a coriciden bottle on my little finger I will play "The Star Spangled Banner" followed by "Yankee Doodle."
President Bush commuted the sentence of former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on Monday, sparing him from a 2 1/2-year prison term that Bush said was excessive.
Bush's move came hours after a federal appeals panel ruled Libby could not delay his prison term in the CIA leak case. That meant Libby was likely to have to report to prison soon and put new pressure on the president, who had been sidestepping calls by Libby's allies to pardon the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.
I'm not sure whether or not nationalism is the greatest evil facing humanity - the list is pretty damn long, frankly - but it certainly is up there. This past weekend, we've been trying to explain to our 5-year-old what's so special about the 4th of July holiday here in the US. To me, it's become all tied up with all the messes our country finds itself in. We are no longer the world leader in so many things; not in education, not in fighting for the civil rights of others, not in being the champion of human rights throughout the world (hell, we're having trouble doing that here at home), not in scientific research, not in health care (seen SiCKO yet?) - the list goes on and on. I can't say that I'm ashamed to be an American, but I'm not very proud of it either. I hope that in my lifetime I can be proud to be an American. We'll see what happens. I should also say I had a hell of a time figuring out what category to put this in. I guess "United States" works as well as any.