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March 19, 2008

Truth & Consequences

Today at the Yamhill County Democrats monthly luncheon “Think Tank”, we explored ideas around basic principles of Democracy that have come under threat in America, as the culmination of 30 years of conservative dogma climaxed with the Bush Administration -- trial by jury, consitutionality, etc.

Here were my thoughts.

First, there are no legislative solutions available to claims of executive privelege, signing statements, etc. because a president can simply ignore them have the DOJ refuse to pursue the subpoenas and it devolves to a case of “he said, she said”.  Second, there is little likelihood of judicial resolution -- “US Congress v. ex President Bush” taken to the Supreme Court?!

There are two avenues: (1) truth and (2) consequences.


A Truth & Reconciliation for America -- the new president opens the books on the Bush-Cheney secrecy, torture, renditions, etc. which are cloaked behind a veil of “executive privelege” and “states secrets”, but which they would no longer have control over.  Get the truth out so it can be forever examined openly.  Hearings by congress over the results, etc.


To dramatically reduce extra-constitutional excursions by future administrations, make clear the consequences to future officeholders.

First, Impeachment.  Our Constitution does not say that impeachment is only for sitting officials -- by convention we drop them if they quit -- and it provides for two sorts of punishments: removal from office and prohibition from holding office in the future.  Furthermore, impeachment is final, there is no appeal.  So, pursue impeachment of Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, Donald Rumfeld, Dick Cheney and George Bush, to be banned from future office so they (esp. Gonzales, Yoo) don’t come bouncing back in 20 years as Cheney and Rumsfeld have done and that there are consequences to torture, warantless wiretapping, distorting intelligence, and other violations of the public trust.

As I wrote last fall,

“I consider impeachment to be the ultimate 'Congressional Privilege', with actual standing in the US Constitution, to oppose the over-reaching of so-called ”executive privilege“, etc.”

Second, War Crimes.  The case for culpability by Bush and Cheney in authorizing and encouraging torture obviously strong and should be pursued if we are to restore a moral high ground and let future administrations know that they may manipulate the system while they are in office, but they don’t skate home free.

After returning home, I found this article in my inbox by General Wesley Clark, retired in Washington Monthly:

Torture is illegal
, ineffective, and morally wrong. The United States has signed numerous treaties condemning torture and abjuring its practice. Those treaties are the law of the land. And, yes, waterboarding is torture: in the past, we convicted and punished foreign nationals for torture by waterboarding. There are no legal loopholes permitting torture in “exceptional cases.” After all, those were the same excuses used by the torturers we once condemned.

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March 17, 2008

Perino Defends Administration’s Intervention For Wall Street Instead Of Main Street

At the heart of this is, besides Republican heartlessness, is their dependence on the power of innumeracy -- most people have no idea what big numbers mean in real terms.  Last week, we had announcements totaling $400B, this weekend another $30B.  Few believe this is over.  Let's take a look at what those numbers mean in real terms, so far.

If the average mortgage was for $215,000 ... that $430B would be enough to guarantee ... 20 million houses.

There are about 100 million households, many of which rent.

Which means we appear to be talking about the equivalent of 25 - 40% of mortgages.

Re: Think Progress  » Blog Archive  » Perino Defends Administration’s Intervention For Wall Street Instead Of Main Street:

This weekend, the Federal Reserve extended a $30 billion credit line to finance the takeover of near-bankrupt Bear Stearns by fellow Wall Street firm JPMorgan Chase.

During today’s news briefing, reporters questioned White House Press Secretary Dana Perino on the Fed’s actions, noting that the White House has repeatedly refused to extend similar assistance to homeowners facing foreclosure. Perino replied that help to homeowners — a “boost of liquidity” — would come “in the form of a stimulus package and a tax rebate.” Watch it:

March 12, 2008

Comment: Keeping Blue Collars Blue

Here's my comment posted on: Keep Blue Collars Blue:

The press loves the horserace and Democrats tend to get all wonky about the “positions” being held, but strategically, there is a win for either Democratic candidate: Republican economics are a failure and their chickens are coming home to roost and McCain is a life-long Republican -- keep them joined at the hip.

Emphasize the failure of the 30-year experiment with Republican tax-cut, high debt, deregulation, lack of infrastructure investment, hate-the-government ideology that has lead to stagnate median wages with increasing housing, education, fuel, etc. costs has trapped people that aren’t wealthy.

Emphasize that McCain has been a Republican Senator helping preside over the creation of the mess we're in now.

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March 11, 2008

Clip: It All Depends On What The Meaning Of “Win” Is

Re: Steven G. Brant: It All Depends On What The Meaning Of “Win” Is -  Politics on  The Huffington Post:

... voters are voting based on expected results. They equate winning with a particular future. That is their definition, and I highly recommend that both the commentators and the candidates recognize that this is so and act accordingly.

And to those ... who have said for quite a while that there's basically no difference between the Clinton and Obama policy proposals, I suggest you take a hard look at the events of the last few weeks. Because you will see - in the monumentally different approaches of the Clinton and Obama campaigns - what voters like me have been aware of for some time. A Clinton administration will be all about fighting the “bad people” in America who need to be defeated; while an Obama administration will be dedicated to finding common ground and pulling America back from being the politically divided country it has become.

And if you don't think there's a difference between continuing the politics of personal destruction the Clinton's learned so well from their Republican adversaries and the politics of generosity and reconciliation that Barack Obama has practiced since he first became a State Senator in Illinois, then I invite you to read the classic book from the Harvard Negotiation Project which was published back in 1981. It's called Getting To Yes. And it's about producing real results when the starting point is that people don't agree with each other (and possibly don't even like each other).

I believe Barack Obama has either studied the groundbreaking work in that book or uses its principles naturally.

So, to all those asking “Who is winning?”, I say “The question should really be 'What will the win look like?', because I believe that's how voters are making up their minds.

It's not about a collection of parts. It's about what kind of world one collection of parts - when functioning as a synergistic whole - will give us versus the other.

To me, it's literally about the continuation of war versus the promise of peace.

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Re: Fed Hopes to Ease Strain on Economic Activity

So, let's see how Republican economics is working out for Americans today:

Re: Fed Hopes to Ease Strain on Economic Activity:

In an action that sent stock prices soaring, the central bank offered to let the biggest investment banks on Wall Street borrow up to $200 billion in Treasury securities in exchange for hard-to-sell mortgage-backed securities as collateral. And the Fed made clear that it was prepared to do more as needed.

The move ... came on the heels of two similar actions on Friday, in which the Fed offered up to $200 billion in 28-day cash loans to banks and big financial institutions.

In other words, the US government is making loans based on the bad collateral that no one else will take now that they've realized that most of that subprime mortgage collateral is worthless.  As one person put it, the US government is now the lender of last resort.  Does that make it the forecloser of last resort too?

So, combined with last week's $200 billion, we have $400B in a week.  Since there are around 100 million US households, that means we just added ... $4000 per household in new debt.

So much for the vaunted “efficiencies” of the free market that are so much better for taxpayers than “burdensome” regulations.  To save a few bucks in taxes, we added $4000 in tax-backed debt to rescue the so-called free-market banks and the entire financial system from imploding ... and this probably isn't the end of it yet!

....  The total volume of mortgage-backed securities is about $6.1 trillion, with almost $2 trillion in riskier nonagency securities that are not insured by the federal government or by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

“We still believe today’s action is not nearly a large enough step to make a big difference,” wrote David Rosenberg, chief United States economist at Merrill Lynch. “As with all the Fed’s steps to date, this move injects a bit more liquidity into the system, but does not cure the overall credit crunch or credit problems.”

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Re: ‘Significant’ Amount Of U.S. Funds For Iraq Funneled To Sunni And Shiite Militias

A bit close to home.

Re: Significant’ Amount Of U.S. Funds For Iraq Funneled To Sunni And Shiite Militias :

During a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing today on waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq, GAO Comptroller David Walker said that “the Iraqis have a budget surplus” which “is not being spent.”
... Walker confirmed that a “significant” amount of what the U.S. spends on Iraqi contracts is being diverted to Sunni and Shiite militias.
Bottom line: We’re fighting them spending money over there so we don’t have to fight them spend money here at home.

March 09, 2008

Obama v McCain - Obama leads

Obama's lead grows, and this is before Republicans and non-affiliated voters have really seriously looked at Obama.  This is the problem with Hilary v Obama v McCain matchups -- Hillary is doing as well as she'll ever do, and Obama still has upside.  The higher percentage of Republicans, nonj-affiliated and young people turning out for Obama, consistently in the primaries is something she just cannot bring, and she cannot win in November with just Democrats.


Re: The Torture President

Bush continues his effort to reverse the liberal philosophy of our Constitution.  A founding principle of our government has been that we accept that some criminals will go free in order to minimize the chances of putting the innocent in jail by ensuring the rights of the accused.  While Bush claims that torturing suspects protects lives, it does so at the cost of torturing possibly innocent people ... not to mention that it is cruel and unusual punishment for a crime for which they haven't been convicted and held in detention without access to due process while they are being tortured.

Re: The Torture President:

George W. Bush vetoes a bill in order to keep using torture techniques perfected by the Nazis and deployed by the Khmer Rouge.

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March 03, 2008

Clip: Obama's Long Tail Money

Clip: Obama's Long Tail Money:

Obama collected more than $1 million a day in January -- largely thanks to small online donors -- bringing his total to $138.2 million. These numbers have been reported, so they're not news. But what do they mean? Think about it. We could have, for the first time, a President who arrives in the White House with essentially no outstanding IOU's.

The political impact of this simply can't be overstated.

Obama will arrive without any need to curry favor with Big Oil, Big Media, Labor, or any of the other significant fundraisers who have historically helped to propel candidates into office and then showed up to collect on their investments. No doubt Obama won't be in any position to act unilaterally, there's a Congress to consider, and certainly those elected officials need to be concerned about keeping their caufers full for the next election.

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Re: The contemptible John Mukasey

The House, instead of marching timidly around from door to door trying to find someone else to hold these guys accountable, should just go impeach Meirs and Bolten, referring them to the Senate for punishment.  As ex officials they cannot be removed from office since they are no longer in office, but the constitution provides for banning people from holding office in the future and so they should be.

Re: The contemptible John Mukasey | Oregon Independent - news and information from Oregon and the Pacific Northwest:

Pelosi says the House of Representatives is going to file a civil suit against the Bush administration for refusing to help it enforce its subpoenas. Who does Pelosi think is going to prosecute the suit, the politicized Republican US Attorneys? The Republican federal judges who have helped to create the unaccountable executive?

The White House branded Pelosi's request for a federal grand jury to enforce the House subpeonas “truly contemptible.” Pelosi's House Republican colleagues dismissed her request as “a partisan political stunt.” White House spokesman Tony Fratto played the fear card and denounced Pelosi for trying to investigate loyal Americans instead of passing legislation that makes Americans safe by allowing the executive branch to spy without warrants. House GOP leader John Boehner's spokesperson accused Pelosi of making Americans unsafe by “pandering to the left-wing fever swamps of loony liberal activists.”

The only power the House has left is impeachment, and Pelosi is too frightened to use it. Why is the Speaker of the House afraid to use the power the Constitution gives her to remove from office a president who deceived Congress and the American people, who violated US and international law, and who is a clear and present danger to American liberty, to the US Constitution, and to peace and stability in the world?

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