Saturday, November 17, 2007

Desertion Rates Are Up

This should come as no surprise, but considering that we now, unlike during the Vietnam war, have an all volunteer army, these desertion rates are alarming and certainly re-enforce what the peace platoons back home have been saying since before the bombs began falling in Iraq.

Army desertion rate highest since 1980


Associated Press Writer

Fri Nov 16, 6:41 PM ET

Soldiers strained by six years at war are deserting their posts at the highest rate since 1980, with the number of Army deserters this year showing an 80 percent increase since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003.

While the totals are still far lower than they were during the Vietnam War, when the draft was in effect, they show a steady increase over the past four years and a 42 percent jump since last year.

"We're asking a lot of soldiers these days," said Roy Wallace, director of plans and resources for Army personnel. "They're humans. They have all sorts of issues back home and other places like that. So, I'm sure it has to do with the stress of being a soldier."

The Army defines a deserter as someone who has been absent without leave for longer than 30 days. The soldier is then discharged as a deserter.

According to the Army, about nine in every 1,000 soldiers deserted in fiscal year 2007, which ended Sept. 30, compared to nearly seven per 1,000 a year earlier. Overall, 4,698 soldiers deserted this year, compared to 3,301 last year.

The increase comes as the Army continues to bear the brunt of the war demands with many soldiers serving repeated, lengthy tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Military leaders — including Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey — have acknowledged that the Army has been stretched nearly to the breaking point by the combat. Efforts are under way to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps to lessen the burden and give troops more time off between deployments.

"We have been concentrating on this," said Wallace. "The Army can't afford to throw away good people. We have got to work with those individuals and try to help them become good soldiers."

Still, he noted that "the military is not for everybody, not everybody can be a soldier." And those who want to leave the service will find a way to do it, he said.

While the Army does not have an up-to-date profile of deserters, more than 75 percent of them are soldiers in their first term of enlistment. And most are male.

Soldiers can sign on initially for two to six years. Wallace said he did not know whether deserters were more likely to be those who enlisted for a short or long tour.

At the same time, he said that even as desertions have increased, the Army has seen some overall success in keeping first-term soldiers in the service.

There are four main ways that soldiers can leave the Army before their first enlistment contract is up:

_They are determined unable to meet physical fitness requirements.

_They are found to be unable to adapt to the military.

_They say they are gay and are required to leave under the so-called "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

_They go AWOL.

According to Wallace, in the summer of 2005, more than 18 percent of the soldiers in their first six months of service left under one of those four provisions. In June 2007, that number had dropped to about 7 percent.

The decline, he said, is largely due to a drop in the number of soldiers who leave due to physical fitness or health reasons.

Army desertion rates have fluctuated since the Vietnam War — when they peaked at 5 percent. In the 1970s they hovered between 1 and 3 percent, which is up to three out of every 100 soldiers. Those rates plunged in the 1980s and early 1990s to between 2 and 3 out of every 1,000 soldiers.

Desertions began to creep up in the late 1990s into the turn of the century, when the U.S. conducted an air war in Kosovo and later sent peacekeeping troops there.

The numbers declined in 2003 and 2004, in the early years of the Iraq war, but then began to increase steadily.

In contrast, the Navy has seen a steady decline in deserters since 2001, going from 3,665 that year to 1,129 in 2007.

The Marine Corps, meanwhile, has seen the number of deserters stay fairly stable over that timeframe — with about 1,000 deserters a year. During 2003 and 2004 — the first two years of the Iraq war — the number of deserters fell to 877 and 744, respectively.

The Air Force can tout the fewest number of deserters — with no more than 56 bolting in each of the past five years. The low was in fiscal 2007, with just 16 deserters.

Despite the continued increase in Army desertions, however, an Associated Press examination of Pentagon figures earlier this year showed that the military does little to find those who bolt, and rarely prosecutes the ones they find. Some are allowed to simply return to their units, while most are given less-than-honorable discharges.

"My personal opinion is the only way to stop desertions is to change the climate ... how they are living and doing what they need to do," said Wallace, adding that good officers and more attention from Army leaders could "go a long way to stemming desertions."

Unlike those in the Vietnam era, deserters from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars may not find Canada a safe haven.

Just this week, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the appeals of two Army deserters who sought refugee status to avoid the war in Iraq. The ruling left them without a legal basis to stay in Canada and dealt a blow to other Americans in similar circumstances.

The court, as is usual, did not provide a reason for the decision.


On the Net:

U.S. Army:

U.S. Navy:

U.S. Air Force:

U.S. Marines:

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

How Dems Can Win, Even With Hillary

The third smartest thing that the Democratic Party could do for themselves (and for us) would be to nominate a decent candidate for president next year.

The second smartest thing they could do would be to assist the Republicans in nominating a loser.

And the very smartest thing they could do, of course, would be to relocate their long-lost spines and then immediately schedule a surgery to have them reinserted and arc-welded into place.

That first item is probably not going to happen, what with the inexplicable Hillary Train chugging along relentlessly toward victory (what’s up with that, Democratic voters?), and the third item is the subject of a whole ‘nuther discussion altogether (what’s up with that, Democratic ‘leaders’?), so, instead, let’s talk about winning the old-fashioned way: by using some smart guerilla warfare tactics against your opponent.

And one of the very best ways you can do that is to pick your opponent.

My guess is that Hillary, if she does in fact secure the nomination, will run a smart and tough campaign. But not as smart and tough as Karl Rove would run. On that, she should reconsider. It’s not necessary to indulge in the filth and the demonization of your typical Rove scorched earth campaign in order to engage its take-no-prisoners style of hardball politics. It is necessary to do the latter in order to win, because – Rove or not – Republicans will be doing it, as they always have since the era of Joe McCarthy.

Clinton, if she gets the nomination, will enter the general election campaign with one major strike against her: the person at head of the Democratic ticket. She brings together into a singularly toxic brew more baggage than JFK airport the day before Thanksgiving, less charisma than a pile of dirty laundry, and all the principled moral exhilaration of a down-on-his-luck bail-bondsman. Even holding out the very real prospect of becoming the first woman president cuts both ways. Seven percent of American women tell pollsters that they would never vote for a female to hold the office (now that’s a truly scary barometer on the state of the union); who knows, maybe twice that many men feel the same way. Democratic voters could hardly choose a more laden and uninspirational standard-bearer if they sat down at a drawing board to design one on purpose (Let’s see here – add one part Michael Dukakis to one part Mark Foley and one part Margaret Thatcher, and presto!, an instant boring and alienating candidate is born, complete with sex scandal history.)

Well, okay, I take that back – maybe Hillary’s not the worst imaginable. Despite all appearances to the contrary, John Kerry’s attending physician insists that he is actually still alive, and they’ve even published his vitals to prove it. So if Democrats insist on committing political suicide next year, why not just do it the right way and let Kerry report for duty again, complete with the same smarmy salute? Maybe Harry Reid could be drafted as the vice-presidential nominee – talk about your charisma factor! And they could get Bob Shrum to run the campaign again. After losing his ninth presidential race straight, he’d only need one more after that to advance his perfect record into double digits!

The only reason Hillary has a prayer of winning is because this is the year that any Democrat with a pulse should be able to beat any Republican this side of Jesus himself, hands down. Never has the American public been more anxious for change, nor more angry at the current class of clowns nominally in charge. It’s the Democrats’ election to lose, which they – of course – seem intent on doing, having perfected the technique over the last forty years, only twelve of which have seen a Democrat in the White House (both of whom were, by the way, obscure Southern conservatives who nevertheless seemed to spend most of their time in office happily serving as punching bags for the radical right). A Clinton nomination, with all the negatives and no compensating positives, neutralizes the gift of George W. Bush to the Democratic Party in 2008 and turns the damn thing into a horse race, after all.

(As proof of this point, consider the wagers I offered to a right-wing ranter who was badgering me on email about how wrong I was concerning the mood of the country. To shut him up, I offered him three bets of $100 each: That the GOP would lose the White House in 2008, that Democrats would increase their majorities in both houses of Congress, and that these increases would be huge. My only caveat was that there be no ‘national security’ October surprises before the election. Not entirely surprisingly, he declined all the bets other than the first one, and would only take that on the condition that Hillary was the Democratic nominee. I believe that’s what poker players and nuclear brinksmanship contestants refer to as having your bluff called – bigtime – but in any case, the more important illustration is of the weakness Clinton introduces to the ticket.)

Having blown their prohibitive advantage by, presumably, nominating Clinton, the Democrats’ best hope will be is to run the smartest and most aggressive campaign they can. This would involve a number of key steps.

One of them is to choose your opponent. Nixon did it 1972, using dirty tricks to sabotage the Muskie campaign so he could run against McGovern instead, a nice fat target for a country unable then, as now, to differentiate true morality and heroism from the manufactured and cynical kind you’d think would lose its appeal at about the same time that playing war in the dirt with GI Joe dolls does for adolescents. Alas, in too many cases it does not, and the dolls just seem to get replaced with football players on TV. There is also some evidence to suggest that Rove pulled the same trick with Howard Dean in 2004, in order to stand up Kerry as his punching bag. A very smart move, of course. Democrats need to do likewise for this race, to the extent they can, and they need to start today.

Giuliani (and to a lesser extent McCain) is the greatest threat to Democratic hopes of winning the presidency. To my admitted astonishment, Republican voters seem to understand this and appear willing to forego their true preferences to embrace a winner, just as Democratic voters are doing the opposite. (Not that there is necessarily a compelling alternative choice for Democrats. John Edwards is the obvious progressive choice with a chance, but I continue to be nagged by the prospect that he is simply wearing his progressive hat today because he thinks that’s what might sell best among angry Democratic primary voters.) What makes Giuliani dangerous is that he is the least Bush-like of the four main Republican contenders. The others – Thompson, McCain and Romney – all more or less ape the troglodyte line on economic, security and social policy, while the Rude Man is only down for the first two (and the least unappealing) of those ideological categories. That makes him a lot more palatable to moderate voters put off by the gay-bashing, Schiavo-intervening, stem-cell-blocking and abortion-halting strains of today’s GOP. And that marginally greater appeal, along with Hillary’s vulnerabilities, makes him dangerous.

Which means that a smart Democratic Party and a smart Hillary Clinton would do everything in their power to make sure he is not the nominee next year. That’s no easy trick, especially if – unlike Tricky Dick or Kaveman Karl – you have some ethical and legal limitations on what you’re willing to do. That said, there are possibilities for making this happen, and there’s no prohibition on campaigning against him now, especially through surrogates. Ghouliani has massive vulnerabilities, especially among religious right voters, many of which cannot be pointed out, at least overtly, by his GOP rivals, either because they share some of the same weak spots themselves, or because it would be seen as a violation of the GOP’s supposed Eleventh Commandment that thou shall not speak ill of another Republican (as articulated by Ronald Reagan, who then proceeded in 1976 to run against sitting president Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination, presumably breaking the rather less well-known commandment against costing a fellow Republican the presidency).

It’s not clear who among the front-runners in the party would be the weakest opponent – and therefore the one Democrats should help arrange to get the nomination – but only because Mitt Romney is every bit as obsequious as Fred Thompson is comatose. In the end, though, I think the SmarMitt is probably the better choice. One of the keys to winning this race is going to be turning the Republican candidate into The Monster from Right-Wing Hell – not exactly a difficult chore, mind you – especially since Romney has been hard at work on that task for the last year, completely reinventing himself as the evil twin brother of the guy who once was the liberal governor of the liberal Massachusetts, but is apparently now locked up securely in an attic somewhere in the suburbs of Worcester. Even people dumb enough to lap up the gospel of Rush every day aren’t so far gone that they don’t find the guy suspicious. And then if he got the nomination and then tried to tack back to the center, he’d only alienate both sets of voters. Either way, a smart Democratic nominee could, should and must hammer him or any other GOP nominee as a right-wing freak.

The nice thing about Romney is that he’s spent the last months actually writing that script himself, but Thompson would also do, in a pinch. Freddy’s lumbering campaign couldn’t even light a fire in Southern California at this point. Out on the stump, he’s got the potential to make James Stockdale, Ross Perot’s infamous “Who am I?” running mate, seem like a Nobel laureate by comparison. No wonder Nixon thought Thompson was “dumb” back in the Watergate era. Thirty years of acting and lobbying don’t seem to have improved matters a lot.

A second crucial tactic for Democrats, which could be part of the first as well, is to define the Rude Dude before he gets a chance to define himself to American voters. This will be crucial whether or not he gets the nomination, but obviously more so assuming he’s the candidate. Americans really know very little about the former mayor, and what they think they know is false anyhow. Those guns have to start blazing, and the sooner the better. There’s a wealth of material to use here, including some outrageous personal stunts like announcing, at a press conference, to his stunned second wife that he was leaving her (for what would become wife number three, with whom he was then having an affair). Giuliani has lamely told reporters and voters to leave his personal life alone. Normally, I would tend to agree, but given the transgressions of his party these last decades in all of our personal lives, I’d say any Republican with a record like this should be savaged well and good, just like they did to Bill Clinton, or to Terri Schiavo’s family, or to any pregnant woman in America ever contemplating an abortion. At the very least, Giuliani should be forced to repudiate those intrusions, which would of course cost him massively amongst the Republican base.

It’s also crucial to attack Giuliani at his perceived strong spot, above all, just as Rove wisely, though so cynically, did to Kerry in 2004. Giuliani’s twin claims to fame are that he has successful executive experience, and that he is Mr. 9/11. Both of these can readily and credibly be punctured by repeated use of very real evidence to the contrary. Voters need to be continually reminded that he was hated by New Yorkers on the day before 9/11, and that he completely botched the emergency responses he talks about endlessly.

Every time he goes on about how he is the only guy to actually run something, it needs to be pointed out that a city is not country, and that he has no foreign policy experience. Democrats should turn the guy into the best street-cleaner and pothole repairer ever to run for president. More importantly, though, Giuliani must be morphed into Bernie Kerik – whom he in fact created – and all of the latter’s sex and money scandals, not least the mob ties Giuliani was clearly warned about as he was promoting Kerik. I think the little taxpayer-supported love nest that the married Kerik had, directly overlooking the 9/11 ground-zero pit no less, might prove instructional to voters, as well. And Rude-y must have the angry relatives of deceased New York firefighters, who never got the communications equipment from him that would have saved their lives, turned into his virtual running mates as well. Let him try to run against that. Let Republicans try to swift-boat the tearful, angry father of some firefighter who perished on 9/11.

Giuliani – or any Republican nominee – must also be turned into George W. Bush at every turn. The Democratic nominee should continually push the Republican candidate to denounce Bush. He won’t do it, because Bush is still popular with the base, and the hated W will thus become the perfect wedge issue in 2008. Over and over it should be emphasized that a vote for the Republicans in 2008 is a vote for more Bush and Cheney – more war, more debt, more incompetence, more corruption, more endless Bushism. By the time election day rolls around, voters should be made to think Junior is on the ballot yet again. In point of fact, given the way most Republicans have been campaigning, he is.

Americans have had enough of Republicans and they’ve even had enough of conservatism. Poll data shows an unmistakable and profound shift to the left, and that will grow both as the true horrors of the last decade become known, and the real vulnerabilities of the public become clear. But this is why a Giuliani campaign is particularly threatening. Alone among the Republican frontrunners, he can credibly disassociate himself from the most egregious and most abhorrent Terri Schiavo-style social regressivism. I would like nothing more than for Bushism to continue to be the dominant ideology of the GOP (in fact, a few more Schiavo-style stunts would be just the ticket). I think more of what we’ve seen these last seven years could literally drive the party into extinction, and I for one wouldn’t exactly mourn its loss. Giuliani, or anybody leading the party back in the direction of Gerry Ford style center-right conservatism, on the other hand, restores some marginal sanity and credibility to Republicans, and postpones the day when the beast finally no longer darkens our national doorway.

The Democratic ticket this year should also return to the old Nixonian tradition of using the VP nominee (and other surrogates) to serve as pit bulls attacking the opposition. Democrats need to be aggressive, rather than waiting to win by default (just ask the hapless John Kerry, whose is probably still to this day waiting for his ship to come in), putting the GOP ticket on the defensive and keeping them there before they are ever able to get up off the mat.

The Dems also need to be relentless. One reason Democrats are always getting rolled is because they cease and desist in their criticism whenever the right reacts to what they’ve said, which means they always lose. What would happen if they just kept saying the same things over and over again, incessantly? Has it never occurred to this brain trust that being shut up is precisely the objective of other side? Have they never realized that making the right defend themselves continuously is a victory of sorts, just on its own? Do they not understand that the only way to make ideas stick, and to turn them into conventional wisdom, is by repeating them incessantly? Plop, plop, fizz, fizz – has Harry Reid never heard of this street in New York called Madison Avenue?

Democrats are going to need to retrain the press, as well, and that has to start now. The media – either because of cooptation, intimidation, corporate profit protection, or all of the above – has savaged Democrats like Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Al Gore while giving a free pass to the most egregious inanities and crimes of Reagan and Junior. That has to stop, and the best way to do that is to publicly humiliate the press for their cowardice, and do so repeatedly. Every time they come to the Democrats for a response to the latest regressive idiocy, they need to be asked instead why they never investigated GOP crimes, which should be named explicitly. As in, “Come back to me after you guys have done your job and covered the Downing Street Memos”. Doing this repeatedly will reopen those cases and earn a little respect for the brand new concept of Democratic pluck, currently the oxymoron of the century. It will also do to the media what thirty years worth of the “liberal press” myth has done so successfully for the right, namely, getting them to self-edit. It’s called working the ref, and it’s high time a little of that went the other direction. Or even a lot of it.

Democrats need also to demean Republicans, so that voters would be embarrassed to be associated with the party in any fashion whatsoever. “I mean, these are the same people who brought us...[insert Foley, Craig, Schiavo, Katrina, debt, global warming, 9/11, or other appropriate Republican fiasco here] – why in the world would we want to listen to them now?” needs to become a standard and repeated motif for undermining the very notion in the public mind of even considering taking the party seriously. These meta-narratives are crucial, because they can win battles before they are even engaged by making any position but yours seem to silly to consider, just as most Americans have been successfully trained to reject the idea of ‘socialist’ programs out of hand if they are so labeled, even when they actually approve of a given program’s concept.

And, finally, the campaign should play on the fatigue of the public with the status quo. Levels of disgust with America’s direction have never been so high and so sustained. No party could ask for a better environment in which to challenge an incumbent government. Whoever is the GOP nominee, including Giuliani, must be turned into George W. Bush, and voters must be asked over and over again whether they want four more years of this, and whether the country can afford four more years of this.

It doesn’t matter that Democrats don’t deserve to win anything given their complicity in the Bush crimes and their pathetic attempts at crime prevention, when they make the attempt at all. What matters is that the rest of us don’t deserve the equivalent of a third Bush term. That must be stopped at all costs, even if that means four years of Hillary.

Which would likely not be as bad as it sounds, anyhow. Never has there been a less principled, more malleable politician than Hillary Clinton, unless you count that other politician named Clinton. If the left tugs hard, and if Congress is hugely Democratic – which it assuredly will be – we can actually expect some moderately progressive policies to miraculously emerge from Washington in the coming years, especially if an angry and vulnerable-feeling public demands them.

If that isn’t compelling enough to get you feeling better than you do now, just imagine having to hear George Bush’s mangled words come out of Rudy Giuliani’s vicious face for the next four years for a point of comparative reference.

Even waterboarding looks good next to that.

Michael Green

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Sonic Blasters Used For Crowd Control In Georgia

Not in Georgia, U.S., however these not deadly, but highly dangerous weapons have been used twice, to our knowledge, in the U.S. (read on)

Georgia Police Turns Sonic Blaster on Demonstrators

By Noah Shachtman EmailNovember 15, 2007 | 11:43:14 AM

Categories: Lasers and Ray Guns, Less-lethal

There's more evidence that the Saakashvili regime in Georgia is using sound weapons against opposition protestors. This English-language footage from Russia Today shows riot police rolling through the streets of Tblisi in pickup trucks, small dishes in hand. A high frequency pulse follows. "Georgian police used an acoustic gun -- it's a non-lethal weapon that disorients people for a period of time," says one "special weapons expert."

"Similar such guns are also used by the Iraq police," the Russia Today piece claims. That, I'm not so sure about. But the sonic systems -- which can also be used as a long-range "hailer," projecting sound far, far away -- have been tested out by American troops in Iraq. They were employed by the New York Police Department during the last Republican National Convention -- and by military police during Hurricane Katrina. A cruise ship even used a sonic blast to ward off Somali pirates in '05.

(So, protesters get the same treatment as pirates? Talk about values being all screwed up! Everyone knows that in the true definition of pirate, pirates are murdering thieves. Protesters these days, for the very most part, are about as peaceful and non-violent as it gets?

Reader TM points out that short-range versions of the same technology can be bought online -- for as little as $898 a pop.

Oh Gawd, that's all we need! A bunch of freepers running around with sonic blasters, that when used inappropriately, we have been alerted, can burst ear drums, leaving the unfortunate protester deaf as a post, for the rest of his/her life.

I doubt seriously that such a person would be eligible for Disability payments, if the blaster is used by the authorities

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Though There May Be No Choice, In The End

When we begin looking at a military coup as our savior, we should be quivering in our very souls.

by The Other Katherine Harris

Featured writer
Dandelion Salad

The Other Katherine Harris’s blog
Nov. 14, 2007

Much admiring notice has lately been taken of Shrub’s new Central Command chief, Admiral William J. Fallon, a font of soothing noises about Iran. This week he reassured the Financial Times that a strike is “not in the offing” and earlier this fall, he spread the same message all over the Persian Gulf region — delighting potentates and other stakeholders in the oil-blest dreamscapes of Doha and Dubai. As was widely reported, he said on Al Jazeera TV, “I expect that there will be no war and that is what we ought to be working for. We ought to … do our utmost to create different conditions.”

In private, he supposedly vowed as early as last winter that an attack on Iran “will not happen on my watch” and added, “There are several of us trying to put the crazies back in the box.” This (from an anonymous source) was cited by Inter Press in May — and seemingly backed up by Fallon’s outright refusal to place a third carrier group in the Gulf to intimidate Iran last summer.

Refusing Shrub and Darth anything, as we know, never sets well with them. But Fallon is still running CENTCOM, while also running around calling the belligerent rhetoric of his bosses and their war-mongering confreres “not particularly helpful”. Which spurs any reasonable interpreter to search for subtext.

Plenty can be found in more or less plain sight. Although he phrases it charmingly, Fallon rules out nothing apart from leaving — as witness this from the Financial Times piece: “Getting Iranian behavior to change and finding ways to get them to come to their senses and do that is the real objective. Attacking them as a means to get to that spot strikes me as being not the first choice … That said we have to make sure that there is no mistake here on the part of the Iranians about our resolve in tending to business in the region.”

Deftly put. “Stay the Course” has a shiny new wrapper. Beneath the “no extra war with Iran unless they’re too crazy to change” gift-tag is the same old poisonous parcel: “tending to business” in Iraq and environs, at American taxpayers’ expense.

Meanwhile, the ugly bluster goes on in counterpoint to Fallon’s sweet-talk. So it looks like a Good Cop/Bad Cop routine to me — a test to see whether millions of furious Americans will fall into an adulatory swoon and settle for Not Making Things Even Worse (unless it just can’t be helped, in which case “sorry”).

Say we start rooting hard for kindly unk Fallon and eventually Shrub’s thugs seem to cede to his wisdom, as well. The Iranian crisis passes and we’re so relieved that we keep giving the corporatist murderers everything they wanted in the first place. Even those high in the military who’re now grappling with what to do in the event of an Iranian attack order would be able to settle cozily back into line.

It could shape up as quite a coup de théâtre. Or it could shape up as a coup d’état — with Generals of Conscience taking over, ostensibly to save us from bombing Iran and starting a world war. Or whatever. National bankruptcy, corruption and extremist threats worked out fine as rationales for imposing martial law on Burma, Bangladesh and Pakistan, not to mention various South American lands.

That might not actually be far-fetched at all. Shrub has always preferred to delegate.


In the Hands of the Military By Chris Hedges

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Are Americans, In Large Part, Ignorant of The coming Economic collapse?

Because that is exactly what's going to happen if the American dollar and economy are not rescued by nations that are not exactly our friends. The only reason they would come to our rescue is if a collapse of the Americans dollar would harm their own economies enough to make it worth their while.

Even if China and others decide to come to our rescue, it won't be until the American economy is hit hard enough to lower American living standards for generations to come.

Hamish Mcrae: These are perilous days for the US

Published: 14 November 2007

I don't think Americans get it. I don't think they realise quite how serious the collapse of the dollar is for the global economy, nor the long-term consequences of this decline for the position of the US in the world. Sure, they grumble about prices in London and find it odd that US lawyers want to be transferred to the UK because they can earn more money here. But at a fundamental level, to judge by the conversations I have had in recent weeks, I don't think the US financial community appreciates quite what peril it is in.

There have been periods of dollar weakness before. The most notable marked the end of the fixed exchange rate system in the early 1970s. There have been periods of excessive dollar strength too, one of which led to the Plaza Accord in 1985 – so called because the agreement by the US and other major economies that the dollar needed to be capped was reached in the Plaza Hotel in New York.

Now it may be that in another five years the dollar will be strong again and Britons who used this age of the pound above $2 to buy property in the US will feel rather smug. Maybe. At some level, the dollar will become good value again and while currencies do overshoot their true long-term values, they do bounce back.

But there seems to be at least half a dozen reasons why what is happening now to the dollar is very serious indeed.

Most obviously, the present fall is going further than previous declines. The most marked collapse is against the euro but if you measure even against sterling, a rate of $2.10 cannot be justified by the relative purchasing power of the two currencies. It may not happen, but you hear talk in the City that the rate may go to $2.40, which would be back to the old dollar/sterling rate under the fixed exchange rate system. The greater the decline, the greater the disruption to the world economy.

Why such a large fall? That leads to the second feature that distinguishes this bout of weakness: the US current account deficit is much larger both in absolute terms and as a percentage of GDP than in previous dollar cycles. Every year, the US has to borrow around 6 per cent of its GDP just to pay for its imports. Until a few months ago it was able to do so. Foreign investors were impressed by the sales pitch they got from the US banking community: buy these sophisticated financial instruments our brilliant maths experts have created and you will get a higher return than you can get from anywhere else. Now those US bankers don't look so smart and more than one non-US investor has indicated to me they felt they have been stuffed with rubbish. They won't trust those bankers again.

So, the third new element: trust in US financial sophistication has been shattered. The problem is not just the dollar; it is the integrity of US financial institutions. The pitch that the US has more transparent and more resilient markets than other countries is no longer credible.

The fourth element is that there are other places to invest. I was at a Middle East fund management conference last month and everyone wanted to talk about opportunities in Asia. This year, for the first time ever, China is adding more demand to the world economy than the US. It is still a smaller economy and will be for another 20 years at least. But the direction is clear, with China set to pass Germany to become the world's third largest economy some time next year. India is also extremely attractive to Middle Eastern investors, thanks in part to the physical proximity of the sub-continent and the cultural links between the two regions. Anyone who invested in India five years ago will have done wonderfully well, far better than they would have done had they invested in the US.

Connected with this, point five, is the deterioration in the cultural relationship between the US and the rest of the world in the past few years. The US no longer appears quite the safe haven for investments that it used to, for a variety of reasons. One has been resistance in Congress to foreign takeovers. Another has been the change in visa requirements – why invest in the US if it is awkward to visit your investment? Can you really trust the US legal system to be dispassionate in a dispute between a foreigner and a national? At a low enough price, US assets will still be attractive, but they do carry a handicap and will continue to do so.

Finally, and this is perhaps the most important thing, there are now alternatives to the dollar. There is the euro, of course, and foreign central banks are building up their reserves in euros. The pound is now being held much more widely in central banks too. Most important, there are a basket of other currencies, including the Chinese yuan, which international investors feel they should hold. A decade or more ago, the options were much narrower.

So what is going to happen? Well, it is true that a very weak dollar creates problems for other countries as well as the US. It is not just that any non-American investor will have seen a large fall in the value of their investment; any foreign company trying to sell into the US or compete against US exporters will find it harder to do so.

That does not mean that US companies will always win. It was interesting that Airbus managed to secure a huge order this week from Emirates, against Boeing's more established competitor. But a weaker dollar does create problems for the rest of us.

The problems for the US, though, will be more serious, for it needs to import, amongst other commodities, half its oil. The high dollar oil price is already increasing inflation elsewhere – here in the UK for example – but the burden on the US is relatively worse. The more the dollar weakens, the greater the difficulty the US Federal Reserve will have cutting interest rates, for to do so would make the dollar weaker still.

We may just muddle through with the dollar falling for some months more, the US going into recession, the rest of the world pulled along mainly by demand from China and from the rest of Asia, and then eventually the dollar and the US recovering.

I am not too worried about the UK economy, though things are clearly slowing here. What we have to recognise is that there is such a thing as a global economic cycle. Some sort of downturn, maybe not too serious a one, in the next couple of years does seem inevitable.

There may need to be, however, an international rescue of the dollar. The world's central banks, including, crucially, the Bank of China, would come together and agree a package of measures to support it.

Were that to happen, it would be a mark of the way economic power is shifting in the world. It is slowly and inexorably shifting away from the US and that will, to many Americans, come as a shock.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

McCain: Has he actually lost his freakin' mind?

Oh well. Why should he care about Hillary being called a bitch when he has spent the last 7 years sucking up to the guy who allowed his wife to be called a dope addict and his daughter to be called a bi-racial bastard by his campaign, George W Bush.

This idiot should get zero votes from women and the men who love them!

McCain thinks ‘bitch’ inquiry is an ‘excellent question’

Obviously, presidential candidates aren’t responsible for comments made by their supporters. Candidates are, however, responsible for showing a little class. It’s apparently something that John McCain has forgotten.

At a campaign event in South Carolina, a McCain backer stood up to ask the senator, “How do we beat the bitch?”

In response, McCain said, “We have our differences with our Democratic rivals, but I believe in treating people with respect. It’s why I don’t refer to women as ‘bitches,’ even when I disagree with them. I’m sure all of us believe we can debate the serious issues of the day without name-calling and degrading language.”

No, no, I’m just kidding. He actually responded, “That’s an excellent question.”

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Dark Side Of Mike Huckabee

The national media seems to have a crush on our ex-governor, but here in Arkansas, we know better.

By Max Brantley

Pages 1 2

Photo: AP

A Salon photo composite of Mike Huckabee.

Nov. 13, 2007 | LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The Pony Express has reached us here in the Arkansas backwoods with the latest journals from the big cities. So the country correspondents have taken a break from hand-setting lines of type to read the Beltway boys and girls rave about our former governor, Mike Huckabee.

"Easy to like," wrote Newsweek's Jonathan Alter. "Who Doesn't Heart Huckabee?" said the headline over Gail Collins' column in the New York Times. And those are restrained commentators. If you Google the names Ronald Reagan and Mike Huckabee in tandem, I understand you get better than 600,000 hits.

OK. I exaggerate. I have a phone and a computer (and it's 208,000 hits). But you'd think from national press comments that our friendly state is unreachable by phone or Internet. Do national commentators do homework? Or is a smiling, shoe-shining parson all it takes to generate such fluff?

Come to Arkansas. You'll have to look hard to find a long-term political analyst who'd subscribe fully to the national media narrative about the latest man from Hope -- fresh face, funny, nice.

Mike Huckabee is fresh to you, maybe. Funny? If barnyard humor is your shtick of choice. Nice? Well, he did do some good things in his 10 years as governor, but ... read on.

Before we begin, though, a word of warning to any reporters who might want to repeat, on air or in print, any of the facts recounted below. Huckabee does not take kindly to journalists who practice journalism.

Even editorialists and columnists at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the state's dominant (and Republican-friendly) daily paper, use words like "petty" and "thin-skinned" to describe Huckabee. Then again, he's compared hard-hitting (and accurate) news reporters for the Democrat-Gazette to the press fabulists Jayson Blair and Janet Cooke. He called liberal columnist John Brummett of Stephens Media "constipated" when that early admirer commenced some gentle criticism.

His administration paid $15,000 to settle a suit filed by Roby Brock, the host of a public TV news show whom Huckabee's people tried to force off the air for his critical commentary.

Then there's me. I'm the editor of an alternative weekly, but I began covering Huckabee when I was a columnist for the now-defunct daily Arkansas Gazette in 1991, and Mike and I have been on the outs pretty much ever since. He once called me and the Memphis Commercial Appeal bureau chief "junkyard journalists" for our reporting. He also compared me, in print, to serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and, I've been told on good authority, has wished aloud for my early and violent demise.

It all began 16 years ago for Mike and me. Huckabee, in his political debut, was preparing to become the Bible-thumping, abortion-decrying Republican challenger to U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers, the Democratic incumbent. With a playbook straight out of James Dobson, he tried to portray Bumpers as a pornographer for his support of federal grants to the arts.

More important, Huckabee revealed an enduring weakness as glaring as that other Arkansas governor's fondness for women. Huckabee seems to love loot and has a dismissive attitude toward ethics, campaign finance rules and propriety in general. Since that first, failed campaign, the ethical questions have multiplied.

In the 1992 contest with Bumpers, Huckabee used campaign funds to pay himself as his own media consultant. Other payments went to the family babysitter.

In his successful 1994 run for lieutenant governor, he set up a nonprofit curtain known as Action America so he could give speeches for money without having to disclose the names of his benefactors. He failed to report that campaign travel payments were for the use of his own personal plane.

After he became governor in 1996, he raked in tens of thousands of dollars in gifts, including gifts from people he later appointed to prestigious state commissions.

In the governor's office, his grasp never exceeded his reach. Furniture he'd received to doll up his office was carted out with him when he left, after he'd crushed computer hard drives so nobody could ever get a peek behind the curtain of the Huckabee administration.

Until my paper, the Arkansas Times, blew the whistle, he converted a governor's mansion operating account into a personal expense account, claiming public money for a doghouse, dry-cleaning bills, panty hose and meals at Taco Bell. He tried to claim $70,000 in furnishings provided by a wealthy cotton grower for the private part of the residence as his own, until he learned ethics rules prevented it. When a disgruntled former employee disclosed memos revealing all this, the Huckabee camp shut her up by repeatedly suggesting she might be vulnerable to prosecution for theft because she'd shared documents generated by the state's highest official.

He ran the State Police airplane into the ground, many of the miles in pursuit of political ends. Inauguration funds were used to buy clothing for his wife. He once took control of the state Republican Party's campaign account -- then swore the account had been somebody else's responsibility when it ran afoul of federal election laws. He repeated the pattern when he claimed in a newspaper story that his staff controlled the account to stage his second inauguration. When I filed a formal ethics complaint over what appeared to be an improper appropriation of donated money, he told a different story, disavowing responsibility for the money. He thus avoided another punishment from an Ethics Commission, which had sanctioned him on five other occasions. He dodged nine other complaints (though none, despite his counter-complaints, was held to be frivolous). In one case, he was saved by the swing vote of a woman who left the chairmanship of the Ethics Commission days later to take a state job. She listed the governor as a reference on the job application. Finally, unbelievably, Huckabee once sued to overturn the ban on gifts to him.

My newspaper chronicled all this and so much more. Since my paper wrote critically about him, I didn't often experience the "nice" Mike Huckabee that so many national commentators have enjoyed. In fact, ultimately Huckabee ended press services, which are publicly financed, to my newspaper. The Arkansas Times received no news releases from the governor's office, no notices of news conferences, no responses to routine questions. He was condemned for this by journalism organizations.

Truth is, we were happy to be thrown into the governor's briar patch. The world is full of disaffected Huckabee campaign workers, former employees and garden-variety Republicans who love to pass on tips about a governor they'd found self-centered and untrustworthy. If you think he left a well of warm feelings in Arkansas, note that Hillary Clinton had raised more money in Arkansas at last report and that a recent University of Arkansas Poll showed her a 35 to 8 percent leader over Huckabee in the presidential preferences of Arkansas residents. Only one-third of 33 Republican legislators have said they will support him for president.

Thanks to such unhappy people, we've broken numerous stories about Huckabee, from the first early word of his destruction of state computer hard drives (more fully reported by the Democrat-Gazette); to the time and place of his announcement for president; to his sale and purchase of homes; to his infamous "wedding registry." About the last: Three decades after the Huckabees' wedding, his wife registered at department stores so their new home, post-governor's mansion, could be stocked with gifts of linens, toasters and other suitable furnishings. In early 2007, our reporting also prompted the former first lady to decline dozens of place settings of governor's mansion china and Irish crystal that had been purchased with tax-deductible contributions to the Governor's Mansion Association, nominally set up to improve the mansion, not to buy going-away presents for former occupants. (Huckabee's governorship ended on Jan. 9, 2007.)

Next page: Ask the retarded Fort Smith teenager, raped by her stepfather, who sought Medicaid funding for an abortion

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

U.S. Funding Of Insurgents

Junior, perhaps, should be more concerned with the American insurgency that's just around the corner, if he plays out his hand as most believe he will, than insurgencies around the Arab world.

So You Say You Want an Insurrection?

“We are in a program to enhance the Sunni capability to resist Shiite influence, and we’re spreading the money around as much as we can. In this process, we’re financing a lot of bad guys with some serious potential unintended consequences.” - an anonymous former intelligence official

“I told Cheney that some people in the Arab world, mainly the Egyptians won’t like it if the United States helps the Brotherhood. But if you don’t take on Syria we will be face to face in Lebanon with Hezbollah in a long fight, and one we might not win.” - Druze leader Walid Jumblatt

As to what the experience taught them, in terms of future covert operations, the participants found: “One, you can’t trust our friends. Two, the C.I.A. has got to be totally out of it. Three, you can’t trust the uniformed military, and four, it’s got to be run out of the Vice-President’s office” - Seymour Hersh, “The Redirection.”

You say you want an insurrection
Well, you know, we‘ve gotta keep the world intact.
You want to change the Constitution
Well, you know, we’ve gotta work with what we have.
But if you’re seeing tools of destruction,
We’d all advise you to blink twice.

Don’t think it’s gonna be alright.
Alright. Alright.

You say you’ve tabled all your options
Well, you know, we’re all glad to hear the news.
A diplomatic resolution
Well, you know, a good start is getting rid of Hughes.
But if you go secretly funding insurgents
Then I just got one word for you: Impeachment.

Don’t think it’s gonna be alright.

Alright. Alright.

You blame the liberal institutions
Well, you know you’d better take a closer look at yours.
You say you’ve found tools of destruction
Well, you know, we’d all love to see the proof.
But if you go flashing those pictures of mushroom clouds,
Don’t expect us this time around to be wowed.

Don’t think it’s gonna be alright.
Alright. Alright.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Dean: Buck Up, Citizens, and Fix This Broken Nation

John Dean Challenges America: Fix This Broken Government


It's quite a stunning explanation of how they feel the presidency should run. For example, they think that when Reagan left office with very high approval ratings, it was like dying rich. They think the president should be down to single digits if he's doing things right, because he's such an authoritarian figure, he's not going to be terribly popular. Well, Bush looks like he's trying to fulfill that image for them.

-- John Dean, author, Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches

* * *

BuzzFlash has been interviewing John Dean off and on for several years now. He's a prolific writer and legal commentator on issues relating to executive branch authority, lawbreaking, and the balance of powers.

In short, John provides incisive analysis on issues of grave concern to our democracy. His point of departure for his insights is the Constitution.

Dean -- unlike Antonin Scalia, for instance -- doesn't pay lip service to the original intent of the founding fathers. Rather, he takes the Constitution at its word, applying it to every American equally -- including Cheney and Bush.

That makes John Dean a refreshing voice of justice amidst a mainstream media that de facto proceeds as if the key members of the Bush Administration are above the law.

His Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches comes from a man of great analytical abilities and conscience.

* * *

BuzzFlash: -- Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches is the latest in a series of books you have written about the recent history of the federal government. Lay out for us a bit how this book fits in.

John Dean: It's really the third in a trilogy about post-Watergate Washington. I've looked at what impact conservative rule has had. I open this book with a chapter on a topic that I thought really needs attention -- process.

"Process" is now considered a bad word by political consultants. After writing Worse than Watergate in 2004, which was about the secrecy of the Bush administration, I learned that the Kerry campaign did not use the subject of secrecy because they thought it was a "process" issue. It seemed almost standard policy of Democrats to avoid process issues, with the Congressional leadership telling candidates not to use process issues because they're wimpy. Well, the name of the game played in Washington is process.

Republicans are manipulating the process to their advantage.

Broken Government looks branch by branch at how their side has used, twisted, distorted, and manipulated the process for their pure political gain. It's not been for the gain of the American people that they've written rules and regulations. Process is really the great machinery of government and how decisions are made. And they're making decisions solely to benefit the Republican Party. That isn't the way the system was designed.

BuzzFlash: Before we get into each branch of government, which is pretty much how your book is divided, is your basic premise in this particular book the system of checks and balances?

John Dean: That's the bottom line. Rather than to try to catalog everything that has gone astray, I tried to look at what fundamental problem this manipulation of process was causing, the bottom line being how it was affecting the Constitution. The distortions that are most troublesome have to do with eliminating the checks and balances that were the very unique part of our Constitutional system.

That's what the rest of the world has looked at and said: My goodness, the Founders of this country had some real wisdom in their designing system. In fact, I stuck an Appendix in for people who really don't have any familiarity with the rudimentary separation of powers concept, explaining how it got there and how unique it really is.

BuzzFlash: Let's talk about the basic premise of our constitutional democracy. We were a nation born of a revolt against a monarchy -- King George. A system was constructed that put the power in the hands of the people, in essence, the citizens of the United States, to ensure that no one individual, point of view, religion, et cetera, could ever control the nation.

Beyond the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, this was assured by the system of three branches of government. Not any one of those could emerge supreme and potentially become tyrannical, or assert such authority that it would, in essence, become what America had rebelled against, which was a unitary authority, the monarchical system of government.

John Dean: That's a nice thumbnail.

BuzzFlash: So here we are. And throughout our history, there's always been at some level dirty politics. Look at Tammany Hall for the Democrats as an example, in New York a hundred years ago. Chicago also has had a history of stealing votes, and the debate's still going on about whether the Richard J. Daley machine stole the 1960 election for Kennedy.

John Dean: Actually, I had a question about that the other night. Nixon took this noble stance, essentially: "Well, I didn't want to disrupt the process of the election that Kennedy had won. And I didn't want to contest that and delay it." But I've learned by talking to people who had been around Nixon in those years, they actually found out there had been so much corruption downstate, that if they had won, and if they challenged the Chicago vote, they were likely to be haunted, and actually in even worse trouble, from the downstate vote.

BuzzFlash: That just goes to show you, we've had bipartisan corruption. But aside from that, we've basically had a system in which both parties have more or less played by the rules. You fight to get elected. You state your case. You try to win. You appoint people who may be of your party's ideological bent, but tend not to be extremists. And the checks and balances generally worked. Democracy has been a machine that's functioned fairly well.

John Dean: It's not pretty. It never has been. But you're right -- it has basically worked because of the structure that was there. This effort to manipulate the process is relatively new, where you are fundamentally changing the working of the system.

BuzzFlash: The United States together is a nation of diverse people, and what holds us together is an allegiance to the Constitution. We have loyalty to this constitutional structure itself. What makes us America is freedom, liberty. We swear allegiance to the system of checks and balances that ensures that everyone gets due process, the right to vote, the right to express their opinion, the right to practice their faith, and so forth.

So fast forward to now. I want to get your take on this. The Democrats briefly controlled the Senate under Tom Daschle. The issue of Bush federal judicial nominees came up, and whether they could be defeated in the Judiciary Committee, and therefore not advance to the Senate and go for an "up or down" vote. This was the mantra of the right. Then there was the emergence of the so-called "nuclear option" -- that the Republicans would eliminate the filibuster. Now we see that under the Democrat-controlled Senate, the Republicans are filibustering almost everything that the Bush administration says no to. Yet when Bill Frist was Senate majority leader, he was saying we should eliminate the filibuster, and everything should have an "up or down" vote. Now the Republicans won't allow much of anything that the Bush administration disagrees with to have an up or down vote. Is that manipulation of the process?

John Dean: Let me just clarify a couple of points. When the Democrats controlled the Senate, and they blocked or delayed some of Bush's extreme judicial nominees, they were merely doing what the Republicans had done to Clinton in the extreme, and nothing close to what the Republicans had done in refusing to give judges a hearing. The Republicans wouldn't even put them on the schedule -- wouldn't even consider the nominations, under Orrin Hatch and others. That was a total abuse.

During the brief time during the Bush administration when the Democrats controlled the Senate, they were still running a pretty steady calendar. The issue you're raising is what happened on the floor when there was a threat of a filibuster requiring a super-majority -- in other words, 60 votes -- to get the nomination to be considered. Frist decided that they would call upon a change in the rules for what's called the executive calendar. They weren't initially saying let's eliminate the filibuster across the board. They were just addressing things on the executive calendar -- the things that the Constitution requires the Senate to consider, like treaties and matters of advice and consent.

People like Orrin Hatch were then saying, well, this is just unprecedented. They forget that Richard Nixon, back in '68 when he was on the campaign trail, convinced the Republicans in a Democratically controlled Senate to filibuster Lyndon Johnson's selection of Abe Fortas as Chief Justice. This is the first time that a threat of filibuster was ever used to block a judicial nomination. The Republicans started the process. When it became clear that Fortas couldn't ever get through that, he asked that his name be withdrawn. So, again, the Republicans were misstating what the actual facts were and what the actual precedents were.

It was not really as fundamental an attack on the Constitution as the issues that I deal with in Broken Government. I looked at things that were much more basic. This is really a manipulation of the rules, and I could have filled volumes with the difference between the two parties on the manipulation of the rules.

Ironically, it was the Southern Democrats in the Senate who invented a lot of this manipulation of the rules, or practicing the fine art of parliamentary misuse, I guess is the best word. They did it for racist reasons. They didn't want civil rights legislation to get through the Senate, and the Senate has traditionally been a body that blocks everything. The Southerners have always been the masters of these rules.

BuzzFlash: Clearly there's an imbalance in the outrage that reaches through the mainstream media about this. With Bill Frist, this was a huge thing. He was going to drop the "nuclear" bomb. And with the Democrats and Harry Reid, it doesn't seem to echo through the public discourse and the news media.

John Dean: Let me back up just a little bit, because this does fit in with what I explained as to how the Republicans won control of the House. It was through pure efforts to destroy the institution. They tore it down. They used every tactic they could think of to try to tarnish the House so they could gain control and then rebuild it in their own image. Now that they've lost control, what they're trying to do is again destroy the institution with rather fundamental and crude actions, because the House is changing the rules. It is under repair. They are passing one item after another, only to see them tied up in the Senate.

The public generally doesn't understand this. It may look like the Democrats aren't any better than the Republicans at running these institutions. They're not getting anything through Congress that is satisfying anybody. Most people are unaware that under current Senate procedures, all that has to happen is either for one member to request a hold on a piece of legislation and they can tie it up, or they can threaten a filibuster. People don't understand, for example, a motion to recommit in the House. They don't understand a cloture vote in the Senate. But let me tell you what they do understand about process. They do know when they're getting screwed.

BuzzFlash: The Republicans are probably very pleased with the recent polls showing Congressional approval at 18%.

John Dean: They are delighted because their strategy is working. This is how they won control of the House after Democrats had controlled it for forty years. When the Republicans got control, they would damn near destroy it and eliminate its fundamental functions. So, they are succeeding again. And they will go to the voters in 2008 and say: "Listen, Democrats can't run this place." But they won't be confessing that their own actions are the ones resulting in the inability of the Democrats to run the Congress.

BuzzFlash: Let's keep two threads in mind as we talk about the book. One, on pages 45 and 46, you mention the dilemma of the right wing -- that they're in an awkward position managing government, an agency whose missions and very existence they disagree with. That's a paradox for them. They are the government, and yet they're trying to dismantle the government. Then the second thing, on page 117, is that the separation of powers is a uniquely distinguishing feature of our democratic republic. With that in mind, let's start with the legislative branch.

John Dean: If I had to give you a sound bite as to what's gone astray under Republican rule in the legislative branch, it's that they refuse to have deliberation. They eliminated the deliberative process and literally closed out the opposition party. And they did it in a remarkable array of ways -- everything from the way they structured the body, where they appointed chairmen who are not necessarily particularly able, but were able to raise money to further the Republican majority, to the way they would write legislation outside the committee.

They would have lobbyists hand them the legislation. They would put it into a piece of legislation in the dead of the night. They would open votes which normally would take fifteen minutes, and run them for three hours. Bribery actually was done in some instances to get members to vote. But they were satisfied just with the one-vote majority.

They brought an instability into the body, the likes of which it had never been. I've had some historians tell me there were some times right after the Civil War where it was pretty rough. Yes, but that was before there was professional staff and before the Congress had fully institutionalized itself. That was the pre-modern Congress. I'm focusing on the modern Congress and the drastic impact they have had on the Constitutional basis, the rules, the traditions. There's something that's called the regular order, which they refuse to follow.

There's also good news, though. I do recognize that since they lost control in '06, the Democrats have been busy repairing. They have done things like change the ethics rules. They have gone to a longer work week. They have not done things like have conference committees, where they freeze the other party out. In fact, a lot of Republicans were surprised that Pelosi didn't have a reign of retribution for what they'd done to them for the last ten years. To the contrary, she wants to see the people's business done.

BuzzFlash: So you say the legislative branch is broken but under repair.

John Dean: Correct.

BuzzFlash: From an outcome standpoint, though, because of the lack of a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, basically nothing of any consequence gets out of Congress.

John Dean: That is true. But they've actually brought the rules back. One example concerns earmarks. Now they have some level of transparency in both the House and the Senate. The executive calendar is actually moving again in the Senate. So it is being repaired. Of course, not all the things that the Americans had hoped for by turning over control to the Democrats, have happened, because of the obstructionism. I actually saw that coming. As I was finishing Broken Government, I noted in there that the Republicans still are hell-bent on busting the place up, notwithstanding the efforts to repair it.

BuzzFlash: The second branch of government you deal with is the Executive Branch. It is badly broken and certainly in need of repair. The question at this point is, is it repairable? You've written so much about the Executive Branch in your fine law columns and in your books, characterizing and documenting the authoritarian nature of the Executive Branch. It doesn't seem repairable as long as Bush and Cheney are in power. They seem to be going for enhanced unitary executive authority.

John Dean: It's true. In fact, the bottom line for this affair is going to be removing Republicans from the Executive Branch. They have embedded so many people, contrary to the Civil Service laws, that it's going to take not just 2008, but 2012, 2016, and possibly 2020 and 2024 to clear this problem up. If the public ever becomes aware of this, it's going to be a long time before they ever let another Republican back in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

BuzzFlash: Recently the Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, was orchestrating not just the extension of the six-month FISA law, but even an expansion to provide more powers. McConnell is pushing for this extensively, with Bush and Cheney in the background. Why, at this late date in this administration, are they doing this, unless it's that they believe a Republican will win the presidency in 2008? They certainly aren't doing this for Hillary Clinton.

John Dean: That's true. One has to understand how the conservative philosophy about executive powers has changed. They started strengthening the presidency during the Reagan administration. At one point, Newt Gingrich actually believed the Legislative Branch could become the dominant branch, but he was out-foxed by Clinton. During the government shutdown, Gingrich realized that he couldn't be king of the hill and deal with a President of equal standing. That's when they really went full bore and decided that we have to have a strong presidency.

With Clinton, they realized -- we have all these presidential powers, and we don't want to alter the powers of the presidency. We want to affect the person who is President. That's when they went after Clinton relentlessly, attacking the man, trying to tie up his presidency, diluting his powers at any point. That's been their consistent philosophy.

You see this if you read books like Terry Eastland's Energy in the Executive, which is something of a handbook for Republicans and conservatives in understanding executive power. It's quite a stunning explanation of how they feel the presidency should run. For example, they think that when Reagan left office with very high approval ratings, it was like dying rich. They think the president should be down to single digits if he's doing things right, because he's such an authoritarian figure, he's not going to be terribly popular. Well, Bush looks like he's trying to fulfill that image for them.

Bush is not a theorist; he is not a long-visioned man. It's Cheney who is trying to get these powers in fast while they can, pushing the envelope constantly to build this enormously powerful presidency. He's been convinced, even before 9/11, that we need a dominant president, this unitary executive theory. It doesn't matter that they may well not have a Republican in power. In that case, they will then turn to the tactic of trying to see if they can destroy the person who's actually there, while keeping those powers.

BuzzFlash: So if a Democrat gets in, they bring the Democrat down, as they tried to do with Clinton, beginning with the Arkansas project that resulted in the impeachment process.

John Dean: That's exactly the game they play.

BuzzFlash: Even if a Democrat wins, the idea is to weaken them to the point they can't use the powers we've created for the presidency -- but the power will be there for when we return.

John Dean: That's what they will attempt. That's why a book like this is so important -- so people will understand what in the hell they're doing and why they're doing it. They are gaming the system.

This is why I have such disgust with what they're doing. They don't give a damn about taking care of the general public and the broader public interest. They have one interest -- what's best for Republicans? That's often big business. That's often people who are in small business and successful. And it forgets over half the country. To me, it's disgusting.

That's why they call me a partisan to the Democrats. I say I am a partisan for good government, honest government, and you guys are screwing with the system. You're gaming a process and creating a government that is quite unfair.

BuzzFlash: In many ways, you are a true conservative, and they are right wing. There's a big difference. A conservative believes in states' rights, in the right to privacy, in local community control. Now we have a government that says we can tap your phones at will without court order, and the federal government predominates in so many areas of our life. States' rights are insignificant in comparison to executive order and federal decrees. That's not conservative.

John Dean: Not at all.

BuzzFlash: That's radical.

John Dean: That's what it is.

BuzzFlash: Let's move on to the third branch, which you probably are most pessimistic about. You describe the third branch as being near the breaking point.

John Dean: The most startling part of this analysis was looking at what authoritarians and Republicans have done to the judicial process. This was the stunner to me. I needed to explain to people how they'd actually done this, and how it goes back to my time in the White House. In a sense, I'm partially responsible, although I've apologized for their putting Bill Rehnquist on the Supreme Court.

BuzzFlash: You also wrote a book called The Rehnquist Choice in 2001.

John Dean: It was a different time, and I was looking at a very specific way that Nixon had of selecting Supreme Court justices. Thinking that I knew who Bill Rehnquist was, and Nixon wanting a conservative, I said, this is the man you want. And, boy, he got him in spades.

As I say, I have apologized for that. I thought I knew Rehnquist. Then I saw him literally just dissemble in front of the Senate about his past. He was never vetted, and it was a sorry chapter. Unfortunately it became a pattern -- he is the first of what I call fundamentalist jurists. As most people know, all it takes is five votes by the Supreme Court to really control the federal law.

BuzzFlash: Or the presidency, as we saw in 2000.

John Dean: Conservatives will often swing and vote with what I called the fundamentalists. Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas are fundamentalists. It wasn't clear initially exactly what Roberts was when he replaced Rehnquist, nor Alito. In my talking to people who literally make their living by practicing in front of that Court or teaching about that Court, I have raised this question. It's pretty clear that, while they're a little bit more subtle, a little bit more nuanced, they too are fundamentalists. So we have four fundamentalists on the Court now.

If we get another vacancy on that Court, I think the Senate has absolutely got to put its foot down like they did with Ted Olson and say we will not confirm another fundamentalist to this Court. We want the American people to vote on this. This is too important. The polls show about 75% of the American people do not want a fundamentalist type of federal law.

In the book, I sort of project where the Court's rulings would come out if they had five votes -- and it's devastating. It's legal positions you could never get either of the political bodies of the federal government to approve. But yet you could now make them the law of the land if you had five fundamentalist jurists. This has implications for my grandchildren that I don't want those little girls to have to live with.

BuzzFlash: I would venture to reframe what they're called. I think they're extremists and constitutional revisionists. Scalia talks about being a strict constructionist, but, basically, he promotes his notions. He claims they're in the Constitution, but they aren't. He believes that there basically is no separation of church and state. He believes, as Alito and Roberts and Thomas do, in the dramatic reduction of checks and balances by the assertion of a strong unitary authority -- not just strong, but almost an all-powerful unitary authority. These are people, who, in the name of the Constitution, are actually radical revisionists of the Constitution.

John Dean: They are that. I call them fundamentalists because this term is widely known and used in the legal community. It's term we really need people to understand.

BuzzFlash: We also have to consider the rest of the federal judiciary. Many, many decisions, which had gone against the assertion of authority by the Bush administration, have been overturned in the federal appellate courts by appointees of either Reagan, Bush I or Bush II. Key people like Laurence H. Silberman and David B. Sentelle seem to be around at key times. There's a whole group of these people who sit in key positions in the federal courts.

John Dean: There is something called the Federalist Society that sees to the care and feeding of these people, and the breeding of them, and the development of their thinking, from law school to the federal bench.

BuzzFlash: Being a member of the Federalist Society is like their Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Whereas many people have at least a vague notion of what's going on with the Executive Branch and Congress --

John Dean: -- they know almost nothing about the federal judiciary.

BuzzFlash: Yes, that's my point. If you talk to people about the judiciary, they say, What? They don't know who's involved, they don't know what it does, they think the judiciary is somehow a neutral force or something. They don't realize that judges are people with opinions. The law is an evolutionary process in this country, and that's why you have a judicial system. Someone has to make a ruling based on their judgment of the law. There's no way that their personal viewpoint on the law and their ideology do not enter into it.

John Dean: The federal judiciary probably affects them in their daily life more than the two political branches.

BuzzFlash: It really didn't get keyed up until the Reagan administration.

John Dean: That's when they formalized and institutionalized the process of finding cookie-cutter type candidates to put on the federal judiciary.

BuzzFlash: They were tenacious in trying to pack the bench, and they have been that way under Bush II. They realize the importance of packing the federal bench, not only at the Supreme Court level. There are just too few opportunities there.

John Dean: If you noticed, I put a table in the book showing that they have won that battle. Of the 181 federal judgeships, 53% are controlled by Republicans. I would say probably 80% of those, if not higher, are pretty hard-core Republican conservatives.

BuzzFlash: They often nominate people with very limited legal credentials, but they're loyalists and they've drunk the water. It's not a question of their legal ability or their disposition and records on the bench. It's a question of their ideology.

John Dean: Bottom line, the Republicans have politicized the non-political branch. A ruling on a legal issue, by a panel on the court of appeals or by the Supreme Court, is not much different than a position the Republican National Committee would take.

BuzzFlash: Exactly. It's not laughable, but it is, in a way.

John Dean: It's painfully laughable.

BuzzFlash: You also have a chapter about repairing government and restoring proper process. So, is there any hope?

John Dean: I happen to be a glass-half-full type of person. I think there is hope. I have long ago given up on people who are apathetic about government. I think people really have a right to be bad as citizens, if that's what they want to be. For years, I've looked at the studies of what will get people interested in government and interested in the way it operates, and how to become active in it. And every one of them fails. They never really make any difference. It's just a factor that Americans are always going to rank amongst the world's democracies as the least caring about their system.

The good news is that there are enough people who do care, who are, in a sense, proxies for those who don't. I take some comfort in that. If you give these people the facts, they will make the right decision. My parallel has always been, because I find it terribly instructive, the American jury system. It is democracy in a miniature, a micro situation. You take twelve people from different walks of life, different levels of education, give them facts, give them what the rules are. And 99 out of 100 times, they will come out with the right decision.

They'll make good judgments collectively. It is somewhat mysterious how they do this, and why they do it. But the results just happen to work out. I think the same is true whether they're Republicans, Democrats, moderates -- wherever they fall on the spectrum. When they get the hard facts, they will make a determination. Yes, about 25% are blinded by their leaders who have no conscience, and they will follow them blindly over the cliff. The other 75% of the active people in the American political scene do make wise judgments.

We see it constantly. The reason I write these books is to get the word out to them. You know, a very small part of the population actually reads books. I plan to stay out with this one for quite awhile. I plan to do much more lecturing than I've done in the past. I've had a lot of requests to do it, to share this information with people. I bring it to their attention, because I'm convinced they'll do the right thing after they get the information.

And I don't carry the water for anybody. I'm just telling people this is the way it is. Look at my documentation. I'm not quoting the left. I'm quoting across the spectrum for the points I'm making, and I document the points I make.

BuzzFlash: In the end, you have been a vigorous defender of constitutional government.

John Dean: That is my agenda.

BuzzFlash: If today that is a partisan agenda, then we're in real trouble, because this is the foundation of our government. This is where we started in this interview. This is what binds us together as a nation of diverse people -- our belief in a constitutionally based government.

John Dean: In a sense, it's our civil religion.

BuzzFlash: And the checks and balances will keep any one group from seizing control of the government. What you are saying in Broken Government is that, since the judiciary are ultimately the umpires of the checks and balances, we're perilously close to that system breaking down.

John Dean: If one more fundamentalist or radical gets on that next bench seat -- and swings that to a solid five-person majority -- I worry deeply. These are issues that must be addressed in 2008.

BuzzFlash: John, thanks so much.

John Dean: You're welcome.

BuzzFlash Interview conducted by Mark Karlin.

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John Dean on

John Dean, former White House Counsel to Richard Nixon and Author of "Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush," A BuzzFlash Interview (4/12/04).

John W. Dean, White House Counsel to Richard M. Nixon During His Presidency, And Author of "The Rehnquist Choice" - A BuzzFlash Interview, 10/22/02.

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The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.