Saturday, June 30, 2007

Where is the outrage?

“Where is the outrage?” On November 15, 2003, well within President George W. Bush’s first term, Cornel West asked this question of those who were attending the annual convention of the Democratic Socialists of America, held in Detroit that year.*

Three and a half years later, I’m asking “Where is the outrage?” I’m trying to stay calm, but this morning’s post by Scott Horton, Delivering a verdict on a corrupt prosecution has resulted in a “outrage critical mass” that I don’t think I can quell any longer.

The victim is the former Governor of Alabama. It has Karl Rove’s (photo) fingerprints all over it. As reported by Horton, “On Thursday, [June 28] United States District Judge Mark Fuller sentenced former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman to prison for a period of seven years and four months—a sentence of unprecedented harshness and severity. Ruling that appeals had no prospects for success, he also ordered the former governor to be handcuffed and led off to prison immediately in front of television cameras.”

Horton’s June 1 post, U.S. Attorney Scandal - Birmingham, Cont'd, which opens with “Something’s rotten in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Heart of Dixie Edition,” does an excellent job of pulling together the evidence that Karl Rove was “…[T]he White House operator who called the shots to line up a prosecution of Governor Siegelman….”

Horton’s June 24 post, Justice in Alabama, lays out the pattern of Karl Rove’s meddling in Alabama politics: “The Siegelman prosecution was commenced as the result of a plan hatched between senior figures in the Alabama Republican Party and Karl Rove. This connection is not coincidental, because Rove was once fired by the first President Bush and then had to rehabilitate himself. Rove did this in spades, and the place where he worked his political magic was in Alabama. He put together a campaign to engineer the Alabama GOP’s capture of the state’s judicial machinery. It worked brilliantly. And Rove has retained tight connections with the Alabama GOP ever since. Rove and the Alabama GOP leaders set out to destroy Siegelman’s political career and thus smooth the path by which the Republican Party could secure and retain political control of the Alabama statehouse…. Key to this plan was the use of the machinery of the Department of Justice for its completion – involving the U.S. attorneys offices in Birmingham and Montgomery, and the Department of Justice in Washington. Rove was in a position to make this work and he did so.”

What did Siegelman do? Horton explains the charges in his June 24 post: “The main accusation is that he appointed HealthSouth’s scandal-ridden CEO to a state oversight board, and in exchange a donation was made to a not-for-profit education foundation which was supporting Siegelman’s efforts to secure a lottery to fund the state’s education system. You might very well ask what would be corrupt about this, and you would be right to ask. This is almost exactly the sort of accusation that the federal prosecutor in Milwaukee, faced with Rove’s threat to fire him, brought against Thompson – and that the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals labeled as “preposterous.” [see my April 21 post by guest blogger, Janie Sheppard].

"And indeed, it’s the sort of thing that transpires in the American political environment every single day. For instance, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared on a Donald Trump television program recently, and Trump made a payment of ten thousand dollars to help Schwarzenegger “retire his campaign debts.” Was that corrupt? Added to this is the fact that HealthSouth had no interest in anything before the oversight board in question, and its CEO had been appointed to the same board by three prior governors. This is corruption?”

If you’ll take a few minutes to read Horton’s posts of June 1, 24, and 30, you too may be outraged. If you're looking for a blander opinion about Siegelman’s conviction, read today’s New York Times editorial Questions about a governor's fall.

The Siegleman vendatta is not the first of Rove's dirty tricks. Put your feet up and read the November, 2004 Atlantic Monthly article, Karl Rove in a Corner.

Then ask yourself, “Where is the outrage?”

*I was in Detroit, attending Camp Wellstone, which I posted about here. The other speakers at the Democratic Socialists of America convention (held at the Hotel Pontchartrain where I was staying) were Rep. John Conyers, Holly Sklar, and Harold Meyerson.

(photos –Karl Rove –

Friday, June 29, 2007

Remembering segregation

In the 40’s and 50’s, I was raised in a lily-white suburb of Seattle, Washington. Back then where I lived, there was no “race problem” because everyone was white. I didn’t know what prejudice was.

Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court declared that public school systems cannot seek to achieve or maintain integration through measures that take explicit account of a student’s race in PARENTS INVOLVED IN COMMUNITY SCHOOLS V. SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1, et al.

In 1961, I started teaching in Baltimore, Maryland, Robert Poole Junior High School #56, in a low-income and racially diverse area. The school was integrated. My supervising teacher, outstanding in every way, was an African American. Perhaps the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which declared the establishment of separate public schools for black and white students inherently unequal, made it possible for my supervisor to teach in an integrated school.

But there was a problem: we racially mixed teachers couldn’t meet in Baltimore restaurant because they weren’t integrated.

During winter break in 1962-1963, I took the Greyhound bus to Durham, North Carolina, to spend Christmas with my cousin. I was shocked when the African Americans headed to the back of the bus, and at the bus station, they were herded into a small separate room where they were given food through a small hole in the wall.

I’ve always thought that if we can expose children to other children of diverse backgrounds, including race, each generation will grow up less prejudiced. I’ve always supported Head Start because I envisioned it as the best way to expose children at a very early age to others who don’t look like they do.

Scott Horton, who blogs at No Comment lamented the Supreme Court’s decision today, in his post, Resegregation. Scott’s is a lot younger than I am, but he agrees with my premise: “I grew up going to schools with and without busing. Frankly, I could never understand the arguments against busing (excepting perhaps for fuel economy). Going to schools that reflected the broader community was a good thing, leading to a broader, richer and more diversified experience in the learning process. A school in which all students and teachers reflect the same ethnic, cultural and economic profiles is a pretty anemic place. In fact I watched those forces in work. They produced a higher proportion of narrow-minded bigots, it seemed to me.”

Ten years after Brown v. Board of Education, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed segregation everywhere, including public places. We were heading in the right direction. Now we're heading in the opposite direction.

In 2004, I worked very, very hard to keep George W. Bush from getting elected (legally or otherwise). I thought that the most serious long-term consequences of his continuing in office would be: 1) A Supreme Court that rolled back the 20th and 21st centuries, and 2) global warming. This is no consolation, but it looks like I was right.

(photo –

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Alberto Gonzales's push for the death penalty - Why are we so surprised?

This morning, the Washington Post published Fired Prosecutor Says Gonzales Pushed Death Penalty, subtitled “Figures Show Attorney General Often Overrules U.S. Attorneys’ Arguments Against Capital Charges.”

This news was picked up immediately at Joshua Micah Marshall’s and Scott Horton’s No Comment, posts available here and here.

I’m glad Gonzales’s fascination and support for the death penalty is now being covered in the mainstream media and blogosphere. However, this is not “new news.”

On March 14 of this year I posted, A “Known Known” - Gonzales and the Texas Clemency Memos. My post focused on the July, 2003 Atlantic Monthly’s article about Gonzales's push for the death penalty when he was Governor George W. Bush's attorney in Texas.

My point was that The Texas Clemency Memos provided us with a “known known” because it tells us exactly who Gonzales was and is.

From my post: The Atlantic Monthly article opens with “As the legal counsel to Texas Governor George W. Bush, Alberto R. Gonzales—now the White House counsel, and widely regarded as a likely future Supreme Court nominee—prepared fifty-seven confidential death-penalty memoranda for Bush's review. Never before discussed publicly, the memoranda suggest that Gonzales repeatedly failed to apprise Bush of some of the most salient issues in the cases at hand....

“During Bush's six years as governor 150 men and two women were executed in Texas—a record unmatched by any other governor in modern American history. Each time a person was sentenced to death, Bush received from his legal counsel a document summarizing the facts of the case, usually on the morning of the day scheduled for the execution….The first fifty-seven of these summaries were prepared by Gonzales…. Bush allowed the execution to proceed in all cases but one.

”On May 6, 1997, Terry Washington, a mentally retarded thirty-three-year-old man with the communication skills of a seven-year-old was executed.”In at least two other capital cases profound doubts about guilt were raised by the defense but virtually ignored by Gonzales.”

The author, Alan Berlow, stated, “I have found no evidence that Gonzales ever sent Bush a clemency petition—or any document—that summarized in a concise and coherent fashion a condemned defendant's best argument against execution in a case involving serious questions of innocence or due process. Bush relied on Gonzales's summaries, which never made such arguments.”

So what’s my beef? Actually I have two:
1. The media didn’t pay more attention to Gonzales’ push for the death penalty before he was confirmed as Attorney General,
2. On February 3, 2005, the Senate voted 60 to 36 [4 not voting] to confirm Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General. The vote summary is available here. I don’t expect the senators to remember a July 2003 Atlantic Monthly article, but their memories were refreshed by the Washington Post January 6, 2005 article, Gonzales's Clemency Memos Criticized , subtitled “Crucial Facts Were Missing, Lawyers Say.” If I, an ordinary citizen, can take time find and read this stuff, why can’t the senators or their staffs? Or do they care?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Who is "the most powerful person you've never heard of"?

Yesterday’s post briefly described David S. Addington (photo) as “Cheney’s Cheney.” He’s currently Cheney’s chief of staff, having replaced Scooter Libby after he was indicted, and has been described by U.S. News & World Report as “the most powerful person you’ve never heard of.”

This morning, (TPM) zeroes in on Addington in a post by Spencer Ackerman, confirming my belief that we ordinary citizens ought to know a whole lot more about Addington than we do. (If TPM covers it, it's a big deal).

Ackerman’s post focuses on Cheney’s recent claim that he is outside both the executive and legislative branches, which makes him exempt from review by the National Archives’ Information Security Oversight Office.

As reported by Ackerman, yesterday Addington, who was Cheney’s chief lawyer before taking on the role of his chief of staff, wrote a letter (pdf) to Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) yesterday defending Cheney's asserted exemption from review by the National Archives' Information Security Oversight Office. Addington posits that the Office of the Vice President is outside the scope of the executive order governing review of how executive branch agencies are supposed to handle classified material because the Office of the Veep is not an "agency."

If you’re not a lawyer or interested in the details, you might not find Ackerman’s explanation of why Addington is wrong, wrong, wrong, interesting. I do, and I’m coming to the conclusion that it is the layer (appointees, such as David Addington, Douglas Feith, and consultants like Michael Ledeen) below the most visible layer (elected or appointed officials such as Cheney, Gonzales, secretaries of cabinets, etc.) in the Executive Branch that is creating and implementing many of the policies that are driving our country over a cliff. Sooner rather than later, I hope Congress wakes up to its oversight responsibilities.

(photo – same one as yesterday's - there aren’t many of Addington available -

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

David S. Addington - "Cheney's Cheney"

I’m now reading the second in a four-part Washington Post series about Vice President Cheney, which I posted about here.

As I read this article, Pushing the Envelope on Presidential Power, I’m noticing that David S. Addington’s name keeps popping up. He’s Cheney’s general counsel and has been described as “Cheney’s Cheney.” In fact, Addington’s name shows up twenty-two times in this article.

My in-depth introduction to David Addington occurred when I read the “The Hidden Power,” by Jane Mayer, published in the July 3, 2006 New Yorker, abstract available here and full article available here.

Mayer’s article is subtitled, “The legal mind behind the White House’s war on terror. " It’s worth reading in conjunction with Pushing the Envelope on Presidental Power and the rest of the series in the Washington Post.

The more we know about Cheney and Cheney’s Cheney, the more convinced we will become that we ought not just stand by while this regime has its way with our country.

(photo of Addington –

Monday, June 25, 2007

Cheney under a microscope

Today the Washington Post launched a four part series, Angler- The Cheney Vice Presidency. Today’s lengthy article by Barton Gellman* and Jo Becker, a Washington Post staff writer, "A Different Understanding with the President" describes how Vice President Richard Cheney “A master of bureaucracy and detail, …exerts most of his influence out of public view.”

In my opinion, what happens between now and January of 2009 will depend on Cheney’s influence on President George W. Bush. Whether or not the U.S. will attack Iran is at stake.

On May 25, I posted Cheney at center of war talk targeting Iran, linking to the widely circulated May 24 post by Steve Clemons of The Washington Note, "Cheney Attempting to Constrain Bush's Choices on Iran Conflict: Staff Engaged in Insubordination Against President Bush".

There’s a power struggle in the White House going on between Secretary of State Condi Rice, urging a diplomatic approach to resolving our problems with Iran, and Vice-President Dick Cheney, who wants to take military action against Iran. To whom is Bush going to listen?

On June 2, I breathed a sigh of relief as I posted Is Condi cracking the whip? because it looked like Condi was gaining the upper hand.

But Scott Horton, who blogs for Harper's Magazine, (and knows a lot more than I do) posted Setting the Stage for the Next War on June 23 in which he states, “The coming war pits the United States against Iran. For the dead-ender neoconservatives…the solution to the current dilemma – a catastrophic failure in Iraq, badly miscast plans in Lebanon, an increasingly angry American electorate – is simple: we need a new war…. And while times may be difficult for the neocons generally, not to worry – they still have the key man. One man is the “decider” on questions respecting Iran. His name is Dick Cheney."

So find a comfortable chair, download, print and read all four of the Angler articles as they come out this week, and let me know what you think about Cheney and his influence on Bush.

*I have a soft spot in my heart for Barton Gellman because he quoted by son, Jeff Jonas, in two front-page Washington Post articles, available here and here.

(photo of Cheney -

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Scott Horton and Ken Silverstein - Two reasons why you should read the July issue of Harper's Magazine

Last Thursday, I posted Ken Silverstein goes undercover to report on D.C.'s lobbyists for hire. That this is an important story is confirmed by Bill Moyers’ interview of Silverstein, Scott Horton’s post about it, and the link to Silverstein’s article at AlterNet, all of which appeared in the last two days.

If you don’t have a Harper's Magazine clutched in your hand at this point, I urge you to get one not just for Silverstein’s incredible report but also for Scott Horton’s (photo) equally important article, STATE OF EXCEPTION - Bush's war on the rule of law.

Like Silverstein, Horton blogs for Harper’s. Horton is the most prolific blogger I’ve ever come across. In his article, Horton moves beyond the space and time constraints (or the reader’s attention span) of a blog to fully flesh out the “carefully orchestrated Bush Administration policy that goes under the rubric of ‘lawfare.’

“According to Major General Charles J. Dunlap Jr., now the Air Force’s deputy judge advocate general, lawfare is the ‘strategy of using or misusing law as a substitute for traditional military means to achieve an operational objective.’”

Horton writes, “…under the current administration, those designated as enemies have no rights, neither under the laws of war nor under any notion of criminal justice. A radical rupture has occurred; American legal tradition has been swept aside and, with it, long-established precedents for dealing with adversaries in wartime—even those accused of heinous crimes. Nowhere is that more clear than in the treatment of the so-called habeas lawyers (so named because of their repeated attempts to enforce the rights of their clients through the writ of habeas corpus—the legal procedure that allows an imprisoned person to test the legality of his detention) who counsel the detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The habeas lawyers have been tarred with ethnic slurs and accusations of homosexuality, accused of undermining national security, subjected to continual petty harassment. They have also had their livelihoods threatened through appeals to their paying clients.”

Horton ends the article, “By providing an exception to the application of the rule of law, our nation may have unleashed a radical new constitutional order.”

The whole article is worth reading. With two “must read” articles in one Harper’s issue, It’s well worth the $6.95 newsstand price if you aren’t a subscriber.

(photo of Scott Horton – PBS)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Law of the Sea - This time Bush is on the right side

It’s not often that President George W. Bush supports an international treaty, but he’s come out in favor of the Law of the Sea. Many conservatives strongly oppose Senate ratification of this treaty, which is consistent with their overall attitude that international treaties are not for us.

Citizens for Global Solutions describes the Law of the Sea: “The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is a set of rules for the use of the world’s oceans, which cover 70 percent of the Earth’s surface….UNCLOS came into force in 1994, and to date, 152 countries and the European Commission have joined the treaty. The United States has not.”

The best source of information I’ve found about the status of the Law of the Sea treaty is Scott Paul, who writes for Steve Clemons’ The Washington Note. Paul is Deputy Director of Government Relations at Citizens for Global Solutions.

On May 14, 2007, Paul wrote Big News: Bush Will Push the Law of the Sea, in which he reported,”Last week, President George W. Bush outraged the most extreme conservative leaders, telling them that he will publicly call on the Senate to ratify UNCLOS. The administration has supported the treaty for years, but President Bush has never personally weighed in.”

Paul then reports on the behind-the-scenes activities that help explain Bush’s public support for Senate ratification of the Law of the Sea treaty.

On June 1, 2007, Paul posted Frank Gaffney Wants War for Oil Instead of Law of the Sea. Who is Frank Gaffney? Check here.

Paul’s articles are full of links to more information, and the Citizens for Global Solutions link to the Law of the Sea has a huge list of individuals and organizations supporting it.

Apparently the Senate will be voting on the Law of the Sea treaty in early July. You might want to keep your eye on this issue.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Ken Silverstein goes undercover to report on D.C.'s lobbyists for hire

For some time now, I’ve been reading Ken Silverstein’s blog, Washington Babylon. Silverstein is the Washington Editor of Harper's magazine and always fascinating.

A couple of weeks ago, I jumped at the opportunity to read Silverstein’s article online, now available in the July issue of Harper’s, Their Men in Washington - Undercover with D.C.'s lobbyists for hire. This is a not-to-be-missed article and well worth the price of the magazine at the newsstand if you aren’t a subscriber.

As you read this article, keep in mind Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s declaration in March of this year that “…[W]e are recommitting ourselves to call every government to account that still treats the basic rights of its citizens as options rather than, in President Bush’s words, the non-negotiable demands of human dignity.”

Silverstein has caught our government at its apex of hypocrisy and at its nadir in championing human rights by its actions, not its words. How did he do this? He went “undercover” by presenting himself as a consultant for the “Maldon Group, a mysterious (and fictitious) firm that claimed to have a financial stake in improving Turkmenistan’s public image.”

Turkmenistan? Silverstein explains that he picked Turkmenistan because if was "...a suitably distasteful would-be client.... Any opposition to the Turkmen government is considered to be treason, and thousands of political dissidents have been imprisoned. In 2004 a man seeking permission to hold a peaceful demonstration was sent to a psychiatric hospital for two years.”

Silverstein’s targets were various D.C. lobbying firms, which were known to help repressive regimes win favors from the government. As Silverstein-as-consultant-for-the-Maldon-Group makes his way from lobbying firm to lobbying firm, it becomes very clear that these firms were prepared to do anything and everything to secure a contract to improve a repressive regime’s public image. It’s also very clear that our government is willing to go along with the lobbyists’ efforts.

(photo of Silverstein “incognito” –

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Understanding our disastrous foreign policy

This week, Tom Engelhardt of is presenting a three-part series on Secretary of Defense Robert Gates by Roger Morris (photo).

Part 1, The Specialist - Robert Gates and the Tortured World of American Intelligence was posted yesterday and is well worth reading, even though it’s quite long. Watch for parts 2 and 3, or sign up for e-mail alerts at

In Tom Engelhardt’s introduction to Part 1 - The Specialist, he describes the three articles by Morris on Gates as “a marvel of compression, packing into a relatively modest space an epic history of mayhem none of us should avoid - - a grim history that let to September 11, 2001, and now leads us to into an unknown, increasingly perilous future.”

My introduction to Roger Morris took place when I read The Undertaker, Part I, and The Undertaker, Part 2, about Donald Rumsfeld, posted at in February. Morris, who served in the Foreign Service and on the Senior Staff of the National Security Council under Johnson and Nixon, has helped me understand the mess we are in now. Rumsfeld and Gates, both retreads from earlier administrations, have had an inordinate influence on current foreign policy.

(photo of Roger Morris from the Green Institute)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Recommended reading while I'm away for a week

I’m off to Ohio to spend time with the election integrity activists that I met through my efforts to help keep the spotlight on the 2004 Presidential election debacle in that state.

Previously, I’ve provided readers with my with my ten top blogs, my five favorite news collectors, and short reviews of two books, Bury the Chains, by Adam Hochschild, and
The Places In Between, by Rory Stewart.

The list below is a collection of links to twelve blogs, in random order, some of which you may never have heard of, plus a couple of sources of invaluable information I subscribe to.

1. On Global Warming: bloggers Clezevra, 14 years old, living in India, and Sarah, 15 years old, who has several other blogs. Clezevra left a comment to my post about The Places In Between. (How did she find my blog?) I hope you’ll check this site and post a comment. It’s heartening to know young people are paying attention to global warming.

2. I’ve mentioned Tod several times in posts. He describes his blog as “eco-lite,” but it’s much, much more than that.

3. Render Unto Caesar: blogger Kristina, a 22 year old student in Illinois, posts a couple of times a month about the issue of separation of church and state.

4. Thoughts from Kansas: blogger Joshua Rosenau is a graduate student at the University of Kansas, in the department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. I’ve mentioned Joshua’s blog before; always worth reading.

5. No One Belongs Here Any More Than You : blogger Miranda July, who has written a book with the same name as her blog. The message hasn’t changed for several months, but it’s creative, fun, and a nice break from politics.

6. The Dilettante Traveler: blogger Calin Taylor from Seattle shares her photos from her jaunts around the world. Good, vicarious stuff for those of us who are trying to cut back on traveling in order to help cool off the planet.

7. Pat Denino, my friend with whom I’ll be staying in Ohio. Her posts are artistic, personal and frequently spiritual. Pat encouraged me to start blogging and helped me get past some of the technical problems. She sends me a daily photo, frequently with a poem by a friend attached. I received this photo a few days ago:

8. Dover Bitch: Interesting blog name, interesting blog. The blogger refers to herself in the third person, “DB.” I found DB because Glenn Greenwald, who blogs for, mentioned this site a couple of times.

9. Just World News: blogger Helena Cobban, a Quaker, quite well known and respected. Helena describes herself: “I'm a columnist, researcher, and writer on global affairs. I'm a Contributing Editor of Boston Review. I've written a column for The Christian Science Monitor since 1990 and have written a lot for Al-Hayat (London), too. Check out my home web-site for details of my five earlier books, my current projects, etc. I'm probably the only Quaker who's also a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies."

10. The Head Heeb: blogger, Jonathan Edelstein, who says of himself; “I'm 31, married and practicing law in New York. I'm Jewish, of course; why else the handle?” I haven’t spent that much time at this site but plan to in the future.

11. Balkinization: blogger Jack Balkin, Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment and Director of The Information Society Project at Yale Law School. This site is frequently referred to by the several of my ten top bloggers. It’s a collaborative effort and features many interesting books.

12. Jim Lobe is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy, particularly the neo-conservative influence in the Bush administration. He's very well-known and has started to blog within the past few months.

Finally, two excellent sources of news that you won’t find in the mainstream media:

1. Middle East Report: [MERIP] Once or twice a month, I receive an e-mail alert to Middle East Report Online. This month, to mark the 40th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, MERIP has published several articles on this issue.

2. Program on International Policy Issues: The Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) studies public opinion on international issues. PIPA is a joint program of the Center on Policy Attitudes (COPA) and the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM), University of Maryland. I receive an e-mail alert when a new report is issued.

(photo: Pat Denino)

Monday, June 11, 2007

U.S. desperately, urgently needs people fluent in Arabic ___uh, unless they are gay.

One wonders about our adminstration’s priorities. These articles appeared on June 8:

1. Don't Ask, Don't Translate, in the New York Times, by op-ed contributor Stephan Benjamin, a former petty officer second class in the Navy and former Arabic translator.

“The lack of qualified translators has been a pressing issue for some time — the Army had filled only half its authorized positions for Arabic translators in 2001. Cables went untranslated on Sept. 10 that might have prevented the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. Today, the American Embassy in Baghdad has nearly 1,000 personnel, but only a handful of fluent Arabic speakers.

“I was an Arabic translator. After joining the Navy in 2003, I attended the Defense Language Institute, graduated in the top 10 percent of my class and then spent two years giving our troops the critical translation services they desperately needed. I was ready to serve in Iraq.

“But I never got to. In March, I was ousted from the Navy under the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, which mandates dismissal if a service member is found to be gay.”

Read the article if you’re interested in how Stephan got “caught.”

2. State desperate for envoys who speak Arabic, published in the The Washington Times.
“The State Department, in an unprecedented move highlighting its desperate need for Arabic speakers, is allowing U.S. diplomats to curtail their current assignments anywhere in the world and begin Arabic language training in September.

“Foreign Service officers who are interested in learning Arabic or improving existing skills have until the end of July to apply for more than 100 positions in Arabic-speaking countries that will open in the next two years.

"We recognize that we must improve our ability to understand and influence an area of continuing importance to our nation's well-being,’ Mr. Staples [director-general of the Foreign Service] wrote in the cable, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times.

"The department, on which Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen P. Hughes has put a particular emphasis on improving the U.S. image in the Arab and Muslim world, has been criticized repeatedly since 2001 for its shortage of Arabic speakers.

“Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in February that her agency is ‘putting a great effort into language development for our diplomats,' and that 'this country has been underinvested in the study of critical languages like Arabic, Farsi, even Chinese, for a very long time.’

“A report by the bipartisan Foreign Affairs Council this week criticized Miss Rice for failing to request more funds for the department despite her influence with President Bush.”

I wonder if there are any gay envoys….

(Arabic script –

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Paris Hilton & Iraqi Prisoners/Are We Disappearing Our Children?

In the past few days, awareness of Paris Hilton’s on-again-off-again incarceration is unavoidable, given the mainstream media’s coverage of it.

I can’t help but compare our awareness of Paris’ plight with our awareness of others who are incarcerated or detained that we know nothing about.

Take a few minutes and read Juan Cole’s Paris Hilton & Iraqi Prisoners.

And how about the children of alleged terrorists? On June 7, hilzoy of Obsidian Wings posted Are We Disappearing Children?

I’m leaving for a couple of days to help care for my twin grandchildren, now four months old. As I hold one of them in my arms, I’m sure the thought “What if this child disappeared?” will cross my mind.

(photo: from today’s post at Informed Comment)

Saturday, June 09, 2007

More about the Independent Counsel Act

In yesterday’s post, I asked, “Why not restore the Independent Counsel Act?” Here’s a thumbnail sketch of the previous Independent Counsel Act, how it can be improved, and what procedure currently exists that can be used to hold our elected officials to account and its limitations.

I’m relying on this report, published by before the Act expired in 1999, using a “FAQ” to highlight the important points.

Q: Why was it enacted?
A: In response to the Watergate scandal, specifically to President Nixon’s (photo) firing of Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox.

Q: Why was Cox fired?
A. Because he insisted Nixon comply with subpoenas after Nixon unsuccessfully exhausted avenues of judicial review challenging his claim that he didn’t have to comply.

Q. How did the Independent Counsel Act (ICA) take away the President’s and other federal officials’ right to fire prosecutors who are investigating them?
A. By insulating future independent counsel charged with investigating criminal conduct by high-level federal officials from White House and Department of Justice (DoJ) pressure.

Q. What procedure currently exists when high-level federal officials appear to be acting criminally?
A. The Attorney General can designate a Special Prosecutor or Counsel, someone inside or outside the DoJ’s office. [Sidebar: See below for attorney Janie Sheppard’s e-mail to me regarding the limitations of this procedure.]

Q. Were there flaws in the ICA that expired in 1999 that should be corrected if the Act is reinstated?
A. Yes, according to the Public Citizen report, “structural flaws in the statute” became evident when Independent Counsel [hereafter “IC”] Kenneth Starr launched the Whitewater investigation, which involved President Clinton.

Q. How can these flaws be corrected?
A. 1. No one who is serving as IC should be permitted to engage in any private work involving the US during the time in he or she is serving as Independent Counsel.
2. The IC should have relevant experience in criminal law.
3. Persons who are clearly identified with a political party, i.e., have served in an elective office or as a Presidential appointee in the recent past (say, five years), should not be appointed.

Q. How can the IC be held accountable?
A. The Clinton case made it evident that a strict standard should be used for initial referrals and evaluations of requests by IC, particularly when it comes to expanding the jurisdiction of the investigation.

Q. How does the investigation of an IC relate to impeachment proceedings?
A. The expired Act mandated that IC “advise the House of Representatives of any substantial or credible information…that may constitute grounds for impeachment.” The problems that arose regarding IC Starr’s investigation of Clinton revealed that the report to the House needs to be made in a timely fashion and not in an accusatory form.

[Sidebar: For those who are truly fascinated with this subject, here’s Janie’s e-mail. The Special Counsel Regulations are, in essence, the US Attorneys' manual, which Janie researched earlier this week.]

Applying the procedures in the Special Counsel Regulations, 28 CFR Part 600, to an investigation and prosecution of Cheney, Rove, and Gonzales, for starters, would involve:

1. The AG makes a determination that a criminal investigation is warranted AND that such investigation by the US Attorney's Office or litigating division of DOJ would pose a conflict of interest for the Department [e.g., the AG being investigated] or other extraordinary circumstance [such as Rove directing the activities of the DOJ] AND "that under the circumstances it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility for the matter." In practical terms, Gonzales would have to make a determination about himself, his boss (Rove) and the VP--not something he would be likely to do. But, even if you get past those hurdles there are more. 28 CFR 600.1

2. The Special Counsel is required to notify the AG of events, using the guidelines for "Urgent Reports" that are contained in the manual for the US Attorneys. Thus, the Special Counsel would be required to keep the AG informed of his or her progress. 28 CFR 600.8(b)

3. In terms of Congressional involvement (or oversight for that matter) the regulations provide for Congressional notification only upon appointment, removal of a Special Counsel, or conclusion of an investigation, including "instances that a proposed action by a Special Counsel was so inappropriate or unwarranted under established Departmental practices that it should not be pursued." 28 CFR 600.9

4. The regulation purports to create no rights, meaning, in part, that no one can sue over the non-appointment of a Special Counsel. 28 CFR 600.10

(photo –

Friday, June 08, 2007

Why not restore the Independent Counsel Act?

A couple of like-minded friends and I are trying to figure out how citizens can hold the Bush Administration to account, now, for its illegal actions that have become almost too numerous to list. However, here’s my “short-short list”:

1. Tricking the nation into war against Iraq. If you have any doubts about this, read Elizabeth de la Vega’s U.S. v. Bush, et al.

2. Firing US Attorneys who weren’t loyal Bushies. Scott Horton, who blogs for Harper’s magazine at No Comment, is doing an excellent job keeping up with his ever-widening scandal. has a great summary of all the fired and resigning US attorneys here.

3. Signing statements. Hardly mentioned these days, Bush has utilized signing statements to circumvent laws passed by Congress that he doesn’t like. In October, 2006, the American Bar Association issued a report, The President v. Congress- Signing Statements and Non Enforcement, which is a must-read for understanding how Bush has misused signing statements.

Short of impeachment, which currently lacks a groundswell of support from citizens and reportedly is off the table, according to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, what can we do?

It’s painfully apparent that the Department of Justice [DoJ], which is charged with the responsibility of making sure that our elected and appointed officials support our Constitution and faithfully execute all laws, is not going to do anything.

Consider James Comey’s appointment of Patrick Fitzgerald as the Special Prosecutor to investigate the Plame matter an exception. At the time of the appointment, Comey was acting as Attorney General on behalf of John Ashcroft, who was incapacitated.

My solution is to reinstate the Independent Counsel Act with appropriate revisions to avoid its misuse.

The Act, hereafter referred to as “ICA,” was originally created in 1978, lapsed in 1992, reinstated in 1994, and expired in 1999.

The best source of information I’ve found about the ICA is a small booklet published before the Act expired in 1999 by It’s available here. It is easy to read, describes the problems with relying on the appointment of Special Prosecutors by the DoJ, and makes specific recommendations regarding what provisions a newly enacted ICA should include.

(ICA logo –

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Africa - The next GWOT target?

On February 27, I posted Beyond Iran - Is West Africa Next? Today I’d revise that title to “In addition to Iran, Africa is already a target in Bush’s global war on terrorism.”

On February 7, President Bush announced the the establishment of an African military command – AFRICOM – “to promote U.S. national security objectives in Africa and in its surrounding waters.”

In my February post, I linked to the report of the Center for International Policy, titled Nigeria and the United States: Convergent Interests. The Executive Summary describes what this country is doing as “a risky strategy to arm and train the militaries of oil-producing West African countries under the rationale of pursuing the Global War on Terror.” And, “These policies are deeply flawed because they will serve to undermine America’s energy security even as they breed growing resentment and violence against the U.S. economic and strategic interests.”

I haven’t seen anything about AFRICOM until recently. On May 28, the Washington Post article by Walter Pincus, U.S. Africa Commmand Brings New Concerns - Fear of Militarization of Continent Cited opened with “The creation of the Defense Department Africa Command, with responsibilities to promote security and government stability in the region, has heightened concerns among African countries and in the U.S. government over the militarization of U.S. foreign policy, according to a newly released study by the Congressional Research Service.”
The CRS report published May 17, 2007, is available here. According to the 25 page report, “AFRICOM faces myriad challenges, both in its establishment and its operation. Some of these challenges may become issues for Congress. Members of Congress have expressed interest in the creation of an Africa Command, and in 2006, Senator Russ Feingold introduced legislation requiring a feasibility study on the establishment of a new command for Africa. Key oversight questions for Congress relating to the command include the following: Is an Africa Command necessary or desirable? Is its mission well-defined? There are nine more questions for Congressional consideration.

Scott Horton, who blogs at Harper’s No Comment, posted The African Front this Wednesday. He links the formation of AFRICOM with another front in Africa, involving detentions and transfers [of suspected terrorists] in the Horn of Africa [northeast Africa]. Horton described this front: “The shadowy operation has a focus on ‘filtration,’ namely a large number – certainly thousands – of persons suspected of having a connection with a violent Islamic organization of whatever flavor are swept up and sent to filtration camps, usually run under the auspices of the Ethiopian Government. In fact, however, these camps are organized, paid for and operated by the U.S. Government, and the conditions there are abysmal. Detainees at the camps are subjected to interrogation over extended periods, and a decision is made either to return, release or transfer the detainees. Those selected as probable activists or sympathizers may be passed to a CIA blacksite.”

Horton adds, “While mainstream media has generally ignored these developments (the exception being an Associated Press report that went out when an FBI agent assigned to the project expressed his horror about what was going on), Tom Porteous has done a good survey on OpenDemocracy.

I find it quite amazing that something as significant as a February 7 announcement of the U.S.’s plan to militarize Africa and more secret detentions merit minimal, if any, mainstream media attention.

(photo of boy in Nigeria near oil flares – Jacob Silberberg for the New York Times)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Camp Wellstone

Until his untimely death just two weeks before the 2002 election, the elected official I most admired was Senator Paul Wellstone.

After the airplane crash that killed Paul, his wife, Sheila, their daughter, Marcia, and three campaign workers, I wondered what his surviving children, David and Mark, would do. Would they spend all of their time trying to figure out if a conspiracy of some sort was responsible for the deaths of three members of their family and three campaign workers? I saw a lot of speculation in the news about this.

I didn’t have to wait long for the answer, because early in 2003, I started to hear about Camp Wellstone. In this letter, David and Mark describe what they did and why: “Not long after our parents' tragic death in the final days of their last campaign, my brother David and I sat down here in the Twin Cities with a number of our folks' closest friends and most steadfast supporters over the years.

“We all agreed that we bore a shared responsibility to carry on their work to advance social progress and economic justice. Thus Wellstone Action! was born.”

The centerpiece was Camp Wellstone, which was being held in various locations in the Midwest in 2003. I attended the November camp in Detroit, Michigan. You can watch a six minute video which describes the Camp Wellstone experience here.

Camp Wellstone now has training sessions held all over the U.S. Jeff Blodgett is the executive director of Wellstone Action and a senior trainer at Camp Wellstone. Jeff was in charge of all three of Paul’s senatorial campaigns. In Paul’s first race in 1990, he was outspent eight to one by his Republican opponent, but had 14,000 grassroots volunteers and an old school bus painted green that he used to tour the state. If Jeff could put together a winning campaign like that, he must know something!

Wellstone Action! has a stellar group of advisors; you’ll recognize the names of many of these people.

I’ve been running into lots of discouraged people these days. The antidote to that is to check the Camp Wellstone schedule and sign up. Held on weekends, they are amazingly affordable. The weekend training program provides hands-on, practical training in grassroots politics for citizen activists, campaign workers, and people interested in running for office. Thirty-five Camp Wellstone graduates now hold elective offices. If there are no camps currently scheduled, check again later, or go to the left side of the Camp Wellstone webpage for five more programs offering training.

(logo at top – From Wellstone Action! website)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

George Packer, You're wrong! Blogging is (a big part of) the revolution

After blogging for three months, in April I posted Move Over, George Packer, confessing to my need to check numerous blogs each day. In the spring of 2004, Packer confessed to his addiction to reading blogs in his Mother Jones article, The revolution will not be blogged. Packer states, “To see beyond their own little world and get a sense of what's really going on, journalists and readers need to get out of their pajamas.” The point of Packer’s article is that bloggers will not create needed change. In April, I agreed with Packer.

However, now that I’ve been blogging for six months, I’ve changed my mind. In the process of blogging and reading blogs, especially those by unknown people all over the world who leave a comment to one of my posts, I see blogging as a large part of the “revolution.”

Why did I change my mind? Because I have found an incredible amount of energy and careful research and writing about important issues by countless unrecognized, unknown bloggers. This gives me hope. With hope, I get out of my pajamas and do my part as a citizen, always keeping in mind Rebecca Solnit’s wonderful March 14 article, Was I a good American in the time of George Bush?

I’ve referred readers to other blogs here (my ten top blogs, all visited by thousands of people each day); here and here (about my interesting friend, Tod Brilliant) and here. This last link will take you to two relatively unknown bloggers, Bonnie Allen, a friend, and Josh Rosenau, a graduate student at the University of Kansas in the department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. I found Josh’s site at one in the morning when I was researching for a post about the Endangered Species Act.

As an example of what unknown bloggers are writing about, I recommend Bonnie’s
Change a bulb, change everything, about CFLs (compact florescent lightbulbs). Whether or not your are in your pajamas, reading this post is likely to result in your making a greater effort to change a bulb and thereby change everything, i.e., a contribution to the revolution.

(photo –

Monday, June 04, 2007

Are you still flying for fun?

I’m starting to think that the demarcation between people who are seriously concerned about global warming and those who aren’t is whether or not they are willing to give up flying for fun: not flying to be with family members or for business, just those trips to go snorkeling in Hawaii or to see the Louvre in Paris.

This is up now for me because I have two trips planned this summer involving flying, and I confess that one is to visit friends, and the other to attend a family reunion. I describe both of these trips as being “for fun.”

I’m not the only one struggling with whether or not I’m just a “wanna-be” or if I’m really willing to change my life style to minimize the amount of CO2 I contribute to the atmosphere.

Tod Brilliant, whom I have mentioned here, here, and here, posted Inconvenient Holidays: Why We Can't Fly Anymore on May 25, 2007. This post and the 12 comments it has generated are worth reading.

Tod is one my most interesting friends; he struggles with the same issues I do even though chronologically we are years and years apart. I urge you to check his “Inconvenient Holidays” post and weigh in with a comment if flying or not flying for fun is bothering you, too.

(photo- provided by Tod when he launched his website)

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The White House still knows how to play the American press like a harp

On Friday, Dan Froomkin* (photo), who blogs for the Washington Post at The White House Watch, opened his post, Bush's Climate-Change Feint with these words, “The White House yesterday showed that it still knows how to play the American press like a harp.

“President Bush yesterday put forth a new proposal on climate change that is most newsworthy for its attempt to muddy the debate about the issue and derail European and U.N. plans for strict caps on emissions. Bush's proposal calls for a new round of international meetings that would nearly outlast his presidency. The purpose of the meetings would not be to set caps on emissions, but to establish what the White House -- uncorking a bold new euphemism -- calls ‘aspirational goals.'

“But a change in rhetoric was enough to generate some headlines about the administration's attention to the issue: Bush Proposes Goals on Greenhouse Gas Emissions, reads the New York Times headline. Bush Proposes Talks on Warming, says the Washington Post's front page. Bush offers to take climate lead, proclaims the Los Angeles Times.”

There’s that word, “rhetoric,” again. It’s been bubbling and percolating through the blogworld as a result of Mark Danner’s recent commencement address to UC Berkeley’s Department of Rhetoric, which I posted about here. The title of Danner’s address was “Words in the Time of War.” From Danner’s speech, the description of Bush as the first "rhetoric-major President” has taken hold in some households; Google appears to be lagging behind on this one.

In my post, I commented, “I can’t help but think of Bush’s recent pronouncements about taking steps to curb global warming as rhetoric.”

I’m glad Dan Froomkin agrees with me. Froomkin links to three mainstream media reports of Bush’s May 31st pronouncements (third paragraph, above). The headlines make it look like Bush has done an about-face, don’t they? You’ll need to continue reading Bush's Climate-Change Feint, because Froomkin, who combines blogging with news collecting, links to articles “from across the Atlantic” and “on this side of the pond” that make it clear that not all media bought Bush’s miraculous 180 degree turn.

I’m wondering why all journalists aren’t required to study rhetoric so they can't "be played like a harp.” A clerk at our local food store, Alexis, 24, who blogs here, is a philosophy major, and she’s planning to take rhetoric next year.

Hey, even my young friend, Tod Brilliant, who blogs at, caught on right away. An avid environmentalist, check out his comments posted on the same day Bush declared his plan for tackling global warming, Inept No More! Bush Proposes Greenhouse Gas Plan.

*Froomkin is also deputy editor of, sponsored by the Nieman Foundation for journalism at Harvard University.

(photo of Dan Froomkin from his Washington Post website).

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Is Condi cracking the whip?

Believe me, Condi, this time I’m on your side. I have nothing against dominatrices*. Even the notable Katrina vanden Heuvel referred to your “dominatrix black boots” in her April 30 post, The New Cold War.

And way back in February of 2005, at, the blame was squarely placed on the Washington Post for linking your name to “dominatrix.”

Why am I on your side? Because it looks like I was wrong when I posted this on May 25, speculating that in a battle between you and Vice-President Dick Cheney, he would win. If you’re cracking the whip and it’s working, more power to you!

The mainstream media may have it right this time. Yesterday, the New York Times reported, U.S. Not Pushing for Attack on Iran, Rice Says. From Madrid: “Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sought today to minimize any sense of division within the Bush administration over Iran after the head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency delivered a pointed new warning against what he called the “new crazies” pushing for military action against Tehran.

“The President of the United States has made it clear that we are on a course that is a diplomatic course,” Ms. Rice said here. 'That policy is supported by all of the members of the cabinet, and by the vice president of the United States.'”

For those of you who aren’t sure about the impact of bloggers on the mainstream media, the article adds, “Reports about hawkish statements by members of Mr. Cheney’s staff first surfaced last week in The Washington Note, a blog run by Steve Clemons of the left-leaning New America Foundation. The report has alarmed European diplomats, some of whom fear that the struggle over Iran’s nuclear program may evolve into a decision by the Bush administration to resort to force against Iran.

“In interviews, people who have spoken with Mr. Cheney’s staff have confirmed the broad outlines of the report, and said that some of the hawkish statements to outsiders were made by David Wurmser, a former Pentagon official who is now the principal deputy assistant to Mr. Cheney for national security affairs. The accounts were provided by people who expressed alarm about the statements, but refused to be quoted by name. "

The blog referred to above is the one I posted about on May 25.

And today, in the Washington Post article, Cheney Backs Diplomacy on Iran Program, Rice Affirms confirmed Condi’s claim that she has reined Cheney and his acolytes in.

So I’m relieved. In yesterday’s post, Steve Clemons described Condi Rice as one of “[t]he constructive players in the administration." And Steve is pleased, because today he posted Reverberations about the mainstream media picking up on his previous post about Cheney’s possible plotting to do an “end run” around Bush to provoke a war with Iran.

*Sidebar: I’ve only met one dominatrix in my life, a likeable woman, demurely dressed in white, from a perky hat to a well-tailored jacket and pants with a pink scarf around her neck. So I didn’t have any negative feelings later when I saw her perform at an event (see photo below).

(photo of Condi in leather – courtesy of

Friday, June 01, 2007

Words in a Time of War - A Commencement Speech Worth Reading

You won’t want to miss Mark Danner's commencement address delivered on May 10, 2007, to the graduates of the Department of Rhetoric at Berkeley, California, posted yesterday at It’s showing up everywhere in the blogosphere.

Titled “Taking the Measure of the First Rhetoric-Major President,” the address is worth reading in its entirety.

However, if you’re short of time, today Scott Horton, who blogs for Harper’s magazine, posted about Danner’s address here. Titled the “Rhetoric-Major President,” Horton states that Danner’s “…commencement speech really stands out for its immediacy and importance…” Horton excerpts a portion of Danner’s address, which “…deconstructs the Bush presidency’s use of cheap political rhetoric to obscure reality.”

I can’t help but think of Bush’s recent pronouncements about taking steps to curb global warming as rhetoric. According to Wikipedia, "The terms rhetoric' and sophistry' are "…used today in a pejorative or dismissive sense, when someone wants to refer to demagogic politicians, distinguish between 'empty' words and action, or between true or accurate information and misinformation, propaganda, or "spin."

This morning, the New York Times editorialized Playing to the Crowd: Talk About Global Warming, which opens with, “President Bush has been feeling the heat on global warming.” Even America’s closest foreign allies are “…fed up with his passivity on the issue and desperate for him to show real leadership.” The editors add, “Given Mr. Bush’s history of denial and obstructionism when it comes to climate change, there are good reasons to be cynical about this sudden enthusiasm, coming as it does on the eve of the meeting of the Group of 8 industrialized nations.”

According to the New York Times editorial: “As rhetoric, some of what Mr. Bush had to say was different and heartening….Yet he remains convinced that technology holds most of the answers and that the regulatory restraints that many experts regard as a necessary condition of technological progress are largely unnecessary. He says further that his goal is to produce a common strategy in 18 months. This would coincide, roughly speaking, with his departure from public life, suggesting his real goal is to leave the heavy lifting to his successor.”

Of course, I turn to alternate news sources on any issue that's important to me., which posted Lost in Climate Wonderland (link may not work) today, by Becca Brown, who said, “I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry when I read President Bush's remarks on climate change to the Global Leadership Council today. Just days ahead of the G8 summit, surrounded by a media storm of leaked reports about the Bush administration's refusal to accept a proposed global goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, President Bush announced this morning that the U.S. would launch its own separate round of talks in search of... wait, you'll never guess... that's right - a global emissions goal.

"Confused yet? You should be, because the President's proposal, in my humble opinion, is a clever bit of obfuscation and political theatre, designed to trick us into seeing action where there is none.”

The rhetoric, in the “pejorative or dismissive sense, “ is not limited to Bush’s “words in the time of war.”