Some good signs in Arizona

Great News! Ted Downing let me know late last night that his first two election integrity bills have been numbered (HB 2635 and 2638). Accordingly, I have copied them into the bottom of this email for your perusal. Fortunately, there is bi-partisan participation in this important effort, which is, after all, an AMERICAN issue, equally alarming to honest Republicans and Democrats, and Ted is to be commended for working across party lines to right this wrong. Ted reports that “The political situation is complicated, but I am working directly with Karen Johnson, Jack Harper, and others on possible bills or, best of all, folding language and ideas into her bill. “

I also want to take the time here to thank all of the election integrity activists who are working night and day to raise public awareness to this issue, and apply public pressure to get elected officials to take it seriously. Thanks, from the bottom of all of our hearts.

ACTION: a thank you

Please send Ted Downing a brief note of thanks. He is getting very little sleep, and working more than full time on our behalf, and deserves to know there is wide-spread support for his efforts. ( tdowning@azleg.state.az.us )

Please send co-sponsors Steve Gallardo sgallard@azleg.state.az.us and Phil Lopes plopes@azleg.state.az.us , both Democrats, a brief note of thanks.

Please send Karen Johnson and Jack Harper your appreciation for working across the aisle with Ted Downing on this TRANS-PARTISAN American civic issue. (kjohnson@azleg.state.az.us * jharper@azleg.state.az.us )

ACTION: ask your representatives to sign on as co-sponsors
Please send an urgent request for your representative and senator to actively join Rep. Ted Downing, Sen. Karen Johnson (R), and Sen. Jack Harper (R) to restore public confidence in the electoral process. Sen. Johnson’s bill is not yet complete, but she is working with Ted to incorporate language from his 2005 bills. One of our colleagues who did so recently received word back from their representative that they did not even know of this effort, and would meet with the three – AND did not know about the Progressive Caucus.

On our website, www.progressiveazdems.org in the section entitled “Support our elected progressives,” there is a button entitled : “track bills, contact legislators.” Click that, and when you get to the legislative page, there is a link entitled, “How do I find my Legislators?” simply enter your zip code, and “voila: your elected representatives! Simple. (Same process works on the Senate page.)

And, if you believe your representative or senator might be interested in joining the progressive caucus, please invite them to go to our website to sign up for updates. Have them contact Rep. Downing about furthering the legislative progressive caucus, and contact me ( revgerry@progressiveazxems.org ) to be added under “Profiles in courage” on the AZDPC website.

Soon, we will be asking for regular updates from these progressive elected officials, through our caucus, to all of you, their consituents, on the important work they do on our behalf. This way we can provide support with research, issue promotion, public meetings, and the like.


ACTION: Welcome new Democratic Senator Aboud and ask her to participate.

We have a new Democratic senator from LD28, a hard-working Democrat whom most of us know, Paula Aboud. She has been assigned to Appropriations, Commerce and Economic Development, and Government Accountability and Reform.

Although she is brand-new on the job, beyond congratulating her on her new post and offering her any assistance she may need, I hope you will also ask her to work with Senators Johnson and Harper to move this issue forward. paboud@azleg.gov

In addition to working on other issues of interest to us as progressives, on electoral reform, Paula has has already signed on to co-sponsor a bill allowing a mail-in-ballot only election by any jursidiction (SB1108), a bill to institute a permanent list of persons who wish to vote by mail (SB1106), and one to require that if someone requests an early ballot in one election, they automatically be sent for the following two.


ACTION:
These bills above are also sponsored by Sen. Harry Mitchell, who has assumed the leadership of our party, and also chairs the election integrity commission requested by the party by unanimous vote in July (thank you, Harry), and by Sen. Ben Miranda, Minority Whip. This work is important, but is not sufficient to prevent election fraud.

Please contact them and request they also work with Republican Senators Johnson and Harper to co-sponsor strong election integrity legislation. hmitchel@azleg.state.az.us rmiranda@azleg.state.az.us

ACTION:

We (AZDPC) want to track the response you are getting from your representatives on this issue, so please email me when you find out if they are supportive, or not. revgerry@progressiveazdems.org

Thanks so much for all you do.

In peace and solidarity,
Gerry and Sherry

Rev. Gerry Straatemeier, MSW, and Sherry Bohlen
Co-Chairs, AZ Democratic Progressive Caucus

Albany Times Union on DOJ threat to sue NY

Feds warn state over vote systems

New York threatened with lawsuit for failing to meet deadlines for new standards
By JAMES M. ODATO, Capitol bureau
Albany Times Union
First published: Friday, January 13, 2006
ALBANY — Advocates for optical scanning voting machines say their arguments in favor of paper ballots got a boost when the Justice Department threatened to sue the state for failing to meet deadlines for new voting system standards.
Bo Lipari, director of New Yorkers for Verified Voting, and Aimee Allaud, of the League of Women Voters, said the Department of Justice could pull federal funds from New York meant for equipment purchases. The state, which is supposed to receive about $200 million to meet Help America Vote Act requirements, should focus on purchasing optical scan machines, which are not only more reliable, but cheaper, the advocates said Thursday.
They estimate that optical scan machines, which read paper ballots, would save New York $100 million because the technology is cheaper than touch-screen electronic machines known as DREs. DRE manufacturers say their machines also can meet the objectives of the Help America Vote Act and that the cost analysis is not conclusive.

Read more.

An excellent point, a crucial counterpoint

strongly recommend Tom Engelhardt’s sharp essay, “Bush v. Reality”– and the commentary on it just below: Jonathan Simon’s response is crucial. It’s time (past time) for all progressives, and indeed all rational Americans, to wake up to the danger looming over this republic, and the planet.
MCM
Tom–
As incisive and comprehensive as your Bush v. Reality piece (below) was, you did not mention or factor in a huge wildcard (the ultimate ace up the sleeve) there for the playing in 2006. You correctly characterize Election 2006 as a “down and dirty. . .street brawl,” because of its capacity, among other things, to turn the investigatory power of Congress over to the Democrats (whose biggest question at that point would be “where the hell do we begin?”). It will be all that and more.
But what you stubbornly refuse to consider is why a regime which has gone to the extreme lengths of foul play that you so brilliantly catalog–and having effective control (through Diebold, ES&S, Sequoia, and Hart) of the computerized voting machinery that will be counting (or miscounting) the votes in 2006, with more than ample opportunity to program in the result desired and desperately needed by BushCo–why this regime would even think about drawing the line at election theft in this context?
The check mechanisms are simply not there: exit polling (the subject of a rightwing campaign to discredit not coincidently since the advent of touchscreens) finally succumbed in 2004 (the successful spin, evidence be damned, was that the exit polls must have been off, can no longer be trusted, and are the potential source of great and dangerous instability); the various protective audit and recount schemes out there are a thin and laughably porous patchwork that any determined rigger could drive a digital Mack truck through; and hand-counted paper ballots for at least the federal races, which could be implemented and executed without any problem, are not even a gleam in the reformers’ eye.
The 2006 election is riggable (ask any computer expert not on the Bush payroll) and your fine column gives every reason why it will be rigged. If you observe the aggressive behavior of BushCo, politcally irrational by any standard which assumes the people actually still have a biennial right of review, it only confirms this prognosis. The results will be “shocking” (once again) but not absolutely unbelievable because a “cover” theme will have been contrived (2002 it was NASCAR Dads, 2004 the phantom evangelicals). There will be a lot of impotent head-scratching (once again), and a collective shrug from the MSM (once again). Bush will gloat that “the only poll that matters is on Election Day.” Not only will the right remain firmly entrenched in power, but the election will be hailed as indisputable evidence that the American public (perhaps unhinged by the terrible threat of “terror”) actually supports the regime’s policies and modus operandi. The curtain (perhaps the final curtain) will come down on rational debate (even the pale imitation that currently passes for it).
Are you willing to sit back and watch this happen? Do you disagree that the next election is riggable? If so, what facts or expert analyses can you cite in support? Do you disagree that this regime has a direct pipeline to the voting machines through their vendors? If so, you have not been paying attention to the revelations of the past few years, or the way the regime and its pet industries work together (none more crucial to their success than the computerized vote-counting vendors). Do you disagree that the demonstable modus operandi of the regime is restrained by no ethical seawall and that rigging the vote fits without a hitch into their pattern of activities? Obviously not: you make the case for an unconstrained, all-means-justified pattern of behavior yourself, and do it brilliantly.
Then why stop at calling out the biggest wildcard of them all, the mother of all wildcards in a putative democracy? It is the one with the capacity to make the full-blown nightmare of American fascism come true. You avoid it at your own and at our peril.
All the best–Jonathan Simon

Tomgram: The Year of Living Dangerously
Bush v. Reality
War, Trials, Leakers, Investigations, Packed Courts, and a Constitutional Crisis
By Tom Engelhardt
2006 is sure to be the year of living dangerously — for the Bush administration and for the rest of us. In the wake of revelations of warrantless spying by the National Security Agency, we have already embarked on what looks distinctly like a constitutional crisis (which may not come to a full boil until 2007). In the meantime, the President, Vice President, Secretaries of Defense and State, various lesser officials, crony appointees, acolytes, legal advisors, leftover neocons, spy-masters, strategists, spin doctors, ideologues, lobbyists, Republican Party officials, and congressional backers are intent on packing the Supreme Court with supporters of an “obscure philosophy” of unfettered Presidential power called “the unitary executive theory” and then foisting a virtual cult of the imperial presidency on the country.
On the other hand, determined as this administration has been to impose its version of reality on us, the President faces a traffic jam of reality piling up in the environs of the White House. The question is: How long will the omniscient and dominatrix-style fantasies of Bushworld, ranging from “complete victory” in Iraq to non-existent constitutional powers to ignore Congress, the courts, and treaties of every sort, triumph over the realities of the world the rest of humanity inhabits. Will an unconstrained presidency continue to grow — or not?
Here are just a few of the explosive areas where Bush v. Reality is likely to play out, generating roiling crises which could chase the President through the rest of this year. Keep in mind, this just accounts for the modestly predictable, not for the element of surprise which — as with Ariel Sharon’s recent stroke — remains ever present.
Who, after all, can predict what will hit our country this year. From a natural-gas shock to Chinese financial decisions on the dollar, from oil terrorism to the next set of fierce fall hurricanes, from the bursting of the housing bubble to the arrival of the avian flu, so much is possible — but one post-9/11 truth, revealed with special vividness by hurricane Katrina, should by now be self-evident: Whatever the top officials of this administration are capable of doing, they and their cronies in various posts throughout the federal bureaucracy are absolutely incapable of (and perhaps largely uninterested in) running a government. Let’s give this phenomenon a fitting name: FEMAtization. You could almost offer a guarantee that no major problem is likely to arise this year, domestic or foreign, that they will not be quite incapable of handling reasonably, efficiently, or thoughtfully — to hell with compassionately (for anyone who still remembers that museum-piece label, “compassionate conservative,” from the Bush version of the Neolithic era). So here are just four of the most expectable crisis areas of 2006 as well as three wild cards that may remain in the administration’s hand and that could

chase all of us through this year — adding up, in one way or the other, to the political tsunami of 2006.

1. Iraq. Bush’s war (and occupation) of choice has shadowed him like a boogeyman from the moment that banner over his head on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln announced “Mission Accomplished” and he declared “major combat operations” at an end on May 2, 2003. On that very day, in news hardly noticed by a soul, one of the first acts of insurgency against American troops occurred and seven GIs were wounded in a grenade attack in Falluja. As either a prophet of the future or a master of wish-fulfillment, the President was never more accurate than when, in July 2003, he taunted the Iraqi guerrillas, saying, “Bring ’em on.” Well, they’ve been bringing it on ever since.
Unwilling to face the realities of its trillion-dollar folly of a war and dealing with presidential polling figures entering free fall, the administration did the one thing it has been eternally successful at — it launched a fantasy offensive, not in Iraq, but here at home against the American people and especially the media. A series of aggressive speeches, news conferences, spin-doctored policy papers, and attacks on the opposition as “defeatists who refuse to see that anything is right,” all circling around an election likely to put an Islamic theocratic regime in power in Baghdad, pumped up the President’s polling numbers modestly and, more importantly, caused reporters and pundits to back off, wondering yet again whether we weren’t finally seeing the crack of light at the end of that tunnel. (Wasn’t the President implicitly admitting to the odd mistake in Iraq policy? Wasn’t he secretly preparing his own version of withdrawal? Weren’t the Iraqis turning some corner or other?)
It’s been a strange, brain-dead media era in which, far more than the American people, the pundits never seem to learn. Most pathetic of all, in what might have been a straightforward parody of the famed moment when a group of senior advisors from past administrations (“the Wise Men”) met with President Lyndon Johnson and urged him to reconsider his Vietnam policy, the Bush administration gathered together 13 former secretaries of state and defense (including Robert McNamara and Melvin Laird from the Vietnam era) for a photo with the President. Also offered was an Iraq dog-and-pony show involving painfully upbeat reports from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Peter Pace and Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalizhad. In return, the 13 former officials, including Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright, got a full 5-10 minute “interchange” with the President or (as the Dreyfuss Report did the math) all of 23 seconds of consultation time per secretary. It was the Wise Men (and Woman) Photo Op and it caught something of Bushworld and its peculiar allure.
However complicated the situation in Iraq may be, here’s an uncomplicated formula for considering administration policy there in the coming year. After every “milestone” from the killing of Saddam Hussein’s sons and the capture of Saddam himself through the “handing over” of sovereignty and various elections, things have only gotten worse. Remind me why it should be different this time? In fact, while the President warned endlessly about violence before the recent election, the violence since has been far worse with 28 Americans and hundreds of Iraqis dying in just a single tumultuous four-day period. Or put another way, whatever government may be formed in Baghdad’s Green Zone, it will preside over a Bush-installed failed state, utterly corrupt (billions of dollars have already been stolen from it) and thoroughly inept, incapable of providing its people with anything like security. In fact, just the other day, two suicide bombers, dressed in the uniforms of “senior police officers” and with the correct security passes, made it through numerous checkpoints and into the well-guarded compound of the Interior Ministry where they blew themselves and many policemen up. Iraq’s government, such as it is, has also proved incapable of delivering electricity or potable water, or of running its only industry of significance, the oil business (overseen by, of all people, Ahmed Chalabi), which is now producing less energy than in the worst moments of the Saddam Hussein/sanctions era. The country is already in a low-level civil war; its American-supported military made up of rival militias preparing to engage in various forms of ethnic cleansing; its police evidently heavily infiltrated by the insurgency; and its most important leaders are Shiite theocrats closely allied with Iran. The insurgency itself shows not the slightest sign of lessening.
Meanwhile, at home, figures as disparate as Congressman John Murtha and former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski are demanding a military disengagement by the end of 2006 and in Brzezinski’s case calling on the Democrats to come out against the war. (“Finally, Democratic leaders should stop equivocating while carping. Those who want to lead in 2008 are particularly unwilling to state clearly that ending the war soon is both desirable and feasible.”)
Iraq is a minefield for the Bush administration. Prepare for it to blow this year.
2. Trials (and Tribulations) of Every Sort. Of course some of the description of Iraq above has become increasingly applicable to the Bush administration as well. It is, after all, run by fundamentalists and presidential cultists, presiding over what increasingly looks like a FEMA-tized, failed state, riddled with corruption, and at war with itself. In 2006, Bush and his associates face a quagmire of potential scandals, exposures of corrupt and illegal practices, and trials and tribulations of all sorts. There is, as a start, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, still on the Plame case job.
After a brief flurry of activity in November when the National Law Journal’s 2005 “lawyer of the year” convened a new grand jury to hear further evidence, the Fitzgerald investigation dropped off just about everyone’s radar screen. Fitzgerald, however, is a dogged character, playing things very close to the vest. No one can know what exactly he will do, but he is reportedly preparing material on Karl Rove for the new grand jury. It would be reasonable to expect that, sometime in the next two or three months, he might indeed indict “Bush’s brain” and then, rather than winding down his investigation, turn from those who attempted to obstruct his view of the Plame case to the case itself. In other words, if you happen to be a betting soul, you might consider putting your money on the possibility that the Plame case investigation will reach ever higher in the administration — and Fitzgerald seems carefully shielded within the Justice Department from administration tampering.
At the same time, even though former House Majority Leader Tom (the Hammer) DeLay got hammered and officially ended his bid to regain his leadership post last week, the Texas and Washington parts of the Delay corruption scandal are likely only to grow and spread. In Texas, DeLay’s money-laundering case was not, despite his deepest wishes, thrown out of court and is now expanding into an election spending scandal involving the National

Republican Congressional Committee and linked to the Abramoff case. Lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who plied endless (mostly Republican) congressional reps with favors and perks in return for influence, pled guilty last week to public corruption charges and turned state’s evidence. He has claimed he possesses incriminating material on 60 congressional lawmakers (as well as many of their aides).
Last week, the Washington Post reported, federal prosecutors turned “up the pressure on a former senior aide to Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) in the clearest signal yet that the sprawling public corruption investigation is now focusing on House Republican leadership offices.” Though the career prosecutors from the Justice Department’s Office of Public Integrity who turned Abramoff, seem to have been reasonably insulated from administration pressure, the case threatens to hit the Republican Congress hard, just as the Plame case threatens to empty the higher realms of administration power. It looks like at least a limited number of cases will be brought against lawmakers this election year. Unlike Fitzgerald, however, the career prosecutors in the Abramoff case are overseen by a notorious Bush recess appointee, Alice Fisher. Her nomination was opposed even in a Republican-controlled Senate as she is without prosecutorial experience (though she has some experience in the subject area of Guantanamo interrogations and is tied to Tom DeLay’s defense team). So look for future fireworks, conflicts, scandals, and plenty of leaks on this one.

In the meantime, the courts will be busy indeed. Just count a few of the ways: The question of whether Bush’s warrantless NSA wiretaps have polluted other terrorism cases will hit the courts this year, while the kangaroo “military” tribunals in Guantanamo have just started up again, and various cases having to do with the limits of presidential power (or the lack of them) are likely to arrive, not to speak of the four Texas gerrymandering cases (think, once again, Tom DeLay) the Supreme Court has agreed to take up before the 2006 elections that could put five now-Republican seats in the House up for grabs. (A court already tarred by the 2000 election might rule surprisingly on this one.)
3. War with the Bureaucracy. Until quite recently, with an oppositionless Congress, increasingly right-wing courts, and a cowed media, traditional Constitutional checks and balances on administration claims of massive presidential powers and prerogatives have been missing in action. However, the founding fathers of this nation, who could not have imagined our present National Security State or the size of this imperial presidency, could have had no way of imagining the governmental bureaucracy that has grown up around these either. So how could they have dreamed that the only significant check-and-balance in our system since September 11, 2001 has been that very bureaucracy? Parts of it have been involved in a bitter, shadowy war with the administration for years now. It’s been a take-no-prisoners affair, as Tomdispatch has recorded in the first two posts in its Fallen Legion series, focusing on the startling numbers of men and women who were honorable or steadfast enough in their governmental duties that they found themselves with little alternative but to resign in protest, quit, retire, or simply be pushed off some cliff. This administration has done everything in its power to take control of the bureaucracy. As hurricane Katrina showed with a previously impressive federal agency, FEMA, Bush and his officials have put their pals (“Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job”), often without particular qualifications other than loyalty to this President, into leading positions, while trying to curb or purge their opponents. At the CIA, for instance, just before the last election former Representative Porter Goss, a loyal political hack, was installed to purge and cleanse what had become an agency of leakers and bring it into line. Administration officials have, in fact, conducted little short of a war against leaks and leakers. To give but a single example, the origins of the Plame case lie in part in an attempt by top officials to administer punishment to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson for revealing administration lies about an aspect of Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction program. What those officials (as leakers, of course) did to his wife was clearly meant as a warning to others in the bureaucracy that coming forward would mean being whacked.
And yet, despite the carnage, as Frank Rich pointed out last Sunday (The Wiretappers That Couldn’t Shoot Straight), the New York Times reporters who finally broke the NSA story did so based not on one or two sources but on “nearly a dozen current and former officials.” Doug Ireland laid out at his blog recently how, despite fears of possible prosecution — the first thing the President did in the wake of these revelations was to denounce the “shameful act” of leaking and the Justice Department almost immediately opened an investigation into who did it — one of them, former NSA analyst Russell Tice, has gone very public with his discontent. He has already been on Democracy Now! and ABC’s Nightline, saying that “he is prepared to tell Congress all he knows about the alleged wrongdoing in these programs run by the Defense Department and the National Security Agency in the post-9/11 efforts to go after terrorists.” He claims that the NSA spied on “millions” of Americans, including, it was revealed recently, a Baltimore peace group.
The war with the bureaucracy and even, to some extent, with the military — high-level officers, for instance, clearly leaked crucial information to Rep. Murtha before his withdrawal news conference — will certainly continue this year, probably at an elevated level. The CIA has been a sieve; the NSA clearly will be; at the first sign of pressure, expect the same from career people in the Justice Department; and an unhappy military has already been passing out administration-unfriendly Iraq info left and right. Administration punitive acts only drive this process forward. Any signs of further administration weakness will do the same.
The “warriors” in the bureaucracy will, in turn, fuel further media and congressional criticism. Congress, worried about next year’s election, is an exceedingly fragile pillar of support for the President. Conservatives, as Todd Gitlin pointed out in a recent Los Angeles Times op-ed, are alienated or worse; certain Republican senators are angry over the way the administration is sidelining Congress. Even some right-wing judges have been acting out. And, of course, there’s the possibility that, in some chain-reaction-like fashion, the dike will simply burst and we will catch sight of something closer to the fullness of Bush administration illegality — sure to be far beyond anything we now imagine.
4. Election 2006. Count on it being down and dirty. This could be a street brawl because, with the Republican loss of even one house of Congress, the power to investigate is turned over to the Democrats as we head into a presidential election cycle.
Consider points 1-3 above: Iraq as a rolling,
roiling, ongoing disaster, Republican congressional representatives and administration figures under indictment, bureaucrats leaking madly, possible seats put into play in Texas, presidential polls dropping — all having the potential to threaten an administration already filled with the biggest gamblers in our history and capable of doing almost anything if they think themselves in danger. So what can the President and his pals draw on?
Administration Wildcards
Court-packing: As Noah Feldman pointed out recently in the New York Times Magazine, the rise of the imperial presidency has a history that goes back to Thomas Jefferson’s decision to conclude the Louisiana Purchase, while the presidency’s outsized “war powers” go back at least to Abraham Lincoln. The President has long had powers unimagined by the founding fathers, but the Bush administration still represents a new stage in the obliteration of a checks-and-balances system of government. Last week, in an important, if somewhat overlooked, front-page piece in the Wall Street Journal (“Judge Alito’s View of the Presidency: Expansive Powers”), Jess Bravin reported on a speech Sam Alito gave to the right-wing Federalist Society in 2000 in which he subscribed to the “unitary executive theory” of the presidency (“gospel,” he called it) which puts its money on the supposedly unfettered powers of the President as commander-in-chief. This theory has been pushed by administration figures ranging from the Vice President and his Chief of Staff David Addington to former assistant attorney general and torture-memo writer John Yoo. As Alito put the matter in his speech: “[The Constitution] makes the president the head of the executive branch, but it does more than that. The president has not just some executive powers, but the executive power — the whole thing.” And Yoo put it even more bluntly while debating the unitary executive theory recently. In answering the question, “If the president deems that he’s got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, there is no law that can stop him?” he responded, “No treaty.”
Evidently, John Roberts subscribes to the same view of presidential powers (as Harriet Meirs certainly did, at least when it came to George Bush). In other words, the administration is trying to pack the Supreme Court with judges who are, above all, guaranteed to come down on the side of the President in any ultimate face-off with Congress or the courts. This is surely the real significance of the Alito nomination, should it go through. In any Constitutional crisis-to-come the “commander-in-chief” is trying to predetermine how things will fall out if his own power is at stake.
Terrorism: From September 11, 2001, the terrorism/fear card has certainly been the most powerful domestic weapon in the administration’s arsenal. In the event of a major (or several smaller) terrorist strikes in this country, the Bush administration could certainly be the major beneficiary, but even that is no longer a given. History tends not to happen quite the same way twice and no one knows whether, under the shock of such an event or events, the post-9/11 moment would simply be repeated or whether Americans might feel that this administration had completely betrayed them. A terrible war, lousy government, hideous crisis management, and then, on the one thing they swore they did best — protecting the country from terror — failure. Still this is certainly an administration wild card.
Wag the Dog Strategies: In a crisis of power, there is no reason to believe that the officials who already led us into Iraq might not be willing to gamble on a Wag the Dog strategy – that is, launching an operation they had been hankering for anyway that might also turn attention elsewhere. Rumors and speculation about a massive air attack on Iran (or on “regime change” in Syria) have been kicking around since at least the spring of 2005. These have begun circulating again recently. Such a thing is certainly possible (more so, obviously, should Benjamin Netanyahu happen to win the Israeli election in March), but whether the effect of this on the administration’s fortunes would be positive for long is also unknown. It certainly seems one path to madness, not just in Iraq but also on the oil markets. (If you happen to be a devotee of oil at $100 a barrel, you might quickly get your wish.)
Is a Constitutional Crisis in the Cards?
Until 2005, it wasn’t that the Bush administration didn’t make more than its share of mistakes; thanks to 9/11, it simply had plenty of wiggle room. It could always turn attention elsewhere. It always had the fear and terror cards ready to be played. These days, turn people’s attention elsewhere and they’re likely to see yet more disaster, corruption, incompetence, and illegality. In 2006, the administration has a lot less wiggle room than it used to. Polling figures reflect that vividly. When new disasters hit, whether in Iraq or New Orleans, it’s becoming harder to take American eyes off them.
Let me then offer one of those predictions — surrounded by qualifications and caveats — that all writers should be wary of. If in a bitter, dirty mid-term election, filled with “irregularities,” one house of Congress or both nonetheless go to the Democrats, which I believe possible (despite their low polling figures at the moment), expect the investigations to begin. Expect as well that the Bush administration will then trot out that “obscure” presidential philosophy of power and claim that the Congress has no right to investigate the President in his guise as Commander-in-Chief.
That is why the Alito nomination is so crucial and why 2007 may prove the year of constitutional crisis in the United States.

Could this be daybreak?

Another reason–perhaps the reason–why they’re trying so hard to finish off the Supreme Court.

Published on Oregon Voter Rights Coalition (http://www.oregonvrc.org)

It’s been a long trek since Nov. 2, 2004 — now getting shorter
by Robert Lockwood Mills
January 11, 2006

Dear Friends: It took the downfall of a lobbyist who dresses like a Hasidic rabbi one day and a baseball coach the next to make it happen. But if looks as if our 14-month-long effort to expose the fraud in Ohio that gave the 2004 to Bush is bearing fruit at last.

Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) was one of the architects of HAVA (Help America Vote Act). In that role he worked with Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and others to reform certain election procedures that had arisen from the controversial 2000 election. But where electronic voting machines were concerned, the HAVA architects neglected accusations that they were “hackable” and focused instead on lesser issues, in particular making it easier for blind people to vote.

Diebold, Inc., from Ney’s home state of Ohio, is the leading company in electronic voting machines. In response to public demand dating back to 2000 for verifiable paper trails to accompany its machines (similar to their ATM machines’ transaction receipts), Diebold argued that it wasn’t practical. Ney, using his Congressional clout, blocked every piece of legislation that would have mandated such paper trails, even after the 2004 election and reports from Ohio and elsewhere that hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of votes had been flipped from Kerry to Bush. As many of you know, I witnessed this very thing in Florida as a pollwatcher.

Read more.

Rightists push for paperless e-voting

Think Tank writer pushes for the vendor’s perspective

Submitted by Vicky Perry on Thu, 01/12/2006 – 7:32pm.

A conservative ultra-free market think tank is pushing its agenda that paperless voting is the way to go. Find out who these writers are and where their money comes from.

The Pacific Research Institute , a free-market think tank, has called the paper trail requirement one of California’s top 10 policy blunders of 2005.

Read more.

Better email addresses for stopping Alito

Attention:
Senate Judiciary Committee Democratic members


Arlen Specter
CHAIRMAN, PENNSYLVANIA
http://specter.senate.gov/

Patrick J. Leahy
RANKING DEMOCRATIC MEMBER, VERMONT
http://leahy.senate.gov/

Charles E. Grassley
IOWA
http://grassley.senate.gov/

Edward M. Kennedy
MASSACHUSETTS
http://kennedy.senate.gov/

Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
DELAWARE
http://biden.senate.gov/

Dianne Feinstein
CALIFORNIA
http://feinstein.senate.gov/

Russell D. Feingold
WISCONSIN
http://feingold.senate.gov/

Charles E. Schumer
NEW YORK
http://schumer.senate.gov/

Richard J. Durbin
ILLINOIS
http://durbin.senate.gov/

Regarding Judge Sam Alito and what to ask him about Roe v. Wade, etc.

Regarding Roe v. Wade and other questionable issues I would like to know what criterian that Judge Alito would consider important in making judgments overturning R v. W. What are the reasons to keep Roe v. Wade, or not, if any, that would influence your decision?
As a lawyer Alito should be able to argue both sides of a case if he is making an unbiased judgment.


I haven’t heard questions asked this way yet. Have you?

Chris

Alito update

Dear Citizen:

Momentum is shifting on the Alito nomination. Senator Schumer’s aggressive questioning Tuesday evening reflected Democrat’s growing frustration with Alito’s inconsistent and inadequate answers, and yesterday several senators refused to let him get away with stonewalling.
At a news conference yesterday, they vowed “to keep digging until we get some answers.”
Ralph G. Neas
President
In this Special Issue:

1. Is Roe “settled law”?

2. Does Alito understand the “crushing hand of fate”?

3. Why can’t Alito give a credible explanation for his membership in the Concerned Alumni of Princeton?

IN FOCUS:
The Hearings So Far


Is Roe “Settled Law”?
Alito’s refusal to answer Senator Schumer’s straight-forward question Tuesday about whether he still believed, as he wrote in 1985, that the “Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion” clearly angered several Democratic Committee members. Yesterday, Senator Durbin tried a different approach to discover Alito’s views on reproductive freedom, but with no more success.
Senator Durbin asked Alito to tell the Judiciary Committee whether he considered Roe vs. Wade to be “settled law.” John Roberts answered this question during his hearing, but Alito, amazingly, would not even match the low standard set by the Chief Justice. When Senator Durbin refused to accept Alito’s empty tributes to stare decisis, Alito took refuge in semantics: his answer depends on what “‘settled’ means.”
Later in the day, Senator Feinstein took issue with Alito’s excuse for not answering Senators Durbin’s and Schumer’s questions — that cases concerning Roe might come before the court. “[T]here are four cases pending in the court right now on one man, one vote,” she pointed out, yet “you were willing to give your view on one man, one vote.”
To learn more on Alito’s record on personal privacy, visit http://media.pfaw.org/pdf/stc/Privacy.pdf

Does Alito Understand the “Crushing Hand of Fate”?
Will “the average person, the dispossessed person, the poor person,” asked Senator Durbin, “be subject to the ‘crushing hand of fate'” if they come before a Supreme Court with a Justice Alito? Senator Durbin noted a “recurring pattern” in Alito’s decisions where he sided with powerful corporations and the government against individuals who were forced to turn to the courts for protection. Several independent studies of Alito’s record have confirmed that he overwhelmingly rules against such individuals.
One case concerned Kevin Pirolli, a young developmentally disabled man who presented evidence that he was the victim of horrific sexual harassment. In a vigorous dissent, Alito argued that he should not even have the opportunity to present his case to a jury because “his lawyer had not adequately provided citations in his brief to places in the record describing his harassment.”
Another case has particular resonance today. Alito sided with a coal company that went to court because it had been cited by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission for violating federal mine safety law. Alito dissented from the majority ruling that held the Commission had the power to protect workers at the coal processing site, arguing that the facility did not fit the technical definition of a “mine.”
“In many of these tough questions,” Senator Durbin concluded from Alito’s record, “you end up ruling in favor of established institutions and against individuals.”
To learn more about Alito’s record siding with corporations, visit http://media.pfaw.org/pdf/stc/CorporatePowerAndAbuse.pdf

Why can’t Alito give a credible explanation for his membership in the Concerned Alumni of Princeton?
Senator Kennedy was so dissatisfied with Alito’s answers to questions about having touted his membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP), which vehemently resisted growing university admissions of women and minorities, that he threatened to call for a subpoena of withheld records at the Library of Congress.
Senator Kennedy cited examples of the reactionary views that had made the organization notorious at Princeton and in the national press and raise credibility concerns about Alito’s claims that he now doesn’t remember.
Not long before Alito bragged about his CAP membership in his now-infamous 1985 job application, the group’s magazine published an essay that began, “People nowadays just don’t seem to know their place.Å  Everywhere one turns blacks and Hispanics are demanding jobs Å  the physically handicapped are trying to gain equal representation in professional sports, and homosexuals are demanding that government vouchsafe them the right to bear children.” In 1984, CAP’s magazine wrote “scientists must find humans, or rather homosexuals, to submit themselves to experimental treatment [for AIDS].”
Alito, who has claimed not to remember joining the group, is adamant that he would not have done so “because of any attitude toward women and minorities,” but he said he probably did so because of anger at ROTC’s expulsion from Princeto
n’s
campus during the Vietnam War. When he recycled this explanation to Senator Durbin, the Senator objected, “Do women and minorities have anything to do with” controversy over ROTC?
To learn more about Concerned Alumni of Princeton, visit www.SaveTheCourt.org/CAPandCredibility

Call for a FILIBUSTER!

From Sheila:

I have just come from a meeting with two Kennedy aides – about Alito.

This is about a filibuster

Two free numbers for D.C Capitol Switchboard: 1-866-340-9281 and 1-866-340-9279

We must get enough Democratic votes for a filibuster

EVERYONE SHOULD CALL FEINSTEIN IN CA. SHE IS ON THE COMMITTEE

Each state must work on their Senator – those that voted for Roberts. Call, email, visit, etcetcetc. Probably we should all work on all these Sens, but they will often not pay attention to those out of state

Those up for election are especially vulnerable (of course, this precludes the e-voting machines)

Everyone should call Feingold – (this from us: 202-224-5323 – or the above numbers

As far as working on the Repubs, there is always Chafee, Snowe and Collins, but working on the Dems is better.

CHOICE IS THE KEY ISSUE we were told

Thanks

Sheila

Two on the Alito hearings as propaganda theater

Political theater
by kos
Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 09:50:54 AM PDT
The story about Borkemada’s wife crying during the hearings is getting a lot of ink today, which is yet another sign of just how well the established news media is doing its job. One thing the stories on the tears seem to miss is that she started crying during Lindsay Graham’s questioning, and Lindsay Graham helped prepare Alito for the hearings. Hmmm… that seems a little fishy, doesn’t it?
Update: A PR stunt? This seems to suggest so:
The always-alert Creative Response Concepts, a conservative public relations firm, sent this bulletin: “Former Alito clerk Gary Rubman witnessed Mrs. Alito leaving her husband’s confirmation in tears and is available for interviews, along with other former Alito clerks who know her personally and are very upset about this development.”
It’s all a freakin’ game. And the media is the biggest enabler.

Call now to stop Alito!

From Stephanie:
New Yorkers, in addition to the request below, join the phone banks at PFAW this week and next. Call Tony Simone at 212 420 0440 and tell him you can come in with your cell phone to call people to lobby their reps against Alito.
Thanks!

Current thinking and analysis seems to bring us to the following WRT Judge Alito. He’s a weasel, and worse than that, he’s a non-responsive weasel. Anyone at all who has listened to the hearings (including Schumer’s masterful attempts to get him to give a straight answer on anything) cannot conclude otherwise.

Further, that for the moment, unless a lot more Americans get off their butt and call or write their Senators, he’s getting that seat on the Court. This might be expected to have an adverse impact on women’s rights, including abortion, privacy, and the Imperial Presidency, along with the environment, promotion of big business, and strip searching ten year old girls. But Americans cannot or will not connect the dots and do something about it, or try to.

Here is the Judiciary Committee, you know who your senators are, go to it.

Arlen Specter
CHAIRMAN, PENNSYLVANIA
http://specter.senate.gov/

Orrin G. Hatch
UTAH
http://Hatch.senate.gov


Patrick J. Leahy
RANKING DEMOCRATIC MEMBER, VERMONT
http://leahy.senate.gov/

Charles E. Grassley
IOWA
http://grassley.senate.gov/

Edward M. Kennedy
MASSACHUSETTS
http://kennedy.senate.gov/

Jon Kyl
ARIZONA
http://kyl.senate.gov/

Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
DELAWARE
http://biden.senate.gov/

Mike DeWine
OHIO
http://dewine.senate.gov/

Herbert Kohl
WISCONSIN
http://kohl.senate.gov/

Jeff Sessions
ALABAMA
http://sessions.senate.gov/

Dianne Feinstein
CALIFORNIA
http://feinstein.senate.gov/

Lindsey Graham
SOUTH CAROLINA
http://lgraham.senate.gov/

Russell D. Feingold
WISCONSIN
http://feingold.senate.gov/

John Cornyn
TEXAS
http://cornyn.senate.gov/

Charles E. Schumer
NEW YORK
http://schumer.senate.gov/

Sam Brownback
KANSAS
http://brownback.senate.gov/

Richard J. Durbin
ILLINOIS
http://durbin.senate.gov/

Tom Coburn
OKLAHOMA
http://durbin.senate.gov/

Orrin G. Hatch
UTAH
Patrick J. Leahy
RANKING DEMOCRATIC MEMBER, VERMONT
Charles E. Grassley
IOWA
Edward M. Kennedy
MASSACHUSETTS
Jon Kyl
ARIZONA
Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
DELAWARE
Mike DeWine
OHIO
Herbert Kohl
WISCONSIN
Jeff Sessions
ALABAMA
Dianne Feinstein
CALIFORNIA
Lindsey Graham
SOUTH CAROLINA
Russell D. Feingold
WISCONSIN
John Cornyn
TEXAS
Charles E. Schumer
NEW YORK
Sam Brownback
KANSAS
Richard J. Durbin
ILLINOIS
Tom Coburn
OKLAHOMA