The Bigger Picture on the Attorney Scandal
Many of us have been following with interest the twists and turns in the Attorneys scandal in the United States. What many of us have missed -- mainly because the mainstream media have failed to pick up on it -- is the bigger picture: The attempt by the Bush regime to use electoral laws and US Attorneys to create an environment specifically better for Republican voters than for Democrats.
McClatchy's Washington Bureau has an excellent and detailed overview of the situation today -- it really is a MUST READ.
One quote stood out for me. It stood out because it was not made by a Democratic politician or someone in the "liberal" blogosphere. It was made by Joseph Rich, who left his job as chief of Justice Department's Voters Rights Section in 2005. He said the actions of the Bush regime fit a definite pattern:
"As more information becomes available about the administration's priority on combating alleged, but not well substantiated, voter fraud, the more apparent it is that its actions concerning voter ID laws are part of a partisan strategy to suppress the votes of poor and minority citizens."
None of this comes as a shock to those of us who have believed for decades that the western electoral system is a crock. It must however be upsetting to any regular American who has the naivete to believe that the DOJ and its various "Rights" sections are there to actually protect them.
Woodward's Been A Bushie For Years
Bob Woodward -- what a hero he and Carl Bernstein were to me and the millions of others who watched as they systematically helped unravel the Nixon presidency. This week's revelations that Woodward was told about Valerie Wilson a month before Walter Pincus, Bob Novak and Joe Wilson himself made the story public, that Woodward asked Pincus to leave him out of his reporting, that he failed to tell his editorial bosses at the Post for two years while the story swirled and grew, are a sad end to his reputation.
Perhaps it wouldn't have been been so bad if he hadn't spent the summer on the TV talk show circuit saying that Plamegate was insignificant and was being blown up by the media. Perhaps it wouldn't have been so bad if he hadn't spent the last decade sucking up to the Bush family, acting as their mouthpiece on Iraq on Larry King and elsewhere. Perhaps it wouldn't have been so bad if he hadn't grown so rich and smug looking.
Time to go, Bob.
Fraud is a Five-Letter Word
The Taliban's Shopping List
"I can tell you this,” Tony Perkins, president of the Washington-based Family Research Council, was quoted by Reuters as saying. "It was the values voter that ushered the president down the aisle for a second term." That’s the received wisdom this November, and I’m not going to go against that trend. Especially against the constant drumbeat of the religious activists’ wish lists in the media: marriage, abortion, judges – marriage, abortion, judges – marriage, abortion, judges. A few other items make the list – Grover Norquist, a conservative strategist close to the Bush administration, talks about “repealing the estate tax, privatizing Social Security, restricting medical and other liability lawsuits, closing military bases, opening more government jobs to competitive bidding to lower costs and weaken unions, imposing new disclosure requirements on organized labor, and expanding health care and investment savings accounts --but the noisy demands are sharply focused on the big three – marriage, abortion, judges.
"Now comes the revolution," crowed Richard Viguerie, the maven of conservative direct mail campaigns, while Dr. James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family outlined the revolution’s ambitious agenda: “to pass an amendment banning same-sex marriage, to stop abortion and embryonic stem-cell research, and most of all to remake the Supreme Court.”
I don’t know if Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission agrees with Dobson that same-sex marriage will “destroy the earth”, but he certainly signs on to the agenda by hoping “Bush will now give some issues of religious conservatives — namely passage of the proposed Marriage Protection Amendment — the same level of attention in his second term that the president gave prescription drug benefits in his first.” And Carrie Gordon Earll, a spokeswoman for Focus on the Family chimes in that, as Christianity Today has it, “Evangelicals are now determined to work for passage of the marriage amendment and election of “a true conservative” as the next justice to the U.S. Supreme Court. “This is a spike in the chart of evangelical passion and involvement," she said.”
Speaking as plain as day, Bob Jones, Jr. wrote to the President that “[y]ou will have opportunity to appoint many conservative judges and exercise forceful leadership with the Congress in passing legislation that is defined by biblical norm regarding the family, sexuality, sanctity of life, religious freedom, freedom of speech, and limited government. You have four years—a brief time only—to leave an imprint for righteousness upon this nation that brings with it the blessings of Almighty God.”
Fine words, I’m sure, for the happy fundamentalists. But what does Karl Rove -- the man who controls the Administration’s interaction with the base, and thus was the architect of Bush’s victory -- say will actually happen in the second term?
No big surprises. Rove told Fox News Sunday that Bush will seek a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. “If we want to have a hopeful and decent society,” he said, “we ought to aim for the ideal, and the ideal is that marriage ought to be, and should be, a union of a man and a woman.” Although he said that the States could deal with some of the issues – such as visitation rights in hospitals, or the right to inherit, or benefit rights, property rights – an Amendment was necessary “because without the protection of that amendment, we are at the mercy of activist federal judges or activist state judges.”
As for transforming the bench away from those “activist” judges, Rove noted that Bush campaigned on appointing to the judiciary “men and women who had no personal agenda, no political agenda, but would strictly interpret and apply the law … They shouldn't be activist legislators who just happen to wear robes and never face election … They ought to be men and women … who will strictly apply the law, strictly interpret the Constitution. That's exactly what he said he would do in the campaign, and that's what he'll do.” Men and women like Antonin Scalia, perhaps, who think the last 200 years have been a waste of time. Or maybe more like J. Leon Holmes, who President Bush appointed to a lifetime seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas.
Judge Holmes is a hardline anti-choice bigot who has equated abortion with slavery, and pro-choice advocates with Nazis. Opposing his appointment, the People For The American Way noted that Holmes “has served as president of Arkansas Right to Life, helped form the Pro-Life Educational Alliance in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and served as a Secretary for the Unborn Child Amendment Committee … Holmes is also a member of the Federalist Society, a group whose experts on abortion frequently advocate for the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Holmes has not only been a member of these organizations, he has also served as legal counsel for anti-choice groups in cases seeking to advance the anti-choice agenda.” Holme’s fundamentalist beliefs go even deeper. He has publicly stated that wives should be subordinate to their husbands, and blamed feminists for the availability of artificial contraception.
Karl Rove, through George Bush, approved Holmes against all legal advice. As Neal Gabler put it in the Los Angeles Times: “Rovism is government by jihadis in the grip of unshakable self-righteousness … Unwavering discipline, demonization of foes, disdain for reality and a personal sense of infallibility based on faith are the stuff of a theocracy — the president as pope or mullah and policy as religious warfare.”
Although the President will need to expend political capital on Iraq and tax reform to please the neos – the other leg of his support – I am unfortunately confident Karl Rove will make sure there is enough left over to stamp the drumbeats of fundamentalism – marriage, abortion, judges – into the American psyche for a generation or more.
Economics 101 for Republican Voters
While the Republican politicos shout hoorahs for last month's job creation figures, and while the Republican base feels warm and cosy about its decision to vote its values over its intellect, most people are losing their shirts. A detailed study by the Economic Policy Institute shows that for middle class Americans "pre-tax incomes fell for three years in a row, leaving the typical household with $1,535 less income in 2003 than in 2000, a drop of 3.4%."
"Middle-income families saw their incomes erode between 2000 and 2003, after changes in both taxes and health spending are taken into account. For married-couple families with children, health spending rose three times faster than income (not inflation-adjusted) between 2000 and 2003, absorbing half the growth of their income. The post-tax, post-health-spending income of married-couple families with children, for instance, fell $699, or 1.3%, between 2000 and 2003, while that of single-mother families fell $433, or 2.0%."
Another study shows that for
"For the 14th straight quarter, the share of GDP that consists of wage and salary income fell. Such a decline is unprecedented during the post-World War II era ... [There has been] a dramatic reduction of 4.1 percentage points. (A percentage point of GDP is equivalent to $118 billion per year.) The size of this decline is also without recent precedent."
This is not surprising when we realise that during this same period -- a period of recession it is claimed -- corporations shifted huge sums from company operations (including wages and salaries) to shareholder and management profits. As the survey by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reveals "data through the second quarter show that the share of GDP going to corporate profits has increased substantially.
While wages and salaries have received a significantly smaller share of national income, corporate profits have received a significantly larger share. Corporate profit data are only available through the second quarter of 2004. In the thirteen quarters from early 2001 through then, the share of GDP consisting of corporate profits has risen by 2.3 percentage points."
Look at the Forbes' list of Richest Americans. Look at some of the increases in enormous wealth found there. Then ask yourself where the workers' wages and salaries and middle class security have gone.
The World's Considered Opinion
So, What Now?
The Americans showed us yesterday that they are, at heart, a conservative people. The economy has tanked, there is a mess of a foreign war, and civil rights are being yanked left, right and centre: It seems hard to believe that the setup could have been any better for the Democrats. And yet Bush easily won the popular vote, and seems certain to scoop the 270 electoral college votes he needs for a second term. Not only that, but the Republicans increased their control over both the House and the Senate.
So, what now?
The two or three Supreme Court Justices that Bush will now be able to appoint will change the flavour of America for a generation or more. It seems certain that Roe v Wade and women's rights will be an early casualty. The rich, of course, will continue to fly to Canada or Europe for their abortions, while the poor women of America will have to polish up their wire coat hangers. Overnight, gay rights have already been shattered by the 11 lost propositions. The possibility of legalising same-sex marriage is gone, and there will be increasing negative pressure on civil unions and gay adoptions. This could be a very tough few years for both women and gays as decades of progress are discarded.
Moreover, Patriot Act II will now be passed and will not be overturned by the new Court. More and more parts of individual Americans' lives will be monitored and tracked by the government and its agencies. The notion of privacy will essentially disappear. PA II will probably include secret courts ruling on secret charges, with habeas corpus suspended for those called before them. The American Taliban will now be given its head to impose fundamentalist rules of morality and security on the general public. Society will close in on itself even further.
As for the economy, one can see deficits soaring into an endless future. Bush and the GOP Congress will doubtless move to "reform" the taxation system further with massive tax breaks for the wealthier segments of the population "paid for" by equally massive cuts in entitlement programs. The inequalities which are extreme today, will only grow worse. Of course, even a President with a second term mandate will not be able to cut social services enough to feed the greed of the tax-cut brigade -- thus continuing and increasing deficits are certain. Combined with increasing trade balance deficits, this will put such strain on the value of the dollar that I can see OPEC moving away from a dollar-based pricing to one based, say, on the Euro. The Fed will probably try to stem the anti-dollar tide by increasing interest rates which in turn will devastate the house-owing boom that has been driven by super-low mortgages. A Bush second term will help feed the greed of a few while bancrupting the rest.
In foreign affairs, however, there is a glimmer of hope. So long as the US is bogged down in Iraq (and I see no exit strategy in place by Bush and his crowd) they are too weak militarily to launch any other pre-emptive attacks. In the Middle East at least, I expect the US will call on Israel to pick up its dirty work, especially in any attack on Iran, but full scale military engagement seems unlikely. That's the good news. The bad news is that the US will continue to gut international programs, especially those that diverge from the social beliefs of Bush's fundamentalist backers, and will no doubt continue to hamper any reform of the UN.
For those of us outside the United States, the next four years will be an interesting time as an increasingly weak (financially and militarily) but increasingly belligerent United States totters around the international stage. Inside the US, though, I believe the situation will become ever more dire and dangerous as poverty and social divisions increase. I suspect the majority will soon be looking forward to 2008.
Limiting The Electorate
We have for weeks been hearing about abuses of the electoral system by both sides in the current US Presidential election -- disruptions of the registration system, harrassment of some black voters, unauditable election machines that can count the votes any way they want. Two recent reports, however, indicate that for the Bush Republicans, changes to the electoral system limiting the numbers of voters, and limiting voters' ability to protest wrong-doing, are meant to be permanent.
A recent New York Times' editorial noted that "with little notice or discussion", the Republicans slipped into an otherwise irrelevant appropriations bill a provision that would "ban even nonpartisan voter registration efforts in public housing developments all over the country." The Times was blunt in its assessment:
"This is an example of the unfortunate impulse now afflicting some parts of the Republican Party: a desire to suppress voting in poor and minority neighborhoods ... The proposed Senate legislation comes on top of recent G.O.P. maneuvers in Ohio, where Republicans challenged the registrations of more than 30,000 voters, many of them impoverished ... The same impulse to discourage voters was on display over the last several months in New Mexico, where the Indian Health Service of the Health and Human Services Department suspended voter registration efforts for several months at some medical centers and clinics serving Native Americans."At the same time, and against a policy that is decades' old, Ashcroft's Departrment of Justice is now arguing that individual voters and organizations no longer have the rigth to launch legal suits against alleged voting irregularities. Ashcroft argues that the Help America Vote Act, passed to help resolve the 2000 mess, gives his Department the sole authority to challenge States in court.
"Since the civil rights era of the 1960s, individuals have gone to federal court to enforce their right to vote, often with the support of groups such as the NAACP, the AFL-CIO, the League of Women Voters or the state parties. And until now, the Justice Department and the Supreme Court had taken the view that individual voters could sue to enforce federal election law. But in legal briefs filed in connection with cases in Ohio, Michigan and Florida, the administration's lawyers argue that the new law gives Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft the exclusive power to bring lawsuits to enforce its provisions."So far, the DOJ has been unsuccessful in its arguments but they may just be setting the scene according to the Los Angeles Times.
"[A]ll three courts that ruled on the matter rejected the administration's broader view that voters may not sue state election officials in federal court. Still, the issue may resurface and prove significant next week if disputes arise over voter qualifications. Some election-law experts believe the administration has set the stage for arguing that the federal courts may not second-guess decisions of state election officials in Ohio, Florida or elsewhere."There is clearly a pattern of discrimination in these actions. Reduce the number of generally-pro-Democratic voters and Republicans don't have to work so hard to win. With the vote finally upon us tomorrow, this coming week could be desperately interesting for the fate of basic civil rights in the United States.
What's Your Definition of Success?
John Edwards on Dick Cheney's remarks of the previous day:
"Eleven hundred American soldiers have lost their lives, more than 8,000 have been wounded. Terrorists are flowing in. Americans are being kidnapped. We see beheadings on television. The costs are now $225 billion and counting. And, knowing all of this, yesterday all Dick Cheney could say was that Iraq is a remarkable success."You really do have to wonder what world Cheney and Bush are living in. No wonder they don't want to see the coffins come home.
"Members of the Kansas congregation travel the country in small groups putting on about three protests each weekend in various locations, said Margie Phelps, daughter of the church's founder and pastor, Fred Phelps Sr. At the demonstrations they stood with signs that read slogans such as "God hates fags," "God hates America," some that link natural disasters and terrorist attacks to tolerance of homosexuals and others showing stick figures copulating. Their favorite targets include AIDS victims' funerals."This happy group, as reported by the Mobile Register, including Kansans with the Westboro Baptist Church and a Loxley street preacher named Orlando Bethel, make it their business to disrupt ceremonies that have some involvment with gays. Their most recent target was the church in Alabama where was buried Scotty Joe Weaver, a 19-year old gay man who was beaten senseless, stabbed and then burned to death. Police have charged three men with capital murder. The group's complaint? "When they were [faced] with the decision about what to say about (Weaver's) life, they should have said unequivocally: Don't live that way, and if you live that way you'll die and end up in hell," Phelps said.
"On Saturday evening, while protesting in Mobile outside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception by shouting epithets at choirboys and churchgoers, Phelps said she didn't condone Weaver's killing but said homosexuality was a sin on par with murder." At the Methodist church [on Sunday morning], Phelps greeted morning worshipers as they filed into the church with a vulgarity-laden rendition of "God Bless America," which began: "Oh, wicked land of Sodomites, the South is full of whelps."Welcome to the next four years!
Thanks to The Revealer for leading me to this story.