Life on a Pig Farm: Raising Pork and Marking Ears

This Memorial Day weekend, as we honor those who died fighting for the United States, it's worth considering also what our venerable system of government has become over the years. And so, after a pretty rough week, we find ourselves back on the subject of money and politics.

The Debate has hit on the topic of earmarks briefly in the past; still, it's big, important and expensive, so seems about time to discuss it again. I won't bother getting preachy -- we all know there are some serious flaws in Congressional spending. But do we know just how bad it is?

Harper's Magazine provides a stark illustration of the problem. Print it out -- it'll make great beach reading.

The most important aspect of the Harper's piece deals with the fact that earmarks are inserted into bills anonymously, rendering accountability virtually impossible. Unsurprisingly, earmarks tend to show up in scandals on Capitol Hill. Even when done entirely legally (as the vast majority are), earmarks leave plenty of greasy palms in their wake.

Earmarks are not inherently bad -- in some cases, they pay for genuinely important projects. That said, money and secrecy don't mix, writes David Sirota.

Although new disclosure rules could be a step toward openness, far too many earmarks would be exempt. Shouldn't disclosure requirements apply across the board? As a Scripps Howard editorial rightly argues, "If a project is not worth defending, it's not worth paying for."

Debaters, can any of you make a good case for anonymous sponsorship of legislation, appropriations or otherwise?

Molly Ivins points to other slimy practices like gerrymandering, lamenting that "what have been just deplorable flaws in our system are now eating the whole system -- the flaws are getting bigger than the functioning, with the result that serving the public interest is rapidly disappearing."

Our expectations have sunk so low that the mere passage of any budget at all is cause for celebration. Back to the Harper's piece:

Because Congress had failed, for the third year in a row, to pass most of the bills that keep the government running, members of the appropriations committees folded eight as yet unapproved bills--those that fund the Departments of Justice, State, Energy, Labor, Commerce, Education, Agriculture, Transportation, the Treasury, the Interior, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development, as well as the entire legislative and judiciary branches--into the Foreign Operations bill.
...There was no time to produce a clean copy, so the version of the omnibus bill that Congress voted on was a fourteen-inch-thick clump of papers with corrections, deletions, and additions on virtually every page. Handwritten notes peppered the margins; typefaces varied from section to section and from paragraph to paragraph. ...reading the 3,320-page bill before the vote would have been a mathematical impossibility.

Among the many problems with Congress's approach -- not least being the failure to pass individual budgets in the first place -- is a shameful disregard for quality and thoughtfulness in producing federal legislation.

As with any long-term project, it is unwise and unnecessary to put off all the research and writing until the last possible day. Even a high school history teacher would not accept a group report in such a haphazard condition as the aforementioned bill, with all the crucial details so obviously rushed.

Is it unreasonable to hold our elected officials to any less a standard?

By Emily Messner |  May 26, 2006; 12:39 PM ET  | Category:  National Politics
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What Emily, you've never seen sausage made?

Actually I've heard two things about Congress more than 30 years ago that would apply today:

1) Like soldiers who come home from war with terrible memories of what happened, few congressmen or senators like to talk about their experience on the job.

2) If the people of this country ever learned of the way legislation is actually prepared and passed in Congress, they would march to DC, lite torches, and burn down the Capitol.

So, it seems after 30 years not much has changed. Why the surprise ... you new to Washington?

Posted by: Sully | May 26, 2006 02:26 PM

With something as complicated as the US federal government, you can't debate each and every thing addressed by law - that said, what has happened on the republican watch is the worst 'congress-for-sale' - pharmaceuticals, media, food companies, oil, defense contractors have all had their interests elevated over the public good -

lobbyists should not be writing bills - legislators should

earmarks should not be put into bills in the dead of night with no identifying info - if they're not passed by the subcommittee responsible for that turf they shouldn't be in the bill

legislators should not shake down "K-street" lobbyists, or insist that money only go to one party, or accept anything of value from lobbyists at all - nothing.

legislators should not accept personal trips from private citizens while in office - if it's important enough, fly on the federal dime and legislate for the good of your district/state

any text put into a law for vote should have the legislator(s) responsible for it listed, and that information made public days before a vote is taken.

if we must equate money with speech, then let those with lots of money buy lots of speech - in the media -

make it so that only individuals - not PACs, not companies, not unions - can contribute to a candidate - make that contribution public.

allow only declared political candidates to accept contributions from individuals - force interest organizations to carry their message to the media, rather than buying our representatives directly ...

re-establish media rules that require broadcasters to provide equal access to candidates from opposing views

and let's hope an opposition party grows from what was left of democrats and independents .... the republicans are bankrupting the country, while imposing the war burdens on those very few brave patriots who keep going back to that Iraq mess ... while rich folk continue to get a lighter bill for services .... tsk

whew! feel better already ...

Posted by: Mill_of_Mn | May 27, 2006 02:28 AM

I posted a few days ago about the massacre in the Iraqi village and the cold-blooded murder of innocent women and children (the men were most likely innocent, too). There is currently an article on the front page of the regarding this crime. It can no longer be ignored.

Ms. Messner: Sorry about your dog and how f'd up congress is, but how about getting serious about the horrendous nature of what we (the American people), have done, and how it all relates to your most recent series of debate topics (other than the passing of your dog)? You have a well-funded and well read forum here. Please grow a heart and some stones and turn the debate towards some issues that truly matter.

You have a responsibility whether you like it or not.

Posted by: smafdy | May 27, 2006 08:14 AM

"Debaters, can any of you make a good case for anonymous sponsorship ..."

I could if I were a cowardly money worshipper. But I'm not. So...sorry.

I think the only reason this continues is because the people who slip their pork into bills are just smart enough to make sure the effects are neither immediate nor obvious. And then there is the 'language barrier.' That is, writing in such a painfully obscure manner that any brave soul who attempts to give the bill a close reading gets a headache and give up after the third "Heretofore."

On the other hand, here is something I learned on the first day of law school:

I can't excuse the other legislators (no matter how late the hour, how thick the document or how vital the passage of the law) who put pen to paper without knowing what exactly it is they are getting themselves and their employers into. And by employers I mean the people who elected them, not the lobbyists.

The fact that no one has made an effort to make the process Kosher tells me all legislators either benefit from this ability or are not doing the job they are paid to do. And by job I mean looking after their constituents' best interests, not the special intersts groups' best interests.

Posted by: NIW | May 27, 2006 10:12 AM

Emily, there is nothing more exasperating than the contemplation of some of the outrageously ridiculous items that make their way into the federal budget. To me, it is a monument to the ability of the human mind to rationalize inconceivably bad behaviour on the basis of one's own political self interest.

But, as long as voters continue to re-elect these people using their own suspect rationales, such bad behaviour will continue. Spare the rod and spoil the Congressman.

My concern runs much deeper. It has to do with the current crop of politicians in Congress and in the White House. I am a believer in the old, pragmatic politicians of the past who--though they paid a sort of perfunctory homage to ideology, but were not obsessive about it--recognized that governing is like the give and take of marriage. For them, compromise was not a sell out, not some low means to an end, but rather was the bedrock of good government in America.

Pork is not really the problem. I don't like it, but like the occasional grist one gets in a fine slab of steak, it sort of comes with the dinner. The problem is when you get ideologues who committ all of their energies and fortunes not to governing, but to imposing their obsessive will upon the electorate. In a sense, they are addicts to their respective belief systems and are less interested in executing the people's business than in the consummation of their respective philosophical dreams. Will we ever reach a point for example where conservatives believe that there is no more room for a tax cut? Will Liberals ever bump up against a social program for which the expense is not worth the expenditure of the public's treasury?

More importantly, will we ever reach a point in the history of government where such questions are even asked?

Posted by: Jaxas | May 27, 2006 10:39 AM

Please bookmark the following sites:

CIA, MI6 Gave bin Laden
Al-Qaeda Training
Camp In 1995

By Wayne Madsen

WMR has obtained a confidential "France Only" report of the French intelligence service, Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieure (DGSE), that states that the CIA and Britain's MI-6 maintained effective control of an important Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan as late as 1995, fully two years after the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, an attack that was launched with the help of Sudanese intelligence officers loyal to Osama Bin Laden. The CIA and MI-6 permitted control of training operations at Darunta, an "Arab Afghan" base located near the camp of Osama Bin Laden and used to manufacture explosives and chemical weapons and train in their use, to pass to the control of Ibn Cheikh, a Libyan leader of Al Qaeda.

The DGSE report, dated January 9, 2001, is classified "Defense Confidential" and "National (French) Use Only" states, "Besides the Maghreb enclave, the training at Darunta, which, for approximately 2 months, mainly involved the manufacture and the use of the explosives by terrorists. This training, initially provided at the camp of Khalden, in Paktia, was transferred during 1995, on the order of Ibn Cheikh, to Darunta, in order to slide [the training] from the control of the security services of certain countries, in particular the United States and the United Kingdom."

Classified French DGSE intelligence report: Al Qaeda training camp passed from control of CIA to Bin Laden in 1995.

The report continues by stating that in 1998, the training was expanded to include the use of C-4 plastic explosives and different types of detonators (electric, acid, etc.). Training also included the use of homemade explosives (like improvised explosive devices killing so many in Iraq today) and poisons such as arsenic, cyanide, gas, diamond powder, nicotine, and ricin. After Al Qaeda took control of Darunta from the CIA and MI-6, the camp was used to train Al Qaeda operatives to launch a series of deadly attacks, including the November 19, 1995 attack on the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad, the 1998 attacks on the US embassy in Nairobi, the abortive Dec. 31, 1999 "Millennium" attack on Los Angeles International Airport by Algerian Ahmed Ressam, and the attack on the USS Cole.

In 1995, James Woolsey left as CIA Director and was replaced by John Deutch. Deutch's deputy was George Tenet, who previously served in Bill Clinton's National Security Council. The National Security Adviser was Tony Lake. George Tenet The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) was chaired by Larry Combest of Lubbock, Texas and 1995 was the year Porter Goss joined the CIA oversight committee. On November 12, 2002, only a week after winning his 10th term, Combest suddenly announced his resignation from the House. Goss took over the HPSCI gavel from Combest in 1997, after serving only two years on the committee. In 1995, the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was Arlen Specter, a person whose fingerprints, like those of Goss, have been all over shady intelligence operations since the early 1960s. CIA intelligence analyst Michael Scheuer formed the CIA's Bin Laden Unit in 1996.

Two significant items emerge from the DGSE report. One is the fact that the CIA and MI-6 were dealing with a Libyan Al Qaeda member at the same time Libyan leader Muammar el Qaddafi had declared war on Al Qaeda. Unlike the United States, Libya issued an Interpol arrest warrant for Bin Laden on March 16, 1998. With this treasure trove of proof of U.S. (and British) support for Al Qaeda, Qaddafi had the U.S. and the neo-cons over the barrel. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Bush administration now considers Qaddafi (once branded as terrorist number one) to be a good friend.

Interpol arrest warrant for Bin Laden.

The other item is the training of Ahmed Ressam at Darunta. Bill Clinton's National Security Adviser Sandy Berger was charged with removing classified documents from the National Archives concerning the Ressam bombing plot. The question remains -- what were in these documents and did they have anything to do with the CIA's fingerprints on the Darunta camp?

Posted by: che | May 27, 2006 12:17 PM

We need to take very great care of our seriously wounded veterans and the dependent survivors of those who have fallen before we relocate railroad tracks in Mississippi or build a megamilliion bridge to some hamlet in the Alaskan tundra.

We might never run out of courageous young people and seasoned service personnel in America, but that is no cause to be indulgent.

Posted by: On the plantation | May 27, 2006 03:07 PM

To Che
Yipee, its all Bill Clinton's fault!

Posted by: | May 27, 2006 06:14 PM

The patriot must all ways be prepared to defend his country from his government.
- Ed Abbey

Posted by: patriot 1957 | May 27, 2006 06:35 PM

I've been saying for quite some time that we should be indignant, outraged, even angry that Congress doesn't do the nation's business in a businesslike manner. Particularly Republicans, always quick to point out the efficiency of private-sector business, has been running the show but somehow complaining that the opposition, minority Democrats are spoiling their show. (We'll dismiss for the moment that Republicans would like to silence or ignore the views from the left of the aisle.) All these legislators are supposed to be designated by the people to make order out of potential chaos, to keep an eye on the President, to direct the country's business.

Should men and women with that responsibility be accountable for the tax dollars they raise and spend? Should they need to answer to the people they serve (that would be us, not the President, and not their parties)? Is it reasonable to expect that they have some semblance of personal and collective integrity? I say yes, they should. If asked in those terms, I daresay most Americans would answer the same (though there seem to be some who'd maintain otherwise, apparently).

Congressional accountablity has been incredibly lacking of late. In 2001-2002, there was a stampede to show who was the most alpha-male tough. Mr Swagger, a bonehead who can't answer yes or no without consulting a strategist or a lawyer or some other "staffer" for advice, made bold statements and everyone rushed to seem to stand at his side. Did he grow and shrink? No, he's the same as ever. So where were the strong voices of alternative opinion (in either party) to prevent the disgusting predicament in which we as a nation now have ourselves? Well it's high time for a sweeping change. Isn't it?

We need strong economics, to be sure. But our big and middle-size corporation have prospered under conservative, centrist, and progressive administrations. Our country has continued to grow steadily in the economic realm; but not without some governmentally induced controls and re-direction (see The Great Depression, for example). Today's excesses are not about viability of business, but of greed for power and money by top executives and power-investors. (Oh, I forgot! That's just my own neurotic perception. They're really doing it for the good of the country, the employees, the thousands of investors through their retirement funds.) No, the "system" has run amok.

When all expenses are calculated, the Iraq stupidity will cost this nation nearly a trillion dollars. Dollars spent and down the drain. We do not recover value from war. The lost and damaged lives of our military men and women - of which we need to be particularly mindful this weekend - will have been squandered for vanity. For vanity and a distraction from the activities of corporate America and its Congressional allies.

Now these poor-excuses for representation want to get re-elected to continue their rampage over rights and principles of our democracy. They "pork" up the budget with midnight amendments to curry local favor: "Oh, look what I your senator / I your congressperson have done for you lately!" I've protected your security by endorsing and funding a specious war in Iraq (is that Eurasia? See also Orwell's "1984"). But the voters in the hinterlands are getting pretty bitter and cynical.

The voters hear that the economy is supposed to be growing, but their wage buying power has been shrinking steadily since 1998 or so. We buy and drive older cars, attend few or fewer concerts, films, or museums. Grocery bills continue to climb monthly, rent continues to climb, gas, insurance, healthcare expand constantly. Even public college tuition is exceeding the ability of average families. Couples work by necessity. All this while executives get multi-million separation agreements, mergers and downsizing cut good-paying employment.

There needs to be progress, of course. But the founders created this government to control and direct the forces of economics and power. Government is supposed to be the most powerful force and exert influence not only on international affairs, but on internal regulatory needs as well. Our recent Congresses have done that very poorly. It's beyond time to insist that they begin to do the job for which we hired them.

Posted by: Jazzman | May 27, 2006 09:21 PM

Very interesting opinion piece in today's WP, written by Richard Rodriguez. In my words, not his, he's making the case that Mexico is to USA East Germany was to West Germany.

It leaves out a lot, but it takes a path that is novel.

Posted by: On the plantation | May 28, 2006 09:47 AM

To On-the-plantation:
Not totally a novel view. But much of our discussion does not consider what is wrong with Mexico that virtually all those in its middle and lower income bracket would rather be somewhere else. Notably in the USA. The fact of Mexican exodus - one that continues to accelerate - needs scrutiny and correction. The issue is much less of our immigration as of Mexico's emigration. It's nice for Mexico's leading politician to visit the US and call for policies that are kind to Mexicans seeking to come here. But really, what has Mexico done to correct its imbalance of wealth and privilege, its lackluster economy, its struggling agriculture, and its corruption? As long as current conditions prevail or decline in Mexico, its citizens are going to seek better fortune and hope somewhere else.
That is true of failed economies and social systems (governments) around the world. What, really, can be done to begin the road to correcting these failings? Everyone from the southern hemisphere cannot live in the north . . .. We can't blame people for seeking a way out, but mass migrations are not the effective answer.

Posted by: Jazzman | May 28, 2006 11:25 AM

Jazzman wrote:

"What, really, can be done to begin the road to correcting these failings?"

I do not advocate it, but I think the true strategic motive of GWB is getting unveiled (coincidentally, in alignment with what's implied in the Rodriguez opinion piece).

Eureka! They want a merger of Mexico and the USA. The Senate form of immigration reform is just an intermediate step to that objective.

Posted by: On the plantation | May 28, 2006 12:41 PM

NSA Snoop Program: All about the Neocon Enemies List

Friday May 26th 2006, 6:35 pm

National Review Online, the home of many a Straussian neocon, has posted an excerpt from William Arkin on its Media Blog page. Arkin, who writes a column for the CIA's favorite newspaper, the Washington Post (the editors over there like to call Arkin's Early Warning a blog), declared on May 16, in regard to the massive NSA snoop program, "there is no enemies list" and the "Bush administration has been arrogant and incompetent in communicating to the American public. It has cynically split the country into red and blue in order to give itself greater power to pursue a wrong-headed national security strategy that it claims is red, white and blue.... The Congress has also utterly failed in five months to get to the bottom of the NSA's warantless surveillance program and thereby resolve its legality and assuage public anxiety." In other words, it is simply more partisan politics and splenetic political manipulation la mode de Karl Rove. Nothing to see here, except a bit of unresolved legality. Please move along.

If you believe the Bush and the neocons in the White House and the Pentagon, as Arkin suggests, have not drawn up a comprehensive list of domestic enemies, and are not snooping them right now, I have a chartreuse pony to sell you.

It's no mistake Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden was breezily selected, as predicted, by a large number of senators (78-15 in his favor) earlier today. Hayden will merge CIA and Pentagon covert and snoop operations and scant little of the work will concentrate on Osama's cartoonish cave dwellers and the spurious boogieman known as "al-Qaeda." William Arkin may trust his government to employ a colossal snoop program in a myopic effort to gain short term political gain, but those of us who take a look at not too distant history understand otherwise.

Verne Lyon, a former CIA undercover operative, wrote for Covert Action Information Bulletin, Summer 1990, that with "the DCS, the DOD [Domestic Operations Division], the old boy network, and the CIA Office of Security operating without congressional oversight or public knowledge, all that was needed to bring [Operation Chaos] together was a perceived threat to the national security and a presidential directive unleashing the dogs. That happened in 1965 when President Johnson instructed [John] McCone to provide an independent analysis of the growing problem of student protest against the war in Vietnam. Prior to this, Johnson had to rely on information provided by the FBI, intelligence that he perceived to be slanted by Hoover's personal views, which often ignored the facts." In order to "achieve the intelligence being asked for by the President, the CIA's Office of Security, the Counter-Intelligence division, and the newly created DOD turned to the old boy network for help." Lyon continues:

As campus anti-war protest activity spread across the nation, the CIA reacted by implementing two new domestic operations. The first, Project RESISTANCE, was designed to provide security to CIA recruiters on college campuses. Under this program, the CIA sought active cooperation from college administrators, campus security, and local police to help identify anti-war activists, political dissidents, and "radicals." Eventually information was provided to all government recruiters on college campuses and directly to the super-secret DOD on thousands of students and dozens of groups. The CIA's Office of Security also created Project MERRIMAC, to provide warnings about demonstrations being carried out against CIA facilities or personnel in the Washington area.

All of this should be familiar, as the Pentagon's Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) kept a database on "a motley group of about 10 peace activists [who] showed up outside the Houston headquarters of Halliburton" in 2004, according to Michael Isikoff of Newsweek, in order to protest the corporation's "supposed" war profiteering. "A Defense document shows that Army analysts wrote a report on the Halliburton protest and stored it in CIFA's database. It's not clear why the Pentagon considered the protest worthy of attention," muses the clueless Isikoff, about as tuned in to domestic spook operations (in the case of the CIA, quite illegal under its charter) as his colleague, William Arkin, who should know better. The CIFA's activity in regard to Haliburton is reminiscent of Proiect RESISTANCE, a domestic espionage operation coordinated under the DOD, a fact discovered with a simple Wikipedia search (obviously, writers working for Newsweek and the Washington Post cannot be bothered with online encyclopedias).

Under Operation Chaos and Project MERRIMAC, the CIA went about violating the strictures of the Bill of Rights with customary zeal. The CIA "infiltrated agents into domestic groups of all types and activities. It used its contacts with local police departments and their intelligence units to pick up its 'police skills' and began in earnest to pull off burglaries, illegal entries, use of explosives, criminal frame-ups, shared interrogations, and disinformation. CIA teams purchased sophisticated equipment for many starved police departments and in return got to see arrest records, suspect lists, and intelligence reports. Many large police departments, in conjunction with the CIA, carried out illegal, warrantless searches of private properties, to provide intelligence for a report requested by President Johnson," writes Lyon.

After Johnson left office, Nixon continued the programs. "In June 1970 Nixon met with Hoover, [Richard] Helms, NSA Director Admiral Noel Gaylor, and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) representative Lt. Gen. Donald V. Bennett and told them he wanted a coordinated and concentrated effort against domestic dissenters. To do that, he was creating the Interagency Committee on Intelligence (ICI), chaired by Hoover. The first ICI report, in late June, recommended new efforts in 'black bag operations,' wiretapping, and a mail-opening program. In late July 1970, Huston told the members of the ICI that their recommendations had been accepted by the White House."

If not for the Church Committee (the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, a Senate committee chaired by Senator Frank Church in 1975), the extent of crimes committed by the CIA, FBI, and the Pentagon would have likely remained secret. According to revelations brought forth by the committee (see the Church Committee's supplementary detailed staff report on Operation Chaos), during "the life of Operation CHAOS, the CIA had compiled personality files on over 13,000 individuals including more than 7,000 U.S. citizens as well as files on over 1,000 domestic groups. The CIA had shared information on more than 300,000 persons with different law enforcement agencies including the DIA and FBI. It had spied on, burglarized, intimidated, misinformed, lied to, deceived, and carried out criminal acts against thousands of citizens of the United States. It had placed itself above the law, above the Constitution, and in contempt of international diplomacy and the United States Congress. It had violated its charter and had contributed either directly or indirectly to the resignation of a President of the United States. It had tainted itself beyond hope."

Of all this, the CIA's blatant contempt for the rights of individuals was the worst. This record of deceit and illegality, implored Congress as well as the President to take extreme measures to control the Agency's activities. However, except for a few cosmetic changes made for public consumption such as the Congressional intelligence oversight committee nothing has been done to control the CIA. In fact, subsequent administrations have chosen to use the CIA for domestic operations as well. These renewed domestic operations began with Gerald Ford, were briefly limited by Jimmy Carter, and then extended dramatically by Ronald Reagan.

According to the corporate media and the standard gaggle of neocon pundits, we have nothing to fear now that Hayden has won over the Senate. After all, as the neocons assure us, the CIA and spook operations emanating out of the Pentagon (and the NSA) focus on "al-Qaeda," a shadowy group with unestablished and undocumented ties within the United States, and those of us worried about the return of Operation Chaos, Project MERRIMAC, and the FBI's COINTELPRO are simply paranoid tinfoil hatters or worse.

Never mind the superabundance of material demonstrating beyond a shadow of a doubt consistent government complicity in not only denying American citizens the right to dissent and seek redress of grievances, but also employing harassment and violence against them. It appears William Arkin simply does not bother to read history and is woefully ignorant of government subversion and desecration of the Constitution. His assertion that the Bush administration and the neocons at its core are not interested in "enemies list" à la Nixon is, on its face, absurd and should be discarded as a dangerous fallacy.


Allan Uthman writes for the Buffalo Beast (Top 10 Signs of the Impending U.S. Police State):

If Bush's nominee for CIA chief, Air Force General Michael Hayden, is confirmed, that will put every spy program in Washington under military control. Hayden, who oversaw the NSA warrantless wiretapping program and is clearly down with the program. That program? To weaken and dismantle or at least neuter the CIA. Despite its best efforts to blame the CIA for "intelligence errors" leading to the Iraq war, the picture has clearly emerged -- through extensive CIA leaks -- that the White House's analysis of Saddam's destructive capacity was not shared by the Agency. This has proved to be a real pain in the ass for Bush and the gang.

Who'd have thought that career spooks would have moral qualms about deceiving the American people? And what is a president to do about it? Simple: make the critical agents leave, and fill their slots with Bush/Cheney loyalists. Then again, why not simply replace the entire organization? That is essentially what both Rumsfeld at the DoD and newly minted Director of National Intelligence John are doing -- they want to move intelligence analysis into the hands of people that they can control, so the next time they lie about an "imminent threat" nobody's going to tell. And the press is applauding the move as a "necessary reform."

Remember the good old days, when the CIA were the bad guys?

It should be noted, regardless of the witless declarations of William Arkin and his ilk, the military is busy at work ferreting out and monitoring terrorists, that is to say American citizens who have nothing to do with the CIA asset Osama bin Laden or the phantom "al-Qaeda," the database.

"NBC investigative correspondent Lisa Myers reported that NBC News had obtained a secret 400-page Defense Department document listing more than 1,500 'suspicious incidents' across the country over a recent ten-month period," Barry Grey wrote last December. "One of the items listed as a 'threat' was a meeting held by a group of activists a year ago at a Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth, Florida to plan a protest against military recruiting at local high schools. Myers said the Defense Department data base obtained by NBC News included nearly four dozen anti-war meetings or protests. Among them was an anti-war protest held last March in Los Angeles, a planned protest against military recruiters last December in Boston, and a planned protest last April in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.... A separate press report noted that the Pentagon data base also mentioned weekly protests at an Atlanta, Georgia military recruiting station and an anti-war protest at the University of California in Santa Cruz."

These limited revelations in and of themselves reveal that the Bush administration and the Pentagon, with the collusion of congressional Democrats as well as Republicans, have pushed aside limits on military domestic spying that were imposed following congressional hearings in the 1970s on Pentagon spying against civil rights organizations and opponents of the Vietnam War.

In addition to the creation of CIFA, mentioned above, a "second major effort to expand the military's domestic spying operations involves legislation being pushed by the Pentagon on Capitol Hill that would establish an exception to the Privacy Act, allowing the FBI and others to share information about US citizens with the Pentagon, the CIA and other agencies, as long as it was deemed that the information was related to foreign intelligence.... In addition, each of the military services has launched its own program to collect domestic intelligence. The Post quotes a Marine Corps order approved in April of 2004 that states the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity will be 'increasingly required to perform domestic missions,' and as a result 'there will be increased instances whereby Marine intelligence activities may come across information regarding US persons.'"

Of course, since there is zero oversight, there really is no need to make the fraudulent claim these operations will be conducted only if "related to foreign intelligence." As the above indicates, the government is primarily interested in snooping and subverting its own citizens, who are more of a threat to their stranglehold on power than any number of phony "al-Qaeda" groups or other contrived Freddy Kruger scarecrows.

Posted by: che | May 29, 2006 04:16 PM

Ohio election fraud investigated ... by the man who caused it

by M.R. Kropko, Associated Press

May 9, 2006

CLEVELAND - Democrats called Monday for Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell to remove himself from an investigation into what went wrong with the primary election in Ohio's largest county.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said Blackwell should step aside because his office is responsible for the rules that govern county election boards that had scattered problems last Tuesday, including poll workers who did not know how to turn on new electronic voting machines. Blackwell, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, faces too many conflicts of interest to properly oversee the probe, Redfern said.

"It's a silly request," said James Lee, a spokesman with the secretary of state's office. "The people of Ohio twice elected Ken Blackwell to serve as secretary of state. He will continue to serve."

Blackwell asked the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections on Friday for an investigation of voting glitches during the county's first attempt at electronic voting using Diebold Inc. touch-screen and optical scan systems.

The board, which met Monday for the first time since the primary, said an independent committee would try to determine what caused failures at polling places. Committee members will have expertise in electronic voting technology and elections administration, and the panel will be asked to provide a report by July 15, said Bob Bennett, who is chairman of both the Cuyahoga County elections board and the Ohio GOP.

In Cuyahoga County, which has a little more than 1 million registered voters, some poll workers did not show up to open voting sites. Officials also ordered the hand-counting of more than 18,000 paper ballots after new optical scan machines produced inconsistent tabulations. The counting was not complete until Sunday night, leaving several local races in limbo for days, and the outcome of one race for state representative was reversed.

Questions remain whether the equipment or the paper ballots, or both, were at fault, said Michael Vu, the county's elections director.

Posted by: che | May 29, 2006 05:13 PM

Really now Che, wouldn't just a simple link suffice? Given that most of the stuff you post is off topic anyway, why not save us a little room?

Posted by: D. | May 30, 2006 11:41 AM


Posted by: | May 30, 2006 12:40 PM

This Memorial Day weekend, as we honor those who died fighting for the United States, it's worth considering also what our venerable system of government has become over the years.
By Emily Messner | May 26, 2006; 12:39 PM ET

Therein lies the problem, Emily. With time and power comes corruption; It's a sad fact of human nature, and we Americans are human, no matter how much we put ourselves and our country on a pedestal.
Your piece demonstrates that the cart is now before the horse when it comes to politics and our government in modern day America. Instead of serving the public good, the Congress is CONSTANTLY serving vested interests, usually vested economic interests. Little has been done by Congress in recent years that didn't involve filling the pockets of big pharmaceuticals, big credit card corporations, and big oil, to name a few. The public is complacent, the press is complicit, and there is a CONSTANT testing of what the entrenched, self-serving interests at the top of our top-down society can get away with. One merely needs to look at the price of gasoline currently to confirm this (Speaking of, is ANYBODY in the press keeping track of how much of big oil's record profits this election year will be going toward political campaigns to re-elect congressmen in the pockets of big oil?).
The solution is very simple: reform and progress. Problem is, America is not a progressive nation of reform any more, even though that's what our country was primarily created for. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness have become compromised by modern Americans blindly biding on the side of tradition and the status quo, with those on top pro-actively taking whatever measures it takes to remain on top. An active, informed electorate is all this country needs to get back on the right track; If we really wanted to honor those who have died for the ideals our country stands for, we'd vote a hell of a lot better and smarter. Instead, Americans will most likely remain complacent and selfish as our once great nation becomes a corrupt empire in a state of decline.

Posted by: ErrinF | May 30, 2006 07:39 PM

What would Davy Crockett have done? Business interest vs. populism. Well the business interests have pretty much had their way for a quarter century. We've had our first decision of the conservative-biased Supreme Court. We're rockin' and rollin'!

But we shouldn't worry . . . Will, Chris Ford, and others have assured me that there's nothing to be concerned about. The country's future is in good hands.

Posted by: Jazzman | May 30, 2006 07:41 PM

Please bookmark:

SEP candidate responds on Iraq war stance of California Democrat Adam Schiff

31 May 2006

We are publishing here a letter from the SEP candidate in California's 29th Congressional District, John Burton, to El Vaquero, the school newspaper at Glendale Community College in suburban Los Angeles. The newspaper published the letter on May 26, under the headline "Schiff Opponent Responds to Article."

On May 8, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, who represents California's 29th District, spoke at Glendale Community College. Besides Glendale, the district includes the suburban Los Angeles communities of Pasadena, South Pasadena, Altadena, Alhambra, San Gabriel and part of Burbank.

Schiff was one of the first House Democrats to declare his support for the Bush administration's October 2002 request for congressional authorization to use force against Iraq. Supporters of John Burton, the Socialist Equality Party's candidate for Schiff's seat, attended the meeting and asked questions challenging Schiff's pro-war stance. (See "Democratic congressman backs continuing military occupation of Iraq at California meeting.")

In its subsequent report on Schiff's speech, entitled "Congressman Explains 'Getting Into Politics,'" El Vaquero wrote that "Although the overall tone of the meeting was positive and upbeat, some of the queries fielded by Schiff questioned his accountability in the Iraq War [he voted to authorize the use of force based on the intelligence reports of weapons of mass destruction but has since changed his position]." The article also said, "Schiff is opposed to invading Iran."

* * *

Dear Editor:

In your recent article on a May 8 campus appearance, you reported that Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff "voted to authorize the use of force" against Iraq "based on the intelligence reports of weapons of mass destruction," but that he "has since changed his position." You also reported that "Schiff is opposed to invading Iran." Both statements are inaccurate.

Mr. Schiff has not changed his position on the March 2003 invasion and ensuing US military occupation of Iraq. While, as you say, he now attributes his support of Bush's "preemptive war" to "faulty intelligence," at the same time he refuses to call for the withdrawal of US troops and an end to the occupation. Mr. Schiff's position is the same as that of the conservative Democratic Leadership Council, of which he is a member, that "Democrats must make it clear to the public that we stand for winning in Iraq, not a rush to the exits."

Indeed, during his talk Mr. Schiff did not criticize the Iraq invasion or condemn its instigators for lying to the American people. His only difference with the Bush administration's present Iraq policies is to call for "strategic redeployment" of US troops from urban areas like Baghdad, where they are being killed at the rate of two to three a day, to highly fortified desert military bases, where they can more safely launch deadly strikes against the Iraqi population with aircraft, missiles and high-tech gadgetry.

The DLC's call for "winning in Iraq," like Mr. Schiff's proposal for "strategic redeployment," means continuing the brutal and illegal military occupation of a once sovereign nation, including visiting upon its people more death, torture and suffering for decades to come. "Winning in Iraq" means propping up a succession of pro-US puppet governments, a policy causing increasingly bloody internecine conflicts between rival ethnic and religious factions competing for economic and political power under the framework of the occupation.

In any event, for Mr. Schiff to claim now that he voted for the invasion of Iraq because of "faulty intelligence" is a dishonest evasion. In 2003, thousands of his constituents joined tens of millions of people around the world in protest, shouting at the tops of their lungs that the Bush administration's claims about Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons of mass destruction were cynical lies intended to stampede the population into an unjust and criminal war. Americans never would have supported the invasion had Mr. Schiff and other US government officials explained its true purpose: to seize control over Iraq's vast oil reserves and to establish strategic positions for the US military in the Middle East to promote the interests of US businesses against those of their European and Asian rivals.

Mr. Schiff's position on Iran is no different. Although he told the GCC audience that he is wary of current Bush administration alarms about Iran's supposed pursuit of nuclear weapons, he did not indicate that he would oppose a military attack. Moreover, Mr. Schiff took a much different position during a 2004 debate on the House floor: "There is no doubt that Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, along with the ongoing standoff with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, constitute the gravest threat to American national security today," Schiff claimed. "How we deal with this threat will shape our global security environment for decades. When coupled with the desire by terrorists to acquire and use these weapons against the US, the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran and North Korea is petrifying."

The majority of voters in the 29th Congressional District reject such crass fear-mongering, just as they oppose the launching of aggressive wars in pursuit of control over natural resources located on the other side of the planet. These voters can find no political voice through politicians of either the Democratic or the Republican Party, however. I am petitioning for ballot status as an independent candidate for the 29th Congressional District in the November 2006 election as part of the national campaign of the Socialist Equality Party precisely to build an alternative to this antiquated and inadequate two-party system.

Very truly yours,

John Burton

Posted by: che | May 31, 2006 10:49 AM

I hate to sound cranky (blame the heat), but I must ask:
Dear che,
Could you please explain the blog postings? They seem to be irrelevant to the topic at hand. Am I missing something or is this a quick n' easy way to claim your blog is featured in the Washington Post?

Again, forgive my confrontational tone, I just don't understand.

Posted by: NIW | May 31, 2006 11:25 AM

Cuban and Venezuelan intelligence conclude 9-11 was an "inside job"

By Wayne Madsen
Online Journal Contributing Writer

(WMR) -- Add Cuba and Venezuela to the list of countries that knew of and informed the Bush administration about a "major terrorist attack" prior to 911.

In addition to Russia, Jordan, France, Germany, and other nations, Venezuelan and Cuban intelligence picked up chatter about a "major terrorist attack" on the United States prior to 911.

Cuban intelligence, which has an extensive network in Florida -- a home base of the hijackers and their handlers -- initially picked up reports about the attack and passed the information to both the United States and Venezuela. However, the Bush administration failed to react to this and other foreign warnings.

Venezuelan intelligence, likely from its own sources in Florida and elsewhere, confirmed that something major would occur in the United States.

The failure of the Bush administration to heed these warnings coupled with subsequent intelligence picked up by the Cuban and Venezuelan security services have led them to conclude that 9-11 was carried out as a result of an "inside job" within the Bush administration.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has announced plans to hold an international 9-11 commission of inquiry in Caracas that will bring together a host of international government, security, and political leaders.

Already, preliminary meetings in Caracas for the conference have attracted the attention of the FBI. Recently, an FBI agent asked for the guest list of a hotel on Margarita island to check on names of guests, including Americans, associated with the preliminary planning meetings for the conference.

Posted by: che | May 31, 2006 11:56 AM

I don't think he's out to become famous.

he's an informationalist, it's a service...

a lot of time and research goes into him bringing you the news...

it is relevant if you're into the truth that is being hidden...

what is posted is not trash, but extremely relevant...although to slow readers it could be uncomfortable.

my opinion, but I'm not deeply liked either...

I care about my country and so does he, that should be credentials enough in these sorry times...

Posted by: dear NIW...I'm not che...but let me offer this... | May 31, 2006 07:07 PM

East and West Berlin my ess...

Mexico and the United States used to have differing viewpoints in that

Mexico believed that the rich should rule the poor and keep them down...

and the United States had been weaned from that mindset....

now G dickless bushh is trying to get us back on the bottle...and is bottle feeding us _his_ truth.


Posted by: Mexico needs to clean up it's act before it is allowed to do anything... | May 31, 2006 07:10 PM

why would any nation

want us to legalize _illegal_ immigrants?

it makes perfect sense in a nation where policemen routinely shake down citizens, kidnap and murder tourists....

the Mexican government, Mr. Foxy loxy wants the money that they send home to keep coming....

it's got nothing to do with anything except cash.

and gwbutthead bush is your friend if you've got money in your many bills has he signed building bridges to nowhere?


Posted by: I mean what about this? | May 31, 2006 07:13 PM

killing Iraqi citizens...

what isn't being talked about is this:

that the United States occupation of a foreign country to defraud it's people of their oil in the name of

making a few people in the United States and the International community,

makes the Iraqi people angry....they feel cheated.

the unknown fact to the Iraqi people is,

that the US soldiers have been fed the story that their country was attacked by this country...the untruthful story fed to them by a propaganda war foisted on the world AND THE UNITED STATES CITIZENS...

by some members of this administration and congress...

and that the US soldiers believe that the IRAQI people are their enemies, is DEEPLY POLARIZING....and they feel justified in being angry at them.

the soldiers don't know that they are seen as theives and liars, because they have been sold the PNAC view of the world...and they think that they are liberating people....that's why are also helping other struggling countries with their democracy problems, even though they don't have any money or oil....oh, I'm sorry, we're ignoring other countries in Africa that are crying for our help, which they deeply need....but hey....

they gotta no

M . O . N . E . Y .

so, someday, maybe, but don't holda you breath...

we need a third party to help the debates, this year and for the presidential elections:

as a personality to keep the debate honest...maybe they would bow out at the end, but they would hold a tone of honesty and redeem the United States in the eyes of the world............

and I would have a moderator that sought to put the heat on those debating by being less than respectful and acting like a citizen might that saw

the greatest democratic nation becoming a haven for plutocrats....

rule by the few for the few...

outsourcing, downsizing, internationalization, _illegal_ immigration

internationals being treated as_if they were friends of the country....

when in fact they are lining a few pockets and siphoning money out of the United States and creating burgeoning poverty for most citizens,

most especially for the old right now,

and with the baby boomers being _old_ they had better effing think of what that means if this government starts to disinfranchise the upper middle class as it runs out of people to tap dry....

do you understand me?

1 simple point:

at a time when there is a drop in what government agencies will do for the disinfranchised, elderly, what not....

your heartless government increased the weight upon the elderly by $30 per person per month for every person on Social Security, that includes SSI, or the disabled, both physically and mentally, fixed income folk...$30/month to pay for his occupation...

to fund this fraud of a "?war,?"

no to tell the truth, to fund the OCCUPATION of a foreign country and to defraud that country with huge OIL RESERVES....of it's oil...and the predictablility of oil markets and world economies.... _control_

they stole money from old people and disabled people to get richer........

it's real simple.

you want another example of heartlessness?

how about sending the National Guard into combat without real combat training, when you "the effing dickless caricature of a man" (geow.bush) avoided combat in wartime because you're in a different class and those that don't want to go into combat, _now_ that you're in charge, they don't that same need money, they need to die....send 'em.

it's really the same action,
a thoughtless, heartless, selfishness....

but to two distinct groups...

old people and disabled and people that don't want to kill other people in foreign lands...

people not of "his class/tribe,"

Posted by: I'll be honest with you...

Posted by: regarding creating a third party and | May 31, 2006 07:20 PM

Anonymous sponsorship of legislation? That would be criminal, considering anyone or entity could stage such an event, which could undermine the government of the USA.

Not a good measure in any sense, no matter how partisan folks can be, as it'll backfire.


Posted by: SandyK | June 1, 2006 08:21 AM

Running from one "secret room" to another

By Larry Chin

In fear and protest over the National Security Agency (NSA)/AT&T wiretapping scandal, and the Bush administration's spying on US citizens, more than 1,000 individuals have switched their telecom services to Working Assets, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. In addition to probably doing nothing to safeguard their own privacy, switching their long distance and credit cards to "progressive" Working Assets simply moves money from one branch of the established political and economic order to another. In other words, it is a zero sum game.

What electronic privacy?

Although Working Assets deserves credit for publicly denouncing the spying by the NSA, and for joining an ACLU lawsuit against the NSA, Working Assets is, in the end, nothing more than a reseller of Sprint's telecom network. The service, therefore, is

For the rest of this raport go tho the link above.

Posted by: che | June 1, 2006 08:54 AM

On the subject of earmarks - I'm of the opinion that earmarks are nothing more than somebody who is in DC, legislator or a special interest is trying to slip a piece of pork past scrutiny. Transportation bills seem to be the perfect carrier for this kind of garbage. Earmarks should not be allowed to "go along for the ride."

Another subject near and dear to me is a hasty and poorly written bill that the author tries to smooth over with dazzle or what I call "Potomac Speak." Bills should be written in clear, concise and directly to the point.

Posted by: D. Thorn | June 1, 2006 11:32 AM

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