Last Wednesday Ahmed Ressam was sentenced to a 22-year prison term for his role in the plot to bomb the Los Angeles International Airport on New Year’s Eve, 1999. Chief U.S. District Judge John Coughenour, who is obviously not a fan of John Ashcroft or Alberto Gonzales, had this to say at the hearing:

The tragedy of Sept. 11 shook our sense of security and made us realize that we, too, are vulnerable to acts of terrorism. Unfortunately, some believe that this threat renders our Constitution obsolete. … If that view is allowed to prevail, the terrorists will have won.

Coughenour seems like the just the kind of judge we need on the Supreme Court, but I didn’t see his name on any of the short lists of candidates to replace O’Connor. I guess Bush didn’t care for his 16,000 word paper published in the Winter 2003 issue of The Seattle University Law Review criticizing The Patriot Act. More about Coughenour here.

And here is a link to a an opinion piece about The Constitution that he wrote for the Seattle Post Intelligencer in 1999 that includes:

The fundamental goals of the Bill of Rights — maintaining a free and independent press, tolerating minority religious beliefs, protecting the rights of those accused of crimes — remain challenges for anyone participating in our democracy.

There are now, as there have always been, genuine temptations to shortchange these liberties for the sake of a more efficient or effective government.

Honoring the Constitution means learning to say no to these temptations. Each generation must renew this nation’s commitment to the Constitution.

And as an added bonus, I’ll throw in this old quote:

“Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”–Benjamin Franklin or perhaps Richard Jackson

Remember old Ross Perot and his talk about that “giant sucking sound?” Well, with the passage of CAFTA, ffFFFWHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO000000DdT! It just got louder.

Here’s what old honest Abe had to say about labor versus capital around a hundred fifty years ago:

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if Labor had not first existed. Labor is superior to capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.” -Abraham Lincoln

Update: I got up Thursday morning, opened the paper, got to about page three and discovered that The House passed the CAFTA bill last night by two votes. That happened before I wrote this post last night, but since my primary source of news coverage after about 5:00 p.m. is The Daily Show, well… anyway, I have changed this post accordingly.

I first tuned into the CAFTA debate when I receive my June 2005 edition of The Hightower Lowdown. I read Jim’s feature piece and got angry, but for some reason I never got around to posting something about it. Well now that the Senate passed this terrible bill by a 54-45 margin, and my own two DEMOCRATIC senators voted for it, it’s high time I threw up something about in on the blog. So here you go. I’ll start with a snippet from Hightower’s rag:

Few Americans know that at the core of these scams are provisions establishing new, extraordinary rights for global corporate investors to establish properties (including intangible properties) in any of the member nations and to be “protected” from environmental, labor, health, or other regulations that We the People might choose to put on the way they operate. These provisions give “rights” to multinationals that people and independent businesses in our own country don’t have.

Many Congress critters who voted for NAFTA now say that, gosh, they hadn’t really read the bill, and, golly, no one told them about Chapter 11. This is the section of NAFTA that gives foreign corporations radical power that never existed in law before, including empowering corporate owners to use a private enforcement mechanism to impose their profit interests over all other interests.

And here’s an excerpt from Liza Grandia’s article for Common Dreams today:

Let’s be clear: Any member of Congress who votes for the Central American Free Trade Agreement has signaled their disregard for labor, environmental, farm, consumer and human rights groups that have spent the better part of a year actively opposing the Bush administration’s attempt to create trade policies that favor only the interests of multinational corporations.

That goes for Republicans, for independents and, especially, for Democrats.

And this is from John Nichols:

CAFTA is like having a house guest who cleans out your refrigerator, claims your nicest bed, spends hours in the bathroom, takes exclusive control of the television remote control, and then-like Paris Hilton-demands that you pay for the pleasure of her company and then writes you off as a business expense.

There are alternatives. If the U.S. is serious about strengthening economic ties with our closest neighbors, we could take a Common Market approach like Mercosur or the European Union. Europe opened up not only trade, but also labor markets to the lesser-developed regions of Europe. And, to help poorer member countries like Ireland become equal trading partners, the E.U. gives back 3.5% of Ireland’s GDP in grants.

So do your research and then contact your House Representative and let that person know what you think of how he/she voted.

And if you are a citizen of Washington State like me, you might want to also contact Senators Cantwell and Murray and ask them why they voted for this job-killing, corporate-welfare bill.

And remember, NAFTA + CAFTA = SHAFTA

The following is from an email I received from my uncle this morning:

I agree that I would have voted against CAFTA. The most disappointed people will be the Republicans that were bribed into support it. Business Week in the current addition cited a number of broken promises that Bush gave to GOP reps and sens in previous votes and then did not follow through. He has even promised things that CAFTA outlaws. Just a lying bastard.

From Business Week: And President Bush won support for fast-track negotiating authority in 2002 by pledging to expand trade-related unemployment benefits to include service workers but didn’t follow through. Overall, Public Citizen, an advocacy group and CAFTA opponent, says Administrations reneged on 80% of the 90 deals made during the past 12 years to secure votes for trade legislation.

And

Another source of CAFTA resistance: textile-state Republicans worried that the deal will hurt America’s 600,000 remaining clothing workers. To lure a handful of holdouts from the Southern textile belt, U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman offered to require Central American clothing makers to buy linings and pockets from the U.S. in order to receive a full tariff reduction. That didn’t cheer every North Carolina clothing worker, but Senator Elizabeth Dole announced that it was good enough to win her vote. One hitch: The pockets-and-linings promise must be approved by all CAFTA countries, including the three that have already ratified the treaty.

… The Bush administration has no plans to bring the troops home from this misguided war, which has taken a fearful toll in lives and injuries while at the same time weakening the military, damaging the international reputation of the United States, serving as a world-class recruiting tool for terrorist groups and blowing a hole the size of Baghdad in Washington’s budget.

A wiser leader would begin to cut some of these losses. But the whole point of this war, it seems, was to establish a long-term military presence in Iraq to ensure American domination of the Middle East and its precious oil reserves, which have been described, the author Daniel Yergin tells us, as “the greatest single prize in all history.”

No… I didn’t write that, but I THOUGHT it. That’s an excerpt from the most recent edition of Bob Herbert’s fine work. Read it all here.

Let’s not lose sight of what this war is all about: American Power and Control. No matter what they say, it’s not about pre-emptive strikes against madmen with WMDs, it’s not about “regime change,” and it’s not about “spreading democracy.” It’s about securing a supply of oil to keep our sinking economy afloat.

Bush likes to refer to himself as a “War President.” That he is, but he is also the “Deficit President.”

The previous post talks about the tremendous federal deficit that we have accumulated in the five years that Bush has been president and how he and Congress have no real plan to reduce it. Sure, Bush recently bragged about a reduction in the size of the deficit and claimed that it was proof his economic “stimulus” package that was passed by Congress in 2001 was working. Krugman commented on the new numbers in this column from July 11th.

The usual suspects on the right are already declaring victory over the deficit, and proclaiming vindication for the Laffer Curve – the claim that tax cuts pay for themselves, because they have such a miraculous effect on the economy that revenue actually goes up.

But the fact is that revenue remains far lower than anyone would have predicted before the tax cuts began. In January 2001 the budget office forecast revenues of $2.57 trillion in fiscal 2005. Even with the recent increase in receipts, the actual number will be at least $400 billion less.

(Snip)

It turns out that all of the upside surprise in tax receipts is coming from two sources. One is tax payments from corporations, up both because last year corporate profits grew much more rapidly than the rest of the economy and because the effective tax rate on corporations went up when a temporary tax break, introduced in 2002, expired. Both are one-time events.

(Snip)

In other words, we’re still deep in the fiscal quagmire, with federal revenues far below what’s needed to pay for federal programs. And we won’t get out of that quagmire until a future president admits that the Bush tax cuts were a mistake, and must be reversed.

Hmmm… that sounds familiar. Didn’t we have a Republican president many years ago that tried to spur the economy with tax cuts? How’d that turn out? Not good, but at least Reagan recognized that the rapidly increasing deficit would lead to future economic problems, so he backtracked and raised taxes. His successor, President “Read My Lips… No new taxes!” Bush also had to raise taxes.

Then along came Clinton, and he proved that you could increase taxes, turn the deficit into surplus, and have a thriving economy. Ahh… those were the days. All we had to worry about was how to define a sexual relationship and what the meaning of “is” is.

That brings me to a lengthy Atlantic Unbound interview (subscription required, but if you email me, I’d be happy to email the article to you from their website.) with John Harris, “author of The Survivor, on why Clinton and his legacy will be debated for decades to come.” Here’s an excerpt of Harris’s response to a question about Clinton’s deficit reduction plan:

…I’m wondering if Clinton’s action to reduce the deficit really did spur the economy, or if he was the beneficiary of lucky timing.

That’s an argument that you can never fully resolve because it rests on an imponderable. You can’t go back and try it the other way. That 1993 deficit-reduction package was passed with all Democratic votes… The predictions on the Republican side were that this would cause an economic catastrophe, that it would plunge the economy into recession-that’s what Newt Gingrich said, that’s what Dick Armey said, and that part’s not an imponderable. Those predictions were ostentatiously wrong. Certainly if the economy had not improved, Clinton would have borne the blame for that… To my mind, it is almost like the debate that echoes from the Reagan years. Democrats always say, “If we hadn’t had a military build-up, the Soviet Union would still have collapsed.” That might be true, but most sensible people would not want to go back and try it another way, given that the end result was a good one. I really do think it’s equivalent, and I think it’s churlish of conservatives not to accord Clinton some credit for the economy of the 1990s, since they almost certainly would blame him if it had gone the other way.

Bush is in the middle of an expensive war that is adding hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit, and he won’t ask his ultra-rich donors to sacrifice a little of their “hard earned” billions to pay for his folly.

Bob Herbert wrote a great column for The New York Times today titled “What Bush Doesn’t Know.” Here’s the money quote:

There is still no indication that the Bush administration recognizes the utter folly of its war in Iraq, which has been like a constant spray of gasoline on the fire of global terrorism. What was required in the aftermath of Sept. 11 was an intense, laserlike focus by America and its allies on Al Qaeda-type terrorism.

That is what we needed, but that’s not what we got. Instead of a laserlike focus on the enemy, our oil-crazy leader pulled out his divining rod and zeroed in on a tyrant that happened to be sitting on the world’s second largest supply of oil. Bush and his Administration successfully scared Congress and the majority of the public (Thank you Fox News Channel! Thank you New York Times!) into believing that the only way to prevent our imminent destruction by the evil madman was to take him out immediately and secure his huge arsenal of terrifying weapons.

You know the rest. No weapons found. No nuclear weapons. No biological weapons. No capability to produce such weapons.

And all the time we’ve been busy blowing shit up in Iraq, Al Qaeda has been busy plotting more terror attacks and recruiting suicide bombers for deadly attacks on London, Egypt, and who knows where else.

And, as this article in The New York Times points out, “All is Quiet on the Home Front.”

The Bush administration’s rallying call that America is a nation at war is increasingly ringing hollow to men and women in uniform, who argue in frustration that America is not a nation at war, but a nation with only its military at war.

From bases in Iraq and across the United States to the Pentagon and the military’s war colleges, officers and enlisted personnel quietly raise a question for political leaders: if America is truly on a war footing, why is so little sacrifice asked of the nation at large?

No one, not the President or the Democrats have put forth a serious tax bill to pay for this war that has added hundreds of billions of dollars to the national debt.

Everybody seems content to just sit back and watch everything go boom.

The survivor located closest to one of the explosions has expressed doubt as to whether the bomb was carried aboard the train in a rucksack.

He and Crystal were helped out of the carriage. As they made their way out, a policeman pointed out where the bomb had been.

“The policeman said ‘mind that hole, that’s where the bomb was’. The metal was pushed upwards as if the bomb was underneath the train. They seem to think the bomb was left in a bag, but I don’t remember anybody being where the bomb was, or any bag,” he said.

So, if the bomb was under the carriage, how did it get there? Could this be some sort of government attempt to improve support for the War in Iraq?

This post is for you regular readers of The Boondocks that until today had never heard of Steve Stoute. I had never heard of him either, but I do know how to Google. Here’s what I found:

As head of McDonald’s latest campaign, Hip-Hop mogul Steve Stoute is set to recruit urban clothing lines to help redesign the fast food giant’s uniforms.

“McDonald’s has evolved and become a lifestyle brand. Since it now is relevant to our lifestyle, let’s go one step further and make its employees relevant to our lifestyle as well,” Stoute stated.

When I think of hip-hop style, I usually think of dark baggy clothes, expensive tennis shoes, and lots of gold. Something like this. But then again, there’s Andre 3000, so who knows where this is headed? No doubt it will be far removed from this.

Hunter Stockton Thompson was born July 18, 1939 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Here are a few quotes from the doctor:

America… just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.

In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upward mobile.

If I’d written all the truth I knew for the past ten years, about 600 people – including me – would be rotting in prison cells from Rio to Seattle today. Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism.

The Edge… there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over

More here..

HST took his own life on February 20, 2005.