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Bush’s ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ Card

Bush’s ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ Card

Back in July of 2005, Elizabeth Holtzman wrote a lengthy article for The Nation in which she made the case for how Bush and his top advisors could be prosecuted under the War Crimes Act. She ended the article with this:

Still, calls for the Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate possible criminal liability under the war crimes and anti-torture laws can be issued, and members of Congress and the Senate can press for it.

In the final analysis, there is no sure way to compel the government to investigate itself or to hold high-level government officials accountable under applicable criminal statutes. But if the public does not seek to have it happen, it will not happen. Those in the public who care deeply about the rule of law and government accountability must keep this issue alive. Failure to investigate wrongdoing in high places and tolerating misconduct or criminality can have only the most corroding impact on our democracy and the rule of law that sustains us.

About a year later, The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in the Hamdan Case that the Bush Administration had broken rules outline in the Geneva Conventions and that they had broken other international treaties governing the treatment of detainees.

In August 2006, a Federal Judge ruled that Bush had broken wiretapping laws.

If Congress were to call for a special prosecutor to investigate the Bush Administration, they could be made to stand trial for breaking the laws, and the penalties for breaking the laws are substantial. Thom Hartmann wrote much more about this here and here.

So what did Congress do? Last week it passed the Military Commissions Act that gave Bush the power to detain and torture anyone he wants to. But that’s not all, the bill also includes this:

The legislation would narrow the range of offenses prohibited under the War Crimes Act. This would protect civilians (such as CIA interrogators and White House officials) from being prosecuted for committing acts that would have been considered war crimes under the old definition. The change is retroactive to 1997, which means any crimes committed since 1997 would be prosecuted under the new standard, not the old one.

That’s’ Bush’s first “Get out of Jail Free” card.

Look for the next one when Congress reconvenes after the mid-term elections to address the wiretapping problem. This could happen even if the Democrats manage to gain control of one of the houses of Congress. Remember, eleven Democrats voted for the torture bill. If they thought that was okay, they’ll probably think it’s okay to hand out another pass on the wiretapping violations.

Vaffanculo!

Vaffanculo!

Scalia when questioned about his impartiality says Vaffanculo!

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says, in Italian, “[email protected]%k you!”

Boston Herald story here.

Despite Scalia’s insistence that the Sicilian gesture was not offensive and had been incorrectly characterized by the Herald as obscene, the photographer said the newspaper “got the story right.”

Smith said the jurist “immediately knew he’d made a mistake, and said, ‘You’re not going to print that, are you?’ ”

Smith was working as a freelance photographer for the Boston archdiocese’s weekly newspaper at a special Mass for lawyers Sunday when a Herald reporter asked the justice how he responds to critics who might question his impartiality as a judge given his public worship.

“The judge paused for a second, then looked directly into my lens and said, ‘To my critics, I say, ‘Vaffanculo,’ ” punctuating the comment by flicking his right hand out from under his chin, Smith said.

The Italian phrase means “(expletive) you.”

Well no wonder Scalia and Cheney get along so well. They both have a fondness for dropping f-bombs on anyone who questions their impeccable character.

King George

King George

George says...

This story about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s agreement with the White House that allows President Bush to continue his domestic spying program “with oversight” instead of demanding that he comply with existing law only proves that we no longer live in a democracy. “We the people” have been hosed.

And just how craven are the Republicans in the House?

The House Intelligence Committee said last week that it would seek limited briefings for some panel members so that they could weigh changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, but the Republican leaders of the House committee stopped far short of proposing the kind of continuing oversight and rules changes that the Senate committee has settled on. A spokeswoman for the White House, Dana Perino, called the Republican senators’ proposal “a generally sound approach.”

“We’re eager to work with Congress on legislation that would further codify the president’s authority,” Ms. Perino said. “We remain committed to our principle, that we will not do anything that undermines the program’s capabilities or the president’s authority.”

We are doomed.

Time to post that 1941 quote from Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis: “We can have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but we can’t have both.”

Has Bush Screwed the Pooch?

Has Bush Screwed the Pooch?

Last Thursday I put up a post about giving up on the “Impeach Bush” movement and starting a “Too Dumb to Lead” campaign to remove him from office. Yes, it was a bit of a sad joke about how no matter what Bush and his Administration does, no matter how much they lie about it, no matter how many people are killed, it’s okay with the American people ’cause, well… nobody’s been blowin’ him.

Two days later The New York Times released a story about how the President has been authorizing the NSA to secretly spy on American citizens without any judicial review. (They’ve been sitting on the story for over a year! [Read about that and then try to stop slamming your head into the wall.] Hmmm… I wonder how that story might have affected the election if it had been released in October 2004? Damn that “liberal” media.)

So what did Bush have to say during today’s press conference about the leak that led to the NYT story?

Q Mr. President, thank you, sir. Are you going to order a leaks investigation into the disclosure of the NSA surveillance program? And why did you skip the basic safeguard of asking courts for permission for these intercepts?

THE PRESIDENT: Let me start with the first question. There is a process that goes on inside the Justice Department about leaks, and I presume that process is moving forward. My personal opinion is it was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war. The fact that we’re discussing this program is helping the enemy.

The president thinks it’s “shameful” for someone to tell people that he broke the laws spelled out in The Constitution that he swore to uphold when he took the oath of office-TWICE.

Okay so forget the “Too Dumb to Lead” campaign. We are back on the impeachment campaign. No matter what kind of excuses his puppy Gonzales invents to defend his master, spying on American citizens is illegal. The Constitution forbids it, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act forbids it.

Here’s what Robert Byrd had to say about it today:

Now comes the stomach-churning revelation through an executive order, that President Bush has circumvented both the Congress and the courts. He has usurped the Third Branch of government – the branch charged with protecting the civil liberties of our people – by directing the National Security Agency to intercept and eavesdrop on the phone conversations and e-mails of American citizens without a warrant, which is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment. He has stiff-armed the People’s Branch of government. He has rationalized the use of domestic, civilian surveillance with a flimsy claim that he has such authority because we are at war. The executive order, which has been acknowledged by the President, is an end-run around the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which makes it unlawful for any official to monitor the communications of an individual on American soil without the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The American public is given vague and empty assurances by the President that amount to little more than “trust me.” But, we are a nation of laws and not of men. Where is the source of that authority he claims? I defy the Administration to show me where in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or the U.S. Constitution, they are allowed to steal into the lives of innocent America citizens and spy.

Bush argued that he had to act fast, so there was no time for judicial review. No time to follow the rule of law and get a warrant. But, as David Sirota pointed out today,”…the law currently allows Bush to order surveillance as fast as he possibly can, and allows surveillance operations to take place immediately. The only thing that is required is a court-issued warrant that can be used retroactively within 72 hours of when the operation started.”

Bush was asked about the ability to get a retroactive warrant during his press conference today:

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Getting back to the domestic spying issue for a moment. According to FISA’s own records, it’s received nearly 19,000 requests for wiretaps or search warrants since 1979, rejected just five of them. It also operates in secret, so security shouldn’t be a concern, and it can be applied retroactively. Given such a powerful tool of law enforcement is at your disposal, sir, why did you see fit to sidetrack that process?

THE PRESIDENT: We used the process to monitor. But also, this is a different — a different era, a different war, Stretch. So what we’re — people are changing phone numbers and phone calls, and they’re moving quick. And we’ve got to be able to detect and prevent. I keep saying that, but this is a — it requires quick action.

David Sirota had this to say about the Bush’s deceit:

This is a form of lying that is worse than even the day-to-day lying that goes on in politics. This is premeditated lying – lying where everyone in the room knows a calculated lie is being told; lying where the facts invoked in the very question asked is patently ignored. How could he possibly cite the need for speed as the reason for refusing to get search warrants, when those warrants can be issued retroactively, and thus do not slow down operations in any way at all?

There really is only one explanation that a sane, rational person could come up with: The surveillance operations Bush is ordering are so outrageous, so unrelated to the War on Terror and such an unconstitutional breach of authority that he knows that even a court that has rejected just 4 warrant requests in 25 years will reject what he’s doing. All you have to do is look at recent news reports about federal law enforcement and military assets being deployed against domestic anti-war and peace groups to know that this is well within what the Bush White House sees as acceptable behavior.

So why does the Bush White House think that what they are doing is acceptable behavior? Because there are so many stooooopid people in this country that think the same thing, and they are allowed to vote! You think I’m kidding? Here’s a quote from one of them that I got off the This Modern World site today:

We’ve got to give the President the flexibility to protect me. I use my cell phone all the time and I don’t have any problem with the folks listening to the conversations I have because they’re appropriate conversations.

According to Tom Tomorrow’s transcript of the show, the live audience at the Fox News Dayside program applauded that statement. What a bunch of dumbasses.

We can only hope that rational minds will prevail and the public will demand hearings that lead to the impeachment of President Bush for his egregious misuse of power. Either that or he’ll get caught having sex with his puppy. Now that’s something that would get the attention of the American people. All this other stuff is just politics…

Harriet Miers: Bush Worshipper

Harriet Miers: Bush Worshipper

Former Bush speechwriter David Frum says this about Harriet Miers, nominated by Bush today to replace O’Connor on the Supreme Court:

In the White House that hero worshipped the president, Miers was distinguished by the intensity of her zeal: She once told me that the president was the most brilliant man she had ever met.

I think that statement alone should disqualify her.

(Link via Greg Saunders’ post at This Modern World.)

Constitutional Erosion

Constitutional Erosion

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

0 for 3

0 for 3

As expected, the Senate voted to confirm William Pryor to a seat on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals. The vote was 53-45. I know you are all wondering how the Gang of 14 voted, so I’ll run it down for you. Lincoln Chafee must have recovered from his abusive treatment at the hands of Republican henchmen, because he cast his vote against Pryor. He was joined by two other R’s in the gang: Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. Senator John McCain again showed his unconditional support for Our Glorious Leader with another “Yea” vote. Yes, the “moderate” McCain voted for all three ultra-conservative, radical judges. Way to play the middle, Senator… Thank you very much.

The D’s group of seven had two defectors-Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Ken Salazar of Colorado.

All other Democrats voted “Nay” and all other Republicans voted “Yea.”

And you may ask yourself, how is this result any different than what would have resulted if there was no “compromise?” Well if you assume that the Senate would have voted to outlaw filibusters on judicial appointments, the results would be the same: Three judges up for a vote and three confirmed. If you assume that there would have been at least six sane Republicans that would not have approved the no-filibuster rule, then the Democrats would have rightfully continued their filibuster of Bush’s radical nominees, and there wouldn’t have been any votes.

One might argue that they have preserved their right to filibuster and will use it if Bush’s upcoming Supreme Court nominee presents them with “extraordinary circumstances.” That will be tough for them to argue considering the records and ideology of three appellate court nominees they’ve already let through.

“If you’re gonna dine with them cannibals, sooner or later you’re gonna get eaten.”

That’s Nick Cave loosely quoted from a song that has nothing to do with politics, but it’s what’s been going through my head today.

“Moderate” Roll Call

“Moderate” Roll Call

At the close of yesterday’s rant, I provided links to a couple other blog posts that offered a different opinion-that the Democrats got the better part of the deal. Today I read a column by Robert Kuttner titled “Bush and Frist got what they wanted” that is closer in sentiment to what I wrote yesterday. Here are a few excerpts (emphasis added):

What does the vaunted compromise actually do? First, it guarantees an up-or-down floor vote on three of the most reactionary judges ever to come before the Senate: Janice Rogers Brown, William Pryor, and Priscilla Owen. It was Democratic resistance to these appellate nominees that caused Frist to go nuclear in the first place. He and George W. Bush won. The three judges are now likely to be confirmed, and other extremist nominees will keep coming.

In the end, seven of the 55 Senate Republicans decided to pursue this “compromise,” leaving him two votes short. But if these Republicans were genuinely moderates, they would not just be providing this parliamentary fig leaf; they would be voting against confirmation of these extremist nominees when they come up for a floor vote.

If you want to look for profiles in courage, see whether “moderate” Republicans like Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, John McCain of Arizona, and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island actually oppose any of these nominees. For the most part, these people posture moderate and then do Bush’s bidding.

So how did they vote on the Owen nomination today? Collins, McCain, and Snowe voted for Owen. How very “moderate” of them to vote for confirmation of one of Bush’s more extreme nominees. The other three Republicans not mentioned in Kuttner’s column, Warner (VA), DeWine (OH) and Graham (SC), all voted for Owen. Chafee was the lone Republican that broke ranks and voted against her. Two of the seven Democrats voted for Owen: Mary Landrieu (LA), and Robert Byrd (WV). Robert Byrd, one of the most outspoken critics of the Bush Administration, voted for a radical conservative judge? Did he skip his meds today or what?

We’ll have to wait and see if Chafee is shipped off to Gitmo or Uzbekistan for “softening” prior to the next vote.

We Got Hosed

We Got Hosed

I’ve been mulling over the Senate compromise to avert the Republican proposed rule change that would prohibit filibusters of Bush’s judicial nominees, and I’ve come to the conclusion that we kind of got hosed. As I’ve written in previous posts, the Democrats united and agreed to use the filibuster to block the appointment of ten activist judges from the far right. They did so with good reason-the ten nominees are bad judges and don’t belong on the Federal bench. Bill Frist countered with the proposed filibuster rule change, dubbed the “Nuclear Option” by Republican Trent Lott. Frist realized the term sounded to combative, so he changed it to the “Constitutional Option,” and he used that term numerous times in his statement last night.

Why do they have to come up with some biased name for everything? Nuclear? Constitutional? Neither name is accurate. “Nuclear” implies that removing the filibuster would annihilate the Senate-it wouldn’t, and “Constitutional” implies that the filibuster rule is addressed in the constitution, but it’s not. If they want to come up with a name for it, why don’t they call it what it is? Like maybe, “The 49% Minority Disenfranchisement Edict from on High.”

I digress…

Back to the hosing… Part of the deal is that the Judicial Committee will send Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown, and William Pryor to the full Senate for a vote. All three of these judges that the Democrats justly opposed will presumably be confirmed by all 55 Republican senators who would fear for their lives if they voted against them, because they know a no-vote would have them whisked away to Gitmo, where they would see their Bibles flushed downed toilets, or to Uzbekistan, where there right arms would be boiled off. The Democrats also agreed not to use the filibuster except in “extraordinary circumstances.” Excuse me, but I’ve been hearing for over a month now that these three nominees were “extreme,” so letting three extreme nominees slip through doesn’t really seem like a good deal to me. It’s more like they folded. I think they should have played their hand and taken the chance on the vote to change the filibuster rules. Think about it: There were seven Republicans in this group that agreed to this deal in part because they were opposed to the rule change. Would they have voted to change it? That’s a good question that, if answered, would have some very real political consequences.

Presumably there is some sort of side deal that ends up with the Senate not voting on William Myers and Henry Saad. Okay so that’s two of the seven remaining after letting through Owens, Rogers Brown, and Pryor. What about the other five? Do they get through or do they fall into the category of “extraordinary circumstances?” If not, then the end result of the deal is that the Democrats will have blocked just two of Bush’s ten right-wing, activist judges. Like I said… HOSED.

From the middle: I listened to John McCain on the radio this morning, and he played the moderate very well. He said he knew that those on the far left and those on the far right would not be at all happy with the deal, but he thinks the end result is that the Senate can begin having real discussions about the merits of Bush’s nominees. He mentioned that part of the deal is that the Bush Administration is supposed to consult with the Senate before nominating judges in the future. McCain says that Bush’s interaction with the Senate will result in the nomination of more moderate judges. We’ll have to wait and see how this part of the deal plays out.

From the far right of the spectrum there’s James Dobson, a man who has no qualms about mixing his religion with politics, who responded with this:

“This Senate agreement represents a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats. Only three of President Bush’s nominees will be given the courtesy of an up-or-down vote, and it’s business as usual for all the rest. The rules that blocked conservative nominees remain in effect, and nothing of significance has changed. Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Antonin Scalia, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist would never have served on the U. S. Supreme Court if this agreement had been in place during their confirmations. The unconstitutional filibuster survives in the arsenal of Senate liberals.

“We are grateful to Majority Leader Frist for courageously fighting to defend the vital principle of basic fairness. That principle has now gone down to defeat. We share the disappointment, outrage and sense of abandonment felt by millions of conservative Americans who helped put Republicans in power last November. I am certain that these voters will remember both Democrats and Republicans who betrayed their trust.”

Dobson of course thinks that liberals are at “war” with Evangelical Christians, so he uses words like “cabal” and “arsenal” in his statement. I’m sure that all the Dobson followers will receive instructions on how to combat the evil cabal very soon.

That aside, I do have a suggestion for Mr. Dobson: Put down your Old Testament and read The Constitution. You’ll learn two very important things: One; The Constitution does not forbid senators from using the filibuster; and two; The Constitution was not written by God or Satan. It’s a secular document, and you should be very, very happy about that, because it gives you the right to push your religious agenda (Your goal of course is to make everyone believe what you do and live like you do from the moment of birth until the moment of death-that moment to be decided on your terms, of course.) on your representatives in government. I can only hope they come to their senses and ignore you.

If you’d like to read some other interesting, more positive outlooks on the Senate compromise, I suggest Jack Hitt’s entry on This Modern World and Bob Harris.

Want to Know More about Judge Owen?

Want to Know More about Judge Owen?

Follow the money. Here are excerpts from the Center for American Progress website.

FORD: A more tragic case is the case of Willie Searcy. A defective seat belt left the teenaged Searcy paralyzed and in need of constant medical care after a car slammed into his Ford pickup. A jury awarded his family, which did not have the financial resources to pay for Searcy’s care, millions of dollars in damages. Ford appealed, taking the case to the Texas Supreme Court. Owen took the case and allowed it to languish for years. When she did get around to writing the opinion, she took issue with a point of law that had not even been raised in the appeal, wrote long, complicated clarifications of a law that was no longer even on the books, “left the family with nothing and ordered a new trial.” Searcy died while awaiting the Owen-ordered new trial. While Willie Searcy’s case moved through the system, Owen accepted over $20,000 from Baker Botts, the law firm which was part of Ford’s defense team.

FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES: Owen has close ties to right-wing Svengali Karl Rove. Rove helped Owen get her first judicial position in 1994, raising nearly a million dollars – $926,000 – for her judicial campaign. In return, he received over a quarter million – $247,000 – in consulting fees from her campaign.

The folks at The Center for American Progress do great work. If you have not already signed up to receive their daily email newsletter, what are you waiting for? Sign up!

There is no doubt that Owen is not fit for seat on the Federal Appeals Court, and that’s why the Democrats are so united in their opposition to her appointment. We can only hope that there are at least six moderate Senators who can see through this charade and will not support Frist’s proposed change to the Senate filibuster rules.

If you live in in the following states, please contact your Senators now and let them know you do not support the change to the filibuster rules. If you know people in the following states, send them a link to this post. Here’s the list from Bob Harris’s site, complete with phone numbers.

Lincoln Chafee, Rhode Island
(202) 224-2921

Susan Collins, Maine
(202) 224-2523

Mike Dewine, Ohio
(202) 224-2315

Lindsey Graham, South Carolina
(202) 224-5972

Chuck Hagel, Nebraska
(202) 224-4224

John McCain, Arizona
(202) 224-2235

Lisa Murkowski, Alaska
(202) 224-6665

Gordon Smith, Oregon
(202) 224-3753

Olympia Snowe, Maine
(202) 224-5344

Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania
(202) 224-4254

John Sununu, New Hampshire
(202) 224-2841

John Warner, Virginia
(202) 224-2023