Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bush's War

For those of you who didn't happen to catch the two part documentary which ran on PBS's Frontline on Monday and Tuesday evening - you don't know what you missed. Apologies in advance to my favorite documentarian, Robert Greenwald, it was the finest, most revealing film that has been made to date regarding the stupidest military blunder in American history (Not to worry - you're still tops in my book, Bobby!)

Compiled from hundreds of interviews, Bush's War explains in excruciating detail how the most corrupt administration in American history chose to lead this once-great nation into the quagmire that the war against the people of Iraq became within days of the invasion. It's an easy call to say that it didn't get decent ratings. Had even a quarter of the American people had a chance to view it, Bush and Cheney would be physically removed from office tomorrow and strung up from one of Andrew Jackson's magnolia trees which still stand on the south lawn. As luck would have it, it ran opposite American Idol. The people have their priorities, damn it.

Bad luck for the Bush Mob: People are beginning to talk. I have a sneaking suspicion that, for all that was revealed last night and the night before, the producers have barely scratched the surface. What is made perfectly and undeniably clear is the fact that Bush and Cheney were determined to ignore the massive, mountains of evidence that any program that Saddam Hussein might have possessed to build weapons of mass destruction was long dead by March 19, 2003. The U.N. inspectors were on the ground in Iraq - scores of them. They were pleading with the administration to allow them more time to do their job. Obviously, their pleas were in vain. Any chances for a "successful" invasion (whatever the hell that means) were rendered futile from the start by the incompetence of Donald Rumsfeld, J. Paul Bremer, Paul Wolfowitz and everybody else involved in this hideous fiasco. It was doomed to failure from the moment the first boot set foot on Iraqi soil. All of the talk about the ramifications of what will happen if the United States loses this war misses a crucial point. This war was already lost on May 1, 2003, the day the First Fool stood on the deck of the Aircraft Carrier Abraham Lincoln and declared Mission Accomplished. Anyone paying attention knew as much. I certainly did.

I dropped out of high school at the beginning of my junior year. My total education amounts to one and a half years at a community college in upstate New York. In spite of this, on March 20 of 2003, the morning after the invasion of a country which was a threat to no one but itself, I had enough foresight and intelligence to tell everyone who would listen, "This country committed suicide last night". I wasn't exaggerating. The foolish and reckless incursion into the sovereign nation of Iraq will end up doing to the United States of America what Afghanistan did to the late Soviet Union. The strain that this stupid, unnecessary war has had on the economy - plus the unavoidable fact that our entire socio-economic infrastructure is weeks (if not days) away from total collapse due to three decades of corruption and mismanagement - does not bode well for the future of your children and grandchildren. The so-called "New America Century" is over. Get used to the idea. Nothing will ever be the same again. Nothing. As the great Nat King Cole once sang, "It's time to wind up the masquerade/Just make your mind up; the piper must be paid - THE PARTY'S OVER.... IT'S ALL OVER, MY FRIEND".

When this nightmare period of our history is over (and it will be over eventually - much in the same way that we're all going to die someday) we will sit back for a much needed period of self reflection and introspection, and we'll all be asking ourselves the following question: How did we allow this to happen? What the hell were we thinking when we stupidly sent this murderous, hideous, disgusting little guttersnipe and his henchmen/yes men to the most powerful office in the universe? How will we explain this to our heirs? What will future historians think of us? What I would just love to see is a poll which asks the following question: "For whom did you vote in 2000 and 2004?" My guess is that Al Gore and John Kerry will respectively come ahead in both of those inquiries in a landslide. Of this you may be absolutely certain: NOBODY is going to admit voting for George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney five years from now.
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Did you vote Republican at any time in the last thirty years? If your answer to that question is a resounding "YES", here's my next question: Don't you feel stupid? Don't you feel really, really stupid? If you don't, you will soon - very soon. Don't feel ashamed. I personally know of many intelligent people - a whole hell of a lot smarter than I - who voted for Ronald Reagan and both Bushes. You're not alone. You were deceived. You are not the sinner; you were sinned against. As my old pal Vic Flemming would say, "Shit happens." (NOTE: Vic was using that phrase decades before the rest of the country caught on. He coined it - I am convinced of that).
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We are now the laughingstock of the entire planet. We have become a virtual international pariah. And yet in spite of all of this, from the vantage point of March of 2008 it appears that so many of us will continue the policies of the last seven years by electing John McCain in November. What the hell is the matter with the American people???
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Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net

To order a DVD of Bush's War, call:
(800) PLAY-PBS
Price $29.99

Trust me on this one, folks: It is my humble opinion that this is the most important broadcast documentary in the sixty year history of television. It is absolutely essential viewing. Buy it and show it to as many people as possible. Have a public showing at your local library. You can also view the documentary by going to http://www.pbs.org/

AFTERTHOUGHT:
My dear friend Ray McGovern (OK, we met once but we had a lovely chat, thank you very much! ) had a published piece in this morning's edition of the excellent website, Information Clearance House. His opinion of the PBS documentary is decidedly different from mine. He nonetheless offers a thought-provoking critique that makes some good points - as Ray usually does. Here's a link:

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article19619.htm

Note: The photograph above of George W. Bush is a mosaic made from the faces of U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq. Look closely.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Why This Man Is Not Smiling

Goshen, New York is a small town sixty miles north of Manhattan. It is known by sports fans as the Cradle of the Trotter. The Harness Racing Museum is located here. It is the home town of two legendary men, the artist Horace Pippin and jazz pianist Willie "The Lion" Smith - both of whom, by the way, were African American. With a few minor exceptions, it is a generally agreeable place to live. It is also the town in which I was born and raised. After years of living all over the United States and a brief stint in Toronto, I moved back here a number of years ago.

Green Street is a half mile stretch of road that runs from South Street (where I grew up) on its south east side to Greenwich Avenue on the north west. When I was growing up, the Erie Rail Road line which snaked its way through the village, cut Green Street in two - smack dab in its center. One side of the tracks was exclusively white, the other side exclusively black. When I moved back to Goshen in the early nineties, I was pleasantly surprised to find some white families living "on the other side of the tracks" as it were. Surely, I thought, this was a positive sign. This must mean that Goshen's neighborhoods were starting to diversify. As it turns out, I would later learn that the South Street side of the tracks was still all white - as are most of the neighborhoods in town. There are no black faces to be found in Briarwood, the apartment complex at the edge of the village where I live. You see, in recent years living in the Land of Goshen has gotten to be a fairly expensive proposition. All of the African American families I knew as a little boy - the Greens, the Hasbroukes, the Colemans, the Cooks, the Charles', the Prices - have all moved away. Only the DeWitts and one or two other families remain. Bill Baker's Bar and Grille, which was owned and operated by the father of my long dead, beloved pal Jay Baker, was torn down years ago. It was the only place in town that had a prohibition on profanity. If some misguided soul dared to let loose with an expletive, he had to make a twenty-five cent contribution to the "Cuss Jug" (Fifty cents if the "F" word was used). The proceeds went to charity. A fire house stands in its place today.

For reasons I can't quite figure out, Barack Obama's address the other day in which he eloquently defended his relationship with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, had me thinking about Green Street and the backward sociological slide African American families have experienced since the dawn of the Reagan era almost three decades ago.

It is unspeakably sad, even outrageous, that so many people in the media ("Pundits" they're called) seem hell-bent on defining a career that spans half a century based solely on a fifty to sixty second bite of sound. What so many White commentators just don't get, and what Senator Obama bluntly pointed out, is the inescapable fact that Reverend Wright's rage is not the result of mental illness, nor can it be fairly described as some kind of anti American rant. What we need to come face to face with is the nasty reality that Jeremiah Wright's anger is borne of years of hard and bitter experience. The tangible progress that his people made throughout the fifties, sixties and seventies came to a dead stop on January 20, 1981. Throughout the Reagan administration and the subsequent Gingrich Revolution, black people in this country suffered terribly. The good Reverend was merely venting his outrage - an outrage that is rightfully shared by millions of men and women of his generation. You'd be angry too!

While white people, for obvious reasons, are unable to empathize with their black brothers and sisters, they - we - should make every effort to sympathize with their anger. Think about it for a moment or two: the Reverend Wright will be sixty-seven this September. He has a clear, conscious memory of legalized segregation! In his youth, he was probably called a nigger to his face too many times to count. Think of the emotional and psychological scars something like that must leave behind! When I was in the second grade, little Rhonda Bende called me Rabbit Face and I'm still dealin' with it! The man grew to maturity with White America telling him (in not too subtle ways) that he was worthless; that he didn't belong; that he should "know is place" in lily-white society; THAT HE WASN'T EVEN HUMAN, FOR PETE'S SAKE! Again, you'd be pissed off too, Bubbah!

Much has been made of Reverend Wright's comments on September 16, 2001, less than a week after the hideous attacks that killed over three-thousand American citizens. Borrowing a phrase Malcolm X had used following the assassination of President Kennedy, he proclaimed that "the chickens have come home to roost." In their righteous indignation, the critics of Wright and Senator Obama have chosen to ignore the undeniable fact that he was speaking the unvarnished truth. Although to some minds he seemed to be implying that the poor people who perished that day got exactly what they deserved, when examined in context, it is perfectly clear he was speaking to decades of atrocious foreign policy and American interference in the affairs of sovereign governments. When George W. Bush tells us that we were attacked that day because "the terrorists hate our freedoms", he is lying. We were attacked because for too many years, our government has been enabling the Saudi Royal Family, one of the most corrupt and despotic regimes in the world. That explains why all but four of the nineteen hijackers were Saudi born. (Oh, and by the way, not one of them were natives of Iraq. Oops!) This is certainly not meant to justify the despicable act of mass murder committed on that horrible day. It is merely to point out the undeniable: The chickens did indeed come home to roost on September 11, 2001.

The hardest irony of all to come to terms with is the almost certain fact that Senator Obama's "glorious quest" for the presidency has been irreparably damaged by what I can only describe as a non incident. Guilt by association, you know what I mean? Once again, the ugly subject of race has managed to polarize the citizens of this sick and troubled country. The people who made public the videotape of Jeremiah White's explosive oration did not do so in order to educate and enlighten the clueless American people. Their only intent was to frighten and divide them. Sadly, they appear to have succeeded.

An Obama administration might very well have meant the dawn of America's healing. The tragic spectre of slavery has hung around our national neck like the proverbial albatross for over two centuries now. The election of President Barack Obama could have sent America in a new direction. Maybe it can still happen. Perhaps a miracle will occur. I am still idealistic enough (call it "naive" if you must) to believe that we can take America back.

On second thought, I've got a better idea: Don't call it "naivete". Call it the audacity of hope!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net

SUGGESTED READING:
Parting the Waters
by Taylor Branch

AFTERTHOUGHT:
Max Isaacs and Adam Goebler are two college students who have just started a new political blog called Source Junk that comments intelligently on affairs of state - such a rare thing these days! Here's a link to their site:

http://www.sourcejunk.blogspot.com/

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Oh, and speaking of "Contemptible"


The time has come for the Democratic Party to take a serious dose of reality pills. They are now in the unenviable position of having two candidates vying for the title of standard bearer, both of whom have been irreparably damaged: Barack Obama's candidacy has been destroyed by Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton's candidacy has been destroyed by Hillary Clinton. What she did last week was - beyond a shadow of a doubt - the most reprehensible thing I have ever seen a Democratic politician do in my lifetime. When she came right out and said that John McCain was more qualified to be president of the United States than Senator Obama, she effectively sabotaged any hopes he might have had for a post-convention campaign. It was her little way of saying, "If I can't get the nomination, he won't be elected!" Count on the McCain camp to use her "endorsement" in their campaign commercials if Obama is the nominee.
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Has it occurred to you yet what a phony and contemptible bitch this woman is? I was just wondering.
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The best thing we can hope for at this stage is that the Democratic Convention in August ends up deadlocked and a "compromise candidate" is chosen. Admittedly it's a bit of a long shot. To the best of my knowledge, the last time anything like that happened was the 1920 Republican Convention which ended up nominating the hapless Warren G. Harding of Ohio. The protracted and bitter fight which led to his nomination didn't do the GOP much harm in the long run. Although described by one of his contemporaries as "determinedly mediocre" (and that's high praise, believe me), Harding and his running mate, Calvin Coolidge of Vermont, easily beat the Democratic ticket of James Cox of Ohio and (GET THIS!) Franklin Delano Roosevelt of New York. Here's a little piece of historical trivia you can munch on: Harding was generally thought by most presidential historians to be the worst chief-executive in American history - that is, until George W. Bush came along. The Bush Mob are starting to make Harding's "Ohio Gang" look like the Founding Fathers. Life is funny, isn't it?
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What is it about the Democratic party? Once again, they have been presented a plate of fine caviar on a silver platter - and these idiots have turned it into donkey shit. That's only one of the multitude of reasons why I left that silly, worthless party almost ten years ago. The best thing you can say about the Dems these days is that they're not quite as dumb as the Republicans. No matter what happens, Barack Obama will arrive at the convention in Denver with the most delegates - though probably not enough of them to cinch the nomination. Should the so-called "super delegates" hand the nomination over to Senator Clinton, do you have any idea what will happen then? Two words: "Chicago 1968". Political conventions have gotten so boring and scripted over the years, the spontaneity of the good old days has all-but-vanished. The 2008 Democratic Convention is going to be the exception to the rule. Fasten your seat belts!
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As if the none-too-subtle smear campaign and race baiting against Senator Obama weren't bad enough, he's been further damaged, perhaps fatally, by Reverend Jeremiah Wright, a man whom he has described in the past as his "spiritual mentor" and who officiated at his and Michelle's wedding. A videotape from the week of September 11, 2001 resurfaced this week showing the Right Reverend Wright proclaiming, "GOD DAMN AMERICA" and implying that the poor people who died that day got exactly what they deserved - or at least that's how it is being perceived by many. That's not going to do the Senator from Illinois any good either - trust me on this one, kiddies.
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Leave it to these stupid, pathetic Democrats! What should have been the most Democratic year since 1932 is slowly but surely becoming a sure bet for the Republicans. Photographs emerging of Senator McCain soliciting a fourteen year old Taiwanese prostitute just might give the Dems the edge they need to win this thing. Other than that, I'm afraid that the game is over. Eventually I think Barack Obama will come to understand this. Don't hold your breath waiting for Hillary Clinton to figure it out. Like the man once said, "That ain't never gonna happen, baby!"
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What the party of FDR (GUFFAW!) needs to do is to take a deep breath, come to their senses and realize that neither of these two candidates have a chance of defeating John McCain in the general election in November. They now must look elsewhere for an untarnished nominee who will be able to fight the good fight, run on the issues that Americans care most about and win. What they need is a person who will inspire the natural constituencies of Senators Obama and Clinton to turn up at the polls on Election Day en masse. That person, I believe, is John Edwards.
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As I have pointed out ad nausea, John Edwards (along with Dennis Kucinich) was the only candidate in the primaries who was talking like a Democrat. He was speaking to the issues that were at the traditional heart of the Democratic party. Edwards was the only candidate who understood that the lock corporate America has held on the American political process since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 has got to end. Barack Obama has publicly said that he wants to give these plutocratic corporations "a seat at the table". Senator Edwards understands the fact that they no more deserve a seat at the table than the local heroin dealer deserves a seat on the city council. Edwards is relatively young (he turns fifty-five on June 10); he's idealistic and and he's telegenic. Don't deny that that means everything in the television age (otherwise I would be supporting Kucinich). And another thing to take into consideration is the undeniable fact that the man comes with very little baggage. The most the GOP will be able to say about him is that he was a trial lawyer. Yeah, he was a trial lawyer and a very successful one at that. Do you have any idea what it is takes to be a successful trial lawyer? One has got to be a tough-as-nails negotiator. That's the kind of person you want in the White House!
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Another thing Edwards has going for him is the fact that he's one smart son-of-a-bitch. After eight years of an inarticulate asshole like George W. Bush sitting in the Oval Office, John Edwards is going to be a breath of fresh air! The second-to-last thing we need (other than a McCain presidency, of course) is another four or (Heaven forbid) eight years of a Clinton White House. While I would be the last person on Earth to deny the undoubted intelligence of Bill and Hillary Clinton, we must all wake up to the fact that they are not - and never have been - true "progressives" in the strictest sense of the word. In fact all the evidence suggests that in too many areas to count they were decidedly right-of-center. Witness NAFTA; or their so-called "Welfare Reform"; or their unwavering support of the death penalty. And as far as "judgement" is concerned: In 2002 Senator Clinton blew the most important vote of her career by giving the First Fool the authority to use military force against the men, women and little children of Iraq. At least John Edwards now admits that his initial support for this stupid fucking war was a dreadful mistake. Five and a half years after the fact, I'm still waiting for Hillary's mea culpa.
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The Democrats need to wake up. This country can ill afford another four years of Republican control of the executive. And consider the frightening reality that in order to appease the half-witted, right wing extremists who comprise the base of that party, McCain is going to have to pick another half-witted, right wing extremist to run as the second on the ticket. John McCain will be seventy three on 20 January 2009 and is not in the best of health. You see where I'm going with this, don't you? OK, I'll stop.
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Having the Democrats come together around a unifying candidate like John Edwards will be the only way to prevent a disaster in November. A McCain administration will more-than-likely whitewash the felonies that have been committed these last seven long years by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Only with a Democrat in office can we be reasonably assured that they will eventually be punished for their crimes against the American people in general and the Iraqi people in particular. John Edwards has a very good chance of defeating John McCain. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama haven't a chance in hell.
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When it became obvious to the Clinton campaign that the dream of a lifetime for so many of us of sending an African American to the White House was on the cusp of possibility, they derailed that dream with tactics so vile and vicious it must have brought tears of joy to the eyes of Karl Rove. When she told the press that McCain is better qualified to be president of the United States, damaging the Obama campaign possibly beyond repair, she stupidly destroyed her own candidacy as well. The Democratic party, the party of John Fitzgerald Kennedy (Tee hee hee! Sorry about that!) cannot win without a huge turn out of African Americans. If Hillary Clinton is given the nomination in August, they'll remember what the Clintonistas did to Barack Obama, and a whole hell of a lot of them will be staying home on November 4th - or voting for Ralph Nader. Come to think about it, I just might do the same - what the hell. A choice between Hillary Clinton and John McCain is really no choice at all.
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Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

CONTEMPTIBLE


The sad, twisted saga of Don Siegelman, the former governor of Alabama who is now rotting in federal prison because he was a Democrat in GOP-controlled Alabama, is only one very small part of a much larger story. It is key to understanding what has happened in the last seven years to the Department of Justice; how it has been hijacked by organized criminals, and why at least seven U.S. attorneys were fired in 2006 by then Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. And now two senior aides to the First Fool have been issued the first contempt of Congress citations in a quarter of a century.
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When White House chief-of-staff Josh Bolten and Bush's former counsellor Harriet Miers (photos above) were subpoenaed to testify before Congress and explain what role in the firings each of them might have played, both of them defiantly, arrogantly chose to ignore the summons, citing "executive privilege" as their reason for not appearing. The House is now in the process of filing a lawsuit against the Attorney General to force him to initiate an investigation into the matter. Executive privilege allows a president to withhold information from Congress only when national security is involved. According to the UK Guardian: "Since Bush has repeatedly denied playing any role in the prosecutor firings, today's lawsuit argues, his privilege cannot extend to shield senior aides....Democrats have conducted an exhaustive inquiry into the prosecutor firings, but the ramifications of the lawsuit could extend far beyond one political scandal." This is where the Siegelman case becomes instructive. Very, very instructive.
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If you'll remember, Governor Don Siegelman was convicted last year in a bribery sting. The "crime" he committed was accepting a five-hundred thousand dollar check from an Alabama businessman which was immediately deposited in a fund that went toward educating the children of that state. Siegelman then re-appointed the man to sit on a board of directors that he had sat on under three previous governors!
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Does that make any sense to you? I didn't think so.
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The U.S. attorneys fired by the Bush/Gonzalez Department of "JUST US" in late 2006 were not fired because they did a poor job; they were fired because they refused to take part in the political persecutions that were being ordered by Karl Rove. One of the Bush-appointed US attorneys who persecuted Siegelman is Leura Canary, whose husband Bob was one of the campaign managers of Bob Riley - a Siegelman political opponent and the current governor of the state of Alabama!
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You can smell it, too, huh?
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You would think that someone with so blatant a disregard for the Constitutional rights of a fellow citizen would be fired from her job. You would think that such a person would be tried, convicted and sent to prison for five or ten years for such an obviously illegal political prosecution. You would think both of those things but you would be wrong. Leura Canary still has her job and is still a member in good standing of the Bush Mob. The scandal of the firings of 2006 is the fact that the attorneys in question not only refused to persecute Democrats who were obviously innocent of any crimes, they pursued Republicans who were just as obviously guilty. A case in point would be Carol Lam of California. She successfully prosecuted disgraced Republican Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham. You would think that so skilled an attorney would still have her job, wouldn't you? Again, you'd be wrong.
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If the Olympics had a semantic gymnastics contest, Attorney General Michael Mukasey would take home the gold medal. According to Mukasey, Josh and Harriet didn't commit any crime when they refused to answer a Congressional subpoena. This, by the way, is the same Michael Mukasey who less than half a year ago, during his confirmation hearings, refused to admit that waterboarding is illegal. Oh, yeah, that Michael Mukasey! In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he wrote: "The contempt of Congress statute does not apply and could not constitutionally be applied to an executive branch official who asserts the president's claim of executive privilege. Accordingly, the department has determined that the noncompliance by Mr. Bolten and Ms. Miers did not constitute a crime."
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How does this guy even sleep at night? Is there anyone out there with half a brain who would still deny that Mukasey is nothing more than a third-rate political hack? Anyone??
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Maybe the 110th Congress won't go down in history as the sorry, pathetic cowards they've portrayed themselves to be up until now. Finally they seem to be taking bold and decisive action. Finally they seem to be exhibiting a little, long overdue courage. Said Nancy Pelosi on Monday:
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"The American people demand that we uphold the law. As public officials, we take an oath to uphold the Constitution and protect our system of checks and balances and our civil lawsuit seeks to do just that."
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Good for her! Better late than never, I say. But it is only a start. They need to go further - much further. Back in November during Mukasey's senate confirmation hearings, Diane Feinstein said (as only Diane Feinstein could) "I really believe this person will be an independent source of fresh air in the department." As I remarked at the time, "Come again???" Anyone, face as straight as a yard stick, who would deny the blatant illegality of torture, was going to be the source of many things - no argument there - fresh air is not one of them. As always, Russ Feingold was prophetic when he said, "If Judge Mukasey won't say the truth, that this barbaric behavior [waterboarding] is torture, how can we count on him to stand up to the White House on other issues?" Obviously he can't be counted on to stand up to anyone.
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Mukasey is almost as corrupt as Gonzalez (if that's even possible). He needs to be impeached at once. Not only that, but any nominee that Bush puts forward as a replacement should be promptly rejected. It is now plain that this president is not going to choose a qualified person to serve as Attorney General. They can't do anymore damage than they already have with no one heading the Justice Department. A rudderless ship will drift for a spell but will rarely sink outright. Let it drift.
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HARRIET! SURELY YOU JOSH!
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Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten should be given a twenty-four hour deadline to appear before the House of Representatives. If they refuse to comply, a federal warrant should be issued and and both of them sent back to Washington handcuffed and in shackles. Were something that dramatic to happen, it's almost assured that George W. Bush would immediately pardon the two of them. That's fine! Let it happen! It would only - yet again - demonstrate to the American people the utter contempt with which this disgusting little piece of shit feels for the basic tenets of the Constitution put forward by our Founding Fathers over two centuries ago. In other words, let George be George. He'll only end up hanging himself in the long run. The most incredible thing in this entire, sorry story is the fact that this corrupt, imbecilic and mediocre woman, Harriet Miers, was Bush's original choice to replace the retiring Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. Her only published opinions to date were a handful sycophantic notes, written to Bush when he was still the governor of Texas - in which she comes across as not quite as intelligent as your average, infatuated thirteen-year-old, circa 1967, writing a fan letter to Davy Jones:
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"Dear Governor GWB, You're the best Governor ever!"
"You and Laura are the greatest!"
"You're the best!"
"Thank you for all you and Laura do for the people of the state!"
"Hopefully, Jenna and Barbara recognize that their parents are 'cool' - as do the rest of us."
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No. It really doesn't get any stupider than that, does it....
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It's rather sad to reflect on the certainty that very few people in the most corrupt administration in American history will ever be punished for the high crimes that have been committed in the last seven years against the people and Constitution. The final hours of the Bush presidency will find the soon-to-be-ex-president furiously issuing pardons - hundreds of them - THOUSANDS OF THEM - to the criminals and cowards who faithfully, mindlessly did his bidding. Given the arrogance and stupidity of this half-witted frat boy, he probably actually believes that a president can legally pardon himself. No doubt about it, the hideous bastard is in for one dark and deeply disturbing surprise.
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As has been said on this site more times than can be accurately counted, George W. Bush will be remembered as the first United States president in history to go to federal prison.
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He will die there.
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Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
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SUGGESTED VIEWING:
"Iraq For Sale"
A film by Robert Greenwald
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AFTERTHOUGHT:
Did you ever - in your wildest dreams - think that you would live to see the day where you would feel a sense of teary-eyed nostalgia for the likes of Dick Nixon and John Mitchell?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Seventy-Five Years Ago Today

"I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the presidency, I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our nation impels. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great nation will endure as it has endured; will survive and will prosper. So first of all let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is, fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror - which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life, a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical times...The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to their ancient truths. The measure of restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit."

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Inaugural Address
March 4, 1933

Honestly, it really doesn't get any better than that, does it? Happy anniversary, Franklin. Send my love to Babs!

Cheers!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net
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SUGGESTED READING:
"No Ordinary Time"
by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Sad, Twisted Saga of Don Siegelman


In the opening piece of the February 24th edition of CBS's 60 Minutes, Scott Pelly asked the musical question, "Is Don Siegelman in prison because he's a criminal or because he belonged to the wrong political party in Alabama?"

`Kudos to Air America Radio's Thom Hartmann. Were it not for him, I wouldn't even know the tragic and outrageous story of Don Siegelman. Siegelman was the somewhat moderate former governor of the state of Alabama who is now rotting away in a federal prison in Louisiana. His crime? Accepting a five-hundred thousand dollar contribution from a businessman named Richard Scrushy for a fund that benefited secondary education in that state. Scrushy was then reappointed to sit on a state Hospital board of directors, a position he had held under three previous governors. This is the "bribery" deal that sent Siegelman to the federal pen.
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In a Republican state like Alabama, Governor Siegelman was a grand embarrassment for the Grand Old Party. The son-of-a-bitch just wouldn't go away! The justice Department of Karl Rove decided to take matters into its own hands. If the the voters of that state refused to send the governor into obscurity, the Bush Mob would do it for them. They managed to convince a jury of twelve Alabamans of average intelligence (average for Alabama, that is) that Don Siegelman was guilty of a crime. He is now four months into a seven year sentence.
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Political prisoners are not a new phenomenon to American life. A generation ago, Black activist Angela Davis was wasting away in a federal prison for months before the Justice Department of Richard Nixon and John Mitchell could even figure out what the hell to charge the poor woman with. In 1927, Sacco and Vanzetti were both sent to the electric chair based solely on the fact they were anarchists. It is irrelevant as to whether or not they were guilty of the murder they were both charged with. The "jury", so to speak, is still out on that question (My personal opinion is that the poor bastards were railroaded). The fact is, they never had a chance to receive a fair trial. They would have been executed regardless of their innocence.
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What is so disturbing about the Siegelman case is the obvious fact that what we're dealing with here is not some kind of wild-eyed radical or a stone cold, bomb-throwing Marxist zealot. What we have in Don Siegelman is a depressingly, middle-of-the-road, southern Democrat. Although he may have been "liberal" by Alabama standards, the guy wouldn't stand a chance in your average New York primary. The fact that someone as moderate as Don Siegelman can be tossed into a federal prison on obviously trumped-up charges, should give every believer in the Bill of Rights pause.
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In an excellent piece that was posted this morning on AlterNet, Paul Craig Roberts of Counter Punch reported as follows:
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"The frame-up of Siegelman and businessman Richard Scrushy is co crystal clear and blatant that 52 former state attorneys general from across America, both Republicans and Democrats, have urged the US Congress to investigate the Bush administration's use of the US Department of Justice to rid themselves of a Democratic governor who 'they could not beat fair and square,' according to Grant Woods, former Republican Attorney General of Arizona and co-chair of the McCain for President leadership committee. Woods says that he has never seen a case with 'so many red flags pointing to injustice.'"
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The quote above by Grant Woods was from the 60 Minutes broadcast. When Scott Pelly pointed out to him the novelty of a Republican coming to the defence of a Democrat, Woods pointed out that he was an American first. It's heartening to know that there are still some heroes among the ranks of the GOP, however dwindling that number may be. By the way, when the report was sent out over the airwaves, for some strange reason it went black in the state of Alabama. The CBS affiliate in that state told its viewers that the technical problem was the fault of the transmission from CBS headquarters in New York. The technicians at Black Rock said that Alabama received the same feed that was transmitted to the rest of the country. I'm sure it was just a coincidence.
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One of the Bush Mob's operatives in dear ol' Alabamy was a woman named Jill Simpson. Her job was "opposition research". Apparently, she has been suffering from a severe pang of conscience of late. She testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee, and repeated on 60 Minutes, that she was personally approached by Karl Rove and was instructed by him to spy on Governor Siegelman and ordered to try and find him in some kind of - any kind of - sexually compromising situation. Months of heavy duty, undercover surveillance by Ms. Simpson turned out to be of no avail. It seems that Mr. Siegelman is faithful to the little woman. Dang!
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So what was it that sent so honorable a man as Don Siegelman to the slammer? It was the testimony of a little gnat by the name of Nick Bailey. Bailey, a former assistant to the Governor, had been convicted of extortion and was facing the very real possibility of a ten-year sentence. He was approached by Alberto Gonzalez and Karl Rove's Brownshirts and told that his sentence would be drastically reduced if only he would turn on his former boss. That was all Bailey needed to hear. He told prosecutors that he witnessed Siegelman emerge from his office with Scrushy in tow, and a check for five-hundred thousand dollars in his hand. The only problem with Bailey's story is the fact that the check which eventually emerged as evidence, was cut several days after the alleged meeting took place.
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After snooping on Governor Siegelman for months, super-sleuth Simpson was told by Bill Canary that she could end her spy program. "My girls can take care of Siegelman." Canary is described as "the most important GOP campaign advisor in Alabama" and was the campaign manager for Siegelman's Republican opponent, Bob Riley. His "girls" are US Attorneys in Alabama, both of whom were appointed by the First Fool. One is his wife, Leura Canary! The other, Alice Martin, is a disgusting political hack who, according to this morning's report on AlterNet, "is known for her abusive prosecutions." Nice.
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"Compassionate Conservatism". Remember that one?
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When the details of the first investigation of Siegelman (an alleged Medicaid scam) were leaked to the public, he lost in the Democratic primary. The case against him was so pathetic that the judge threw it out of court on day one without a single witness being called. When the Siegelman announced to the press that he would seek vindication at the polls in the next election, Rob Riley, the son of the new Governor, told Jill Simpson that they just couldn't "allow that to happen". Siegelman was indicted yet again.
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At the end of his second trial, after twice arriving at a deadlock, the jury voted to convict Don Siegelman. Instead of granting him the usual forty-five days to get his affairs in order, the judge in the case, Mark Fuller, had the former governor shackled in chains and immediately carted off to prison - unheard of for a white collar criminal.
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And remember that he did not personally gain a dime for the "crime" he was convicted of. He is today rotting in prison because he accepted a check that was made out to the state of Alabama that went to a fund for educating its children. As was pointed out on Sixty Minutes last week, that's the equivalent of granting an Ambassadorship in exchange of a donation to a presidential campaign. That's politics!
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As the late Molly Ivins once said, "This is Karl Rove 101". As a hard ball player in the Texas political scene under former governor George W. Bush, the persecution of hapless Democrats who wondered into Rove's cross hairs was not an uncommon thing. For more on that, I would strongly suggest to you the excellent book, "Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential" by James C. Moore and Wayne Slater.
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And now this same type of yahoo, frontier justice, Texas style, has gone national. One would have expected this behavior from the regimes of Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin or Saddam Hussein - not from an American administration. That George W. Bush and company have been able to pervert the Constitution of the United States of America for their own, cynical political gain is a danger to the freedom of every man and woman in this country. If it can happen to a respected and much-loved statesman like Don Siegelman, it can happen to you - or me.
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Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net
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suggested reading:
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THE FUCKING CONSTITUTION
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UPDATE, 4/18/13, 9:05 AM:

I wrote this piece five year, one month, two weeks and one day ago. Don Siegelman still rots in a federal prison in Louisiana.