Sunday, December 31, 2006
Since before Eisenhower warned of the "grave implications" of the "military-industrial complex" for our society, the United States has been traveling the fiscal road of military Keynesianism. That was the same road traveled by the German Reich after the Weimar Republic collapsed beneath piles of worthless Reichmarks. Hyperinflation was so bad that Germans actually burned paper money in the their stoves because firewood was too expensive. Hitler did not undertake a program of rearmament and expansion solely for economic reasons, but increased government spending on arms made him more acceptable to German industrialists who might otherwise have opposed his destabilizing plans for leibenstraum. Expansion of the army also absorbed many young males with few skills and little education while placating the Prussian officer corps fuming over the perceived humiliation of Versailles. Many abroad applauded his German economic miracle.
Traditional Keynesian economic policy prescribes deficit government spending in bad times--the proverbial pump priming--balanced by debt repayment in good times. Military Keynesianism is unstable because there is no political check on deficit spending for armaments. One of the side effects of continuous war preparation is, inevitably, war or at least a warlike political environment. The supposedly co-equal branches of government have ceded power to the executive during the post WWII era in which there have been four major wars and several minor military actions. The War Powers Act of 1973, passed in the reaction to Vietnam and intended to limit the president's ability to wage war without an act of Congress, had been ignored or violated before the Charlatan was installed in office. Few government leaders, except the rigidly authoritarian Vice President, think the executive branch has lost power in the last thirty years. The regime never misses an opportunity to justify its actions on a state of war replacing the Cold War, called "the Global War on Terror". It has spent its last six years in power seeking to expand presidential authority to a level never before experienced in America under the rubric of Commander in Chief. The Chief candidly admits that this will be a long war that may never be finally over.
While the United States continues to incur debt for a permanent war, its trade deficit soared to an all-time high in 2005 of $782.7 billion, the fourth consecutive year of record trade deficits. This massive amount of debt is financed by two major creditors, Japan ($850 billion) and China ($854 billion). Of course, these countries continue to lend to our treasury because America is a vast market for their consumer goods. But they do so only because of a competitive advantage. American demand for their goods provides employment. How long they will be willing to be paid for their products in devalued American dollars is any body's guess. Investors like Warren Buffet are aware of the weakening dollar as they move into foreign currencies to hedge. This foreign underwriting of our military economy explains in part why the huge U.S. debt burden has not yet triggered a severe domestic economic contraction, as predicted by traditional analysis. Pump priming works only so long as the bills are eventually paid.
The U.S. appears unwilling to give up its expensive military hegemony, choosing instead the bad example of Rome. That empire maintained its republican facade while clinging to its provinces by dictatorial force until it collapsed from within. National bankruptcy did not mean the literal end of Germany in 1923 or the end of Argentina in 2001. However, learning to exist with much lower living standards, an authoritarian national government, and the reemergence of countervailing powers in the world will be difficult for Americans accustomed to having it their way.
Weekend Update: The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has released figures showing that in the last six years of the Bush regime, the national debt has increased by $2.3 trillion including $633 billion in interest payments. Foreign investors financed 78% of the deficit. The trade deficit for 2006 is projected to be a record $750 billion. Trade deficits have exceeded 5% of the GDP since 2004, a condition most economists consider unsustainable in the long term. Most of the growth in the imbalance is caused by foreign oil imports. I wonder how much gas mileage an Abrams tank gives?
Just so you know its not only me, here is a quote from Chris Hedges, Harvard Divinity graduate and former Pulitzer Prize winning journalist:
There has been, along with the creation of an American oligarchy, the steady Weimarization of the American working class. The top one percent of American households have more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined. This figure alone should terrify all who care about our democracy.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
In the latest development, a Florida judge has rejected the Democrat's request to examine the electronic voting machines' "innards". Of course state election officials, the vast majority of whom are Republican, claim that the machines were operating properly. The Omaha, Nebraska company claims tests showed they were working properly. But the undeniable fact is that there is no independent way of determining if the machines were operating correctly at the time of the election. This is so because the machines do not create a real time record of vote tallies that can be audited. An examination of the machine's electronic circuits could reveal an executable program embedded in the hardware and not detectable without such an examination. Predictably the judge ruled that the possibility of lost votes did not warrant disclosure of the company's trade secrets. However, there should be no question that a system of voting that does not allow an independent means of verifying accuracy is appropriate for use in a democracy that fundamentally depends upon transparency and accountability in elections.
We now know that in Florida a corporation's bottom line is more important than a fair election. The Democrat has appealed the court ruling and also contested the election in the House of Representatives. But the new Democratic leadership has decided that the putative winner will be seated as the representative of Florida's 13 district pending a decision on the challenge. If the U.S. House does not act to invalidate the 13th District election, we will know that the nation's values are the same as Florida's: Democracy is for sale.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Truth is our only client here....
Representative Gerald R. Ford while a member of the Warren Commission
I deeply believe in equal justice for all Americans...the law... is no respecter of persons; but the law is a respecter of reality.
President Gerald R. Ford announcing his pardon of former President Richard M. Nixon
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Monday, December 18, 2006
Those of you familiar with the writings of Richard Hofstadter may recognize the title of this post as derived from his essay about American imperial expansion at the time of the Spanish War, "Cuba, the Philippines and Manifest Destiny". In that essay Hofstadter posits that economic imperialism could not be the sole explanation for the annexation of the Philippines at the close of hostilities with Spain in 1898. The Philippines were not a wildly profitable colony and within a generation of their occupation American political leaders--even that icon of American imperialism Theodore Roosevelt-- were calling for the islands' independence. The compelling parallels of zeitgeist warrant serious consideration by our nation's political leaders as they ponder an escape from the foreign policy morass of Iraq.
Hofstadter considered the momentous and unprecedented decision to acquire an overseas possession as the nation's bipolar reaction to a "psychic crisis". Certainly the newspapers, especially the yellow press of the time, did much to whip up jingoism among the public, but something in their collective psyche made them susceptible to war propaganda. The crisis was the acute economic depression of 1893. For the first time in American history an economic event had help create a mass movement large enough to capture one of the major parties. Populism represented the possibility, or threat depending on one's status, of fundamental social change. It was a crusade for the soul of America carried forward with religious zeal. The Populist & Free Silver movement's defeat at the polls after a disruptive campaign created a significant amount of frustration among the disadvantaged. Huge business trusts were eclipsing the scope of individual economic opportunity. Organized labor was locked in a violent struggle with capitalists to win recognition. The closing of the frontier, expressed by Jackson Turner, was another powerful symbol of diminishing expectations. The nation was clearly at a watershed in history and the future was viewed as problematic.
Public reaction to the crisis expressed itself in two opposite moods. One was social empathy expressed in humanitarian protest and social reform; the other was aggressive self-assertion expressed in national power and expansion. The events of the nineties had brought frustration and anxiety to civic minded Americans. The need to be reassured of the nation's strength existed alongside the capacity for sympathy. Therefore, the war against Spain could be viewed by the public simultaneously as a democratic struggle to save Cuba from the colonial oppression of Spain, and the righteous assertion of American power abroad in a world being divided up by predatory European powers. This was manifest destiny applied on a global, not just a continental or even hemispheric, extent.
There was an elite circle of politicians and editors that saw the economic and military potential of a colony in the Orient. Their motivation to annex the Philippines is properly described as imperialist. They were inspired by the naval theories of Alfred Mahan and the practical example of Anglo-Saxon hegemony. At the center of that circle was the extremely manly Teddy Roosevelt. He considered the war against Spain an opportunity to test the metal of American youth while building a proper army and navy befitting an emerging world power. The anti-imperialists were disorganized in comparison. They did not control a major party as did the Republican expansionists. They were politically diverse, elderly, and led by the once defeated William Jennings Bryan whose compromising approach in the face of the public's support for the war undermined anti-imperialist efforts.
America's first steps into the Philippines were presented as defensive. It was assumed that Spanish ships in the Pacific could attack the U.S. west coast. Commodore Dewey was sent to engage them. His ships destroyed the decrepit Spanish Eastern Fleet at anchor in Manila Bay without loosing a man. The spectacular victory was seen as Providential. Understandably, it then gave impetus to the desire to protect the heroic US squadron by occupying Manila with troops. They were dispatched in July, 1898. The capture of Manila was carried out with the cooperation of the Spanish and to the exclusion of indigenous freedom fighters led by Aguinaldo. The protocol ending hostilities called for the occupation of the city pending a final peace settlement.
The America public and Congress were thus presented with a fait accompli by war supporters. To speak against continuing the occupation would be deemed unpatriotic. They argued to leave the Philippines precipitously would expose it to being overrun by other powers and possibly start a war over their possession. The U.S., having defeated the dictatorial colonial power, had a moral obligation to Filipinos who were considered congenitally incapable of self government. England was encouraging American occupation as opposed to one of its European rivals taking control of the strategic archipelago. An all-or-none policy was suggested by the dynamics of the situation. An equivocal President McKinley finally decided on a long term annexation of the entire chain after five months. The joke ran, "How is McKinley's mind like a bed? You have to make it up for him to use it." When it became clear to Filipino patriots after December, 1898 that American intentions did not include returning the islands that American forces were ordered to fully occupy, a fierce and bitter insurgency erupted. The insurgency lasted until 1903 by which time its leaders were either captured or killed. Amazingly, in the process of subduing resistance in the islands using unorthodox methods referred to as 'Injun fighting', U.S. troops (mostly state militia volunteers) resorted to the waterboard torture technique to extract information from prisoners. The "benevolent assimilation" of the Philippines cost a quarter million Filipinos their lives mostly due to malnutrition and disease.
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 caused a psychic crisis in America. A successful attack against the U.S. mainland had not occurred since 1812. The fact that the attack was made covertly by a small group of individuals instead of a uniformed foreign army heightened the trauma. The spectacular toppling of the twin Trade Towers profoundly shattered Americans' sense of personal safety and their confidence in government's ability to protect them. Americans' faith in the validity of their democracy was shakened by the disputed Presidential election of 2000. A popular notion of moral decay seemed confirmed when the previous President was impeached and nearly removed from office for lying about an extra-marital sexual encounter. Many middle class Americans had experienced a deterioration in their economic security causing them grave doubts about their status in the new century. The events of the decade leading to the millennium had brought frustration and anxiety to America's body politic.
This modern psychic crisis made the public particularly susceptible to a sophisticated propaganda campaign urging a foreign war. The war would satisfy a strong desire for retaliation and would promise to regain America's righteous role in the world. America would resume its perceived new manifest destiny of destroying tyranny everywhere and leading the world to universal democracy. The administration's slogans would be tinged with religiosity and fundamental certitude. An elite circle of influential policy experts and journalists adhering to a radical school of political philosophy known as neoconservatism would aid the calculated effort to convince a supine Congress to authorize an invasion. Where there were no objective facts to support the claims of imminent danger, war supporters would resort to using unreliable reports and discredited claims. In short, the justifications for war were fraudulent.
After a brief and remarkably successful military campaign defeating a dictatorial regime that was no real threat to American security, the public and Congress is presented with another fait accompli. We face a determined resistance whose will to fight has been stiffened by extreme U.S. methods and egregious strategic errors. We are told by the Administration that to leave Iraq now is to admit defeat, endanger our army and invite regional chaos. They claim we have a moral obligation to Iraqis who are incapable of providing for their own security. They admonish that only victory by force of arms is an acceptable outcome for a world power whose prestige and credibility hang in the balance.
Their arguments for "staying the course" are distressingly identical to those used by American imperialists of a century ago. However, there is one essential difference in Realpolitik between the Philippines of 1898 and Iraq of 2003. The potential protectorate of Iraq has oil, making it a much more valuable prize for those powerful business interests who wish to profit from a new colony in the midst of the oil zone.
The Oregon DEQ measured ambient benzene levels in downtown Portland at forty times the level considered safe for longterm exposure in 1999. The risk for cancer due to benzene exposure in metropolitan Multnomah County is twice the national average. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden (D) is threatening to hold confirmation of the EPA's general counsel nominee hostage, if the agency does not correct the situation. Its current rule proposal allows refiners to trade credits for benzene levels in cleaner product without removing the contaminant from dirty fuel. The scheme also prohibits state regulators from requiring the removal of benzene from gas sold in their state. EPA calculates it would only cost one tenth of a penny per gallon to remove benzene from gas. Corporate bottom line is that trendy folks continue breathing bad air.
Thanks to Onward Oregon for the statistics.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Saturday, December 16, 2006
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Florida switched to lethal injection after two inmate's heads caught fire in the electric chair and a third had a nose bleed. So not only can that state not conduct fair elections, it has trouble judicially murdering its inmates. Way to go, Florida!
For the record, Diaz was convicted of murdering a topless bar manager in 1979. Diaz's final statement was, "The death penalty is not only a form of vengeance, but a cowardly act by humans. I'm sorry for what is happening to me and my family who have been put through this."
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Robert Kennedy apparently believed from the day of JFK's death that the anti-Castro Cubans involved in AMWORLD might also be involved in the assassination. A logical conclusion given that some of them were being trained to assassinate the Cuban head of state. It might have been possible that a Cuban double agent had infiltrated the covert coup operation. Or perhaps a embittered survivor of the Bay of Pigs disaster had sought revenge for the alleged betrayal of their cause by the President. Hours after JFK's death Robert told journalist Haynes Johnson who was working on a book about Manuel Artime, Bay of Pigs veteran and exile leader of a private army training in Nicaragua for the coup, "one of your guys did it". He even asked his friend CIA Director McCone if the agency had killed his brother. McCone told him the agency had not. The Director also said he thought two people were involved in the shooting. Later, after Mafia bag man Jack Ruby eliminated Oswald in front of his astonished Dallas police buddies and television, Kennedy came to believe that the Mafia was involved with his brother's death. He was emotionally crushed by the thought that his relentless prosecutions may have been responsible for motivating his brother's killers. He was aware that his government's collaboration with organized crime gave it the means and the opportunity to strike back. Harris Wofford, a close associate of Robert and later a Senator, wrote that, "There was nothing Robert Kennedy could do or say about it. There was no way of getting to the bottom of the assassination without uncovering the very stories he hoped would be hidden forever...[he] took no steps to inform the Commission of the Cuban and Mafia connections that would have provided the main clues to any conspiracy." Such clues would have led to the exposure of AMWORLD.
Certainly FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover did not tell what he knew. No friend of the Kennedys, he publicly proclaimed the 'lone nut' was JFK's murderer and insured that the single bullet theory became the official story. Less than a week after the assassination an FBI agent tied Ruby to a gun smuggling ring that involved former Cuban president, Carlos Prio. Prio had been a corrupt official with ties to the Mafia. He became a Miami businessman and anti-Castro activist. Prio was outed by the Kennedys from AMWORLD, but he attempt to get into it anyway. He clearly knew about the operation, as CIA informants reported. The FBI report about Ruby's connection to Prio became a Warren Commission document (#3036) but it was buried there in 26 volumes of paper.
Deputy CIA Director Richard Helms was tasked with conducting an internal agency review of its files on Lee Harvey Oswald. Helms withheld information on Oswald from his chosen investigator John Witten. Oswald was the subject of a pre-assassination counterintelligence file (201) within the super secret Special Investigations Group (SIG) which apparently detailed Oswald's political activities. Witten initially concluded that Oswald had acted alone, but after reading the FBI's Oswald report at the invitation of a Kennedy aide, Nicholas Katzenbach, he decided that his initial conclusions were "completely irrelevant". Helms removed Witten from the Oswald review and it was taken over by the chief of CIA counterintelligence, James Jesus Angleton. An insomniac, paranoid personality and hardline anti-communist, it was Angleton's business to know where all the skeletons were buried. He is reputed to have had a photo of J. Edgar Hoover engaged in sex with his male lover. The classified 201 file, if it still exists, may show that Oswald was being controlled by CIA agents like David Atlee Phillips
aka Maurice Bishop.
Any theory--be it evolution or how President Kennedy was murdered--is only as valid as its probative power. The national security cover up of the mob conspiracy to eliminate the President explains many of the assassination's curious factual incongruities:
- Attorney General Kennedy decided to transport his brother's body back to Bethesda Naval Hospital for an autopsy over the strenuous objections of Texas law officers who insisted that Texas law required an autopsy at Parkland. Secret Service agents nearly had a violent confrontation with Texas officials over possession of the corpse.
- The autopsy was closely monitored by the Attorney General from the 17th floor suite of the secure military hospital via telephone to Admiral Burkley, the President's physician. Witnesses to the autopsy have stated that Burkley controlled the examination. O'Connor: Burkley said, "I am in charge."; Jenkins: "I think he [ hospital Commander Humes] was being directed.";Custer:" He[Admiral Burkley] seemed like he was controlling everything."
- The initial observations of the Parkland physicians are at glaring odds with the report of the military autopsy especially regarding the nature and extent of the massive head wound. Dr. Clark, the only neurosurgeon to see the wound, described it as "tangential" at the Parkland press conference. When this statement is correlated with his other statements about he wound, a consistent description emerges: a shot tangentially hitting the right side of the President's head blowing out the right rear octant. Dr. McClelland's observations coincide with Clark's description, "I noted that the right posterior portion of the skull had been blasted...you could actually look down into the skull cavity and see that probably a third or so of the brain tissue...had been blasted out" The Parkland Hospital reports consistently describe a right, front side impact that exploded through the back of the skull, driving bone fragments and brain tissue backward. Such an explosive force could have easily obscured a front entry wound.
- There was an apparent change of medical opinion from the conclusion of the military autopsy in the early morning of November 23, 1963 to the submission of the final report supporting two hits from the rear. Jenkins: "I came out of the autopsy totally expecting them (Hume, Boswell & Finck) to say that there were two shooters." Hospital Commander Hume burned his autopsy notes and the first draft of the report. Boswell's notes and statements support a bullet entering the occiput and driving forward to the mid temple region depositing a bullet fragment behind the right eye visible in the autopsy X-rays and another fragment moving down through the mid brain fracturing the skull floor (CE397).
- None of the Cuban exile leaders--Artime, Ray, Menoyo, Varona, William--who were part of the AMWORLD coup plan were interviewed by the Warren Commission despite Oswald's very public confrontation and debate with Carlos Bringuier of the DRE (Directorio Revolutionario Estudiantil) the summer before the assassination. This group was run by CIA agent David Atlee Phillips and subsequently, George Joannides. By July, 1963 the organization was CIA funded at the level of $18-25,000 per month. Its probably not coincidence that Joannides was brought out of retirement to serve as CIA liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1976. The Committee was not informed of his control of DRE in 1963.
- Ruby's background of organized crime contacts was not completely investigated by the Warren Commission. Ruby, aka Rubenstein, had ties to the mob going back to at least 1937 when he was an organizer for the Chicago Scrap Iron & Junk Handlers Union, Local 20467. The union was eventually placed in trusteeship and its President Paul Dorfman suspended by the AFL-CIO. Ruby was involved in gun running to Cuba in 1959 and played a small role in Jimmy Hoffa's deal to sell C-97 aircraft and guns to Castro using stolen Canadian bonds to finance the transaction. This transaction in turn served as cover for CIA sponsored assassination plots against Castro. Ruby pleaded with Chief Justice Earl Warren in Dallas to be brought to Washington for protection and questioning. Ruby told the Judge, "I am making a statement now that I may not live the next hour when I walk out of this room." He had good reason to be scared. His contacts with made guys like Joe Civello, Marcello capo in Dallas, might have allowed investigators to unravel the tangled web of deceit surrounding the lone gunman cover story if they been directed to do so.
What the theory of a mob hit and national security cover up doesn't not explain is whether or not any agents of the United States government had prior knowledge that President Kennedy was the target of a plot to kill him.
Most prominent researchers rule out institutional culpability. But as one researcher publicly noted there is no evidence ruling out the possibility that some government agents--'bad apples'-- had prior knowledge of the Mafia's plan to kill the President in Dallas. Indeed given their official assignments, political views, clandestine experience, and close collaboration with organized crime to hit Castro it is probable that they did have prior knowledge of the Mafia's intentions. That they did nothing to alert the Secret Service to the danger facing Kennedy in Chicago, Tampa and finally Dallas makes them a part of the assassination conspiracy even if they were keeping the secrets of AMWORLD or similar operations. There is no "smoking file" available, only informed speculation.
At the top of my bad apple list are the officers: David Sanchez Morales, then deputy chief of JMWAVE responsible for operations against Cuba, who had a close personal relationship with mob boss and plotter Johnny Roselli. He had a reputation of being a hard drinker who talked to much. Morales was himself an assassin with a long history of black operations going back to the successful CIA assassination of President Arbenz of Guatemala in 1954. His identity was keep secret from the Warren Commission and the next four government commissions to investigate aspects of the assassination. Morales died of heart attack before he was scheduled to testify before the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA). David Atlee Phillips stated he was Oswald's case officer. He was a friend of Marcelo employee and government informant Guy Bannister. He even had a friend in common with Jack Ruby. More importantly, he ran DRE and Alpha 66 for the Company giving him wide knowledge of anti-Castro group activity, and in 1963 he was in charge of the CIA's Cuba operations in Mexico City. He also worked on AMWORLD as part of the Special Affairs Staff (SAS) within the Company. Oswald was linked to Eloy Menoyo's exile group through Phillips, aka Maurice Bishop. Before he died, he told a former HSCA staff member that "JFK was done in by a conspiracy, likely including rogue American intelligence people." Its my opinion he was one of the "rogues". James Jesus Angleton,the master counterespionage agent, had connections to the anti-communist Mafia that probably dated to his OSS service in Italy and Operation Gladio. Angleton's ultra secret Special Investigations Group had a file on Oswald's political activity prior to Dallas. His group could have picked up indications that the mob intended to use Oswald as a patsy. He was assigned by Richard Helms to cut off the Company's in house investigation of Oswald. Helms, a career officer risen in the ranks and passed over for the Director's job by JFK, demonstrated his overriding loyalty to the Company when he failed to inform Robert Kennedy about the "executive action" program code named ZR/RIFLE and the Rolando Cubela plot to kill Castro (AMLASH). Helms could have been informed by either Morales or Angleton about the Mafia menace. He finally attained the Director's chair during the Nixon administration. In 1977 Helms was convicted of misleading Congress about Nixon's plan for a coup in Chile. There are others who could be named as having prior knowledge. We will have to wait until 2017 when the CIA's files on the Kennedy assassination are supposed to be declassified to find out who they may be.
Post Script: One mystery that can be solved now is the identity of the paid collaborator that was to replace Fidel Castro. If you think it was Che Guevara you are wrong. Castro himself thought it was the revolutionary hero. Perhaps this is one reason Che went to Bolivia to fight for the rebels there. Castro did not find out until 1990 that it was Juan Almeida, Commander of the Cuban Army (8th photo). He is currently the number two man in Cuba behind Raul Castro according to the CIA. This web article is dedicated to El Presidente, Fidel Castro. Viva Fidel!
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Our way forward:
Preserving democracy by holding our leaders accountable for their disasters.
Making elections fair by giving every voter a paper ballot.
Securing our country by establishing a living wage and national health care.
Working for peace, not oil, with our friends by engaging our opponents in dialogue.
Caring for our planet by using energy responsibly and protecting the environment we share.
Baghdad is burning,
A nation sinks beneath flames of violence;
The camera is on the Charlatan,
Who proclaims tropes that make no sense.
Where is the good shepard with a plan?
An ancient land in bloody turmoil awaits its fate,
But the camera is on the Charlatan,
Who only knows the pretense.
Friday, December 08, 2006
Impeachment is not about revenge. Its about restoring democracy. While impeachment is a very serious step that should not have been
trivialized as it was during the last presidential administration, it
is an indispensable part of a system of checks and balances that sustains
our democracy. When strong evidence exists of the most serious
crimes, we must use impeachment or lose the ability of the Legislative branch to
compel the Executive branch to obey the law.
Impeachment is not a question of supporting one party over another, but of upholding the rule of law over both of them. Impeachment is about protecting the Constitution from the abuse of power by the Executive branch, not about the character, or lack of character, of George W. Bush.
Members of Congress take an oath of office promising that they will defend the Constitution from "enemies both foreign and domestic." That is their first duty to the Republic. When the Constitution is under attack by a radical philosophy of unlimited executive power in times of war they must devote their attention to reestablishing a system of limited government.
George W. Bush is out of control. The Founders have provided us a solution. We must use it or loose our democracy.
The crunch is coming says Charley, around 2015 to 2020 when global oil production will reach a maximum rate and start to inexorably decline. He sees several reasons for the coming paradigm shift. The big oils did not invest enough for exploration and pocketed their enormous profits. If you are a CEO with a lot of stock options that's good news, for the rest of its bad news. War in the Middle East and Africa has disrupted operations. Did anybody say Iraq? The world is using 1.5 to 2% more oil every year. There is more oil to be recovered but its the oil in difficult locations like the deep ocean and the Arctic. The search has slowed down.
Charley says we need a new conservation ethic to replace our disposable one. We need more efficient housing, more efficient vehicles and disincentives for consumers who waste like taxing big engines and overweight vehicles. Did anybody say Hummer? Right on, Charley.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
WEEKEND UPDATE: More indications that the ISG report is already trash is the Charlatan's rejection of some of the report's recommendations such as talking to Iran and Syria at a press briefing with his British lap dog in tow. As I said before, he has no motivation to give in before his time in office is up. Consequently, I predict that he will announce a significant troop increase just in time to spoil your Christmas holiday. Hawks in Congress like McCain are already on record for increased military effort. The ghost of Nixon still haunts the White House. Faced with defeat in Vietnam, he responded by escalating the conflict into Cambodia. So the Charlatan does the same thing because he can. The only way the Iraq debacle will end before the general election in 2008 is if Congress cuts off the funds. Unlikely since the Democrats have little to gain politically by appearing unpatriotic. The Corporate Media is doing its bit for 'victory' in Iraq too. The New York Post labeled Baker and Hamilton "defeat monkeys" on its frontpage. The TV talking heads are consistently spewing about the horrid consequences of withdrawal. So the ballyhooed change in strategy is not getting the Iraqis to do it, but sending more of our guys to do it for them. It like we never had a mid term election.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
The authors of Ultimate Sacrifice think that by fall 1962 the bosses had begun to formulate a plan to assassinate President Kennedy using techniques they had become familiar with in their CIA work. They wanted to use snipers equipped with high powered, scoped rifles shooting at the President in a moving vehicle. They planned three assassination attempts on their own turf, Chicago, Tampa and finally Dallas. The Kennedy 'problem' came to head for the bosses in the summer of 1963. Frank Ragano, lawyer for Hoffa and Trafficante related in his book that Jimmy Hoffa, indicted for jury tampering, requested in July 1963 that President Kennedy be eliminated. Ragano passed the request on to Marcello and Trafficante the next day in New Orleans. The planning for AMWORLD had begun in May and it gave the dons cover for their plot against JFK. By using people linked to that operation, they could communicate and move equipment for seemingly authorized reasons. More importantly, they could force the government to truncate an investigation of the President's death to prevent exposure of its own top secret assassination and invasion plot, AMWORLD.
The relationships between CIA, Mafia, and Cuban exile groups were Byzantine in complexity. Much of the 900 pages of Ultimate Sacrifice are devoted to detailing them. At least fourteen of the bosses' associates had knowledge of AMWORLD and six of them actually worked on aspects of the coup plan. But a handful of key connections demonstrate how thoroughly the coup operation was compromised. Johnny Roselli (aka Fillippo Sacco, John Rawlston) had a close relationship with David Morales, deputy chief of station of JMWAVE, the huge Miami CIA station. Morales had a long history, even by 1963, of covert ops. He had operated out of the US embassy in Havana under State Department cover, participated in the CIA sponsored 1954 coup against the President Arbenz of Guatemala, and supported the bloody suppression of the Tupemaro guerrillas in Uruguay. A trained assassin, he was considered effective but dangerous by his own colleagues.
Besides running a team of exile Cuban snipers in Key Largo and handling poison pills intended for Castro, Roselli and Trafficante associate John Martino had organized operation TILT, backed by the CIA, to infiltrate exiles into Cuba to bring back Soviet technicians willing to defect. The team was inserted, never to be heard from again. But the operation was useful for cover as Roselli later claimed that the exiles had been captured, tortured and turned around for use against Kennedy. Martino used a similar story with interviewers, claiming in 1964 that JKF had been killed by Cuban intelligence (who had allegedly recruited Oswald) in revenge for CIA coup attempts. Amazingly, the FBI knew about Martino claims that President Kennedy was involved in a plot to overthrow Castro when he was killed. The FBI memo about Martino's knowledge of a secret operation became a Warren Commission Exhibit (#657)! Later in 1975 his story changed and he admitted to a Miami newspaper that he spread false information about Oswald. He is alleged to have told his wife on the morning of November 22, 1963, "Flo, they're going to kill him [Kennedy]. They're going to kill him when he gets to Dallas."
The Chicago mob bribed Cuban exile leader Tony Varona, a CIA asset, Trafficante intimate and chosen participant in the AMWORLD operation. Varona's ties to the Mafia predated the Bay of Pigs to when he approached Meyer Lansky for financing of his exile group. The bribe is documented to have occurred at the same time Varona decided to join the AMWORLD operation. The CIA memo from August,1963 states based on an informant that Varona had been given $200,000 by Sam Giancana. Trafficante attempted to bribe Harry Williams (aka Enrique Ruiz-Williams) the Kennedys' Cuban exile coordinator. Williams went to a Miami bar to meet a CIA agent when he found Trafficante waiting for him in the bar. Trafficante wanted to give Williams "big" money so he could get his casinos back if the coup plan was successful. He turned the don down. Cuban exile leaders the mob could not corrupt, they implicated by association. Eloy Menoyo had been burned in a gun deal with Trafficante so he was cautious when dealing with him. But the mob was able to arrange a public meeting between Menoyo's trusted associate Anotonio Veciana (head of the violent Alpha 66 exile group), CIA propaganda expert and Oswald case officer David Atlee Phillips (aka Maurice Bishop) and Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas three months before the assassination. Trafficante, through John Martino and former Cuban death squad leader Rolando Masferrer, also successfully linked Oswald to a supporter of Manolo Ray, another of the five Cuban exile leaders in the AMWORLD operation. Silvia Odio was contacted at her Dallas apartment in September, 1963 by two Cubans who said they were members of Junta Revolucionario, Ray's exile group. The two Cubans introduced her to a third man, "Leon", who Odio later positively identified as Lee Harvey Oswald.
The mob also used double and even triple agents to penetrate AMWORLD. Richard Cain (aka Ricardo Scalzetti) is the most striking example of a man leading several lives at once. His existence must have been very stressful. Not only was he Chief Investigator for the Cook County Sheriff's office in 1963 and an FBI informant but he had worked for the CIA as an electronic surveillance specialist in 1962. Cain had helped bug a communist embassy in Mexico City. A year later he also became an informant for the CIA on undercover activities of Cubans in the Chicago area. He informed the agency about the Varona bribe (despite the document notation to the contrary). But his many talents did not stop there. He was a 'made' member of Giancana's crime family. Cain admitted that he had worked covertly for Giancana and had been on his payroll while a member of the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County Sheriff's office from 1962-64. Cain had also been a part of the CIA-Mafia plots against Castro.
Guy Banister, former Chicago FBI chief also fits the category of double agent. In 1963 he was working as a private detective in New Orleans. He had worked for Carlos Marcello and knew David Ferrie, Marcello's pilot. But Banister also had intelligence connections too. His former business partner was Carmne Bellino, a JFK aide, and he had worked with General Carroll who had become head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. More importantly, Banister had worked for Tony Varona's Cuban Revolutionary Counsel (CRC) doing background checks. CRC was backed by the Kennedys and had been set up by David Atlee Phillips. E. Howard Hunt, later one of the White House 'plumbers', was its CIA advisor. Banister's office was in the same building as the CRC's New Orleans office. Ferrie was the local leader's assistant. Roselli visited Banister in the summer of 1963.
Both Banister and Ferrie knew Lee Harvey Oswald and both knew about AMWORLD. Banister employed Oswald in the summer of 1963. Ferrie was a pilot instructor for Oswald's Civil Air Patrol unit. Oswald's uncle, with whom he lived for time, was a Marcello bookie. Oswald himself may have been a cut out working for the CIA and/or Naval Intelligence as part of the plan to get assets into Cuba for anti Castro operations. This possibility could explain Oswald's strange trip to the Cuban and Russian embassies in Mexico City just weeks before the assassination. Oswald's allegedly thick military intelligence file is still classified. Regardless of Oswald's real status, Carlos Marcello would have been aware that Oswald would make a good patsy given Oswald's public pro Castro stance as the one man New Orlean's chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee.
The Mafia bosses also had one more thing in common: They all confessed during their lifetimes to plotting the murder of President Kennedy. Next: Dead Kennedys Epilogue
Monday, December 04, 2006
Surprisingly the Pentagon actually produced some succinct advice for their civilian leaders: go big, go long or go home. Going big is not a viable option at this late stage. There is no majority support for the war anymore. Going big after Saddam's statute was pulled down, meaning occupying Iraq with a half million troops including military police and civilian administration specialists, possibly could have worked before the insurgency got organized and funded. The populace might have accepted an occupation if the US proved it was interested in meeting its needs for modern infrastructure and security as well as blue ink democracy. Going big also would cost even larger amount of money and probably mean the reintroducing of the draft. That prospect is less popular than privatizing social security.
Going long is also a non-starter. Staying in Iraq for a protracted length of time, perhaps 10-15 years, assumes a monolithic commitment to creating a functional neocolonial state by both political parties which is non existent. The politicians know they would not last beyond the next election if they attempted to commit to such naked imperialism. The American people are basically not interested in empire. This characteristic is why the Charlatan had to scare the bejesus out of us before Congress let him have his war. "Let's take the oil!" is not a rally cry that will get much response from people in Peoria. Manifest destiny was more acceptable because native Americans and Mexicans were heathen savages, after all.
So we are left with, go home. Good advice from the experts at the Pentagon. Now that Rummyman is history at last perhaps the Charlatan should take their advice and give all of us and the Iraqis a brake. Spend a decent interval training the army and police. There can be no guarantee that those institution will hold together when we leave since they are composed of some who place faction above nation. If the Shia and Sunni want a messy divorce and the Kurds want to leave home, who are we to argue with them? It was their country, you know.
Friday, December 01, 2006
Thursday, November 30, 2006
One agenda item that is absolutely necessary is a close examination of the national decision making resulting in such a colossal blunder as invading and occupying Iraq. The Constitution gives the President primary responsibility for foreign policy, but it does not relieve Congress from its oversight and advisory responsibilities. If investigations show that the Charlatan exceeded his executive authority by lying to Congress about the urgent need for a preemptive war and he violated his oath of office to faithfully execute the nation's laws in his zeal to root out terror then Congress must do its duty and impeach him.
Don't be bought off cheap. We can all wait a little longer for an increase in the minimum wage. Think of it as a down payment on restoring democracy. Demand a real accounting from your government and do not be satisfied with politics of collaboration.
WEEKEND UPDATE: The Baker-Hamilton Committee, in order to reach a biparty consensus, refused to put a timeline on the gradual "redeployment" of American troops from Iraq but will recommend such a change in troop structure occur beginning in 2007. The Charlatan opposes a timeline because it looks like admitting defeat. Rest assured that troops will still be in Iraq in 2008 and their continued presence in the midst of the Iraqi civil war will be an issue in the presidential campaign. At the current rate of death, another 1000 American soldiers will die for another foreign policy mistake before our it ends. There will be a relatively small increase (a brigade or two, not 20,000) in the number of troops in Baghdad to bolster security for the impotent puppet regime of Al-Maliki. With the sure sense of a survivor, he is already looking to Iran for sponsorship after the American muscle leaves the scene of the crime. No wonder Amidinejad is always smiling.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Or, if you prefer the even more French sounding, montebank. The seller of potions and elixers would mount a tall bench (le banc) and mesmerize the peasants crowded round with tales of miraculous cures, fantastic wealth, or passions fulfilled. If you ever watched W deliver a speech to a red state crowd early in his reign--before the facts began to catch up with him--you can see the rules of the charlatan's disreputable trade at work. Greene lists these rules in his description of the 27th "law" of power. W cleverly uses every one.
- Keep it Vague; Keep it Simple. Nobody has accused W of using obtuse or convoluted language. Comedians repeatedly make jokes about his apparent inability to form a complete English sentence in speech. But he does use short, evocative phrases that resonate with his listeners and can be contained in a sound bite. Some of my favorites: "freedom is on the march"; "mission accomplished"; "cut and run". These phrases are repeated at every opportunity.
- Emphasize the Visual over the Intellectual. The entire media event on the aircraft carrier from landing to rally in front of the now infamous banner was a visual appeal to macho jingoism worthy of Dr. Goebbles. Listeners' boredom is the charlatan's worst enemy. It gives them time to think and for skepticism to rise.
- Borrow the Forms of Organized Religion. W repeatedly alludes to religious values and traditions in his public appearances and policy pronouncements. The war in Iraq has produced some of the most moralistic rhetoric of good and evil. Thus, a former client dictator becomes a "Hitler" and unfriendly regimes, the "axis of evil". We have invaded a country not to control oil, but crusading to bring "democracy" to a backward people.
- Disguise your Source of Income. W was a failed businessman before he became a politician supported by oil companies and Christian fundamentalists. His administration has become synonymous with corrupt influence peddling. But his current affluence and trappings of power are testament to the righteousness of his cause. To know the source of his wealth you must ask yourself who has profited from the war.
- Set Up an Us versus Them Dynamic. Before 9/11 W had no grand plan, no fixed goals for his administration. The terrorist attack was the opening he needed to solidify his image as a great leader and stampede Congress into a war against infidels ("they hate us for our freedom"). His critics are now labeled traitors. Their desire to extract us from the quagmire he created is defeatist. He told the world before Congress, "you are either with us or with the terrorists."
W is not for stupid. W is for charlatan.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
The blurry frames of the Zapruder home movie seem burned into the collective consciousness of Americans. Despite the limitations of its technology, that film remains the best physical evidence of what actually happened in Dealey Plaza. Abraham Zapruder filmed the assassination taking place in front of him with his Bell & Howell 8mm camera set to record at 18.3 frames per second from atop a masonry wall on the grassy knoll. His film shows the President being hit three times in the space of about 6 seconds. Why there should remain so much interest sixty three years later in how the President was murdered reduces to this fact: a majority of Americans believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was not the only shooter in Dallas and that JFK was the target of a conspiracy which the Warren Commission tried to cover up.
I do not consider myself an assassination buff or a sucker for conspiracy theories, but I agree with those Americans who are convinced that Oswald did not act alone. My opinion is admittedly based on published studies of the assassination which vary greatly in degree of objectivity and rigor. But I have read several authoritative studies and forced myself to look at the grisly autopsy photos. Josiah Thompson's Six Seconds in Dallas first published in 1967 stands out in my mind for its forensic approach to evaluating the available evidence. His work as a consultant for Life Magazine, which purchased the Zapruder film, has stood the test of time. Several salient facts stand out from the many that make up the historical collage of the autumn day in Dallas that changed America forever:
- There where some 190 eyewitnesses to the murder. 172 gave an opinion on the number of shots. 90% of these reported hearing at least three shots that afternoon. Of the Secret Service agents reporting an opinion, 87% said there were three shots. This is a probative amount of unanimity.
- The Warren Commission concluded that two bullets caused all the wounds to JFK and Governor Connelly and that one shot missed. The Commission could not say which shots hit. The 'magic bullet', so called because it was found at Parkland Hospital in near pristine condition (slight longitudinal flattening) and followed a bizarre theoretical trajectory, hit the President in the upper back, passed through his body and hit Connally in his shoulder, breaking his 5th rib, and shattering his wrist. The third bullet caused the massive, fatal wound to the President's head that the Zapruder film captured in horrifying detail. But both Connolly and his wife testified and stated subsequently that it was there firm conviction the Governor was not hit with the same bullet that hit Kennedy.
- Forensic evidence such as JFK's clothes, the Bethesda autopsy witnesses, reports and photos show a bullet entered the Presidents upper back(O'Connor: "about three inches down and and an inch or two to the right of the seventh cervical vertebra") and did not exit the body. (Jenkins: "The probing I saw indicated that there was a dead end behind the plural cavity" O'Connor: "Dr. Humes took his finger and poked it into the hole and said it did not go anywhere.") Since this bullet (Commission Exhibit 399) did not hit bone, its possible that the relatively undeformed bullet found on a stretcher at Parkland fell out of the back wound during rigorous cardiac massage.
- Test bullets of the same type--6.5mm metal jacket-- showed significant deformation when fired into bone. (CE 856, 853) Two Army ballistic experts as well as physicians testified to the Commission that CE399 could not have caused Governor Connolly's wounds. Metal fragments recovered from Connolly were not matched on an atomic level with CE399.
- If two different bullets hit JFK and Connally, then Oswald was not alone since it is physically impossible to operate his bolt action, war surplus Mannlicher-Carcano fast enough for the time frame (1.6 seconds) established by the film.
- Close study of the Zapruder film shows that a head shot drove the President's body to the rear and left indicating the kill shot came from the right front of the President's limousine consistent with the physical law of conservation of momentum and inconsistent with the Commission's conclusion that the shot came from the Texas School Book Depository to the rear of the motorcade. Head wound location and extent first seen by the Parkland attending physicians and lay eyewitnesses are consistent with this trajectory. Several credible eyewitnesses (one with a panoramic view of Dealey Plaza in front of the motorcade, two sitting in the car directly behind the President, and two standing on the curb fifteen feet from the President--Bowers, Powers, O'Donnell, Newmans) reported a shot from a stockade fence behind the grassy knoll about 40 yards from the motorcade. An easily concealable weapon loaded with high speed, hollow point ammunition could have caused the massive head trauma at short range. Brain matter exploded from the impact spraying the First Lady and motorcycle outriders (Hargis, Martin) following the limousine. A piece of the President's occipital bone was found in the median grass to the left of his motorcade's path, a debris field consitent with a bullet path from front right to left rear.
- Medical and photographic evidence shows another head shot from the rear (perhaps from the Dal-Tex Building or Records Building) entering the right occiput of the President's skull, moving toward the midtemple, crushing the volmer bone and fracturing the floor of the skull at the right eye. (CE 386) (Lipsey: "...absolutely and unequivocally yes, they [the Bethesda autopsy doctors] were convinced he had been shot three times." quotes from Law, In the Eye of History) Perhaps this shot drove a bone fragment from the bottom of JFK's brain case through the neck causing an exit wound in the throat that was later obscured by a trachecotomy. This possibility is suggested by two deep mid-brain lacerations that connect and the absence of copper traces from a bullet on the shirt front hole.
As early as 1966 the Warren report was criticised in public. Sylvia Meagher extensively cateloged the Commission errors, omissions and inconsistencies in her 1967 book, Accessories after the Fact. At a 1967 pretrial hearing for Clay L. Shaw, alleged to be an Oswald co-conspirator by then New Orleans District Attorney, Jim Garrison, the judge refused to admit the Warren Report into evidence, saying it was "fraught with hearsay and contradiction". Research since then into the US archives now shows that the Warren Commission had good reason to stick with then Commission Counsel Arlen Specter's lone gunman theory regardless of its lack of credibility. Those reasons had to do with this country's clandestine war against Fidel Castro and are the subject of another post. Links to websites do not indicate an indorsement of their content, but are for illustrative purposes only.
A 1963 CIA memo previously classified top secret was not discovered in the National Archives by researcher Stuart Wexler until 2004. The document and related material had been declassified in 1999 by the JFK Assassination Records Review Board. The five page memo from the Chief, Western Hemisphere Division outlined the CIA role in the planning and preparation of the Cuban coup for station chiefs who might come across "manifestations" of the operation. Its title is "AMWORLD--Background of Program, Operation Support requirements and Procedural Rules." The memorandum was published by authors Waldron and Hartmann as part of their authoritative study of the Kennedy Assassination, Ultimate Sacrifice and a copy of it can be seen at their website. There is no doubt that Robert Kennedy controlled the large scale, very secret effort to violently depose Castro. Secret planning took place at the top level of the administration and RFK ran the three groups involved, the "Interdepartmental Coordinating Committee on Cuban Affairs", the "Special Group" for covert matters and the "Standing Group" for contingency plans and policy assessment. This dispersal of functions into small groups was intended to make them easier to control, preserve tight secrecy, as well as provide the President with plausible deniability.
Cyrus Vance, Secretary of the Army and trusted Kennedy advisor, headed the Pentagon's participation. He wrote a memo dated September 26, 1963 titled "Plan for a Coup in Cuba" to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in which the coup plan was presented to them as an option, but in reality it was the only plan being considered. Operation Mongoose was not having the intended effect of destabilising Cuba and promoting the overthrow of Castro. Vance told Chief of Staff Maxwell Taylor that the CIA and the State Department concurred with the coup plan. The invading exile groups would need to establish a provisional government (under the leadership of the still secret paid collaborator) and "hold a significant piece of territory long enough for the US to extend support." The document says that US support can only begin after "Fidel Castro...has been neutralized." Thus, killing Fidel was the key component of the entire operation eventhough the Kennedys may have viewed it as providing direct military assistance to invading Cuban exile groups. Both of Vance's aides, Joseph Califano and Al Haig, confirm Bobby Kennedy was the boss of the operation. Haig told an interviewer, "Bobby was the President," as far Cuban operations were concerned. Former CIA Deputy Director for Plans, Richard Helms (later CIA Director under Nixon) told interviewers on different occasions the same thing, "There are two things you have to understand: Kennedy wanted to get rid of Castro, and the Agency was not about to undertake anything like that on its own." He was equally adamant that Bobby Kennedy was in charge, telling a biographer that, "Robert Kennedy ran with it, ran those operations, and I dealt with him almost every day."
An AMWORLD memo sent by CIA director McCone on the morning of JFK's murder, confirms that the coup was scheduled for December 1, 1963. There were circumstances in Cuba that put pressure on plan participants to stick to the December 1 deadline. Another AMWORLD communication on November 22nd from a Cuban inflitrator said that Castro was concerned about possible insurrection by some of his men and was undertaking a massive propaganda campaign to bolster loyalty. He had reason to worry. Some old comrades still in Cuba felt Fidel had betrayed the revolution by embracing the Soviets. The Commandante had also laid plans to begin a military draft in early December which exiled coup leaders believed would "tremendously" impact clandestine activities in Cuba. Domestic political considerations too played a role in setting an early December deadline. Polls showed the public giving the President low ratings on his handling of Cuba. But US troops fighting in Cuba with US air support during the Christmas holidays was not desirable. If the plan failed, time was needed before the 1964 campaign got underway to deal with the repercussions. AMWORLD was more than just convoluted contingency planning by November 22, 1963. It was a high risk military operation with vital clandestine components set to go off in ten days. Bobby was set to fall on his own sword if it did not succeed.
What RFK apparently did not know about until May 7, 1962, when the CIA general counsel briefed him on the subject, was the involvement of the Mafia in previous CIA efforts to assassinate Castro going back to 1959. These operations had been approved by Director Allen Dulles and had used Jimmy Hoffa as a 'cut-out'. The teamster boss had access to Castro since he had participated in gun running to the Cuban leader with the CIA's blessing. Of course the Mafia had extensive contacts in Cuba as a result of their lucrative casino businesses sponsored by Batista. After the revolution came to power and dispossessed the gangsters, bosses like Santo Trafficante and Johnny Rosselli, who represented the Chicago don Sam Giancana, were willing to use their considerable resources to aid the CIA in its efforts to "neutralize" Fidel. There was even historical precedent for such cooperation since the mob had aided the WWII effort by enforcing labor peace and detecting sabotage on the docks. Nevertheless, the CIA revelation must have concerned Bobby Kennedy greatly. CIA told him the operations had ceased, but this was false. (Operation AMLASH and the CIA executive action program code named ZRRIFLE exposed by the Church Committee for example).
Bobby and his brother had made powerful mob enemies during the 1957-61 McClellan corrupt unions hearings. Sam Giancana and New Orleans boss Carlos Marcello were forced to appear and were subjected to embarrassing public examination by the younger brother as the Committee's chief counsel. Trafficante was beyond subpoena power in Cuba, but other witnesses implicated him as the mob boss of Tampa. After the hearings, then Attorney General Kennedy deported Carlos Marcello, a Tunisian national, to Guatemala. Traffacante's Orlando gambling business was shut down by the IRS. Rosselli was audited and his financial transactions examined by the FBI. The dons had suffered insult and prosecution at the hands of Jack and Bobby. They were men unlikely to forgive. How the Mafia used the AMWORLD operation to its own ends is the subject of another post.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
A second truth, and one conveniently ignored or not well understood by Americans is that George W. Bush won because he won the EElectoral College vote. Al Gore won the popular vote by a half million regardless of how the Supreme Court ordered the 'hanging chads' counted in Florida. But Article II our Constitution provides that the president is elected by electors which "each state shall appoint...equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the state may be entitled in Congress." The November popular vote is the method used for allocating the electors to each candidate for the official Electoral College vote that takes place at the 50 state capitals on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. Although the states currently award electors on a popular vote winner take all basis (Maine and Nebraska excepted), there is no federal constitutional right to vote for the appointment of electors and thus, indirectly, the president. The Supreme Court in McPherson v. Blacker (1892) said "the appointment and mode of appointment of electors belong exclusively to the States under the Constitution." This organic provision was reaffirmed in Bush v. Gore (2000). A wag in the US House of 1826 observed during debate that a state legislature could vest power to choose presidential electors "in a board of bank directors, a turnpike commission or a synagogue." Electors, often party stalwarts, pledge to adhere to the results of the popular vote in their state. There is no constitutional requirement that they remain faithful. In recent history eight electors have cast their vote in violation of public expectation. The preponderance of legal opinion is that such pledges are unenforceable. Former president Benjamin Harrison warned in 1898 that "an elector who failed to vote for the nominee of his party...in times of high excitement might be the subject of a lynching."
At the end of Election Day in 2000 Al Gore won 267 electoral votes and George Bush 245. Two hundred seventy was needed to win. Nobody was sure how Florida's 25 electoral votes would be awarded. The conservative majority of the Supreme Court awarded them to Bush in its controversial decision. A key issue in the legal battle over the margin of victory was the application of the safe harbor provision of the Electoral Count Act. In 1887 Congress passed the Electoral Count Act to avoid dealing with disputed vote counts from the states such as those received in the election meltdown of 1876. It shifts the onus of deciding a state's electoral slate by setting a deadline for final determination of an election result by the state's own legal provisions. Such a state determination is made binding on Congress. The Court in Bush v. Gore found Florida's proceeding recount violated federal equal protection provisions. In essence, the Court halted the recount because the state could not meet the deadline imposed for a final state determination under the Election Count Act. Odds are that if a statewide recount had been completed, Gore would have won the electoral College race too.
Feeling disenfranchised at this point? You should. The public has continuously supported abolishing the College. The Gallup organization reported in 2001 that in polls stretching back 50 years, a majority of Americans have supported amending the Constitution to allow for direct popular election of the president. This complex system was intended by the founders to elect the president by vote of sober, well informed statesmen not subject to popular enthusiasms or misconceptions, and at best was a jerry-rigged improvisation in order to reach compromise and bring the Constitution to a ratification vote. In our time of mass media, nearly instantaneous communication, widespread literacy and public education there is no justification to continue with a system that violates our deeply held notions of political equality nor provides us protection from fraud. As the election of 2000 showed the world, the Electoral College magnifies such imperfections in our democratic process.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Lemme 'splain your Decisiveness: A man walked into a doctor's office. When asked the reason for his visit, he told the doctor, "It hurts when I do this," and promptly hit himself in the head with a rubber mallet. The doctor replied, "Fascinating. Stop doing that, take two aspirins and call me in the morning." Get it?
According to the Department's own inspectors, rabbits are hung alive from metal hooks through their legs. The rabbits are then decapitated with knives dulled from repeated use. The rabbits scream and struggle in pain. Enough of the gory details--you get the idea. Some USDA inspectors were outraged by the cruelty and reported it to their supervisors. Predictably, they were told rabbits are poultry and therefore condemned to an inhumane death.
The Humane Farming Association, an animal welfare group from San Rafael, California is suing Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns for failing to apply the humane slaughter law to the commercial killing of rabbits, reindeer, bison, ducks, antelope, elk, and ostrich. Salute to these kind people for saving our livestock from needlessly cruel death.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Reagan's hardline policy towards Central America is still considered a success by neoconservatives. The National Review called it "a spectacularly successful fight to introduce...Western political norms in the region." The Reagan administration's covert support of death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala and the illegal funding of counterrevolutionary in Nicaragua by "the Enterprise" held back the red tide of the 1980s. Hundreds of thousands died or were 'disappeared' never to be seen again. Thousands were tortured and thousands fled the conflicts into exile. This bloody legacy did not stop Darth Cheney from claiming during his 2004 campaign that impoverished, crime ridden El Salvador was an example of what he hoped America would accomplish in Iraq. If nothing else, the members of Bush & Co have a talent for unintended irony.
The proposal to 're-Baathify' Iraq is another stark admission that introducing American democracy at the point of a gun does not work. Neocon wonks, desperate to cobble a semi functioning state from civil chaos, seem satisfied with an Iraqi version of a banana republic. Clearly, freedom in Iraq has marched irretrievably over the horizon. But Ortega's election triumph despite the determination and overwhelming resources of a militaristic superpower does not foretell a tolerable outcome in Iraq for the Bush regime.
Friday, November 17, 2006
The new chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has expressed interest in revisiting the Bush attack on civil rights as part of his 'war on terror'. Salute to those senators from the solid Northeast! In more good news, Senator Levin (D-MI) new chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has expressed his desire to examine and change the infamous rendition program in which the CIA subcontracts its torture of high value prisoners to less fastidious third world countries.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
All the fuzzy thoughts about regional dialogue, logistic support, and national reconciliation is for public consumption. Its still stay the course until the Boy Emperor can declare 'mission accomplished', sort of. What this exercise in mental masturbation does demonstrate is just how spineless Democratic leaders really are. My advice to the troops: CYA! It isn't over yet.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
"We don't torture", said his Evasiveness a little while back. Not so much. Rep. Conyers, I hope you are watching because we don't want Exhibit One to be shredded.
WEEKEND UPDATE: Senator Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee demanded in a letter that Attorney General Alberto "Gonzo" Gonzales hand over the presidential directive authorizing CIA torture of detainees and foreign soil detention facilities. I bet Darth really regrets telling Pat to 'f' himself. BAAGES?, WE HAVE ALL THE STIKIN' BAAGES!
Monday, November 13, 2006
John Kerry is no Karnak. He seems to have the same ability to put his foot in his mouth. But he also made one of the best summations about the Vietnam debacle. When he appeared before Senate Foreign Relations committee after the Winter Soldier investigation, he boldly asked the Senator's arrayed before him, "How do you ask the last man to die for a mistake?" The same question can be legitimately asked about the invasion and occupation of Iraq. History will record it as the biggest blunder in American foreign policy since Vietnam. Even the Republican "grown ups"--the security advisors to the President's daddy--recognize the reality. Beyond the moral debt we have to the Iraqi people for destroying their country is the one we have to our own people. American soldiers are still dying in a three way civil war we precipitated while American politicians temporize. There is no good solution to the mess beyond reducing our losses. Staying where we are clearly not wanted is only prolonging the Iraqi misery. Spending more money on an unjustified war only compounds the evil we do in the name of freedom.
Friday, November 10, 2006
Its the war, stupid. 75% said the war was a factor in their vote. Only healthcare came close in the level of concern, 72%. 47% said they were trying to send a message about Iraq. The Texas Frat Boy was a negative factor even in GOP districts, -16. Nationally, he was a disaster with a 56% disapproval rating. The interviewed voters found a real difference in candidates on the issue of Iraq by 58%. A strong majority see multilateralism as correct approach to national security .
Nation on wrong track. 59% said this. The majority also said that business regulation is necessary; religion is mixed up to much in government; and esteem for conservatives has collapsed. Although the nation is split on homosexuality as an acceptable life style 51%-42%, a large majority want alternative energy development, 66%, and they said jobs were preferable to cheap goods.
Congress is a mess too. 67% disapprove of the job Congress is doing.
The Democrats pulled off 2/3rds of a hat trick by mobilizing their base. The party did better among their identity groups than 2004 except among well educated women. The Republicans lost some affluent and rural white men. Despite their "thumpin'"the Republican ground game is awesome with a plus +11 advantage in mail contacts +7 in phone contacts--the legacy of Carl Rove. Nationalization of the mid term election worked as a strategy (if it was a conscious strategy). In GOP districts, 67% said that party control of Congress was a factor in their vote. Independents both in and out of the GOP were swayed to vote Democratic, 58% nationally and 61% GOP. And yes, Katrina did make a political difference. The breakaway vote came after the disaster in late September. It must please Howard Dean that the Democratic Party is identified with reform, the middle class and new ideas. Now, if they just do something with this mandate for populist change.