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Archive for July 2007

Impeach (Or Not)

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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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Written by Mick

July 29, 2007 at 5:49 pm

Posted in Impeachment, Politics

Corporate Morality Grows Up

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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.

Written by Mick

July 29, 2007 at 1:25 am

DNI McConnell Wants Expansion of Overseas Eavesdropping Program

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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

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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)

Written by Mick

July 26, 2007 at 10:57 pm

House Pubs Argue Against Imperial Presidency

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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.

Written by Mick

July 26, 2007 at 9:54 pm

GOP Fundraiser Stars Machine Guns

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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?

jeffrey-dahmer.jpg

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

Written by Mick

July 25, 2007 at 4:18 am

Posted in Republicans

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

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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.

Uh-huh.

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)

Written by Mick

July 24, 2007 at 6:37 pm

Cokie Roberts and Her Slide Right

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eRobin at Fact-esque caught NPR’s Cokie Roberts pushing right- wing TP’s today as shamelessly as she probably Cokie_Roberts-aever has. She seems to have abandoned her usual sugar-coating of faux-objectivity altogether.

I just heard Cokie Roberts, serious journamalist [sic], tell me that the Dems have to be careful:

The Democrats could do something things that could blow it. The Congress could seem to be ineffectual or they could seem to be overreaching. … (mentions Feingold’s censure resolution and Reid’s backing off of it) … Things like that, um, if the Democrats seem to be just piling on a pres who’s already at remarkably low approval ratings on a war that that public has turned their back on, if the Democrats pile on on that, that could be a problem.

Clever girl, our Cokie. She hit the GOP trifecta: She helpfully raised the Republican talking point of the “ineffectual Democratic Congress,” she tied the efficacy of Congress to ending BushCo’s Quagmire in Iraq without mentioning the Republican Quagmire in the Senate and then helpfully set up an impossible frame for the Democrats: They have to fix everything that BushCo has destroyed in the last six years except that they can’t do it on their own or appear rude while doing so. They have to get legislation passed by working politely with an obstructionist opposition party that was perfectly happy being a universal rubber stamp for Dear Leader and NOT PASSING A BUDGET THE LAST YEAR THEY WERE IN POWER. They have to end a war of aggression without hurting the feelings of the maniac who started it. They have to balance, weave, dodge and frolic and when they do, it still won’t be enough to win accurate coverage in the corporate media.

You almost have to be my age to remember when Roberts was a reasonably legitimate reporter and a fair if not exactly perceptive political analyst. Back in the day, Roberts was a young (30-ish) correspondent for a public broadcasting service that found its legs during Watergate and was building – or attempting to build – a reputation for journalistic excellence. She fit right in. She had unparalleled political connections, being long-time Louisiana Rep Hale Boggs’ daughter, and she used them with intelligence and wit.

But those days are long gone, and it might be instructive to examine how the slow, inexorable decay from a bright reporter to a conservative corporate mouthpiece came about.

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Written by Mick

July 23, 2007 at 3:43 pm

How Congress Could Jail Rove & Miers TOMORROW and Why They Should

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Cheney’s absurd notion of unlimited executive power – which is what the so-called “Unitary Executive Theory” amounts to, as Bush’s latest power grab makes inarguable – is forcing a Constitutional crisis. The central notion of what I will call the “Cheney Doctrine” that executive privilege, as Scott Horton put it, “trumps” the Constitution seems to have left the Congress with no alternatives to forcing accountability from the Administration except for criminal contempt citations.

We know what will happen if Miers & Rove et al are served with them: they’ll be ignored on the grounds of executive privilege and the Congress will have to go to court in a system packed with irresponsible Republican judges to enforce both the citations and the original subpoenas Bush has declared invalid. Either that or he’ll pardon them, making the issue moot. Meanwhile, the witnesses whose testimony is crucial to discovering the truth about this Administration hide safely behind the walls of presidential protection like Mafia hitters hiding behind the Code of Omerta.

It looks like a Mexican standoff, but Rutgers law professor Frank Askin says in a WaPo op-ed today that there’s another option to the contempt dance that at once asserts Congressional power and puts the Administration into a PR bind it won’t be easy for them to get out of: either branch of the Congress can have its sergeant-at-arms arrest those who refuse to answer a Congressional subpoena and throw them in the DC jail.

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Written by Mick

July 21, 2007 at 5:09 pm

Bush Uses Executive Order to Legalize Torture

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Busy, busy, busy.

George Bush has been moving toward empire in the open with the occupation of Iraq and in secret with directives and signing statements enlarging his power at the expense of the Constitution for most of his 6-year reign, but in the last two busy days he has taken not one but two significant steps to openly declare his unchallengeable imperial authority.

The first you probably already know about. Everybody has been appalled by it and an awful lot of people have said so.

Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege.

A lot of people have raked this brazen power grab over the coals. Constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald calls it a frontal assault on the judiciary.

What the Bush administration is doing here is not merely defying (another) Congressional statute, but — as usual — also denying the power of the judiciary to interpret the law and compel adherence to the mandates of law. The great unanswered question of the Bush administration has been, and continues to be, whether, upon losing a judicial battle, they would explicitly claim the right to defy the judicial order on the ground that the order exceeds proper judicial authority.

In the typical Bush signing statement, the President emphasizes that he will execute laws not only consistent with his claimed executive power (meaning he will ignore the parts of the law which he thinks unduly restrains him), but will also execute the law “consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power.” Always lurking at the core of these radical assertions of executive power is the belief that they can defy court orders due to the claimed “constitutional limitations on the judicial power.”

Limitations, he points out, that Ted Olson, working with Dick Cheney, simply made up out of whole cloth. Scott Horton, another Constitutional lawyer, is looking a little further ahead, arguing that it isn’t simply that the judiciary under attack, Bush – like the Monarchs of old - is arguing that he is the law because he controls the law.

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Written by Mick

July 21, 2007 at 1:56 am

The Young Republicans: Hypocrisy Starts Early

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Max Blumenthal attended a Young Republican conference and asked them why they weren’t serving in Iraq if they believed in it so strongly. Turns out that, like Dick Cheney when Viet Nam was going on, they figure they’ve got better things to do. Max got it all on video.

In conversations with at least twenty College Republicans about the war in Iraq, I listened as they lip-synched discredited cant about “fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.” Many of the young GOP cadres I met described the so-called “war on terror” as nothing less than the cause of their time.

Yet when I asked these College Repulicans why they were not participating in this historical cause, they immediately went into contortions. Asthma. Bad knees from playing catcher in high school. “Medical reasons.” “It’s not for me.” These were some of the excuses College Republicans offered for why they could not fight them “over there.” Like the current Republican leaders who skipped out on Vietnam, the GOP’s next generation would rather cheerlead from the sidelines for the war in Iraq while other, less privileged young men and women fight and die.

Along with videographer Thomas Shomaker, I captured a vivid portrait of the hypocritical mentality of the next generation of Republican leaders. See for yourself.

(Via cul at ratboy’s anvil)

Written by Mick

July 20, 2007 at 11:28 pm

Posted in Republicans

The Filibuster: Too Little, Too Late, Too Short (Updated)

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The Senate filibuster ended a little while ago as expected – the Pubs voted against voting and the Reid-Levin Amendment was tabled. No surprise there. I listened to the debate from about 11p to 4a and the only surprising thing I heard from a Pub was Olympia Snowe’s quiet, controlled, practical explanation of what the Amendment says and why her Republican colleagues should support it. The rest of the Pub speakers stuck to attacks on what they called a “political stunt” and endlessly repeated the same Karl Rove TP’s that have become so stale over the past few months.

Although I’m glad the Dems finally made these GOP obstructionists actually stand up and make their silly defenses of Bush’s disastrous neocon-inspired occupation – and many of their arguments were so silly they bordered on the absurd – I can’t avoid the feeling that the whole thing reeks of the usual Democratic political ineptitude: too little too late, and rotten timing.

First, this should have been done months ago when the Republican strategy of inflexible obstructionism became clear to everyone who was paying attention. The country wanted change and the Pubs were blocking it. Reid should have forced them to filibuster no later than January to make it obvious to everyone what the Pubs were up to. Instead, he let them get away with threatening a filibuster, which no one down here on the ground was paying any attention to whatsoever. We don’t even notice threats to filibuster. We’ve been unaware of them for 6 months.

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Written by Mick

July 18, 2007 at 12:39 pm

Posted in Democrats

Why Gas Prices Are So High 2: The Loophole

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We all know by now that the oil companies have been using Iraq as cover for a species of price-gouging that defies both law and custom by such a wide margin that the mind boggles. And we’re probably all wondering how they get away with it in the face of Congressional opposition and threats of hearings and new laws to stop them. Most seem to put the lack of action down to the standard Democratic cowardice when faced with actions that might displease corporate contributors. I did myself until I read this.

Seven years ago, Enron lobbyists sought to free their new experiment in electronic trading, “Enron Online,” from oversight by the principle regulator of energy futures and derivatives, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. They managed to drop a loophole into an appropriations bill that has effectively exempted all electronic over-the-counter energy commodity markets from US regulation. Before this bill was passed, crude oil was under $25 per barrel and motorists enjoyed affordable gasoline.

Since then, energy commodity traders and hedge funds have poured billions of dollars into these “dark markets.” According to a bipartisan report published by the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, excessive speculation may be responsible for as much as $20-$25 of a barrel of crude oil. Between 50 cents to $1 per gallon of gasoline may be a direct result of irrational and unethical behavior in the commodity markets. Enron may be long gone, but its legacy remains.

Few Americans realize the extent to which futures trading on dark markets determines the price they pay for energy. Daily trading has an immediate impact on the price of gasoline, heating oil, natural gas, and other fuels. A large majority of futures trading — as much as 75 percent, according to experts — is conducted on unregulated dark markets, as opposed to trading on regulated markets, including the New York Mercantile Exchange.

(emphasis added)

Without first repealing that loophole, Congress actually has no legal basis for passing anti-price-gouging legislation since the oil companies can insist – as they have repeatedly – that they’re only responding to “market forces” when they raise their prices, leaving aside the uncomfortable little detail that they used their sockpuppet relationship with the Republican Congress to create that “force” in the first place. Fortunately, Democratic leaders are not unaware of the problem.

A bill called the “Oil and Gas Traders Oversight Act” would close this loophole and bring accountability to the dark markets. Congress should pass this bill, put an end to the real “price gouging,” and tell commodity market profiteers to stop playing with their constituents’ wallets.

Republicans will no doubt threaten to filibuster it.

Written by Mick

July 17, 2007 at 11:55 am

Iraq Vets Talk (Updated)

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Three years ago I predicted, based on my experience with Viet Nam vets, that the day was going to come when we read of atrocities committed by our troops in Iraq.

I thought it would come as My Lai came or the depredations of Tiger Force–in gonzo attacks on Iraqis in the field. I expected Fallujah might very likely be that moment. Marines storming into a beleagured city where you can’t tell the enemy from the friendlies and mowing down everything in sight without fear or favor. It’s still possible, don’t kid yourself. The troops are exhausted, angry, betrayed by their own commanders (anybody remember “fragging”?) and by the President who lied to get them there and then put them in the position of jail-keepers, only the jail they have to watch over is an entire country. It is hard enough to control an army when it believes in its mission; it is almost impossible when it doesn’t.

I’m not making excuses for those involved, only trying to put what’s happened into the context of the reality they are now facing, a reality most of us–lucky us!–will never have to face. If you ask young men and women to die for you in the name of some great humanitarian cause and it turns out to be a crock, it turns out that you’ve asked them to die for some cock-eyed dream of empire or the piling up of your personal wealth or the fortunes of yourself and your family–and in this case, your contributors–you have turned those young men and women into mercenaries, Hessians. You have made them not a force of liberation but a force of occupation, not liberators but oppressors, and don’t think they don’t know it. Their rage, depression, and growing sense that everything they’ve just done was pointless, worthless, a sham, has to go somewhere.

Unfortunately, though we haven’t yet seen fragging*, we’ve seen massacres of civilians in Haditha and elsewhere, and a slaughter of probable innocents in Baghdad. I warned in a different post (that I can’t find at the moment) that the effect of a dirty war on the men and women who had to fight it wasn’t going to be pretty, especially when they came home and had to somehow learn to live with what they’d done.

The Nation has just published a major report (via Sadly, No) that proves it’s happening.

Over the past several months The Nation has interviewed fifty combat veterans of the Iraq War from around the United States in an effort to investigate the effects of the four-year-old occupation on average Iraqi civilians. These combat veterans, some of whom bear deep emotional and physical scars, and many of whom have come to oppose the occupation, gave vivid, on-the-record accounts. They described a brutal side of the war rarely seen on television screens or chronicled in newspaper accounts.

Their stories, recorded and typed into thousands of pages of transcripts, reveal disturbing patterns of behavior by American troops in Iraq. Dozens of those interviewed witnessed Iraqi civilians, including children, dying from American firepower. Some participated in such killings; others treated or investigated civilian casualties after the fact. Many also heard such stories, in detail, from members of their unit. The soldiers, sailors and marines emphasized that not all troops took part in indiscriminate killings. Many said that these acts were perpetrated by a minority. But they nevertheless described such acts as common and said they often go unreported–and almost always go unpunished.

The effect on the troops who do such things or see them done is devastating.

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Written by Mick

July 16, 2007 at 10:12 pm

Parole board grants Davis 90-day stay

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The Georgia State Parole Board granted Troy Davis a 90-day stay of execution after a commutation hearing on evidence suggesting very strongly that he’s innocent.

The state parole board on Tuesday temporarily halted the execution of convicted cop killer Troy Anthony Davis less than 24 hours before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection.

The board issued a 90-day stay of execution after a 9-hour closed-door clemency hearing where last-minute questions of his innocence were raised. The board did not release its vote.

Davis still faces execution unless the parole board commutes his sentence to life in prison, with or without parole, before the stay is up. Davis’ lawyers also have appealed his case before the Georgia Supreme Court, seeking a new trial.

So we have one rational move from the Georgia justice system. That’s one out of a dozen, not exactly a streak but something to build on, at least. Now the State Supreme Court needs to grant a new trial and the parole board needs to extend Davis’ SOE until that trial is over and a decision is reached.

Anyplace else (except Texas), we could assume a new trial and the PB’s extension, but this is Georgia, the home of conservative justice where everybody is guilty until and maybe even after he’s proved innocent, and we can’t assume they’ll be rational. Most of them haven’t been so far.

This is conservatism all over: they believe things that aren’t true, and when you prove they aren’t true, they just shut their eyes and yell louder, “I’m right! I’m right! I’m RIGHT!” like a little kid caught in a lie.

That’s bad enough. What’s worse is they’re perfectly willing to let other people die to protect them from having to admit a mistake.

Sound familiar? There’s a pattern here….

Written by Mick

July 16, 2007 at 7:52 pm

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