Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A Loss - Yes, But. . .

This Is A Crucial Time - Historically, Where Tyranny Wins - Or Loses
by The Old Hippie Because The "It's Never Too Late" Tide Is Finally Turning

Digby, at his blog, in his posting about the "loss" of this filibuster, spoke for many of us. . .

"I know it hurts to lose this one.  I won't say that I'm not disappointed.  But it was a very long shot from the outset and we managed to make some noise and get ourselves heard.  The idea that it is somehow a sign of weakness because we only got 25 members of the Senate, including the entire leadership, to vote to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee is funny to me.  Two years ago I would have thought somebody was on crack if they even suggested it was possible."

Who also said. . .  "So we only got 25 Senators to vote for a filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee who, if defeated, would be replaced by someone just as bad by a president in the pocket of his radical right wing.  Well.

Do you know how many votes the Republicans managed to get when uber wingnut Antonin Scalia was confirmed?  98.  And Democrats had a majority.  We didn't have to even think about a filibuster.  We couldn't defeat Clarence Thomas and we had a majority,..."

The full "One-Party-Rule" is now successfully realized.  The "Checks and Balances" has pretty much been successfully done away with.  The mainstream media, even with its sputters of rebellion, now in the hands of just 5-corporations, whom share many members of their board of directors, has been successfully brought under control.  The Congress has been successfully marginalized, and the Judiciary has been successfully stacked with pro-"Unitary Executive Theory" jurists, and the Executive branch has been successfully given historically unprecedented unitary powers.

Historically, whenever a government fell into this deep of a tyranny, it either went fully dictatorship/empire, or the masses forced, quite often violently, the survival of some form of a representative republic.  These "revolts" and/or "revolutions" by the masses were rarely successful, the American Revolution in the late 1700s being a significant exception.

And this is exactly where we find ourselves now - On the very cusp of a full-blown tyranny of a one-party-ruled theocratic-corporatist empire, (by definition a Fascist regime,) or the final "fight," (revolt and/or revolution,) to save our Constitutional representative republic.  There's really no other "reality-based" way to view our current predicament.

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It will be interesting to see how this all turns out, but in any case, we, Americans, will deserve whatever befalls us - As "we" all have allowed it to reach this crucial point.  So much destruction.  On the bodies of so many innocents.  So many dead.  For the profits to so very few.

This posting is also cross-posted in my Diary section, at the "Town Meeting" blog
at Truthout.org - Here is the link to it, (you can also post comments there.)

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Alito-48. . .

Your Actions Means More Than - All - Of Your Words Of Protest. . .
by The Old Hippie Because This Is The Straw That Will Break Our Constitution's Back

If you truly do not support Alito for SCOTUS. . .
Then go to http://democrats.com/alito-48 and
"put your actions where your words are."

To quote Senator Kerry. . .  (quote source link here)

"Here's the bottom line though and I'll just be blunt and direct about it.  It takes more than one or two people to filibuster.  It's not "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."  I'm doing what I can, Senator Kennedy is doing what he can, but if, like me, you want to stop Judge Alito from becoming Justice Alito, we can't just preach to our own choir.  We need even more of your advocacy."

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Please, Go to:  http://democrats.com/alito-48 - Your help IS needed.
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Also Keep In Mind The Incredible Lengths Of "Spin and Propaganda"
The Opposition Is Currently Going Through - To Try And Stop Your
Possible Actions, (And Voice,) To Save Your Constitutional Democracy. . .

[e.g., from: News Hounds - January 27, 2006. . .]

John Gibson Frames Filibustering Democrats As Self Destructive Losers

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John Gibson was determined to make the Democrats planning to filibuster Alito look like losers.  He even used his My Word segment to accuse progressive blogs, naming Buzzflash and Daily Kos, of pressuring Kerry to keep his word about a filibuster.  Three segments were devoted to Gibson's wail that the move was "self destructive" for the Democratic Party. 1/27/06

During Gibsons My Word [link] Segment he went after Buzzflash and Daily Kos calling them "deep, deep blue blogs" who have been "screeching for Kerry to keep his promise even if it's stupid, even if it is destined to fail."  Of course he tried to make Buzzflash and Daily Kos readers seem like extremists describing them as "so lib they're out where the buses don't run."

Dick Durbin was on at the start of Big Story and the segment started with a clip of Scott McClellan snidely joking about Kerry calling the filibuster in from a luxury ski resort not mentioning that Kerry was there for an Economic Summit.  Gibson asked Durbin why he would do it as if it was an insane idea.  Durbin without hesitation stated that he wanted to be on the record for doing whatever was necessary to block an "historic shift" that would occur after Alito's confirmation.

Gibson claimed it would be self destructive because the American people are on Alito's side especially after seeing the Democrats make Mrs Alito cry during the hearings.  He commented later that it was a futile effort indicating that there would be a list of Democrats who supported the filibuster.  Durbin made it clear to Gibson that he had no regrets about voting against the use of force in Iraq and there are other Democrats who regret their votes of support.  Durbin explained that it was about standing up for what you believe in.

George Allen, R. Va., appeared for the last segment.  He was ready with his smart opening claiming that Kerry was wasting taxpayers money on phone charges from the Alps.  Gibson asked him why Durbin would want to do such a thing.  Allen claimed that he was trying to raise funds from his far left base.  Gibson pressed Allen to tell him what would happen to the Democrats involved in the filibuster and Allen responded with a thinly veiled threat commenting that Tom Daschle is now a former Senator.

comment: Gibson, FOX and the GOP know that when Democrats define themselves as the party who stands up for true American values , they will win over the voters.  This filibuster is the defining moment and the Republicans are not happy.

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This updated posting is also cross-posted in my Diary section, at the "Town Meeting" blog
at Truthout.org - Here is the link to it, (you can also post comments there.)

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Friday, January 27, 2006

This Is America Today, Update #2...

So Many Have Recently Asked... What Have We Become?
by The Old Hippie Because The Absentee Revolt Is so Telling

What Have We Become?  This Is What We Have Become:
[Note that this is an updated reprise of my earlier posting.]

A nation of, by, and for the corporations, not the people.
A nation that allowed three corrupt national elections to go un-corrected.
A nation that is allowing the same corrupt corporate voting machines increasing use to spread.
A nation that is the #1 most polluting nation on the planet.
A nation that allowed over 400 environmental laws/regulations to be "disappeared."
A nation that is the #1 imprisoned nation on the planet - and in history.
A nation that allows and condones the torture of human beings.
A nation that is still allowing a network of secret torture chambers to exist.
A nation that allows Europe to investigate "our" CIA's torture centers, as "our" Congress is allowed to ignore them.
A nation that has officially given up habeas corpus protection.
A nation that is the only 1st-world nation without universal health care.
A nation that is the only 1st-world nation that still executes prisoners.
A nation that has allowed this administration to destroy New Orleans without punishment.
A nation that has allowed proven lies to start a war of choice and profit to go unpunished.
A nation that allows sneering oil CEO's to not have to "swear in" when testifying.
A nation that only days later finds out that they lied through their teeth - does nothing.
A nation that confronted with mountains of evidence of corruption - does nothing.
A nation that continues to allow the likes of Ken Lay to live in luxury, unpunished.
A nation whose majority now admits to the truth of their lies - still hasn't revolted.
A nation that is continuing to allow the funneling of even more power into the corrupted profit-driven executive branch, from the legislative and judicial branches, by their continuing, and so far, successful efforts to change the laws of "our" Constitutional Democracy to do so.  And is about to allow a 2nd pro-Unitary Executive Theory" judge, a member of the Federalist Society and the Concerned Alumni for Princeton, to be seated onto "our" Supreme Court.
A nation that has allowed obvious repressive tax-cuts, and enhanced tax-protections, to the top few percent and corporations, to remain intact, and even possibly extended, or even made permanent, without real protests, or revolt.

A nation that knows that the next elections, (2006 and 2008,) will again be using even more of the same corporately corrupted voting machines that have been proven to have been allowed to corrupt the last three national elections, and so far, nothing "real" has been done to stop another election from being corrupted by them again.
A nation that now knows the NSA was allowed to spy on our citizens, illegally.
A nation that heard the president flagrantly lie about, and then even defend, this illegal spying.
A nation that now "speaks" of impeachment/punishment, but, so far, has done nothing.
A nation that actually thinks the Constitutional Democracy system still works.

A nation so deep in denial of reality that it has become blinded to its own demise.

If you happen to be one of those 35% that currently still approve of this administration, I truly hate you, for the allowed manipulation of your ignorance, and/or for your contribution to the destruction of this nation, a once great nation that could only be destroyed from within, by the sneeringly and arrogantly corrupted manipulation of the fears, ignorance, and stupidity of "citizens" like you. . .

I know I am singing to the choir here - But I had to get it off my chest.

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This updated posting is also cross-posted in my Diary section, at the "Town Meeting" blog
at Truthout.org - Here is the link to it.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

It's Simple. . .

We Are Now A Corporatist Nation - A "Privatized" Government
by The Old Hippie Because It Is The Reality

All Private Corporations have a simple set of priorities, which are:

A.  Profits
  -  To Shareholders, and For Corporate Officers Incomes

B.  Income
  -  Customers - Getting, Keeping, and Increasing their number

C.  Product Costs Control
  -  Source, Supply, Manufacture, Warehousing, and Distribution of Products

D.  PR Costs Control
  -  Advertising, Public Relations, and Branding

E.  Worker Costs Control
  -  Fighting of Workers Wages and/or Organization
  -  Reducing Workers Health, Safety, and Security Expenditures

F.  Environmental Costs Control
  -  Fighting Environmental Regulations, (If In the Way of "A." and/or "C." Above)
  -  Hiding Negative Environmental Impacts of "C." via "D."

Highest Priorities:  Increasing Profits, Customers/PR, and Reducing Costs
Lowest Priorities:  Workers, Environment, Consumer Protections, and National Loyalty

Once corporatists have taken control of a government, as has happened here in America, the government becomes a convenient, and powerful, tool to facilitate the control of their priorities, which history has shown, precipitates the destruction of any semblance of a representative Democracy - Not once, in the written history of this planet, has a democracy survived this type of internal take-over of its governmental structures.  Not once.

In every case, for a while, the name remained, the facade remained, the denial remained, but in the end, every single nation lost its representative republic, the wealth of the nation was almost always successfully transferred to a tiny few, and the controlling power of the government was successfully transferred to the "Unitary Executive" tiny few, (just as is happening to America as I write this,) while the rest of its citizens finally realized what they had "allowed" to be lost - Just as most of us Americans are just now beginning to awaken to what we have "allowed" to be taken from us.

It's Simple - The power of the "allowed" greed for profits - at any cost - Is what caused it.

Sadly, most Americans are still "allowing" themselves the luxury of the denial of this reality.

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Nothing else to say - Its bad, its getting worse, and its still being "allowed."

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

A Memo From William Rivers Pitt. . .

Democrats: Get Up and Walk Out
by William Rivers Pitt - t r u t h o u t | Perspective - January 22, 2006

    To: Congressional Democrats
    From: William Rivers Pitt
    RE: A bold maneuver

     - - - -

    I have a wild and crazy idea.

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    George W. Bush's delivery of the State of the Union address will take place on Tuesday, January 31, a little more than a week from now.  It is my strong belief that every single Democrat present in the House chamber for the speech should, at a predetermined moment, stand up and walk out.  No yelling.  No heated words.  Every Democrat should simply stand silently and leave.

    Crazy, I know.  Crazy, and possibly the best idea ever put before a body of Democrats since the New Deal.

    Understand this, congressional Democrats, and understand it well:  you are not dealing merely with a body of political opponents in the GOP.  You are dealing with a group of people that want you exterminated politically.  The days of walking the halls of the Rayburn Building, sharing a bourbon with a colleague from the other side of the aisle, and hammering out a compromise are as dead as Julius Caesar.  Collegiality is out.  Mutual respect is out.  They want you gone for good.  Erased.  Destroyed.

    And you have been far too polite about this.  The writing has been on the wall for a while now.  Back in 1995, Republican Senator Phil Gramm said, "We're going to keep building the party until we're hunting Democrats with dogs."  That was eleven years ago.  If you listen close, you can hear the beasts baying in the distance, waiting to slip the leash.  Your limp tactics in the face of the assault upon you, your vacillation, your strange hope that maybe the GOP will be nicer tomorrow, has left you all smelling like Alpo.

    For the love of God, you are being compared to Osama bin Laden all over network television because some within your ranks have had the courage to question the war in Iraq.  It hasn't been subtle.  Bin Laden, according to the right-wing talking heads, is getting his talking points straight from Howard Dean.  These are the out-front spokespeople for the folks running the GOP right now.  If you think there is compromise to be had with these people, if you think there is quarter to be given to you, then I have a nice, big red bridge to sell you in San Francisco.

    I know you believe the Abramoff scandal is going to be your bread and butter in the upcoming midterm elections.  I hate to break it to you, but you have already been outflanked.  The television nitwits have flooded the airwaves with the meme that this is a "two-party scandal," despite the fact that Abramoff would have sooner lit himself on fire than give money to a Democrat.  As you have been collectively incapable of setting the record straight in public, with the exception of a two-minute crunch between Howard Dean and Wolf Blitzer on CNN that left Blitzer spluttering impotently, understand that "this scandal affects both parties" is now commonly accepted fact all across the land.

    Oh, yeah, P.S., the investigation is being run out of the Department Justice.  If this scandal does touch some sixty Republican officeholders, as Abramoff's donation history indicates, do you really think this White House is going to let the investigation get far enough to do real damage?  If so, I again need to mention that big red bridge I have for sale.

    In all likelihood, however, the White House won't even need to derail the Abramoff investigation to save Republicans from their ridiculous greed.  Did you see the Washington Post headline from Friday?  It read, "Rove:  GOP to Use Terror as Campaign Issue."  In reality, the headline should have read "GOP to Use Terror as Campaign Tactic."  Once again, the Republicans are going to try to win midterm elections by scaring the hell out of the American people.  This time, the fear factor will center around Iran and nuclear weapons.

    The intelligence specialists in the United States, Germany and Israel all agree that Iran is between three and five years away from being able to manufacture nuclear weapons.  This, of course, is based on the premise that such manufacture is Iran's goal.  Take it as a given that it is, and we have at least three years to use diplomacy, economic pressures and possibly sanctions to keep them from creating these bombs.

    But "three to five years" isn't going to help the GOP win the midterm elections.  They need things to be scary, and they need things to be scary now.  The same right-wing groups that ginned up the fantasy that Iraq was laden with weapons of mass destruction, and was an imminent threat, are now at work building up a martial froth about Iran.  They did this in time for the midterms last time, and are preparing to do it again.

    United Press International carried a story last Thursday about a group called the Foundation for Democracy in Iran.  This group, according to the UPI story, claims that, "Tehran is planning a nuclear weapons test before the Iranian New Year on March 20, 2006." FDI, according to the story, offered absolutely no proof to back this claim.  But that's not three to five years.  That's less than ten weeks.  Scary stuff, right?

    Take a closer look, however, and you can see the fingerprints of the architects of our current Iraq boondoggle all over this.  The Foundation for Democracy in Iran is run by a man named Kenneth Timmerman.  Timmerman is umbilically connected to the godfather of right-wing think tanks, the American Enterprise Institute.  It was the American Enterprise Institute that spawned the Project for the New American Century, the think tank that gave us Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, the original noise about Iraqi WMD, and the idea that a military takeover of the entire Mideast is a bully idea. The same people that terrorized the American people into unnecessary war in Iraq are preparing to do the same with Iran, and all in time for the midterms.

    One must also note the irony of the suggested date for this Iranian nuclear test.  March 20, 2006, for those not paying attention, is the three-year anniversary of our invasion of Iraq.  And round and round we go.

    You've been outflanked, Democrats.  Abramoff won't help you, and the noise machine is preparing to terrorize the American people into such a distracted state that anything you say in the next ten months will be lost amid the howling.  The midterms are pretty much a done deal, and your continued marginalization will proceed at speed.

    You can stomp your feet and yell at the wall.  You can put your head in your hands and weep.  You can sit silently and be simply satisfied that your own job-for-life is secure, thanks to your friendly district back home, and be damned to actually doing anything of substance.  In other words, you can continue to do what you've been doing since this outrageous assault on basic American democracy began.

    Or you can stand up.

    It takes a spine to stand up. Find yours.  Get up and walk out of the State of the Union speech.  Turn your backs on the blizzard of lies and empty promises that are sure to pour forth from that podium.  Give it exactly what it deserves.

    Walk outside to the steps of the Capitol Building and hold a Counter-State-of-the-Union.  Lay out your plans for a better future.  Explain how you will reform the system that spawned Mr. Abramoff.  Demand answers and explanations about what is happening in Iraq, what is happening over at the National Security Agency, and why this administration believes itself to be completely above the law.

    I can even offer a bit of text for your opening statement.  "Three years ago during this very speech," your leading spokesperson can say from those steps, "Mr. Bush told us that Iraq was in possession of 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 500 tons - which is one million pounds - of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent, 30,000 missiles to deliver the stuff, mobile biological weapons labs, al Qaeda connections, and uranium from Niger for use in a robust nuclear weapons program.  He said all this three years ago, during this all-important annual address, and all of it was a lie.  The American people deserve an explanation."

    See? It's easy.  All it takes is courage.

    What I am talking about is political theater on a grand scale.  No opposition party in American history has ever turned their backs on a President and walked out of a State of the Union address.  No opposition party has faced the degree of potential extermination the Democrats face today.  The stakes have never been higher.  You are dealing with a President who wants to make his Executive powers absolute, and with a Republican party that has been usurped from soup to nuts by extremists that would be cartoonish if they were not so very real.

    Abramoff won't help you.  The fear factor will subsume you.  You can sit there and take it, clapping politely as the ram rolls towards you, or you can stand up and make yourselves relevant again.  To walk out of the speech would be a huge statement, bold and potentially dangerous.  But if you don't do something bold, something grand and unprecedented, something to take back the initiative, you will join the Whigs in the dustbin of history.

    Stand up.  Walk out.  You have a week to get this organized.

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books:
War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Also More - The Reality Is. . .

It's (Almost) Over - And Some See How Close It, The Reality, Is.
by The Old Hippie Because The End Of The Constitutional Democracy Is, (not maybe,) At Hand.

  1.  The Patriotic Bully Card - Molly Ivins

  2.  Kos: The Internet Is Not Enough - Conor Clarke

  3.  Osama bin Laden: Is It Him? - Robert Fisk

  4.  The Gulliberal Problem - Ernest Partridge

  5.  World Stands at a Crossroads - Stephen Leahy

  6.  Change Who You Imagine You Are - Bill McKibben
 Your Right

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Matt Bors

  7.  World Social Forum 2006 opens in Bamako, Mali - IndyMedia.org

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Friday, January 20, 2006

They've Already Won. . .

The 2006 & 2008 Elections Are Over, But Americans Still Don't Believe It
by The Old Hippie Because It Is Not Conspiracy Theory - It Is Conspiracy Fact.

There is no other way to express it - We Americans deserve what's coming.

As Chris Floyd pointed out in his "Loot The Vote"  (and I quote. . .)

"This is no "conspiracy theory" stitched together from anonymous sources, strained inferences and dark innuendo, but a solid case based on official records, sworn testimony, eyewitness accounts, news reports – and the Bushists' own words."

In other words - Conspiracy fact, not theory.

Even though the MSM has not, (and is still not,) reporting the facts, and even using their media's power to misdirect, misinform, and plant doubt, of the reality of the stolen 2002 and 2004 elections, (now proven on the public record, proven multiple times,) by the use of, corporately controlled and corrupted voting machines, programmed by convicted felons at Diebold and ES&S, (both companies owned by the same family,) and of all of the republican "dirty election tricks," which have all been proven on the public record - - - Even with all of that - - - Americans are STILL allowing the increasing use of the machines for the upcoming 2006 and 2008 elections - - - And STILL have done nothing about the proven crimes of the 2002 and 2004 elections - - -

Add in the proven facts of this administration's lying America in the Iraq War - The open, (and sneering,) support of the corrupted corporations' take-over, and corruption of all of America's federal regulatory agencies - The purposeful destruction of the Separation of Powers, (add in Alito's, [a proven bigot, and supporter of "unitary executive power" over the other two branches-without checks and balances,] coming "allowed" confirmation) - The insane, but purposeful, destruction of the Separation of the Church and State - Not to mention the illegal spying on massive numbers of Americans - Letting thousands die in the Gulf States after Katrina - Oh yeah, let's not forget that they forced the American "official policy" that it is "okay" to torture human beings - That Bush can lock up Americans as "enemy combatants" on only his word, without any proof, without habeas corpus, without being allowed to confront accusers in a court, without being allowed contact with family, or even a lawyer - indefinitely. . .

Add in the well proven, and publicly exposed, facts of their fighting, and purposefully hampering, any investigation of the 9/11 events - The now fully exposed cronyism - The obvious tax-cuts for the rich, during war no less - The open support of corporations' profits over the needs of us citizens - The rape of our national treasury - The destruction of over 400 environmental regulations - The proven corruption and censorship of reality-based science to favor insane corporate profits over the protection of us citizens - And so much more. . .  All this - Proven - Publicly.

All Americans are now aware of it all, even with the spin/lies/propaganda by the culprits, and the MSM, and all of their sycophants - Almost all Americans know it is all fact - and not conspiracy theory, but yet. . .

"They" are still allowed to remain in power and in control to this day.

Yes - We all deserve what is coming.  Because we are still "allowing" all of it to get worse.  We are witnessing our once great Constitutional Democracy "destroyed from within," and we are "allowing" it without any real revolt, or any real punishment - - So far.

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Reality is a bitch, isn't it?

The saddest facts are:  Even if we revolted now. . .  Even if we punished all of them now. . .  Even we put a magical instant stop to the environmental damage. . .  Almost all of the "already done" damage has now been proven to be irreversible.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Gore's Speech. . .

If You Did Not Watch It, Then You Can Not Judge It. . .
by The Old Hippie Because I'm Seeing Too Many "Wrong" Comments, From Both Sides. . .

A Sincerely Passionate Al Gore   Video Links To The Full Speech:

1.  Quicktime Player - 6 mins., Haven't found QT full speech yet.

2.  RealMedia Player - Fair/Good - 128kb/s - C-Span

No matter how one feels about Mr. Gore, this speech, (Jan. 16, 2006,) was a call to arms, sincerely passionate, honest, and I believe it should not be ignored, as the 5-corporation-controlled "mainstream" media has ignored and marginalized it.  You decide.  (Full text "Below The Fold.")

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Congressman Barr and I have disagreed many times over the years, but we have joined together today with thousands of our fellow citizens-Democrats and Republicans alike-to express our shared concern that America's Constitution is in grave danger.

In spite of our differences over ideology and politics, we are in strong agreement that the American values we hold most dear have been placed at serious risk by the unprecedented claims of the Administration to a truly breathtaking expansion of executive power.

As we begin this new year, the Executive Branch of our government has been caught eavesdropping on huge numbers of American citizens and has brazenly declared that it has the unilateral right to continue without regard to the established law enacted by Congress to prevent such abuses.

It is imperative that respect for the rule of law be restored.

So, many of us have come here to Constitution Hall to sound an alarm and call upon our fellow citizens to put aside partisan differences and join with us in demanding that our Constitution be defended and preserved.

It is appropriate that we make this appeal on the day our nation has set aside to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who challenged America to breathe new life into our oldest values by extending its promise to all our people.

On this particular Martin Luther King Day, it is especially important to recall that for the last several years of his life, Dr. King was illegally wiretapped-one of hundreds of thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government during this period.

The FBI privately called King the "most dangerous and effective negro leader in the country" and vowed to "take him off his pedestal."  The government even attempted to destroy his marriage and blackmail him into committing suicide.

This campaign continued until Dr. King's murder.  The discovery that the FBI conducted a long-running and extensive campaign of secret electronic surveillance designed to infiltrate the inner workings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and to learn the most intimate details of Dr. King's life, helped to convince Congress to enact restrictions on wiretapping.

The result was the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA), which was enacted expressly to ensure that foreign intelligence surveillance would be presented to an impartial judge to verify that there is a sufficient cause for the surveillance.  I voted for that law during my first term in Congress and for almost thirty years the system has proven a workable and valued means of according a level of protection for private citizens, while permitting foreign surveillance to continue.

Yet, just one month ago, Americans awoke to the shocking news that in spite of this long settled law, the Executive Branch has been secretly spying on large numbers of Americans for the last four years and eavesdropping on "large volumes of telephone calls, e-mail messages, and other Internet traffic inside the United States."  The New York Times reported that the President decided to launch this massive eavesdropping program "without search warrants or any new laws that would permit such domestic intelligence collection."

During the period when this eavesdropping was still secret, the President went out of his way to reassure the American people on more than one occasion that, of course, judicial permission is required for any government spying on American citizens and that, of course, these constitutional safeguards were still in place.

But surprisingly, the President's soothing statements turned out to be false.  Moreover, as soon as this massive domestic spying program was uncovered by the press, the President not only confirmed that the story was true, but also declared that he has no intention of bringing these wholesale invasions of privacy to an end.

At present, we still have much to learn about the NSA's domestic surveillance.  What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and persistently.

A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government.  Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men.  Indeed, they recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution - our system of checks and balances - was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law.  As John Adams said:  "The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men."

An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution - an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free.  In the words of James Madison, "the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

Thomas Paine, whose pamphlet, "On Common Sense" ignited the American Revolution, succinctly described America's alternative.  Here, he said, we intended to make certain that "the law is king."

Vigilant adherence to the rule of law strengthens our democracy and strengthens America.  It ensures that those who govern us operate within our constitutional structure, which means that our democratic institutions play their indispensable role in shaping policy and determining the direction of our nation.  It means that the people of this nation ultimately determine its course and not executive officials operating in secret without constraint.

The rule of law makes us stronger by ensuring that decisions will be tested, studied, reviewed and examined through the processes of government that are designed to improve policy.  And the knowledge that they will be reviewed prevents over-reaching and checks the accretion of power.

A commitment to openness, truthfulness and accountability also helps our country avoid many serious mistakes.  Recently, for example, we learned from recently classified declassified documents that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized the tragic Vietnam war, was actually based on false information.  We now know that the decision by Congress to authorize the Iraq War, 38 years later, was also based on false information.  America would have been better off knowing the truth and avoiding both of these colossal mistakes in our history.  Following the rule of law makes us safer, not more vulnerable.

The President and I agree on one thing.  The threat from terrorism is all too real.  There is simply no question that we continue to face new challenges in the wake of the attack on September 11th and that we must be ever-vigilant in protecting our citizens from harm.

Where we disagree is that we have to break the law or sacrifice our system of government to protect Americans from terrorism.  In fact, doing so makes us weaker and more vulnerable.

Once violated, the rule of law is in danger.  Unless stopped, lawlessness grows.  The greater the power of the executive grows, the more difficult it becomes for the other branches to perform their constitutional roles.  As the executive acts outside its constitutionally prescribed role and is able to control access to information that would expose its actions, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other branches to police it.  Once that ability is lost, democracy itself is threatened and we become a government of men and not laws.

The President's men have minced words about America's laws.  The Attorney General openly conceded that the "kind of surveillance" we now know they have been conducting requires a court order unless authorized by statute.  The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act self-evidently does not authorize what the NSA has been doing, and no one inside or outside the Administration claims that it does.  Incredibly, the Administration claims instead that the surveillance was implicitly authorized when Congress voted to use force against those who attacked us on September 11th.

This argument just does not hold any water.  Without getting into the legal intricacies, it faces a number of embarrassing facts.  First, another admission by the Attorney General:  he concedes that the Administration knew that the NSA project was prohibited by existing law and that they consulted with some members of Congress about changing the statute.  Gonzalez says that they were told this probably would not be possible.  So how can they now argue that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force somehow implicitly authorized it all along?  Second, when the Authorization was being debated, the Administration did in fact seek to have language inserted in it that would have authorized them to use military force domestically - and the Congress did not agree.  Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Jim McGovern, among others, made statements during the Authorization debate clearly restating that that Authorization did not operate domestically.

When President Bush failed to convince Congress to give him all the power he wanted when they passed the AUMF, he secretly assumed that power anyway, as if congressional authorization was a useless bother.  But as Justice Frankfurter once wrote:  "To find authority so explicitly withheld is not merely to disregard in a particular instance the clear will of Congress.  It is to disrespect the whole legislative process and the constitutional division of authority between President and Congress."

This is precisely the "disrespect" for the law that the Supreme Court struck down in the steel seizure case.

It is this same disrespect for America's Constitution which has now brought our republic to the brink of a dangerous breach in the fabric of the Constitution.  And the disrespect embodied in these apparent mass violations of the law is part of a larger pattern of seeming indifference to the Constitution that is deeply troubling to millions of Americans in both political parties.

For example, the President has also declared that he has a heretofore unrecognized inherent power to seize and imprison any American citizen that he alone determines to be a threat to our nation, and that, notwithstanding his American citizenship, the person imprisoned has no right to talk with a lawyer-even to argue that the President or his appointees have made a mistake and imprisoned the wrong person.

The President claims that he can imprison American citizens indefinitely for the rest of their lives without an arrest warrant, without notifying them about what charges have been filed against them, and without informing their families that they have been imprisoned.

At the same time, the Executive Branch has claimed a previously unrecognized authority to mistreat prisoners in its custody in ways that plainly constitute torture in a pattern that has now been documented in U.S. facilities located in several countries around the world.

Over 100 of these captives have reportedly died while being tortured by Executive Branch interrogators and many more have been broken and humiliated.  In the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, investigators who documented the pattern of torture estimated that more than 90 percent of the victims were innocent of any charges.

This shameful exercise of power overturns a set of principles that our nation has observed since General Washington first enunciated them during our Revolutionary War and has been observed by every president since then - until now.  These practices violate the Geneva Conventions and the International Convention Against Torture, not to mention our own laws against torture.

The President has also claimed that he has the authority to kidnap individuals in foreign countries and deliver them for imprisonment and interrogation on our behalf by autocratic regimes in nations that are infamous for the cruelty of their techniques for torture.

Some of our traditional allies have been shocked by these new practices on the part of our nation.  The British Ambassador to Uzbekistan - one of those nations with the worst reputations for torture in its prisons - registered a complaint to his home office about the senselessness and cruelty of the new U.S. practice: "This material is useless - we are selling our souls for dross.  It is in fact positively harmful."

Can it be true that any president really has such powers under our Constitution?  If the answer is "yes" then under the theory by which these acts are committed, are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited?  If the President has the inherent authority to eavesdrop, imprison citizens on his own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can't he do?

The Dean of Yale Law School, Harold Koh, said after analyzing the Executive Branch's claims of these previously unrecognized powers:  "If the President has commander-in-chief power to commit torture, he has the power to commit genocide, to sanction slavery, to promote apartheid, to license summary execution."

The fact that our normal safeguards have thus far failed to contain this unprecedented expansion of executive power is deeply troubling.  This failure is due in part to the fact that the Executive Branch has followed a determined strategy of obfuscating, delaying, withholding information, appearing to yield but then refusing to do so and dissembling in order to frustrate the efforts of the legislative and judicial branches to restore our constitutional balance.

For example, after appearing to support legislation sponsored by John McCain to stop the continuation of torture, the President declared in the act of signing the bill that he reserved the right not to comply with it.

Similarly, the Executive Branch claimed that it could unilaterally imprison American citizens without giving them access to review by any tribunal.  The Supreme Court disagreed, but the President engaged in legal maneuvers designed to prevent the Court from providing meaningful content to the rights of its citizens.

A conservative jurist on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that the Executive Branch's handling of one such case seemed to involve the sudden abandonment of principle "at substantial cost to the government's credibility before the courts."

As a result of its unprecedented claim of new unilateral power, the Executive Branch has now put our constitutional design at grave risk.  The stakes for America's representative democracy are far higher than has been generally recognized.

These claims must be rejected and a healthy balance of power restored to our Republic.  Otherwise, the fundamental nature of our democracy may well undergo a radical transformation.

For more than two centuries, America's freedoms have been preserved in part by our founders' wise decision to separate the aggregate power of our government into three co-equal branches, each of which serves to check and balance the power of the other two.

On more than a few occasions, the dynamic interaction among all three branches has resulted in collisions and temporary impasses that create what are invariably labeled "constitutional crises."  These crises have often been dangerous and uncertain times for our Republic.  But in each such case so far, we have found a resolution of the crisis by renewing our common agreement to live under the rule of law.

The principle alternative to democracy throughout history has been the consolidation of virtually all state power in the hands of a single strongman or small group who together exercise that power without the informed consent of the governed.

It was in revolt against just such a regime, after all, that America was founded.  When Lincoln declared at the time of our greatest crisis that the ultimate question being decided in the Civil War was "whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure," he was not only saving our union but also was recognizing the fact that democracies are rare in history.  And when they fail, as did Athens and the Roman Republic upon whose designs our founders drew heavily, what emerges in their place is another strongman regime.

There have of course been other periods of American history when the Executive Branch claimed new powers that were later seen as excessive and mistaken.  Our second president, John Adams, passed the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts and sought to silence and imprison critics and political opponents.

When his successor, Thomas Jefferson, eliminated the abuses he said: 
"[The essential principles of our Government] form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation...  [S]hould we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty and safety."

Our greatest President, Abraham Lincoln, suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War.  Some of the worst abuses prior to those of the current administration were committed by President Wilson during and after WWI with the notorious Red Scare and Palmer Raids.  The internment of Japanese Americans during WWII marked a low point for the respect of individual rights at the hands of the executive.  And, during the Vietnam War, the notorious COINTELPRO program was part and parcel of the abuses experienced by Dr. King and thousands of others.

But in each of these cases, when the conflict and turmoil subsided, the country recovered its equilibrium and absorbed the lessons learned in a recurring cycle of excess and regret.

There are reasons for concern this time around that conditions may be changing and that the cycle may not repeat itself.  For one thing, we have for decades been witnessing the slow and steady accumulation of presidential power.  In a global environment of nuclear weapons and cold war tensions, Congress and the American people accepted ever enlarging spheres of presidential initiative to conduct intelligence and counter intelligence activities and to allocate our military forces on the global stage.  When military force has been used as an instrument of foreign policy or in response to humanitarian demands, it has almost always been as the result of presidential initiative and leadership.  As Justice Frankfurter wrote in the Steel Seizure Case, "The accretion of dangerous power does not come in a day.  It does come, however slowly, from the generative force of unchecked disregard of the restrictions that fence in even the most disinterested assertion of authority."

A second reason to believe we may be experiencing something new is that we are told by the Administration that the war footing upon which he has tried to place the country is going to "last for the rest of our lives."  So we are told that the conditions of national threat that have been used by other Presidents to justify arrogations of power will persist in near perpetuity.

Third, we need to be aware of the advances in eavesdropping and surveillance technologies with their capacity to sweep up and analyze enormous quantities of information and to mine it for intelligence.  This adds significant vulnerability to the privacy and freedom of enormous numbers of innocent people at the same time as the potential power of those technologies.  These techologies have the potential for shifting the balance of power between the apparatus of the state and the freedom of the individual in ways both subtle and profound.

Don't misunderstand me: the threat of additional terror strikes is all too real and their concerted efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction does create a real imperative to exercise the powers of the Executive Branch with swiftness and agility.  Moreover, there is in fact an inherent power that is conferred by the Constitution to the President to take unilateral action to protect the nation from a sudden and immediate threat, but it is simply not possible to precisely define in legalistic terms exactly when that power is appropriate and when it is not.

But the existence of that inherent power cannot be used to justify a gross and excessive power grab lasting for years that produces a serious imbalance in the relationship between the executive and the other two branches of government.

There is a final reason to worry that we may be experiencing something more than just another cycle of overreach and regret.  This Administration has come to power in the thrall of a legal theory that aims to convince us that this excessive concentration of presidential authority is exactly what our Constitution intended.

This legal theory, which its proponents call the theory of the unitary executive but which is more accurately described as the unilateral executive, threatens to expand the president's powers until the contours of the constitution that the Framers actually gave us become obliterated beyond all recognition.  Under this theory, the President's authority when acting as Commander-in-Chief or when making foreign policy cannot be reviewed by the judiciary or checked by Congress.  President Bush has pushed the implications of this idea to its maximum by continually stressing his role as Commander-in-Chief, invoking it has frequently as he can, conflating it with his other roles, domestic and foreign.  When added to the idea that we have entered a perpetual state of war, the implications of this theory stretch quite literally as far into the future as we can imagine.

This effort to rework America's carefully balanced constitutional design into a lopsided structure dominated by an all powerful Executive Branch with a subservient Congress and judiciary is-ironically-accompanied by an effort by the same administration to rework America's foreign policy from one that is based primarily on U.S. moral authority into one that is based on a misguided and self-defeating effort to establish dominance in the world.

The common denominator seems to be based on an instinct to intimidate and control.

This same pattern has characterized the effort to silence dissenting views within the Executive Branch, to censor information that may be inconsistent with its stated ideological goals, and to demand conformity from all Executive Branch employees.

For example, CIA analysts who strongly disagreed with the White House assertion that Osama bin Laden was linked to Saddam Hussein found themselves under pressure at work and became fearful of losing promotions and salary increases.

Ironically, that is exactly what happened to FBI officials in the 1960s who disagreed with J. Edgar Hoover's view that Dr. King was closely connected to Communists.  The head of the FBI's domestic intelligence division said that his effort to tell the truth about King's innocence of the charge resulted in he and his colleagues becoming isolated and pressured.  "It was evident that we had to change our ways or we would all be out on the street. . .  The men and I discussed how to get out of trouble.  To be in trouble with Mr. Hoover was a serious matter.  These men were trying to buy homes, mortgages on homes, children in school.  They lived in fear of getting transferred, losing money on their homes, as they usually did. . .  so they wanted another memorandum written to get us out of the trouble that we were in."

The Constitution's framers understood this dilemma as well, as Alexander Hamilton put it, "a power over a man's support is a power over his will."  (Federalist No. 73)

Soon, there was no more difference of opinion within the FBI.  The false accusation became the unanimous view. In exactly the same way, George Tenet's CIA eventually joined in endorsing a manifestly false view that there was a linkage between al Qaeda and the government of Iraq.

In the words of George Orwell:  "We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right.  Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time:  the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield."

Whenever power is unchecked and unaccountable it almost inevitably leads to mistakes and abuses.  In the absence of rigorous accountability, incompetence flourishes.  Dishonesty is encouraged and rewarded.

Last week, for example, Vice President Cheney attempted to defend the Administration's eavesdropping on American citizens by saying that if it had conducted this program prior to 9/11, they would have found out the names of some of the hijackers.

Tragically, he apparently still doesn't know that the Administration did in fact have the names of at least 2 of the hijackers well before 9/11 and had available to them information that could have easily led to the identification of most of the other hijackers.  And yet, because of incompetence in the handling of this information, it was never used to protect the American people.

It is often the case that an Executive Branch beguiled by the pursuit of unchecked power responds to its own mistakes by reflexively proposing that it be given still more power.  Often, the request itself it used to mask accountability for mistakes in the use of power it already has.

Moreover, if the pattern of practice begun by this Administration is not challenged, it may well become a permanent part of the American system.  Many conservatives have pointed out that granting unchecked power to this President means that the next President will have unchecked power as well.  And the next President may be someone whose values and belief you do not trust.  And this is why Republicans as well as Democrats should be concerned with what this President has done.  If this President's attempt to dramatically expand executive power goes unquestioned, our constitutional design of checks and balances will be lost.  And the next President or some future President will be able, in the name of national security, to restrict our liberties in a way the framers never would have thought possible.

The same instinct to expand its power and to establish dominance characterizes the relationship between this Administration and the courts and the Congress.

In a properly functioning system, the Judicial Branch would serve as the constitutional umpire to ensure that the branches of government observed their proper spheres of authority, observed civil liberties and adhered to the rule of law.  Unfortunately, the unilateral executive has tried hard to thwart the ability of the judiciary to call balls and strikes by keeping controversies out of its hands - notably those challenging its ability to detain individuals without legal process -- by appointing judges who will be deferential to its exercise of power and by its support of assaults on the independence of the third branch.

The President's decision to ignore FISA was a direct assault on the power of the judges who sit on that court.  Congress established the FISA court precisely to be a check on executive power to wiretap.  Yet, to ensure that the court could not function as a check on executive power, the President simply did not take matters to it and did not let the court know that it was being bypassed.

The President's judicial appointments are clearly designed to ensure that the courts will not serve as an effective check on executive power.  As we have all learned, Judge Alito is a longtime supporter of a powerful executive - a supporter of the so-called unitary executive, which is more properly called the unilateral executive.  Whether you support his confirmation or not - and I do not - we must all agree that he will not vote as an effective check on the expansion of executive power.  Likewise, Chief Justice Roberts has made plain his deference to the expansion of executive power through his support of judicial deference to executive agency rulemaking.

And the Administration has supported the assault on judicial independence that has been conducted largely in Congress.  That assault includes a threat by the Republican majority in the Senate to permanently change the rules to eliminate the right of the minority to engage in extended debate of the President's judicial nominees.  The assault has extended to legislative efforts to curtail the jurisdiction of courts in matters ranging from habeas corpus to the pledge of allegiance.  In short, the Administration has demonstrated its contempt for the judicial role and sought to evade judicial review of its actions at every turn.

But the most serious damage has been done to the legislative branch.  The sharp decline of congressional power and autonomy in recent years has been almost as shocking as the efforts by the Executive Branch to attain a massive expansion of its power.

I was elected to Congress in 1976 and served eight years in the house, 8 years in the Senate and presided over the Senate for 8 years as Vice President.  As a young man, I saw the Congress first hand as the son of a Senator.  My father was elected to Congress in 1938, 10 years before I was born, and left the Senate in 1971.

The Congress we have today is unrecognizable compared to the one in which my father served.  There are many distinguished Senators and Congressmen serving today.  I am honored that some of them are here in this hall.  But the legislative branch of government under its current leadership now operates as if it is entirely subservient to the Executive Branch.

Moreover, too many Members of the House and Senate now feel compelled to spend a majority of their time not in thoughtful debate of the issues, but raising money to purchase 30 second TV commercials.

There have now been two or three generations of congressmen who don't really know what an oversight hearing is.  In the 70's and 80's, the oversight hearings in which my colleagues and I participated held the feet of the Executive Branch to the fire - no matter which party was in power.  Yet oversight is almost unknown in the Congress today.

The role of authorization committees has declined into insignificance.  The 13 annual appropriation bills are hardly ever actually passed anymore.  Everything is lumped into a single giant measure that is not even available for Members of Congress to read before they vote on it.

Members of the minority party are now routinely excluded from conference committees, and amendments are routinely not allowed during floor consideration of legislation.

In the United States Senate, which used to pride itself on being the "greatest deliberative body in the world," meaningful debate is now a rarity.  Even on the eve of the fateful vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq, Senator Robert Byrd famously asked:  "Why is this chamber empty?"

In the House of Representatives, the number who face a genuinely competitive election contest every two years is typically less than a dozen out of 435.

And too many incumbents have come to believe that the key to continued access to the money for re-election is to stay on the good side of those who have the money to give; and, in the case of the majority party, the whole process is largely controlled by the incumbent president and his political organization.

So the willingness of Congress to challenge the Administration is further limited when the same party controls both Congress and the Executive Branch.

The Executive Branch, time and again, has co-opted Congress' role, and often Congress has been a willing accomplice in the surrender of its own power.

Look for example at the Congressional role in "overseeing" this massive four year eavesdropping campaign that on its face seemed so clearly to violate the Bill of Rights.  The President says he informed Congress, but what he really means is that he talked with the chairman and ranking member of the House and Senate intelligence committees and the top leaders of the House and Senate.  This small group, in turn, claimed that they were not given the full facts, though at least one of the intelligence committee leaders handwrote a letter of concern to VP Cheney and placed a copy in his own safe.

Though I sympathize with the awkward position in which these men and women were placed, I cannot disagree with the Liberty Coalition when it says that Democrats as well as Republicans in the Congress must share the blame for not taking action to protest and seek to prevent what they consider a grossly unconstitutional program.

Moreover, in the Congress as a whole-both House and Senate-the enhanced role of money in the re-election process, coupled with the sharply diminished role for reasoned deliberation and debate, has produced an atmosphere conducive to pervasive institutionalized corruption.

The Abramoff scandal is but the tip of a giant iceberg that threatens the integrity of the entire legislative branch of government.

It is the pitiful state of our legislative branch which primarily explains the failure of our vaunted checks and balances to prevent the dangerous overreach by our Executive Branch which now threatens a radical transformation of the American system.

I call upon Democratic and Republican members of Congress today to uphold your oath of office and defend the Constitution.  Stop going along to get along.  Start acting like the independent and co-equal branch of government you're supposed to be.

But there is yet another Constitutional player whose pulse must be taken and whose role must be examined in order to understand the dangerous imbalance that has emerged with the efforts by the Executive Branch to dominate our constitutional system.

We the people are-collectively-still the key to the survival of America's democracy.  We-as Lincoln put it, "[e]ven we here"-must examine our own role as citizens in allowing and not preventing the shocking decay and degradation of our democracy.

Thomas Jefferson said:  "An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will."

The revolutionary departure on which the idea of America was based was the audacious belief that people can govern themselves and responsibly exercise the ultimate authority in self-government.  This insight proceeded inevitably from the bedrock principle articulated by the Enlightenment philosopher John Locke:  "All just power is derived from the consent of the governed."

The intricate and carefully balanced constitutional system that is now in such danger was created with the full and widespread participation of the population as a whole.  The Federalist Papers were, back in the day, widely-read newspaper essays, and they represented only one of twenty-four series of essays that crowded the vibrant marketplace of ideas in which farmers and shopkeepers recapitulated the debates that played out so fruitfully in Philadelphia.

Indeed, when the Convention had done its best, it was the people - in their various States - that refused to confirm the result until, at their insistence, the Bill of Rights was made integral to the document sent forward for ratification.

And it is "We the people" who must now find once again the ability we once had to play an integral role in saving our Constitution.

And here there is cause for both concern and great hope.  The age of printed pamphlets and political essays has long since been replaced by television - a distracting and absorbing medium which sees determined to entertain and sell more than it informs and educates.

Lincoln's memorable call during the Civil War is applicable in a new way to our dilemma today:  "We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country."

Forty years have passed since the majority of Americans adopted television as their principal source of information.  Its dominance has become so extensive that virtually all significant political communication now takes place within the confines of flickering 30-second television advertisements.

And the political economy supported by these short but expensive television ads is as different from the vibrant politics of America's first century as those politics were different from the feudalism which thrived on the ignorance of the masses of people in the Dark Ages.

The constricted role of ideas in the American political system today has encouraged efforts by the Executive Branch to control the flow of information as a means of controlling the outcome of important decisions that still lie in the hands of the people.

The Administration vigorously asserts its power to maintain the secrecy of its operations.  After all, the other branches can't check an abuse of power if they don't know it is happening.

For example, when the Administration was attempting to persuade Congress to enact the Medicare prescription drug benefit, many in the House and Senate raised concerns about the cost and design of the program.  But, rather than engaging in open debate on the basis of factual data, the Administration withheld facts and prevented the Congress from hearing testimony that it sought from the principal administration expert who had compiled information showing in advance of the vote that indeed the true cost estimates were far higher than the numbers given to Congress by the President.

Deprived of that information, and believing the false numbers given to it instead, the Congress approved the program.  Tragically, the entire initiative is now collapsing- all over the country- with the Administration making an appeal just this weekend to major insurance companies to volunteer to bail it out.

To take another example, scientific warnings about the catastrophic consequences of unchecked global warming were censored by a political appointee in the White House who had no scientific training.  And today one of the leading scientific experts on global warming in NASA has been ordered not to talk to members of the press and to keep a careful log of everyone he meets with so that the Executive Branch can monitor and control his discussions of global warming.

One of the other ways the Administration has tried to control the flow of information is by consistently resorting to the language and politics of fear in order to short-circuit the debate and drive its agenda forward without regard to the evidence or the public interest.  As President Eisenhower said, "Any who act as if freedom's defenses are to be found in suppression and suspicion and fear confess a doctrine that is alien to America."

Fear drives out reason.  Fear suppresses the politics of discourse and opens the door to the politics of destruction.  Justice Brandeis once wrote: "Men feared witches and burnt women."

The founders of our country faced dire threats.  If they failed in their endeavors, they would have been hung as traitors.  The very existence of our country was at risk.

Yet, in the teeth of those dangers, they insisted on establishing the Bill of Rights.

Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol?  Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of missiles poised to be launched against us and annihilate our country at a moment's notice?  Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march-when our fathers fought and won two World Wars simultaneously?

It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they.  Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it is up to us to do the same.

We have a duty as Americans to defend our citizens' right not only to life but also to liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  It is therefore vital in our current circumstances that immediate steps be taken to safeguard our Constitution against the present danger posed by the intrusive overreaching on the part of the Executive Branch and the President's apparent belief that he need not live under the rule of law.

I endorse the words of Bob Barr, when he said, "The President has dared the American people to do something about it.  For the sake of the Constitution, I hope they will."

A special counsel should immediately be appointed by the Attorney General to remedy the obvious conflict of interest that prevents him from investigating what many believe are serious violations of law by the President.  We have had a fresh demonstration of how an independent investigation by a special counsel with integrity can rebuild confidence in our system of justice.  Patrick Fitzgerald has, by all accounts, shown neither fear nor favor in pursuing allegations that the Executive Branch has violated other laws.

Republican as well as Democratic members of Congress should support the bipartisan call of the Liberty Coalition for the appointment of a special counsel to pursue the criminal issues raised by warrantless wiretapping of Americans by the President.

Second, new whistleblower protections should immediately be established for members of the Executive Branch who report evidence of wrongdoing -- especially where it involves the abuse of Executive Branch authority in the sensitive areas of national security.

Third, both Houses of Congress should hold comprehensive- and not just superficial- hearings into these serious allegations of criminal behavior on the part of the President.  And, they should follow the evidence wherever it leads.

Fourth, the extensive new powers requested by the Executive Branch in its proposal to extend and enlarge the Patriot Act should, under no circumstances be granted, unless and until there are adequate and enforceable safeguards to protect the Constitution and the rights of the American people against the kinds of abuses that have so recently been revealed.

Fifth, any telecommunications company that has provided the government with access to private information concerning the communications of Americans without a proper warrant should immediately cease and desist their complicity in this apparently illegal invasion of the privacy of American citizens.

Freedom of communication is an essential prerequisite for the restoration of the health of our democracy.

It is particularly important that the freedom of the Internet be protected against either the encroachment of government or the efforts at control by large media conglomerates.  The future of our democracy depends on it.

I mentioned that along with cause for concern, there is reason for hope.  As I stand here today, I am filled with optimism that America is on the eve of a golden age in which the vitality of our democracy will be re-established and will flourish more vibrantly than ever.  Indeed I can feel it in this hall.

As Dr. King once said, "Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us.  If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us."

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Unaware Of The Real Issues?

These Realities Stand Out From The Purposeful Fog Of Distractions. . .
by The Old Hippie Because It's Now Gone Well Beyond The Point Of No Return. . .


 1.  22% of the American electorate believe "The Rapture" will occur in their lifetimes, and another 22% believe it will probably happen in their lifetimes.  Absorb that.  That's 44% of the American electorate.  It explains why Bush's approval rating has rarely dropped below the high 30's, and the stunning success of the purposeful and manipulative fog of distractions in the past five years.

 2.  The president has now been "allowed" to be above the law, and to arrogantly disregard, and openly undermine, the Constitutional restraints on the executive branch at will.  The demise of the American democracy is largely the result of historical developments, and Bush has now purposefully crossed the Rubicon.

 3.  The global warming's "accelerating acceleration," now proven beyond the pale, has long passed the point of no return, and the coming death toll from its results is reality, not conjecture.

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These realities do not frighten the wealthy top few percent of the profiting few, as they can simply "move," and/or purchase "protection" for themselves.  (Whereas almost all the rest of us "fodder units" can't.)  They are well aware of the realities, and even promote and favor them, as these realities add to their profits, and to their power to manipulate the fears induced by these realities.  And the most salient point that most Americans, particularly those 44%, don't seem to understand. . .  Is that they do not care that you care.

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Also - The Reality Is. . .

Our "Rules Of Engagement" Policy In Iraq, Is A Formula for Slaughter
by Michael Schwartz, (Original Pre-Article Introduction At Tomdispatch.com) via AlterNet.org

[ This is a direct copy of this article at AlterNet, my words are not needed here. ]

A Formula for Slaughter

By Michael Schwartz, Tomdispatch.com
Posted on January 12, 2006, Printed on January 12, 2006

A little over a year ago, a group of Johns Hopkins researchers reported that about 100,000 Iraqi civilians had died as a result of the Iraq war during its first 14 months, with about 60,000 of the deaths directly attributable to military violence by the U.S. and its allies.

The study, published in The Lancet, the highly respected British medical journal, applied the same rigorous, scientifically validated methods that the Hopkins researchers had used in estimating that 1.7 million people had died in the Congo in 2000.  Though the Congo study had won the praise of the Bush and Blair administrations and had become the foundation for U.N, Security Council and State Department actions, this study was quickly declared invalid by the U.S. government and by supporters of the war.

This dismissal was hardly surprising, but after a brief flurry of protest, even the anti-war movement (with a number of notable exceptions) has largely ignored the ongoing carnage that the study identified.

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One reason the Hopkins study did not generate sustained outrage is that the researchers did not explain how the occupation had managed to kill so many people so quickly -- about 1,000 each week in the first 14 months of the war.  This may reflect our sense that carnage at such elevated levels requires a series of barbaric acts of mass slaughter and/or huge battles that would account for staggering numbers of Iraqis killed.  With the exception of the battle of Falluja, these sorts of high-profile events have simply not occurred in Iraq.
Mayhem in Baiji

But the Iraq war is a 21st-century war, and so the miracle of modern weaponry allows the U.S. military to kill scores of Iraqis (and wound many more) during a routine day's work made up of small skirmishes triggered by roadside bombs, sniper attacks and American foot patrols.  In early January 2006, the New York Times and the Washington Post both reported a relatively small incident (not even worthy of front page coverage) that illustrated perfectly the capacity of the American military to kill uncounted thousands of Iraqi civilians each year.

Here is the Times account of what happened in the small town of Baiji, 150 miles north of Baghdad, on January 3, based on interviews with various unidentified "American officials":

"A pilotless reconnaissance aircraft detected three men planting a roadside bomb about 9 p.m.  The men 'dug a hole following the common pattern of roadside bomb emplacement,' the military said in a statement.  'The individuals were assessed as posing a threat to Iraqi civilians and coalition forces, and the location of the three men was relayed to close air support pilots.'

"The men were tracked from the road site to a building nearby, which was then bombed with 'precision guided munitions,' the military said.  The statement did not say whether a roadside bomb was later found at the site.  An additional military statement said Navy F-14s had 'strafed the target with 100 cannon rounds' and dropped one bomb."

Crucial to this report is the phrase "precision guided munitions," an affirmation that U.S. forces used technology less likely than older munitions to accidentally hit the wrong target.  It is this precision that allows us to glimpse the callous brutality of American military strategy in Iraq.

The target was a "building nearby," identified by a drone aircraft as an enemy hiding place.  According to eyewitness reports given to the Washington Post, the attack effectively demolished the building and damaged six surrounding buildings.  While in a perfect world, the surrounding buildings would have been unharmed, the reported amount of human damage in them (two people injured) suggests that, in this case at least, the claims of "precision" were at least fairly accurate.

The problem arises with what happened inside the targeted building, a house inhabited by a large Iraqi family. Piecing together the testimony of local residents, the Times reporter concluded that 14 members of the family were in the house at the time of the attack, and nine were killed.  The Washington Post, which reported 12 killed, offered a chilling description of the scene:

"The dead included women and children whose bodies were recovered in the nightclothes and blankets in which they had apparently been sleeping.  A Washington Post special correspondent watched as the corpses of three women and three boys who appeared to be younger than 10 were removed Tuesday from the house."

Because in this case -- unlike in so many others in which American air power utilizes "precisely guided munitions" -- there was on-the-spot reporting for an American newspaper, the U.S. military command was required to explain these casualties.  Without conceding that the deaths actually occurred, Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, director of the Coalition Press Information Center in Baghdad, commented:  "We continue to see terrorists and insurgents using civilians in an attempt to shield themselves."

Notice that Lt. Col. Johnson (while not admitting that civilians had actually died) did assert U.S. policy:  If suspected guerrillas use any building as a refuge, a full-scale attack on that structure is justified, even if the insurgents attempt to use civilians to "shield themselves."  These are, in other words, essential U.S. rules of engagement.  The attack should be "precise" only in the sense that planes and/or helicopter gunships should seek as best they can to avoid demolishing surrounding structures.  Put another way, it is more important to stop the insurgents than protect the innocent.

And notice that the military, single-mindedly determined to kill or capture the insurgents, cannot stop to allow for the evacuation of civilians either.  Any delay might let the insurgents escape, either disguised as civilians or through windows, backdoors, cellars or any of the other obvious escape routes urban guerrillas might take.  Any attack must be quickly organized and -- if possible -- launched unexpectedly.
The Real Rules of Engagement in Iraq

We can gain some perspective on this military strategy by imagining similar rules of engagement for an American police force in some large city.  Imagine, for example, a team of criminals in that city fleeing into a nearby apartment building after gunning down a policeman.  It would be unthinkable for the police to simply call in airships to demolish the structure, killing any people -- helpless hostages, neighbors or even friends of the perpetrators -- who were with or near them.

In fact, the rules of engagement for the police, even in such a situation of extreme provocation, call for them to "hold their fire" -- if necessary allowing the perpetrators to escape -- if there is a risk of injuring civilians.  And this is a reasonable rule because we value the lives of innocent American citizens over our determination to capture a criminal, even a cop killer.

But in Iraqi cities, our values and priorities are quite differently arranged.  The contrast derives from three important principles under which the Iraq war is being fought:  that the war should be conducted to absolutely minimize the risk to American troops; that guerrilla fighters should not be allowed to escape if there is any way to capture or kill them; and that  Iraqi civilians should not be allowed to harbor or encourage the resistance fighters.

We are familiar with the first principle, the determination to safeguard American soldiers.  It is expressed in the elaborate training and equipment they are given, as well as the ongoing effort to make the equipment even more effective in protecting them from attack.  (This was most recently expressed in the release of a Pentagon study showing that improved body armor could have saved as many as 300 American lives since the start of the war.)  It is also expressed in rules of engagement that call for air strikes like the one in Baiji.  The alternative to such an air attack (aside from allowing the guerrillas to escape) would, of course, be to use a unit of troops to root out the guerrillas.

Needless to say, without an effective Iraqi military in place, such an operation would be likely to expose American soldiers to considerable risk.  The Bush administration has long shied away from the high casualty counts that would be an almost guaranteed result of such concentrated, close-quarters urban warfare, casualty counts that would surely have a strong negative effect on support in the United States for its war.  (The irony, of course, is that, with air attacks, the U.S. is trading lower American casualties and stronger support domestically for ever lessening Iraqi support and the ever greater hostility such attacks bring in their wake.)

The second principle also was applied in Baiji. Rather than allow the perpetrators to take refuge in a nearby home and then quietly slip away, the U.S. command decided to take out the house, even though they had no guarantee that it was uninhabited (and every reason to believe the opposite).  The paramount goal was to kill or capture the suspected guerrilla fighters, and if this involved the death or injury of multiple Iraqi civilians, the trade-off was clearly considered worth it.  That is, annihilating a family of 12 or 14 Iraqis could be justified if there was a reasonable probability of killing or capturing three individuals who might have been setting a roadside bomb.  This is the subtext of Lt. Colonel Johnson's comment.

The third principle behind these attacks is only occasionally expressed by U.S. military and diplomatic personnel, but is nevertheless a foundation of American strategy as applied in Baiji and elsewhere.  Though Bush administration officials and top U.S. military officers often, for propaganda purposes, refer to local residents as innocent victims of insurgent intimidation and terrorism, their disregard for the lives of civilians trapped inside such buildings is symptomatic of a very different belief:  that most Sunni Iraqis willingly harbor the guerrillas and support their attacks -- that they are not unwilling shields for the guerrillas, but are actively shielding them.  Moreover, this protection of the guerrillas is seen as a critical obstacle to our military success, requiring drastic punitive action.

As one American officer explained to New York Times reporter Dexter Filkins, the willingness to sacrifice local civilians is part of a larger strategy in which U.S. military power is used to "punish
not only the guerrillas, but also make clear to ordinary Iraqis the cost of not cooperating."  A Marine calling in to a radio talk show recently stated the argument more precisely:  "You know why those people get killed?  It's because they're letting insurgents hide in their house."

This is, by the way, is the textbook definition of terrorism -- attacking a civilian population to get it to withdraw support from the enemy.  What this strategic orientation, applied wherever American troops fight the Iraqi resistance, represents is an embrace of terrorism as a principle tactic for subduing Iraq's insurgency.
Escalating the War Against Iraqi Civilians

Baiji, a loosely settled village, is not typical of the locations where American air power is regularly loosed.  In Iraq's densely packed cities, where much fighting takes place, buildings usually house several families with other multiple-occupancy dwellings adjacent.  Moreover, city battles often involve larger units of guerrillas who ambush U.S. patrols and then disperse into several nearby dwellings or snipers who shoot from several locations.

As a consequence, when U.S. F-14s, helicopter gunships, or other types of aircraft arrive, their targets are larger and more dispersed.  Liquidating guerrillas can then require the "precise" leveling of several buildings (with "collateral damage") or even a whole city block.  Instead of 100 cannon rounds and one 500-pound bomb, such an attack can (and often does) involve several thousand cannon rounds and a combination of 500- and 2,000-pound bombs.

Needless to say, the casualties in such attacks are likely to be magnitudes greater, though we hardly read about them in the American press, since reporters working for American newspapers are rarely present before, during or after the attack.  This has started to change since "Up in the Air," a New Yorker piece by Seymour Hersh garnered much attention for outlining a Bush administration draw-down strategy in which air attacks are to be increasingly relied upon.

One particularly vivid recent account by Washington Post reporter Ellen Knickmeyer discussed the impact of air power during the American offensive in Western Anbar province last November.  Using testimony from medical personnel and local civilians, Knickmeyer reported that 97 civilians were killed in one attack in Husaybah, 40 in another in Qaimone, 18 children (and an unknown number of adults) in Ramadi, and uncounted others in numerous other cities and towns.  (The U.S. military typically denied knowledge of these casualties.)

All of these resulted from the same logic and the same rules of engagement as the Baiji attack, and in most cases, the attacks seem to have been chosen in place of mounting ground assaults.  In each case, "precision guided munitions" were used, and -- for the most part, as far as we can tell -- American forces destroyed mainly the targets they intended to hit.  In other words, this mayhem was not a matter of dumb munitions, human error, carelessness or gratuitous brutality.  It was policy.

These same principles apply to all engagements undertaken by the U.S. military.  There are about 100 violent encounters with guerrillas each day, or about 3,000 engagements each month, most of them triggered by IEDs, sniper fire, or low-level hit-and-run attacks.  (Only a relative handful of these -- never more than 100 in a month and recently far fewer -- involve suicide bombers.)  The rules of engagement call for the application of overwhelming force in all these situations.  The hiding places of the attackers -- houses, commercial shops, even mosques and schools -- essentially become automatic targets for attack.

For the most part, rifles, tanks and artillery are sufficient to eradicate the enemy, and air power is only called in as a last resort (though with a recent surge in air missions reported, that "last resort" is evidently becoming an ever more ordinary option).  Instead of body counts ranging as high as 100 per incident, only a small minority of these daily engagements produce double-digit mortality rates.  Nevertheless, the 3,000 small monthly engagements often involve attacking structures with civilians in them, and the lethality of these battles, combined with the havoc and destruction wrought by the air attacks, does add up to possibly thousands and thousands of civilian deaths each year.

Seymour Hersh's article made the new Bush administration policy of relying on air power public.  It involves, in the near future, substituting Iraqi for U.S. foot patrols as often as possible (which means an instant drop in the quality of the soldiering involved).  And, since the Iraqi military do not have tanks, artillery or other heavy weaponry, the U.S. plans to compensate both for weaker fighting outfits and lack of on-the-ground firepower by increasing its use of air strikes.  In other words, in the coming months those 3,000 encounters a month are likely to produce even more victims than the already staggering civilian casualty rates in Iraq.  Each incident that previously might have killed a few civilians will now be likely to kill many more.

The Washington Post, along with other major American media outlets, has confirmed that a new military strategy is being put in place and implemented.  Quoting military sources, the Post reported that the number of U.S. air strikes increased from an average of 25 per month during the summer of 2005, to 62 in September, 122 in October and 120 in November. The Sunday Times of London reports that, in the near future, these are expected to increase to at least 150 per month, and that the numbers will continue to climb past that threshold.

Consider then this gruesome arithmetic: If the U.S. fulfills its expectation of surpassing 150 air attacks per month, and if the average air strike produces the (gruesomely) modest total of 10 fatalities, air power alone could kill well over 20,000 Iraqi civilians in 2006.  Add the ongoing (but reduced) mortality due to other military causes on all sides, and the 1,000 civilian deaths per week rate recorded by the Hopkins study could be dwarfed in the coming year.

The new American strategy, billed as a way to de-escalate the war, is actually a formula for the slaughter of Iraqi civilians.

Michael Schwartz is a professor of sociology and faculty director of the
Undergraduate College of Global Studies at Stony Brook University.

© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/30655/

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