|A Moral Obligation Exists to Stop Genocide|
180,000 people have been killed in a massive genocide. You wouldn't know it from looking at the news. Among the top 5 stories on Yahoo News today: Microsoft Plans New Windows Products. That's not news; that's a press release. At best, it's technology news ; it's not a top 5 news story. Drivel like this gets top billing by a corporate media that is increasingly clueless about what actually constitutes news.
The #1 story should be the genocide in Darfur. 180,000 people have died since early 2003 as Janjaweed militas protected by the Sudanese government attack African Sudanese villages. When these villages began rebeling in a quest for more autonomy, the government launched the genocide. Meanwhile, our government has been too distracted by the fraudulent war in Iraq to address this pressing need. Sadaam may have gassed "his people," but the horror in Iraq pre-invasion failed to be as problematic as the massacre in Darfur. Worse, more people are dying than ever in Iraq as an inevitable civil war begins.
The media had other priorities. When they weren't releasing Bush administration press releases as actual news, they were busy covering Nick and Jessica or Brad and Angelina. Oprah's berating of an author made top headlines while the killings in Darfur were ignored. Bush made the destruction of Social Security a top agenda in 2005 instead of trying to push the end of violence in Darfur. No legitimate Christian could stand by and ignore this massive human rights violation. But Bush had no problem doing so.
Nicholas Kristof, a columnist for the New York Times, has been the media's #1 voice bringing attention to the catastrophe in Darfur. He recently told a group at Yale University how the militias use wells as mechanisms of disaster. They poison the wells to kill the villagers and lie in wait nearby to attack people looking for a drink of water. Kristof has been pushing the media to address the issue more. He's engaged in a very public drive to get Bill O'Reilly to take a trip with him to Darfur. He's already raised over $700,000 to gather money so that O'Reilly can take the trip and do his "news analysis" from the country. O'Reilly early protested that he wouldn't go to Darfur because his commitments to Faux News prevented him from doing so. Kristof proposes raising money to buy satellite phones that would allow O'Reilly to shovel his load of crap on the American people from abroad. While some might claim this is all a waste of money, it's not. Kristof has raised public awareness with his campaign against O'Reilly and helped push our leaders to take action.
I don't know enough about this highly complex situation to propose a reasonable solution. If I were in a position for power, I would order experts to conduct studies proposing the best way to end the killings. The United States is morally required to address this problem. If we want to make the world "love freedom" and support our efforts, we need to start doing some good things instead of starting illegal wars. Perhaps the Bush administration realizes this, if only from a PR standpoint and not a moral one.
Led by the U.S., the United Nations has recently began to push for action in Darfur. On Feb. 3, the Security Council called for the UN to take over peacekeeping operations in the region. The Council has already authorized sanctions but those have yet to take effect. On Feb. 17, our president -- that's right, George W. Bush -- finally spoke out on the topic after completely ignoring it in his State of the Union address. After a visit with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Bush announced his support for a peacekeeping mission twice the size of the current one handled by the weak African Union. UN Ambassador John Bolton, a man notorious for his conflicts of interests and bizarre demeanor, is actively pushing for the UN to enact a resolution creating the peacekeeping force. All this is a great sign from the normally inept Bush administration. Still, not much has happened yet. Although Bush has turned it around in the last few weeks, his administration has been criminally negligent in the past 3 years. Our nation can no longer deal with actual threats to world security because they are too involved in a war of choice.
Nicholas Kristof has a laundry list of suggestions for what we could do in Iraq. Considering his expertise on the issue, I'm inclined to listen. Kristof posits that President Bush could:
We can't ignore this issue any longer. It is simply immoral to continue to allow people to be massacred in droves. We aren't the world policemen, but we should work to be the world's moral compass. The time to act was 3 years ago, but we'll have to settle for now.
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Monday, February 27, 2006
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
|There's No Easy Way to Kill|
Lethal injection constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Putting aside the fact that the death penalty always violates the 8th amendment, the method of killing itself can violate the US Constitution or the California Constitution.
Lethal injection was introduced as a "more humane" way to execute prisoners. To those watching the execution, it certainly looks more humane than when someone catches on fire during an electrocution. It certainly seems less cruel than gassing a man and watching him choke to death while spitting blood. But is it really?
California has postponed the execution of convicted killer Michael Morales due to a federal District Court judge's order that trained medical professionals must conduct the execution. The conflict here is that the AMA and every other medical association is 100% opposed to the participation of trained medical professionals in executions. Monitoring Morales' execution would require the professionals to be prepared to administer more drugs if the killing did not go as planned. This would require doctors to take affirmative steps to kill, a clear violation of the hippocratic oath.
Further, Judge Fogel wanted the state to only use sodium pentothal to execute Morales. Currently, the state puts the prisoner to sleep with sodium pentothal, then a second drug stops the prisoner's muscle movement so that the viewers can have a clean show, and a third drug stops the prisoner's heart and delivers the killing blow. The judge's rationale is that the second and third drugs are cruel and unneccessary considering that sodium pentothal will get the job done.
Judge Fogel's view regarding the lethal injection process is shared by some unlikely suspects. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court halted an execution based upon the same premise that was supported by Dr. David A. Lubarsky's research. Dr. Lubarsky is a conservative Republican. Nonetheless, he is also the head of the University of Miami medical school's anesthesiology department. His research revealed some startling information:
Wow. 87.7% of the murdered prisoners could have felt severe pain during their lethal injections. Although there is some contrary research, the fact remains that the scientific community cannot guarantee that lethal injections are not a horrific, painful procedure that ruthlessly tortures convicts at the end of their lives. Some conservatives not only don't care about this fact, but they seem to want it to be true: "I am not too worried about his feelings after the lethal injection, as he had absolutely no feelings for the 17-year-old girl he killed." But this entire process has only dragged out the victims suffering by promising some sort of salvation at the end of the killing rainbow. Expecting a man's death to make your life whole again is pure nonsense, but that's exactly the message we send to victims by instituting the death penalty. The mother of the woman that Morales killed had this to say: "We feel devastated and angry...We waited 25 years with expectancy, and now this?'" 25 years with expectancy. An expectation that one day, justice would prevail and the world would somehow be right again. But of course that isn't so. Killing Morales with premediation and deliberation isn't going to bring back the life of the woman he killed. The state's promise that it will do so has unreasonably dragged out the suffering of this poor woman. It's time to stop killing prisoners and promising victims that these deaths will help them in some macabre way.
Dr. Lubarsky has come to the belief that the death penalty is wrong: "Should we be lowering ourselves to the level of the people we are seeking to execute?...That's what separates us from them: We don't torture people on purpose.'' Dr. Corey Weinstein, a consultant to California Prison Focus, points out the irreconcilable problem with the death penalty: "Maybe it is because there is not a way to be humane and do this act."
Friday, February 17, 2006
|Ignoring Global Warming|
The Republicans continue to stick by the long discredited argument that "the verdict is out" on global warming. The overwhelming majority of scientists conclude that not only is global warming occurring, but it's a gigantic problem looming the future.
We are already beyond the point where ignorance of global warming can be tolerated. The GOP wants to ignore it because their entire party is supported by industries that profit off the destruction of our planet. They want to burn every last drop of oil, use up every last bit of our coal reserves, and build as many nuclear power plants as possible. Fortunately for them, their decision to align themselves with the religious right has guaranteed that virtually none of their constituency cares about scientific findings. To those Christians who believe in the Rapture, there's no point to fight global warming because the world is about to end anyways. The real problem, as they see it, is gay marriage. This would all make for an ironic story in some novel of the future, but unfortunately for us, it's the reality of the beliefs of the ruling party.
We've been told that the real effects of global warming won't be felt for years, likely the end of our lifetime. While this might provide comfort to some, it's also just another saying that you don't mind giving the death penalty to your children and grandchildren. Even this fleeting bit of false comfort could possibly be coming to an end. Global warming seems to be speeding up beyond scientists' expectations. Greenland's ice caps are now melting twice as fast as they were five years ago.
The Greenland study is quite shocking. Over the past 20 years, southeast Greenland has seen its temperatures rise 5.4 degrees. Eric Rignot of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology makes the problem clear in the most simple way possible: "Climate warming can work in different ways, but generally speaking, if you warm up the ice sheet, the glacier will flow faster." That's right folks: you increase the temperature by recklessly abusing the planet with harmful fossil fuel smoke, and ice melts. It's not rocket science.
We probably can't prevent some of the harmful effects of global warming, but we sure can try our best to save this planet. The #1 thing that simply must happen ASAP is for this country to implement some sort of reasonable fuel efficiency standards. As I have pointed out before, SUVs are subject to very low fuel efficiency standards and gigantic SUVs like the Ford Excursion are subject to none at all. Even the standards for regular cars are far too low. The innovations in Hybrid car technology show that we can drive much more efficient cars right now, but the unholy alliance between the oil industry and auto manufacturers has thus far prevented large scale production of Hybrid vehicles. Only the power of the United States Government can change these things.
I predict that one day, after environmental disasters begin to befall parts of this world and kill thousands, global warming will become a top priority in Washington. Both parties will suddenly spring to action as environmentalists and major legislation will be enacted to help fight the problem. But this day will likely come too late to make any real difference. I hope I'm wrong. I hope that a great leader from the Democratic party can really give this issue the attention it deserves and force a public debate on the safety and health of our children. Those of us in the reality-based community must continue to speak about the importance of this issue, inform others, and push our leaders. Otherwise, we will be willing accomplices in this massive crime being perpetuated upon the planet by energy corporations and the Republican party.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
|Bits & Pieces|
Orwellian News Media Strikes Again -- Cheney May Have Been Drunk During Illegal Hunting Excursion
In 1984, the protaganist worked for the Ministry of Truth erasing history. Someone has the same job today working for the pro-Republican, corporate media.
By now everyone knows that during a hunting trip to kill poor, defenseless, little birds, Dick Cheney shot one of his hunting buddies in the face and chest. To me, it's just another example of how stupid guns are. Accidents like this are unavoidable and if you want to worship killing machines, you've got to accept that things like this happen. The man still has 6 to 200 shotgun pellets still lodged inside of him due to Cheney's misfire.
There are two interesting things about this story other than the fact that it serves as yet another piece of evidence of the inherent stupidity of gun use. First, Dick Cheney was committing a crime. He did not obtain a stamp on his hunting license giving him the right to shoot quail. As usual, the Republicans have no respect for the rule of law. Indeed, they believe they are above the rule of law.
Second, the Orwellian news media is helping engage in a coverup. The possibility exists that Dick Cheney shot his friend in the face because he was drunk. MSNBC originally had this paragraph in their article about the Cheney shooting incident:
Subsequently, MSNBC erased this paragraph from their website. Why? To protect their corporate overlords at the Republican party. This is a disgraceful example of why the corporate media doesn't provide "news", they provide press releases for the Republican party.
Scalia Calls Opponents of his Extreme Views "Idiots"
Justice Scalia is the epitome of a corporate tool. He uses all sorts of rationalizations and theoretical tools to justify his support for nearly every single right-wing cause that comes through his court. Perhaps most arrogant and pompous is that he publicly speaks as if he is the one who is true to the law and all of his liberal cohorts are activists. This ignores the fact that Scalia frequently flip flops from issue to issue when it helps support conservative causes. (For example, Scalia held that the commerce clause gives the Federal government the power to regulate medicinal marijuana, but that it doesn't give the Federal government the power to stop violence against women, which has much more profound effect on interstate commerce and is empircally proven.) Scalia potentially committed a crime when he abused his powers and selected George Bush as the President in 2000.
So the latest example of Scalia's evil emerged at one of his regular talks at those not-at-all-non-partisan folks at the Federalist Society. Speaking directly to Justice Breyer's concept of "Active Liberty," which posits that the liberty interests guaranteed by the Constitution are not limited to those specific rights recognized 200 years ago but are rather limited to those our system of government implicitly authorizes in the Constitution, Scalia told the flock:
"That's the argument of flexibility and it goes something like this: The Constitution is over 200 years old and societies change. It has to change with society, like a living organism, or it will become brittle and break."
"But you would have to be an idiot to believe that. The Constitution is not a living organism, it is a legal document. It says something and doesn't say other things."
Translation: the people "retain" some rights and the lack of the enumeration of those rights in the Constitution doesn't mean that the people don't retain them. Anyone who selectively chooses to read some parts of the Constitution and ignore others is an "idiot." Justice Scalia is gaining power now that two other right-wing ideologues have joined the court, and this man's assault on our liberties should now be watched more than ever.
Monday, February 13, 2006
|Why the AUMF doesn't allow for Warrantless Wiretaps|
I just got back from a great American Consitution Society event regarding warrantless wiretaps. Before these great insights leave my mind, let me quickly refute a common Republican argument: the AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force) does not support the use of Warrantless wiretaps. The AUMF's purported authority for warrantless wiretaps is a line which gives the President the power to use all neccessary and appropriate force to catch the 9/11 terrorists. Republicans charge that this includes the use of warrantless wiretaps. These aren't my ideas, but they ring true:
1. A fundamental tenant of statutory construction is that specific statutes trump general statutes.
The 1978 FISA statute explicitly covers warrantless wiretaps such as that done by the NSA. The AUMF doesn't mention warrantless wiretaps and instead could only conceivably cover it in the most broad terms possible. The specific statute, FISA, should trump the AUMF.
2. FISA specifically contemplated its use in a time of war.
One of the exceptions to the FISA requirement is that the President can conduct warrantless wiretaps without a warrant for 15 days after a formal congressional declaration of war. It neccessarily follows that FISA was intended to still control warrantless wiretaps in the event of a formally declared war. Since this obvious truth emerges, it cannot be claimed that FISA will not control in the event of an undeclared war.
3. FISA has been amended several times since 9/11.
If the AUMF made FISA a moot statute, why has the President worked with the Congress to amend FISA multiple times since the AUMF? This indicates that the Executive believes that FISA still controls. If it still controls in some areas, it still controls in others. It makes no rationale since to say that FISA doesn't apply when the President determines it doesn't but does apply when he says it does.
4. Hamdi fails to provide support for the proposition that AUMF trumps FISA.
The Hamdi case narrowly held that the President has inherent authority to label citizens on the battlefields of Aghanistan "enemy combatants." This authority stems from his role in commander in chief. It is another argument altogether to say that this authority extends beyond the battlefield, beyond Afghanistan, and into the borders of the USA.
5. The President specifically tried to insert the term "in America" to the AUMF.
President Bush tried to have the AUMF apply to all of his acts to catch the 9/11 terrorists within America. Congress rejected this concept. Two conclusions result: 1) Congress never intended the AUMF to trump FISA and 2) the President knew he lacked the inherent authority to conduct warrantless wiretaps.
6. There can be no point of rational limitation if the AUMF trumps FISA.
If the President has statutory authority to conduct warrantless wiretaps due to the ambiguous language of AUMF, then it follows that the President can do whatever he wants in the name of fighting terrorism. Excessive law enforcment techniques that infringe upon the Fourth Amendment, should they be allowed, could be but the tip of the iceberg.
The majority of these arguments apply to the conservative argument that the President has statutory authority under AUMF to ignore FISA. Numbers 4 and 5 cross over and also apply to the conservative argument that the President has inherent authority under Article II of the Constitution to ignore FISA.
Thursday, February 09, 2006
|John Kerry Suspects that Bush Stole the 2004 Election|
As a followup to my post earlier this week, I'm reprinting an article from Consortium News' Robert Parry that broke the news that John Kerry thinks Bush stole the election in 2004. I'll reiterate that I'm not 100% positive that Bush really stole the election, but I think a massive crime has been perpetrated on the American people due to the corporate media's failure to address the issue in any meaningful way. If Bush did steal the election, the media wouldn't even have cared. A key tenent of facism, or government run by corporation, is fraudulent elections. Here's Parry's article; be sure to visit Corsortium News:
“Kerry heard all the disquieting stories” about voting irregularities in Ohio and other states, said Jonathan Winer, a longtime Kerry adviser and a former deputy assistant secretary of state. “But he didn’t have the evidence to do more.”
The Massachusetts senator conceded to George W. Bush on Nov. 3, 2004, the day after the election when it became clear that the uncounted votes in the swing state of Ohio were insufficient to erase Bush’s narrow lead.
The move infuriated some Democratic activists who felt Kerry should have lived up to his campaign promise that he would make sure every vote was counted. In January 2005, as Bush’s victory was being certified by Congress, Kerry also refused to back a resolution challenging the fairness of the Ohio vote.
Mark Crispin Miller, a New York University professor and author of a new book about the 2004 election entitled Fooled Again, said he discussed the voting issue with Kerry on Oct. 28 when he encountered the senator at a political event.
In a Nov. 4 interview on Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now,” Miller said he gave Kerry a copy of Fooled Again, prompting Kerry’s comments about the 2004 election results.
“He told me he now thinks the election was stolen,” Miller said. “He said he doesn’t believe that he is the person who can go out front on the issue because of the sour grapes … question. But he said he believes it was stolen. He says he argues about this with his Democratic colleagues on the Hill. He had just had a big fight with Christopher Dodd.”
Miller and Winer said Kerry suspected possible tampering with electronic voting machines, but that he was persuaded by his campaign’s top advisers, including veteran consultant Bob Shrum, that contesting the results only would lead to accusations that Kerry was a sore loser.
In an interview with me, Winer said the “disquieting stuff” that troubled Kerry included reports that touch-screen systems had malfunctioned in such a way that voters who tried to vote for Kerry saw their votes switched to Bush. Kerry also was upset with reports that Ohio’s Republican election officials shorted Democratic strongholds on voting machines, Winer said.
In some Democratic precincts, there were complaints that voters waited in line for hours or gave up and went home, while in heavily Republican precincts, there were plenty of voting machines and lines were relatively short.
Democratic activists also cited the disparity between exit polls, which showed Kerry winning by about 3 percentage points nationwide and carrying key swing states, and the official count, which flipped the results giving Bush wins in most swing states and a national popular vote margin of about 3 percent.
Some defenders of the election results argue that the exit-poll discrepancies could be explained by Bush’s supporters just being less willing to answer questions from pollsters after leaving the voting booth. According to this argument, Bush voters disdained the “liberal media” which they saw represented by the exit-poll questioners.
That explanation, however, doesn’t explain why historically exit polls have been highly accurate or why the 2004 exit polls were on target when it came to the results for Senate candidates, while off the mark on the presidential race. Presumably, if conservatives were ducking the exit pollsters, there would be a similar percentage shift for statewide races.
Doubts, Not Certainty
Winer said he discussed the election irregularities with Kerry in November and December of 2004. At that time, Winer said Kerry never asserted “outright” that the election had been stolen, but was “uneasy” about what he had heard.
Adding to Kerry’s suspicions, Winer said, was the memory of Election 2000 in which Al Gore defeated Bush in the popular vote by more than 500,000 ballots but lost when Bush got five Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court to stop a recount of votes in Florida. [For details on Election 2000, see Consortiumnews.com’s “So Bush Did Steal the White House.”]
But Winer said Kerry didn’t believe the evidence existed to prove systematic tampering with the vote in 2004. Kerry also was certain he would face withering criticism if he challenged the election results without strong evidence.
“The powers in place would have smashed him,”’ Winer said.
On “Democracy Now,” Miller said Kerry bent to the will of his campaign advisers to concede, even though his vice presidential running mate, John Edwards, favored holding out until more information was in.
Based on reporting for Fooled Again, Miller said Kerry told Edwards in a phone call that Shrum and other advisers insisted that a concession was the best course. “They say that if I don’t pull out, they (Kerry’s political opponents) are going to call us sore losers,” Miller said, recounting the substance of Kerry’s phone call to Edwards.
Miller said Edwards responded, “So what if they call us sore losers?” But Kerry pressed ahead with his decision to concede.
“Kerry’s caving in like that gave an enormous gift to the right wing,” Miller said. “They (the conservatives) could now claim, ‘well, even their (the Democrats’) candidate doesn’t think it was stolen. And they (Kerry and his advisers) left … the American people hanging out to dry there.”
A recent report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, also has questioned the security of U.S. electronic voting systems.
The GAO said some systems don’t encrypt ballots or other data, leaving them open to tampering that could escape detection. The GAO found that another danger was the potential for altering a ballot’s appearance to trick voters into thinking they were voting for one candidate when their ballots actually went to another.
“Some of these concerns were reported to have caused local problems in federal elections – resulting in the loss or miscount of votes – and therefore merit attention,” the GAO said.
Winer, who is now a private attorney with a specialty in information security, said it’s conceivable that electronic balloting was hacked in Election 2004 but that – without a credible witness confessing – there is little hope to prove it.
“There are systems for one-time use that erase themselves afterwards,” Winer said. “You’d have to have a confession and anyone who would confess would look psychotic.”
Kerry, too, appears to have weighed how he would look if he made accusations about possible hi-tech hijinks affecting the outcome of a presidential election. Pundits surely would have put him on the couch as a delusional conspiracy theorist.
But Kerry’s decision not to fight has left millions of Americans wondering if their democratic birthright has been stolen – along with the last two presidential elections.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
|Bush's Beef Incompetence Will Kill You|
As many of you know, I do not eat beef. I have not eaten beef at all in a year and I have only eaten it a couple times since the first US cow tested positive for mad cow disease in late 2003. I write this article today for one reason: to save the lives of the loyal readers of the War on Corporate Evil.
The U.S. beef supply is extremely at risk for mad cow disease. Before I carefully document the reasons why eating beef is like having unprotected sex, let me explain what mad cow disease does to you. According to the FDA, Mad Cow Disease is the commonly used name for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), a slowly progressive, degenerative, fatal disease affecting the central nervous system of adult cattle. Humans who eat cows infected with BSE can get Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (CJD). It is a brain wasting disease similar to Alzheimer's disease. Symptoms begin with memory loss and mood changes. Soon people have trouble walking and speaking; soon after that they can no longer do either. Within six months to two years after symptoms first appear, the infected person will certainly die. There is no surviving CJD. The disease basically drives holes in your brain and turns it into a spongy material, hence the word "Spongiform."
The FDA, the Bush administration and the corporate beef producers all publicly claim that the public is at no risk for mad cow disease. This conclusory statement, however, finds no basis in fact. Just as Bush was incompetent at preventing 9/11, as he was incompetent at helping Katrina survivors, as he was incomptent in launching the Iraq war, Bush has been similarly incompetent in dealing with mad cow. Perhaps this is a calculated move that results from the Bush administration's close ties to the beef industy. First rule of Republican governance -- do not piss off those who line your pockets.
So why are we at risk for mad cow disease?
1. The USDA allows cows to eat slaughterhouse waste, blood and manure. The WHO says that allowing cows to each such filth creates the possibility of mad cow infection.
2. The USDA forbids the entrance of highly infectious parts of cows such as the brain and the spinal cord into the food chain. However a recent US government audit demonstrated that the USDA's inadequate record keeping makes it unclear if all beef producers are actually following these regulations. At the very least it's clear that some beef producers are simply violating the USDA's regulations and allowing these parts to enter the food chain.
3. The USDA only tests so-called "downer" cows for mad cow disease. "Downers" are cows so sick they are unable to walk or stand. The problem, however, is that mad cow symptoms normally take 5 years to appear post-infection. Unfortunately, less than half of US cows reach their fourth birthday when slaughtered, let alone 5 years after infection. The bottom line: cows who are not "downers" can have mad cow disease and the USDA doesn't test any of them for mad cow disease. If they have it, you are gonna get it.
4. To combine points 2 and 3, the government only removes the brain and spinal cord from cows aged 30 months and older. Since mad cow symptoms take 5 years to appear, this means that cows 30 monts and younger (who are never tested for mad cow disease) are not only allowed in the food chain but the most infectious parts of these cows are allowed in the food chain as well.
5. Although the USDA forbids the entrance of "downer" cows into the food chain, that same government audit report proves that at least 20 downer cows were illegally entered into the food chain. These were no accidents either -- these cows are obviously downers because they can't walk. Beef producers launched a massive enterprise to illegally get these deadly cows into our food chain through the use of forklifts and rails above the pens. The USDA is responsible because their shoddy record keeping, lack of adequate inspections and buddy-buddy relationship with the beef producers has allowed these deplorable crimes to occur.
Rational, thinking people can only eat beef by ignoring all of this evidence. No reasonable individual can eat beef and think they are not risking their lives every time they do. Make no mistake about it, I love the taste of beef. I have no moral qualms about eating beef either; cows look like walking hunks of food to me and are dumb as dirt. I just don't eat beef because I want to live. Exposing US citizens to this deadly disease is a human rights violation that is being perpetrated in order to further the interests of massive corporations who are in bed with the Republican Party. For the GOP, that's business as usual.
If you must eat beef, buy only organic and research the beef producer to ensure they actually feed the cows quality materials. The Bush administration has relaxed the requirements for what it takes to call your food "organic," so many foods labeled organic can now be made with a certain percentage of non-organic ingredients. That's a whole other story, however.
Don't eat beef -- cut if out of your diet because your life isn't worth that cheeseburger.
Monday, February 06, 2006
|RACIST GOP TRIES TO UNDERMINE VOTING RIGHTS ACT|
Unbelievable. I'm speechless. You know that the benefit from this stance must really help the GOP because the political cost could be sky high. In a remarkable move of hubris, leaders in the Republican Party are calling for the termination of a key part of the Voting Rights Act.
Here's the rule at issue: when more than 5% of the voting age population in a given jurisdiction belongs to a language minority, the Voting Rights Act requires ballots to be made available to that language minority. This is a completely reasonable rule: without the provision of multilingual ballots, these citizens will be disenfranchised and unable to vote.
Why do the Republicans want to fight this? Because they know that the vast majority of non-English speakers are poor and vote Democrat. Further, they don't care about the interests of poor non-whites because the GOP is the party of rich whites. It may not be intentionally racist (at least not for all), but it certainly perpetuates institutionalized racism.
The purported reasons the Republicans give are the same old tired arguments they've used for years to justify their racism: "We believe these ballot provisions encourage the linguistic division of our nation and contradict the 'Melting Pot' ideal that has made us the most successful multi-ethnic nation on earth." The "Melting Pot" ideal is just the modern-day code word for assimilation. The message: act like mainstream white society or we'll steal your right to vote. 56 House of Representative members signed a petition to destroy this part of the Voting Rights Act; 55 of them were Republicans.
America has never been, and should never be, a melting pot. Melting pot implies that you come to this country with a rich culture and you lose it once you arrive. A more appropriate metaphor is that America should become a nice Chef's salad -- all the cultures are still in there and exist, unlike in the whites-only "melting pot" analogy.
If you aren't a rich, white, Christian male, it's time to get this in your head: the Republican Party hates you and will do anything it can to take away your rights. Opposing the Voting Rights Act is a disgraceful, ugly, evil thing that shows just how extreme the current Republican Party has become. I'm sick to my stomach.
|DEMOCRACY: DEAD OR ALIVE|
Part 5 of 5
The Forbidden Question: Did Bush Steal Ohio?
Late last year, I wrote the first four parts of a five part series centered around one question: Does democracy really still exist? I've reposted the series below and if you didn't check it out before, do it now.
I've hestitated writing this portion for some time because my beliefs in this area don't have the empirical support necessary to make the kinds of claims I'd like to make. This post is only intended to spark the kind of legitimate discussion that has mostly been forbidden. It starts with the bizarre Georgia elections of 2002, when polls showed Sen. Max Cleland winning re-election. Alan Waldman, a reporter for the Hartford Advocate, sums it up better than I can:
The 2002 election just happened to be the first after the Help America Vote Act of 2002 -- an act designed to prevent the debacle of Election 2000 but ended up giving big money to Republican voting corporations to design electronic voting. E-voting lacks a verifiable paper trail, in most states anyways, and as such no recount is possible. Waldman explains the connections between the Republicans and the big voting corporations:
Expert pollster John Zogby, a man who predicted Clinton's 1996 victory within 0.1% when all other pollsters erroneously showed a massive Clinton landslide, predicted on Election Day that Kerry would be elected the 44th President of the United States. Polls at the time showed Bush with a 1-2 percentage point lead, but the conventional wisdom was that Kerry would win because 1) polls tend to over represent Republicans and underrepresent Democrats because telephone polls conducted at night necessarily target a slightly more conservative audience than the American voting population (because poor people work at night and young people go out at night) and 2) undecided voters traditionally break for the challenger at the last minute. This is because you've had 4 years to decided whether you like the incumbent and if you aren't 100% behind him days before the election, that means you are leaning towards a change. Yet Bush defied the odds and scored another Presidential victory.
Another troubling factor in the 2004 election is that all the exit polls showed that Kerry would win Ohio. This was explained away under a bizarre theory that Bush voters were more reluctant to admit to exit pollsters they voted for Bush. Waldman notes that the exit polls were all wrong in the states that used electronic voting but were all right in the states that had a verifiable paper trail:
There's one thing that I will claim cost Kerry the victory in Ohio: Secretary of State Ken Blackwell was also Bush's Ohio campaign mangager. Blackwell provided less election machines than in 2000 despite a massive increase in voting registration. (91% of the new registration were Democrats.) Everyone remembers the news reports showing people waiting in lines for hours to vote in Ohio. Strangely, rich white neighborhoods had plenty of voting machines while poorer black neighborhoods had waits of several hours to vote. This was no accident; the Republican party didn't want those people to vote.
I'm certainly not going to claim that Bush stole the 2004 election. I just don't have any hard evidence to make that claim. The point of this article today is that everyone must consider and debate the possibility that the Republican Party might be engaged in a criminal enterprise to undermine our democracy by rigging elections.
With the notable exception of Keith Olbermann, the corporate news media entertained no such suspicions that Bush stole Ohio. Part of this is a good thing -- the legitimacy of our government is key to keeping the peace in America. We can't be questioning elections without some real evidence to do so. On the other hand, this purposeful censorship could very well kill democracy if we know it. If we can't question a considerable body of evidence that indicates a stolen election, how would we ever catch those who would steal an election?
The day after election 2004, I was in shock and disbelief. felt utterly depressed all day pondering the horrors and evil that Bush would inflict upon this nation in the next four years. We've already seen those evils in the form of Bush's refusal to leave Iraq and stop young US troops from dying; from his appointment of two far-right extremists to the Supreme Court; to his illegal warrantless wiretaps that violate our Constitutional rights; to his anti-Robin Hood stance of cutting social programs for the poor in order to give bigger tax cuts to the rich. But after November 2 everyone else acted as if I were crazy when I suggested that the possibility remained that Bush stole Ohio. No legitimate debate ever took place because of this chilling factor. Well, I'm now going to be silent any longer. I have massive doubts about the legitimacy of Bush's re-election. Unfortunately, we'll never be able to prove what happened because our corporate media refused to do the kind of reporting we needed to do at that time.
Right now, election officials fear that 2006 may provide all sorts of voting problems. This is because 20% of the nation will be using new, mostly computerized, election equipment. Most of these lack a paper trail and involve technology in its infancy that is incredibly open to tampering.
I leave you all with this: our Democracy may very well have died a silent death. We all need to question authority and be ready to investigate any and all voter irregularities. What happened in 2002 and 2004 likely followed the Republican Party's behavior over the past half century of undermining democracy in favor of the results that they wanted.
|DEMOCRACY: DEAD OR ALIVE|
Part 4 of 5
Racism and Thievery in Florida
The final official tally put Bush just hundred of votes ahead of Gore in Florida's 2000 Presidential Election: 2,912,790 for Bush to 2,912,253 for Gore. When the Supreme Court illegaly prevented the counting of votes in Florida, Gore was less than 300 votes behind and counting.
I. REPUBLICAN THEFT OF BLACK VOTES
Florida is part of a minority of states who do not allow ex felons to vote in Presidential Elections. Of the 35 states who do allow ex-felons to vote, they vote 90% for the Democrats. Florida has nearly half a million ex-felons who are denied the right to vote. Clearly if these people were allowed to vote, Gore would have won. The law remains the law, however, we need not point to that stat to establish a stolen election. Still it's worth noting that nearly all of these people are poor blacks and latinos.
The problem with the purge of ex-felons from the voter list is that the Republican appartus went way too far and broke the law. In 1998, Florida became the first state in the union to privatize the purge of felons from the voting rolls. The Republican Secretary of State handed the firm over to a friendly Republican company, Database Technologies (now known ans ChoicePoint, Inc.).
If you commit a felony in a state which does not deny ex-felons the right to vote, you retain voting rights when you move to a state that denies ex-felons voting rights. Nonetheless, 3000 people who committed felonies in states where they retained their voting rights were purged from the rolls in 2000 and made ineligble to vote. The full faith and credit clause of the Constitution guarantees that each state honor the judicial decrees of the other states. These felons all were guaranteed the restoration of their voting rights at the end of a given period through the statutes relating to their convictions in other states. Florida had to honor their voting rights without asking them to do anything more. The only 2 Florida cases on point, one of which was at the Court of Appeals, and both explained that the law was clear: Florida must let these people vote. Jeb Bush, believing himself to be a dictator, ignored the courts and the legislature. No statute authorized Bush’s action to unilaterally purge all of these people from the rolls.
Another list of purged voters include 8,000 people convicted of misdemeanors. Misdemeanants have the right to vote; that purge was patently illegal. It was up to local election officials to try and sort out who really could vote, something which likely didn’t happen for most of those purged voters. The NAACP later sued the state of Florida for the illegal voter purge and ended up settling for an undisclosed large amount. Unfortunately, by then George W. Bush had already been “selected” President.
II. "SPOILED VOTES"
The Republican Party continued their terrorist attack upon our nation’s democracy by gaming the system to destroy black votes. In heavily black, Democratic Gadsden county, one in 8 votes was ruled “spoiled” and discarded. The Republican Secretary of State Katherine Harris equipped Gadsden with an optical vote machine that labeled votes as “spoiled” if they had just one extra mark anywhere on the ballot. Further, the ballots were unusually confusing. In a nearby white, heavily Republican Tallahasse county, they used the same confusing ballots. Yet there, local officals examined the votes to ensure people were filling them out correctly. Voters were able to revote until they got it right. The black voters in Gadsden county did not get the same treatment. This is the equal protection violation, not the nonsense the Supreme Court shoveled to us when they awarded the Election to Bush.
53% of the 180,000 “spoiled” votes belonged to Black voters. Blacks constitute just 13% of the voting population in Florida. Do the math: blacks lost votes disproportionately and this cost Gore the election.
III. VIOLATING THE RULE OF LAW: THE BROOKS BROTHERS RIOT AND MEDIA COMPLICITY
Although both Bush and Gore had to fight the same fight in the courts, Bush spent 4 times as much money on the recount than Gore. How can this be? The answer is simple and sadistic: while Gore's money went almost entirely to lawyers, Bush's money went mostly to funding a PR war. The idea of Bush was that the law would follow the PR, despite the fact that the law exists independtly of political spin. Bush was right.
Thousands of dollars went to Republican operatives across the nation. They appeared on TV shows, speeches all over America and demonstrations in Florida itself. The common thread: Democrats were inventing votes and trying to steal the election. (It's often effective to denounce the exact practice one is guilty of committing; it's a classic trick of scam artists to deflect attention.)
The Republican disdain for the rule of law showed itself when George W. Bush began publicly denouncing the Florida Supreme Court for trying to usurp the power of the legislature. Bush seemed to forget that the role of the courts is to interpret law. Gore, on the other hand, said that he disagreed with the Supreme Court's ultimate decision but that he would respect the rule of law. The Republicans shared no such respect.
This Republican hatred of the rule of law culminated in an immoral riot to subvert the legal process. On November 22, 2000, the Miami canvassing board announced that they would begin to review 10,750 disputed ballots which had not previously been counted. Brendan Quinn, the executive director of the Republican Party of New York, told two dozen Republican operatives to storm the room and stop the recount. The media and most onlookers were stunned; the popular assumption at the time was that mere concerned citizens had broken through. To the Republicans, the idea that concerned citizens would try and physically stop illegal counting of votes presented the ideal message with which to sell their story about Democratic vote theivery. The canvassing board had that a Republican conspiracy was actually responsible for the mob. The mob entered the room and began screaming to try and get the vote count shut down. Proof positive evidence later emerged that at least 12 of the rioters were Republican operatives; 6 were directly paid from Bush's recount fund.
The Republican mod succeeded. Fearing physical violence, the canvassing board stopped the recount within minutes. The Brooks Brothers Riot was an organized Republican effort to defeat the rule of law by acting like ravenous animals fighting for food: no rules, no laws, winning is everything.
The media never bothered to investigate the Brooks Brothers riot. Since the discussion is beyond the scope of this article, I won't get into detail, but suffice it to say the corporate media played a huge role in Election 2000. First, the media crucified Al Gore for a series of alleged “lies” that had nothing to do with governance while gave Bush a free pass to viciously lie about his tax and social security plans. Gore never said he created the internet or that he “found” Love Canal, but the media repeated those lies anyways. To the media, it was ok to lie about complex details that actually affect America, but not ok to misspeak about pointless events. Second, the media's so-called "objectivity" turned the corporate media into a bullhorn for Republican propaganda. Objectivity is reporting the truth without the spin; the facts as they present themselves. The media doesn't report in this manner -- to the media, "objectivity" is just reporting what the Democrats said and then what the Republicans said and equating both views as equally plausible. Objective analysis of the facts, however, plays no role in the modern day media. Bush can keep saying that "the verdict is out" on global warming and the news keeps repeating it without adding that the verdict is in fact NOT out on global warming. In Election 2000, Democrats tried to argue like professors in a salon while Republicans argued whatever served their position best, regardless of the truth of their claims. Third, the media helped give legitimacy to Bush's Presidency that was undeserved. Despite findings that Gore would have won the election had a statewide recount been conducted, the media spun the results heavily for Bush. He was the President and his party were the ones paying their bills. The truth mattered not to the corporate media. Evil logic, but logic nonetheless. Finally, the media didn’t care about the Supreme Court’s theft or about the massive theft of votes in Florida. Once 2001 rolled around, they had bigger fish to fry: Gary Condit and Chandra Levy.
IV. CONCLUSION; OTHER SHENANIGANS
The 2000 election contained the trademark of past Republican victories: massive disenfranchisement of solidly Democratic black voters. But 2000 was far more troubling than usual. The felon purge reflected a conscious violation of the rule of law in order to “win” elections. The design of poor voting machines in black districts pointed to a more specific plan than normal. Events like the Brooks Brothers Riot showed that a right-wing army of foot soldiers had been assembled to throw the election to Bush at all costs.
The 2000 election left a lot of people with a bad taste in their mouths. The Republicans had long been disdainful of democracy, but after 2000 no one could ignore the GOP's massive war against the democratic process. What could come next? And now that the world would closely follow future US elections for election fraud, would the Republicans still be able to openly flaunt democracy?
My argument in Democracy: Dead or Alive is that it would be foolish to assume that the war on democracy ended in 2000. The motive and opportunity remained there, although massive felon purges weren’t going to work anymore in the future. New tactics would be required, and perhaps have been tried. In my final post in this series, I will examine allegations of voter fraud in subsequent elections.
|DEMOCRACY: DEAD OR ALIVE|
Part 3 of 5
The Court Goes Corporate: Abandoning the Rule of Law to Appoint Bush
On Saturday, December 9, 2000, five people stole the election for George W. Bush. Justices Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy and O'Connor favored Republican politics to the rule of law and the will of the people.
This series marks my attempt to prove that the Republican Party devalues democracy and manipulates elections. The proof of my argument lies in the GOP's actions over the past 50 years; Part 1 explained the GOP's role in widespread voter disenfranchisement in 1960s; Part 2 focused on the illegal impeachment of President Clinton which attempted to undermine the legitimate results of the 1996 election. The story continues today with Republican malfeasance in 2000, this time coming from the Supreme Court. The goal of the Democracy: Dead or Alive series is to provide the framework for a legitimate debate as to whether democracy can truly be said to exist in light of the Republicans' recent actions.
In 2000, two potentially treasonous efforts launched by Republican Party and its operatives stole the election from Al Gore, the rightful winner of both Florida and the popular vote: 1) The unconscionable Supreme Court decision that prevented the counting of votes and 2) the coordinated Republican voting fraud centered around the illegal disqualification of eligible black voters. Both Republican efforts served to negate the democratic process in 2000. Today, I focus only on the Supreme Court’s role; the next post in this series will look at the shameful theft of votes in 2000.
II. THE ELECTORAL TIE GOES TO THE COURTS
We all remember the deadlocked election and the subsequent recount. No one wanted a recount, but a recount to ensure the most accurate tabulation of the citizen’s votes was obviously a paramount concern. Soon, however, all the Republicans wanted to talk about was time tables, not getting the job done right.
Federal law gives state broad discretion as to the time for choosing electors. As such, on November 21, the Florida Supreme Court decided to extend the time for ballot certification past the time designated by statute. On December 1, the United States Supreme Court first intervened and unanimously sent the case back to the Florida Supreme Court with instructions to rewrite its opinion to avoid creating a federal question.
On December 8, the Florida Supreme Court ordered a statewide recount of all ballots. This was easily the most sensible approach to take at this time. The election was hotly disputed by both sides; Republicans and Democrats alike were unsure if all the votes had been counted. A complete recount, scrutinized throughout America and the world, would be the most fair, equitable way to resolve the 2000 dispute.
On Saturday December 9, the conservative justices panicked. The recounts had begun and Bush’s lead had been cut in half. With Gore only trailing by less than 200 votes, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 opinion that stopped the recounts and handed the election to Bush. Had the Supreme Court been legally compelled to issue this decision, I wouldn’t be writing this article and we would have no story. The problem was that the Court abused its power and acted contrary to the law to turn the election towards their Republican hero. As a result, Corporate Evil won this battle.
III. THE SUPREME COURTS' DECISION TO FORCE FLORIDA TO STOP COUNTING VOTES HAD NO REASONABLE BASIS IN LAW, HENCE IT WAS AN ILLEGITIMATE ATTEMPT TO UNDERMINE DEMOCRACY.
A. The Court Has No Reasonable Basis For Its Claim That the Florida Supreme Court Violated Article II by “Impermissibly Distorting” Florida Election Law
The Yale Journal of Law (110 YLJ 1407, no link available) considers the Court’s strongest legal argument to be Rehnquist’s concurring decision, not the 5-4 majority opinion which focused on Equal Protection. The concurring opinion finds its basis in Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution: “[E]ach State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct," electors for president and vice president. Rehnquist argued that the legislature had complete plenary power to determine how to choose electors. The Florida Supreme Court could not alter that power in any way, even to avoid a conflict with the Florida Constitution.
The problem with Rehnquist’s view is that one cannot divorce the courts from legislature. Both are equal components of the lawmaking process. The legislature makes laws, but when it comes to conflict in laws, the courts resolve disputes, just as they always do. More importantly, the legislature specifically delegated authority to the Courts to decide election contests.
The Florida legislature specifically created the right to sue in federal courts to contest election results. That is part of the “manner as the legislature thereof may direct.” The Florida Supreme Court used its power to interpret a conflict in laws when it ordered a statewide recount. Rehnquist acknowledges that courts can interpret election law, that interpretation cannot involve a “significant departure” from the prior law and cannot “impermissibly distort” the statutes “beyond what a fair reading required.” Since the Florida election statutes were rewritten in 1999, nearly all questions of interpretation were of first impression for the Florida Supreme Court. A “significant departure” would be nearly impossible in the absence of precedent.
Rehnquist argued that a legal vote was only the vote punched out and read by the punch card machine. He claimed that voters were given clear instructions on how to vote properly and if they didn’t vote so that the machine read their votes, they were illegal no matter if the intent of the voter was otherwise clear. The Florida Supreme Court took had argued that these votes, called “undervotes”, should be counted if the intent of the voter was clear. This constituted a "fair reading" of the election statutes that failed to "impermissibily distort" them.
Rehnquist and the Bush team longed argued that December 12, 6 days before the electoral college meets, was the drop dead date for the end of the recounts. Hence, no more recounts could occur under the Court’s decision because the Court believed that they would never be finished in time. But by federal law (3 U.S.C. §5), this only creates a “safe harbor” that guarantees a state that its votes will be counted; electoral votes have come in late all sorts of times and always had been counted. Rehnquist believed that since the Florida Legislature wrote that the votes had to be in by December 12th, that was enough. Yet the court had to balance meeting an artificial deadline with counting all the legal votes in the state of Florida. Given a balance between a legal fiction and a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution, Rehnquist chose the fiction to select George W. Bush.
The real problem with the Republican Court’s opinion lies in the complete disregard for standards of review. The Florida Supreme Court had the most authoritative understanding of Florida election law. The standard of review when interpreting state statutes is not purely de novo but requires some deference to the state court interpreting its only statutes. By Rehnquist's own phrasing of the standard of review, the Supreme Court could only overturn Florida's decision if a “significant departure” existed that “impermissibly distorted” the statutes “beyond what a fair reading required.” But Rehnquist's interpretation wasn’t any more legally sound than Florida's decision. The Florida Supreme Court’s reasoning failed to meet Rehnquist's standard that would allow the Court to overturn its decision and announce a violation of Article II.
B. The Court has No Reasonable Basis for Its Claim That Recounts Violated Equal Protection by Using Different Standards of Vote Tabulation Because the Majority of Elections Use Different Standards of Vote Tabulation.
The 5-4 majority used Equal Protection, not Article II, to justify handing the election to Bush.
The majority pointed to the fact that just three counties in Florida were counting overvotes – votes which machines read as voting for “2” candidates but which the voter’s intent could clearly be ascertained by human inspection. All other counties limited their count to the undervotes – votes with no recorded vote but where the voter intent can clearly be ascertained – which is as the Florida Supreme Court had ordered in its December 8 opinion. Since this discrepancy meant that certain votes could get counted in some places but not in others, the Court found an Equal Protection violation.
The fundamental flaw in this argument is that within states, different methods of counting ballots across different counties occur all the time. Hence, the court's logic only holds water if its reasoning is that states can count votes differently the first time, but on a recount one must employ a uniform standard. There is no logical justification for distinguishing the two methods of counting votes since a recount replaces the first count and involves the exact same means and end.
The court further held that is decision was “limited to the present circumstances,” which has been treated as making the decision “not precedent.” Black voters seeking to remedy equal protection violations had no ammo as the political Republican Justices exposed their flagrant disregard for the rule of law. The common law follows precedent; to declare a decision that effects a Presidential Election “not precedent” stands above the rule of law.
The Court created brand new Equal Protection doctrine created from scratch to justify Bush’s appointment. If the Court was really concerned with a serious Equal Protection violation affecting a Presidential Election, the Court easily could have remanded the case and conducted a recount using a uniform standard. This was Justice Breyer’s opinion; he agreed with the 5 conservatives that an Equal Protection violation existed, but he wanted to send the case back to the Florida Supreme Court to conduct a manual recount. The majority dismisses this argument in a sentence – the Florida statute says the 12th is the day, and violating that day would not make an “appropriate order” of the court. The court reasons that since a a conflict in laws exists, a minor, technical statutory violation should take precedence over a massive Constitutional violation. This is unbelievable. When two laws conflict, a weighing test must be conducted. The balancing test here reveals the remedy of the Equal Protection Violation to take precedence. The Court, however, cared little for the rule of law. They wanted Bush as President and were prepared to misuse their positions to do it.
IV. JUSTICES WITH CRIMINAL INTENT
It’s fairly obvious that the Court knew that its legal reasoning had no merit. Is this a crime? No, because no statute on the books provides for such a crime. Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi argues that although the Court violated no statute, the Justices had criminal intent because they knew their actions were “morally reprehensible.” Regardless of whether it’s called a crime or not, no justification exists under the spirit of the Constitution for stealing elections .
The 2000 “selection” shocked Americans into the reality that an objective Supreme Court ceased to exist. The Court revealed itself as political institution despite the contrary intent of the founding fathers. The Republican members of the court became the very judicial activists that the GOP propaganda machines rail against. The Supreme Court, effectively, caved into the interests of corporate evil rather than obey their oath to the Constitution. This decision by the 5 conservative Justices has resulted in the death of thousands of Americans and enormous wealth transfers from poor to mega-rich. The maintenance of free elections is key to American democracy and essential to the hearts of human beings. To undermine these values demonstrates a profound disrespect for our nation and our Constitution.
Misusing the power of the Supreme Court was not the only manner in which the Republicans stole the 2000 election. In my next post in this series, I’ll address the more troubling issue of massive racism and voting fraud that helped send the election to the courts to begin with.
|DEMOCRACY: DEAD OR ALIVE|
Part 2 of 5
A Political Impeachment
In the first part of this series, I explained the Republicans' sordid past of voter disenfranchisement. This legacy of undermining democracy continued on and ultimately infected the democratic process itself. Today we shift forward to the late 1990s.
The seminal case is Bronston v. United States. The issue in Bronston was "whether a witness may be convicted of perjury for an answer, under oath, that is literally true but not responsive to the question asked and arguably misleading by negative implication."
The case arose because Mr. Bronston was involved in bankruptcy proceedings. Attorneys for his creditors were examining him, under oath, regarding assets that he personally owned in various countries, as well as assets owned by companies under his control. During this examination, the following exchange occurred:
Q. Do you have any bank accounts in Swiss banks, Mr. Bronston?
A. No, sir.
Q. Have you ever?
A. The company had an account there for about six months, in
The "truth" was that Bronston had had a large personal bank account in
Bronston was convicted of perjury, and his conviction was affirmed on appeal. But the Supreme Court reversed. The Court acknowledged that in ordinary conversation, Bronston's response would probably be understood to imply that he had never had a personal bank account in
Since Bronston established a “literal truth” defense to perjury,
I don’t believe oral sex involves any sort of “relationship” and a few minutes in the Oval Office doesn’t make it an affair either. Both of those connotate long term, quasi-committed people. When
The definition used by the parties in court referred to sexual relations by the term "engaging in" sexual relations.
II. No High Crime or Misdemeanor
In some instances, I agree that the “will of the people” is not enough to sustain a Presidency. Democracy can lead to strange results and, on occasion, absolute criminals will be revered by the people. Should a President truly commit “high crimes and misdemeanors” – “injuries done immediately to the society itself “, in the words of Alexander Hamilton– Impeachment should remain as option. Yet impeachment is not a power to take lightly, especially when it involves undermining the will of the people. If it’s unclear whether to do it or not, you err on the side of not doing it. The stakes are enormous.
In a scholarly presentation of the Republicans' case on this issue, the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, argues that perjury (22 Harv. J.L. & Pub. Pol'y 619 -- no link for this one, you need to sign in to Westlaw or Lexis) . It's worth noting that the writer of this article is Charles J. Cooper, a former clerk to Rehnquist and former deputy assistant attorney general to Ronald Reagan. He's also heavily involved with the Federalist Society. Cooper relies upon an exchange between two of the founders arguing whether impeachment should be for "maladministration" or "high crimes and misdemeanors." Madison objected to "maladministration" because it is "[s]o vague a term [would] be equivalent to a tenure during pleasure of the Senate." Cooper implies that because maladministration, which implies poor governance, was considered by one of the founders, then clearly the founders intended for just about anything to qualify as impeachment. Cooper goes back and cherrypicks quotes from history to back up his point.
But this one isolated exchange says nothing about what the founders as a whole thought. Just as when you analyze legislative history, you never know the meaning of a term based solely on the comments of one person. The founders, as a whole, decided to use the lofty phrase "high crimes and misdemeanors." They did not say "any crimes". The founders also spoke of how the crimes must injure society itself. Cooper says that perjury is such a crime. But arguing that Clinton's perjury somehow effects society is preposterous. This is not what the founders intended. They never could have contemplated a society like ours where the President of the United States would get called under oath and asked who he's had sex with. The crimes contemplated were obviously those that a President could actually commit in the late 18th century -- crimes related to the office.
Further, the founders' intentions alone do not control the Constitution. Unlike so-called originalists, I see the Constitution as a living, breathing document. We should interpret the Constitution to the fullest intent of the founders and the basic principles of this Nation. So-called originalists often say that we should ignore these basic principles due to some parsing of miniscule language and words. Regardless of what words were written or said, it's clear that the founders never wanted a President impeached for something as irrelevant a perjury about your personal life.
III. A Massive Conservative Propaganda Machine Set
a. The Propaganda Machine Starts Rolling
When Nixon resigned, Republicans fumed. Never again they promised. From this came the birth of the counter-establishment. Because academia consistently told the Republicans they were wrong on social issues and the economy, because the Republicans were in fact wrong, the GOP decided to form a new conservative establishment. Instead of the media simply reporting that leading scholars condemned the next tax cuts, the existence of a counter establishment forced the media to report that the verdict is still out -- with scholars on one side and the counter establishment on the other.
Today we take the existence of the counter establishment for granted. Who are they? After Nixon's resignation, what Hillary Clinton would later term "the vast right wing conspiracy" was born. After Nixon, 4 billionaire Republican families began massively funding a conservative propaganda campaign that would resemble actual media or scholarly outlets. The families became known as the "four sisters" of the counter-establishment movement: Richard Mellon Scaife's Sarah Scaife Foundation, the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. They funded both intellectual "think tanks" as well as the publication of conservative magazines like the "American Spectator."
Creating organizations like the Federalist Society, the Heritage Society and the American Enterprise Institute had a two fold purpose for the "four sisters": 1) they could undermine academia with polished, well reasoned retorts and 2) it provided an ample base for future conservative leaders. Indeed, many, if not the majority, of President Bush's appointees are tied to one of the "four sisters" groups in some way.
A quick side note: Republican disrespect for academia stems from the fact that they need to lie to sell most of their ideas. If they went out in public and said that they wanted to give huge tax cuts to the top 1% because they funded their campaigns, they'd never get elected. The perfect example of this is how Bush never mentioned a massive, radical "reform" of Social Security in 2004, but as soon as he got reelected he made it priority number one. A lie of omission indeed.
b. The Arkansas Project
Richard M. Larry, the lifelong senior aide of "four sisters" charter member Richard Mellon Scaife, came up with the idea of investigating Clinton's activities as a way to undermine his Presidency in 1993. Scaife and Larry pressured the American Spectator, a right wing tabloid that has received at least $3.3 million from Scaife over the years, to start looking into the random accusations of backwoods kooks in Arkansas. The Spectator began by putting out pieces based upon statements from former Arkansas state troopers. They alleged Clinton arranged sexual affairs and they had all sorts of juicy details. Later on, these troopers and their juicy details were discredited. The author of the piece, David Brock, later admitted that he invented most of the story as well as a subsequent book on Anita Hill. He further admitted that he wasn't a journalist at the American Spectator, he was a propagandist whose mission was to attack Clinton at all costs. Brock had a nervous breakdown, came out of the closet and moved to the left. His sole mission today is to expose the "vast right wing conspiracy" and their lies. You can find his work at mediamatters.org , an invaluable website that tracks the news.
In his book The Republican Noise Machine, Brock explains how the counter establishment works: You start by printing a story in the American Spectator that lacks journalistic credibility, either due to lack of sources, invented facts or both. Soon Rush Limbaugh or Michael Savage mentions the story on the air. Next conservative news outlets like Fox News and Newsmax mention that Rush Limbaugh and the Spectator have mentioned it, increasing its credibility. Soon Conservative politicians and pundits start talking about it. And suddenly, the mainstream corporate media mentions that many conservative outlets are talking about the story, thereby legitimizing it. With this powerful infrastructure, the Republicans are able to invent stories, push them through their noise machine and turn those invented stories into actual reported news.
In the 1990s, these awful lies about Clinton involved allegations of rape and cocaine smuggling. They were discredited; the cocaine story cost the editor of the American Spectator his job in one of the few "just desserts" moments of the whole thing.
The Clintons were exonerated from Whitewater but here are the facts: David Hale, a convicted felon and former municipal judge, also owned a Small Business Administration lending company. Hale subsequently made a $300,000 loan to Susan McDougal, one of Clinton's partners in a piece of rural Arkansas property named Whitewater. McDougal apparently didn't qualify for the loan. The Clintons were passive business partners with the McDougals and ended up losing money. Here the facts end.
In order to pin this shady situation on Clinton, Hale claimed that Bill Clinton as governor personally called him to pressure him into making the loan. Many other shady allegations came through over the years, all of which were discredited and could all be traced back to one of the "four sisters" propaganda foundations.
The Republican noise machine in early 1993 starting revving up its engines on Whitewater and pressured Clinton to appoint a special prosecutor through its manipulation of the news media. A conservative three judge panel, including D.C. Circuit Judge Sentelle (I just spent the weekend attacking one of his dissents), selected Kenneth Starr as independent counsel in 1994. The independent counsel, created by act of Congress after Carter, creates a "fourth branch" of government accountable to no one. They have ultimate authority to as they please to investigate the President and ultimately file impeachment papers. Republicans hated this law for a long time because they were the ones doing shady things; the Independent Counsel Act has since expired. Don't expect to see it ever revived again now that Democrats hate it too. In my view, it's not constitutional because it interferes with the division of powers.
Starr himself was a member of the Federalist Society and a close personal friend of Richard Mellon Scaife. Despite new evidence or any signs that Clinton did anything illegal, Starr ruthlessly investigated Clinton for another 4 years before Monica Lewinsky broke in 1998. In effect, Starr became a check on Presidential power who had the ability to conduct a nonstop investigation of Clinton for his entire Presidency. The first time they caught him committing any sort of crime, about oral sex, they impeached him. This had been the intent of the Republicans all along.
Starr himself violated the power given to him through the independent counsel. Connecting Lewinsky with Paula Jones and somehow connecting that to Whitewater is strained logic at best, certainly not enough for a so-called brilliant legal mind like Starr's. Clinton and Lewinsky simply were not relevant to Starr's legal objective in pursuing Clinton. His personal objective, however, was to attack Clinton at all costs in order to remove him from the Presidency.
Starr resigned his post at the Independent Counsel in 1997 to take a high paying job as Pepperdine's Dean of its Law School and the School of Public Policy. The Washington Post reported, however, that Richard Mellon Scaife had recently given $1.1 million to the school in order to underwrite that very position. When these allegations surfaced, Starr un-resigned his post and kept on hunting Clinton. Clearly, however, Starr was prepared to get some payback for his war on Clinton.
Finally, if you ever have the stomach to read the Starr report, here it is. Don't read it with kids, it's an overly kinky bizarre romp that probably indicates a high level of porn stashed on Ken Starr's home computer. Regardless, the Starr report came to nothing when the Senate failed to convict Clinton of impeachment. Their legal case was weak and the public despised them for what was going on. The Republicans no longer found it valuable to investigate Clinton after their devastating electoral defeats of 1998. Instead of gaining seats, as the party not holding the Presidency had done in every midterm election during a President's second term in the last century, the Republicans lost seats. The Democrats made gains. Seeing the writing on the wall, the Republicans decided to fold up shop and just steal the Presidency in 2000. Oops, I meant "try and win" in 2000.
The legal argument that Clinton needed to be impeached is weak at best. He may not have committed perjury and certainly didn't commit a "high crime or misdemeanor" as is required under the Constitution to impeach. Further, the Republicans placed him in a situation where he would be under oath answering questions about his private sex life. He had two options: 1) publicly humiliate himself or 2) lie. It was a win-win for the Republicans. Imagine if George Bush went on the stand and Democrats got to ask him about cocaine use in the 1970s. The result would be the same, but it would be unfair.
The lesson of Clinton's Impeachment is that the Republican Party will fight for power at all costs. The considerations of whether impeachment was justified in light of Clinton's two electoral victories and high approval rating never emerged. The will of the people, it seemed, could be ignored in favor of a large goal of attaining power. The plan was to impeach Clinton, then Gore, and then do whatever they pleased with the Presidency. The impeachment, however, marked the first time of a massive, coordinated Republican effort to undermine democracy. It would provide the blueprint for 2000, 2004 and the elections in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The next part in this occasional series will study the Republican attack on democracy in the 2000 Presidential Election.