Monthly Archives: July 2007

Impeach (Or Not)

There seems to be an argument developing in the progressive blogosphere about impeachment that has nothing to do with whether or not there’s a case or whether or not Bush/Cheney deserve to be impeached and thrown out of office. That’s pretty much a given on which everyone agrees. The argument is over practicalities vs moral imperatives.

Digby, as far as I can tell, started it three weeks ago with a post arguing that impeachment couldn’t work because there was no clear crime around which to center it.

First, I’ve never seen specific high crimes that could get voted out of the House (Elizabeth Holzman is dreaming if she thinks her charges could ever get a majority vote — the national security questions are going nowhere without a lot more information which we won’t get while Bush is in office, and the torture question was rendered pretty much moot by that “bi-partisan” military commissions act travesty.)

Second, time is not on our side. The executive privilege claims are going to take forever to litigate. And, of course, the conservative judiciary is likely to back them, if only by helping them run out the clock. During Watergate, the judiciary committee had the work of the Washington Post to go on —- and then John Dean and the tapes — in an easily understood narrative. Ken Starr gave Henry Hyde a nice little case about dirty sex all wrapped up in a pretty little pornographic package. Nobody had to do any investigation. The job of the congress, in both cases, was pretty much just seeing if impeachment applied to acts that had already been revealed. Things moved quickly.

This requires much more original investigation, particularly on those national security issues, which are going to be very touchy subjects and nearly impossible to get evidence or testimony on.

Thomas Nephew at newsrack blog then took Digby to task, arguing that her reasons were inadequate or just plain wrong.

For all that digby has earned her many accolades over the years (including many from me), she has no business writing about Holtzman — the youngest woman ever elected to the House of Representatives, a key participant in the House Watergate hearings, a district attorney, and a comptroller for the state of New York — as if she were some hand waving flower child from a commune somewhere. As Holtzman has argued, no one thought at first that the Nixon impeachment hearings would get as far as they did.

There are a number of highly arguable premises in the rest of digby’s post as well. For instance, much of what’s impeachable has been placed on the public record already, either by the administration itself, via ACLU and similar lawsuits, and reporting by journalists like Hersh, Priest, Marshall, and many others. More investigation and a clear constitutional discussion of what precisely does and does not merit impeachment will be good things, but there’s no need to search for even more “smoking gun” evidence when we’ve seen so many already, and found so many hot bullet casings, as it were, littered on the White House lawn. We’re also not necessarily running out of time.

eRobin at Fact-esque waded in on Digby’s side, offering a strong condemnation of Democrats as her primary reason.

I don’t operate from the position that the Congress is going to bring this President to justice. They do not have the fortitude, the imagination, the courage or the character to do it or to end the war, for that matter. Those jobs are falling to us. So I want a People’s Impeachment (capitalized to give it real heft!) that will convict these criminals in the court of public opinion where the verdict is insulated from the very serious voices of the establishment. I want Overton’s Impeachment Window moved. I want polls in favor of impeachment in the 70s – which will only happen as more and more people at the grassroots level push for it. We should keep pushing for impeachment with our friends and neighbors, get towns across the country to officially call for the same, call on Congress to impeach Abu G., make BushCo a laughing stock, weaken him at every opportunity. It’s all good. And I want something else – but to get it, I think I’ll have to step into the realm of fantasy: I want all the presidential candidates to, at every opportunity, condemn specific steps this president has taken to undermine the Constitution and to pledge to reverse them ALL on his/her first day in office. I am vastly more concerned with their reluctance to do that than I am even with BushCo’s persistance on his unconstitutional path. (from BushCo I worry that we’ll get another 9/11) The damage he’s done can be contained not only by impeachment (which would be my first choice in a reasonable world but is not in this one) but also by immediate repudiation of what he’s done over the last two terms by whoever gets elected to succeed him.

In point of fact, this argument – while substantial on both sides – is apples and oranges. Here is how Thomas ends the post I linked to above:

I don’t claim I’ve got a finely honed, prize-winning answer, but basically I think that not even trying to impeach Bush and Cheney — especially in a House and Senate with majority opposition — would say something far worse about this country, and have worse consequences, than trying and failing would.

We are the patriots in this fight. We, the people, are defending the Constitution of the United States of America — still a legacy to the world and the future, and still our best defense against criminal rogues like Bush and Cheney.

That Constitution gives us a tool called “impeachment” to fight an overreaching, scofflaw executive more concerned about his political allies, his own hide, and his claim to act without constraint, than about the country or our rights. It’s right to use this tool, we should use it, and I think indeed we must use it. Otherwise we essentially forfeit the Constitution as a dead letter — something to be studied by historians, but no longer relevant to our country, our ideals, or ourselves.

Where Digby and Rob are looking closely at the practical and political ramifications of impeachment in an age when conservatives all but own the major media, Thomas is saying none of that matters, that what’s important is standing up and refusing to let the Constitution continue to be shredded just because it’s perceived as a fight that can’t be won and may do more harm than good.

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Corporate Morality Grows Up

For your edification and enlightenment, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie suggest an argument against the power of “market forces’ that might actually work on our faith-based corporatocracy.

DNI McConnell Wants Expansion of Overseas Eavesdropping Program

Some days one wonders if these people have any sense at all – if they ever did.

Despite serious questions about the Bush Administration’s routine violations of FISA and the legality of their wiretapping programs in general, Adm Mike McConnell, who took over as Bush’s Director of National Intelligence just this past February, has, incredibly, sent a letter to Democratic Bush-Buddy Sylvester Reyes, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee asking for permission to intercept overseas messages between “terrorists”.

Citing a “period of heightened threat” to the U.S. homeland, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell asked Congress to “act immediately” to make changes in current law to permit the interception of messages between terrorist targets overseas, which he said now requires burdensome court orders.

In a July 25 letter made public yesterday, McConnell told the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.), that he hopes Congress “will be able to act immediately . . . to provide the legislative changes needed to protect the nation in this period of heightened threat.”

At issue is a package of changes that the Bush administration wants in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to facilitate the continuation of its terrorist surveillance program. Congress has delayed amending the program pending further study.

Stepping up the pressure on lawmakers after the recently released terrorist threat assessment, McConnell said that “clarifications are urgently needed” in the law to enable the use of “our capabilities to collect foreign intelligence about foreign targets overseas without requirements imposed by an out-of-date FISA statute.”

He added, “As the head of our nation’s intelligence community, I am obligated to provide warning of threats of terrorist activity, and I have deep concern about the current threat situation.”

The underlying question hinges on modern technology: When communications between one foreign-located source and another foreign-located source travel through a U.S.-located terminal or switch, can they be intercepted without a warrant?

For those of you not intelligence experts, a little background:

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Combat Soldiers Being Billed for War-Damaged Equipment

When Bush and Cheney said they were going to run the govt like a business, they apparently included ripping off their consumers and employees in their prescription. What with Halliburton, KBR, Blackstone, Custer Battles, et al, up to their ears in fraud, theft, and over-charging for everything, it should perhaps come as no surprise that the Cheney-inspired, Bush-built military is now actually – I feel I have to assure you I’m not making this up – billing combat soldiers who served in Iraq for lost or damaged equipment. From CBS-TV in New York:

A 2006 government report found more than 1,000 soldiers being billed a total of $1.5 million. And while fighting overseas put their lives on the line, this battle on paper could cost them their future by ruining their credit. Rodriguez will be reported to credit agencies next month.

“It makes a terrible point about the nature of military service today,” citizen soldier Tod Ensign said.

Ensign is a veteran’s advocate. He says this is all part of the military’s push to be run more like a business.

“They’ll just pound him and call him, call his employers, and make his life as miserable as they can until he pays up,” Ensign said.

Testimony before Congress detailed in a report found that “although unit commanders and finance offices are authorized to write off debts for lost and damaged equipment … they have not always done so.”

“It happens too often and it’s just disgraceful,” Sen. Charles Schumer said. “Here are people who are risking their lives for us and they come home and they’re being treated as if they’re criminals instead of heroes.”

And because they’re the military rather than an actual business, which could never get away with it, they don’t even bother to tell the soldiers they’re billing what the equipment is that they’re supposed to pay for, much less explain how it’s connected to them.

The Rodriquez mention in the above quote is combat engineer Brian Rodriquez, whose job was finding and defusing land mines and IEDs. The Army has been sending him bills for $700 all summer.

Although he was discharged some four years ago, bills recently arrived demanding payment, but giving no details on what or why — nor do they offer a way to dispute the charges.

“For doing my job you’re going to bill me?” Rodriguez said.

(all emphasis added)

Yeah. War is a business, pal. Troops that don’t pay with their lives or limbs have to pay some other way. Get used to it. This is govt-as-business, it’s what we said we wanted. Well, we got it. Like it?

What, you think corporations pay their own expenses? Hell, no. Corporate tradition: Pass It On. Customer pays, and if the customers won’t, the employees do. That’s life in Bush America. Hope you enjoy it.

(Via Crooks and Liars)

House Pubs Argue Against Imperial Presidency

In the “I’m Holding the Top of My Head to Keep It From Exploding, That’s Why” Dept, via TPMmuckraker, comes this Republican rationale for NOT handing out the subpoenas:

Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT) laid it all out. There is “no evidence” of wrongdoing by the White House in the U.S. attorney firings, he says. And since there’s no wrongdoing, it’s likely that Congress will lose its battle with the White House in court. And if they lost, he says, future claims of executive privilege by the White House would be much stronger, since they’d be resting on the Supreme Court’s decision. And that would “make the presidency in America, a much stronger, imperial office.” Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) agreed, saying that Congress was in danger of handing the White House “a blank check.”

There oughta be a sign over the entrance to the Republican side of the House chamber that says, “Abandon All Reason, Ye Who Enter Here” since that is clearly their reigning philosophy these days.

Either that or it has finally dawned on them that the next president is going to be a Democrat.

GOP Fundraiser Stars Machine Guns

Any organization, no matter how big or powerful it is, can be undermined by poor leadership and bad decisions, and when that time comes, there’s a point when the disintegration reaches critical mass and no one in the organization can do anything right. Every decision makes things worse, every move is dumber and more disastrous than the last.

The GOP seems finally to have crossed that line. Their presidential candidates are pulling out all stops trying to outdo each other in strident fringe-whackoness, their only governing tactic is a relentless obstructionism that carries major penalties when it inevitably backfires, they’re constitutionally incapable of supporting anything a majority of American voters actually want, every public statement from every Republican pol is more hysterical and makes even less sense than the last, and their taste for corruption and hypocrisy doesn’t appear to have a bottom to it.

So of course this would be the perfect time for the GOP to publicize a fundraiser involving machine guns.

City Republicans will be packing some serious firepower at their next party fundraiser.

Tired of the usual chicken dinners, the Manchester Republican Committee is planning to arm supporters next month with Uzis, M-16 rifles and other automatic weapons for a day of target practice at a Pelham firing range.

“The thought just struck me one day: a machine gun shoot. What the heck?” said Jerry Thibodeau, the committee chairman.

Thibodeau, who is himself a hunter and skeet shooter, pitched the Aug. 5 event as a fun social gathering, as well as a demonstration of the party’s support for Second Amendment rights.

Uzi 75px

The concept prompted shudders across the political aisle. Chris Pappas, the city Democratic party chairman, called the event “not just in poor taste; it is downright offensive.”

“The citizens of Manchester have lived through a deadly spike in violent crime the past year-and-a-half, despite the campaign promises of (Mayor) Frank Guinta to lower crime rates,” Pappas said. “That the mayor’s political party would seek to glorify the use of machine guns for political gain is unconscionable.”

Also monumentally stoopid. I mean, are they trying to convince people they’re off-the-chart nuts?


Today’s GOP: If he wasn’t dead, they’d run Jeffrey Dahmer for president to tie up the cannibal vote.

Directive 51-2: Member of House Committee on Homeland Security Denied Access to Annexes

Remember those secret Annexes attached to Directive 51? Newhouse’s Jeff Kosseff reports that when Oregon Rep Peter DeFazio, a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security with classified clearance, requested a look at the secret Annexes attached to Directive 51, he ran into a problem.

Constituents called Rep. Peter DeFazio’s office, worried there was a conspiracy buried in the classified portion of a White House plan for operating the government after a terrorist attack.

As a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, DeFazio, D-Ore., is permitted to enter a secure “bubbleroom” in the Capitol and examine classified material. So he asked the White House to see the secret documents.

On Wednesday, DeFazio got his answer: DENIED.

“I just can’t believe they’re going to deny a member of Congress the right of reviewing how they plan to conduct the government of the United States after a significant terrorist attack,” DeFazio said.

Actually, D51 doesn’t just cover a terrorist attack but any “national emergency” and any emergency that threatens the ability of the national govt to function. Still, it’s clearly HS business and DeFazio has every right to see the whole thing. That is, he would if this was any administration other than Cheney/Bush.  As Mark G would say, we’re in Red Queen territory here.

Homeland Security Committee staffers told his office that the White House initially approved his request, but it was later quashed. DeFazio doesn’t know who did it or why.

“We’re talking about the continuity of the government of the United States of America,” DeFazio said. “I would think that would be relevant to any member of Congress, let alone a member of the Homeland Security Committee.’

So detainees aren’t allowed to see the supposed evidence against them or even the charges under which they’re being held, and a Congressman with classified clearance on the HS Committee can’t see documents relevant to his committee’s work because they’re classified.


Here’s the explanation:

  • DeFazio is a Democrat.
  • Democrats are traitors.
  • Therefore DeFazio is a traitor and must not be allowed to see secrets because he’ll turn them over to his friends in Al Qaeda.

That really is the way these people think. DeFazio’s conclusion is therefore justified, not paranoid:

“Maybe the people who think there’s a conspiracy out there are right,” DeFazio said.

(Link via nash at Categorical Aperitif)