Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Obama Explores

There is no doubt: Barack Obama is intelligent, dynamic, charismatic, articulate, and progressive. The junior senator from Illinois is authentic. He is values-driven. And he resonates. The Great Black Hope for all of America (or, at least, 50.1 percent)? Perhaps. But I was a bit disappointed by the declaration he released announcing he has formed an exploratory committee for a presidential campaign. It was...bland.

The short statement--which a tie-less Obama read in a video posted on his campaign website--focused on vague uber-themes. He noted the country hungers for "a different kind of politics" and called for all Americans to come together for the common good: "A change in our politics can only come from you; from people across our country who believe there's a better way and are willing to work for it." Spoken like a true former community organizer--a resume item much to his credit. But he had little to say about policy specifics and what Americans should be organizing for. He added, "it's not the magnitude of our problems that concerns me the most. It's the smallness of our politics. America's faced big problems before. But today, our leaders in Washington seem incapable of working together in a practical, common sense way. Politics has become so bitter and partisan, so gummed up by money and influence, that we can't tackle the big problems that demand solutions." As for the Iraq war, he had only one sentence: "And we're still mired in a tragic and costly war that should have never been waged." At some point, he will have to say much more on this front.

Yes, this is only a statement announcing the formation of an exploratory committee. Obama said that on February 10 he will reveal whether he will actually run for president. (An exploratory committee lets him raise funds without making a full commitment.) But this was a moment to draw attention to ideas (or a vision) that goes beyond a desire for communal, post-partisan politics.

Obama has done a fine job up to now of playing the right music for a presidential run. Soon he will have to lay down the lyrics.

Posted by David Corn at January 16, 2007 04:32 PM


Saladin said...

I can't help but feel concerned about Obama's statements regarding Iran. Was he serious? Will he sell out to gain power? I'm thinking Ron Paul might be our best anti-war option.

Saladin said...

Ron Paul
Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Before the US House of Representatives, January 11, 2007

Mr. Speaker, A military victory in Iraq is unattainable, just as it was in the Vietnam war.

At the close of the Vietnam war in 1975, a telling conversation took place between an NVA Colonel named Tu and an American Colonel named Harry Summers. Colonel Summers reportedly said, "You never beat us on the battlefield." Tu replied, "That may be so, but it is also irrelevant." It is likewise irrelevant to seek military victory in Iraq.

As conditions deteriorate in Iraq, the American people are told more blood must be spilled to achieve just such a military victory. 20,000 additional troops and another $100 billion are needed for a "surge." Yet the people remain rightfully skeptical.

Though we've been in Iraq nearly four years, the meager goal today simply is to secure Baghdad. This hardly shows that the mission is even partly accomplished.

Astonishingly, American taxpayers now will be forced to finance a multi-billion dollar jobs program in Iraq. Suddenly the war is about jobs! We export our manufacturing jobs to Asia, and now we plan to export our welfare jobs to Iraq - all at the expense of the poor and middle class here at home.

Plans are being made to become more ruthless in achieving stability in Iraq. It appears Muqtada al Sadr will be on the receiving end of our military efforts, despite his overwhelming support among large segments of the Iraqi people.

It's interesting to note that one excuse given for our failure is leveled at the Iraqis themselves. They have not done enough, we're told, and are difficult to train.

Yet no one complains that Mahdi or Kurdish militias or the Badr Brigade (the real Iraq government, not our appointed government) are not well trained. Our problems obviously have nothing to do with training Iraqis to fight, but instead with loyalties and motivations.

We claim to be spreading democracy in Iraq, but al Sadr has far more democratic support with the majority Shiites than our troops enjoy. The problem is not a lack of democratic consensus; it is the antipathy toward our presence among most Iraqis.

In real estate the three important considerations are location, location, location. In Iraq the three conditions are occupation, occupation, occupation. Nothing can improve in Iraq until we understand that our occupation is the primary source of the chaos and killing. We are a foreign occupying force, strongly resented by the majority of Iraq's citizens.

Our inability to adapt to the tactics of 4th-generation warfare compounds our military failure. Unless we understand this, even doubling our troop strength will not solve the problems created by our occupation.

The talk of a troop surge and jobs program in Iraq only distracts Americans from the very real possibility of an attack on Iran. Our growing naval presence in the region and our harsh rhetoric toward Iran are unsettling. Securing the Horn of Africa and sending Ethiopian troops into Somalia do not bode well for world peace. Yet these developments are almost totally ignored by Congress.

Rumors are flying about when, not if, Iran will be bombed by either Israel or the U.S. - possibly with nuclear weapons. Our CIA says Iran is ten years away from producing a nuclear bomb and has no delivery system, but this does not impede our plans to keep "everything on the table" when dealing with Iran.

We should remember that Iran, like Iraq, is a third-world nation without a significant military. Nothing in history hints that she is likely to invade a neighboring country, let alone do anything to America or Israel. I am concerned, however, that a contrived Gulf of Tonkin-type incident may occur to gain popular support for an attack on Iran.

Even if such an attack is carried out by Israel over U.S. objections, we will be politically and morally culpable since we provided the weapons and dollars to make it possible.

Mr. Speaker, let's hope I'm wrong about this one.
He SEEMS willing to face reality.

David B. Benson said...

The Iraq-Iran war?

capt said...

"To initiate a war of aggresion.is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." - Nuremberg Tribunal
"The US-led invasion of Iraq was an illegal act that contravened the UN charter." UN Chief Kofi Annan - -September 2004. Source BBC

"Any excuse will serve a tyrant." : Aesop - (c. 550 B.C.) legendary Greek fabulist Source: The Wolf and the Lamb


Read this newsletter online http://tinyurl.com/dy6yy

Thanks ICH Newsletter!

capt said...

Iraq vets' suicide rate soars

The suicide rate for US soldiers who have served in Iraq is double what it was in peacetime.

It's a silent toll among the American men and women serving in Iraq.

While over 3,000 American soldiers have died in hostilities, a growing number have taken their own lives, often because of the horrors of fighting the war.

The Pentagon has been criticized for its reluctance to give out clear figures on the problem. But its statistics do show the suicide rate in Iraq is double what it was for the US Army in peacetime.

It has also been accused of not doing enough to treat the mental health of troops who are now being asked to do increasingly longer and more frequent tours.


*****end of clip*****

We must do better by our vets.


capt said...

Revealed: US comptroller says US taxes would have to double to pay for Bush budget in 2040

In an overlooked hearing last Thursday, the head of a government watchdog agency warned of looming disaster for America's economy if an effort isn't made to control spending, RAW STORY has learned. Adding that decision-makers in Washington suffer from "tunnel vision and "myopia," he said that getting the budget under control could even require steep tax increases if action isn't taken now.

"The picture I will lay out for you today is not a pretty one and it’s getting worse with the passage of time," said David M. Walker, Comptroller General of the United States, in a Thursday morning hearing of the Senate's Budget Committee. "Continuing on our current fiscal path would gradually erode, if not suddenly damage, our economy, our standard of living, and ultimately even our domestic tranquility and our national security," he warned.

Walker heads the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the independent, nonpartisan watchdog of Congress that evaluates the spending of American tax dollars and advises Congress on improving government programs.

While he acknowledged the single-year fiscal improvement touted by the Bush administration for 2006, he said that "it did not fundamentally change our long-term fiscal outlook." He also noted that since 2000, America's net social insurance commitments and other fiscal obligations have increased to $50 trillion from $20 trillion, representing four times the nation's total economic output. Rising national health care costs are the greatest culprit according to data collected by Walker's agency.

The head of the GAO also warned that if no action is taken now to control government spending, severe tax hikes could be necessary. He stated that, "balancing the budget in 2040 could require actions as large as cutting total federal spending by 60 percent or raising federal taxes to 2 times today’s level."

Reuters, the only major news agency to offer coverage of Thursday's hearing, said that Walker saw the need for greater tax hikes in the interim, too. A Thursday evening dispatch reported, "Asked what level U.S. taxes revenues should be at, Walker said, "I can't tell you an exact number ... but more than 18.2 percent (of GDP), but below 25 percent.""

During the course of the hearing, senators also asked Walker about the cost estimates presented by President George W. Bush for sending 21,500 more troops to Iraq this year, according to Air Force Times. Walker believed that the amount of money planned to be spent on the troop escalation was much more than needed for the number of troops involved. "I have some serious concerns about the numbers...It is unclear what much of the $5.6 billion is to be spent on," they reported him saying.

Walker's full statement can be accessed at the GAO website.


*****end of clip*****

Tax and spend or borrow and spend - those are both poor choices.


capt said...

Guess Who Wants ‘Transparency’


Now this is an amazing thing! We the People have to report our political activities to the government. You might have thought the government would have to report its activities to us. Oh, no! The same Congress that puts reporting requirements on you can go into secret session whenever it likes. The executive branch that collects data on you and takes the nation to war in far off places based on frequently faulty "intelligence" it can’t disclose, demands to know what political action groups you are supporting with some of the dollars it lets you keep after taxation. And the Supreme Court, which won’t even tell us what part of the "make no law" phrase in the First Amendment it cannot understand, says (in its ruling on McCain-Feingold) that this sort of thing is Constitutionally permissible.

So what we have now is not a government accountable to the people, but the very opposite – a people accountable to the government. And most of the people don’t even see the contradiction. We are like the poor, manipulated creatures in George Orwell’s "Animal Farm" who awake each morning to find the rules have been rewritten during the night.

Oh, yes, we still have a Constitution – in writing. But so did the people of the Soviet Union. As Judge Learned Hand long ago observed,

"Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it." Or as the bumper sticker says:

"It’s okay, I wasn’t using my civil liberties, anyway."


*****end of clip*****

Every thing is backwards.


Saladin said...

Capt, that is what I meant by the so-called lobby reform. What a fucking joke. We the people must bow down, but the rest is business as usual. When will they stand up? I don't think they even have a clue. And some of the smartest are too busy attacking those of us who want what is right and just. We are conspiracy theorists who are never right. Not right to those who choose to ignore the reality. And America continues to sink.

capt said...

"most of the people don’t even see the contradiction"

That one line sums it up.


capt said...

Iran shoots down U.S. spy drone amid growing U.S. military pressure

Iranian troops have shot down a U.S. pilotless spy plane recently, an Iranian lawmaker announced on Tuesday as the Islamic Republic was facing increasing military pressure from its arch rival --the United States.

The aircraft was brought down when it was trying to cross the borders "during the last few days," Seyed Nezam Mola Hoveizeh, a member of the parliament, was quoted by the local Fars News Agency as saying.

The lawmaker gave no exact date of the shooting-down or any other details about the incident, but he said that "the United States sent such spy drones to the region every now and then."


*****end of clip*****

If true this fits the efforts underway to goad Iran.


O'Reilly said...

"I am completely without objectivity. There is nothing you can say that would make me feel positively about President Bush."

- Potential Juror in the Irving Scotter Libby Trial


Gerald said...

The shooting down of an American spy drone by Iran will be used to declare war on Iran. The build up to war is slow but the nuclear bombs and missiles will be relentless.

Nazi Ameica's soul is damned.

I cannot get too excited about the 2008 election because there will be no election.

May God have mercy on our souls!!!!!

Gerald said...

The Neuropsychology of Dick Cheney

Gerald said...

Tick, Tick, Tick

Gerald said...

Bush declares war on Iran and Syria

The war has commenced!!!!!

Gerald said...

Bush's New Iraq Strategy Is about Striking Iran

Gerald said...

Those who doubt the likelihood of a military strike against Iran have failed to read between the lines of America's deployment of Patriot missiles (to reassure its allies in the region). This is being billed as part of Bush's new strategy for Iraq ... as if the Iraq resistance has anything to do with firing missiles into neighboring countries! And those who question the likelihood of the use of force against Iran have failed to consider the deployment of 20,000 additional soldiers to Iraq, except within the context of deploying them in the heart of Baghdad on Haifa Street, Kadhimiya Street or Karadah Street.


The story goes that America will not attack Iran because if it did, the more than 130,000 American troops stationed in Iraq would become hostages overnight. But this story is nothing but good fiction. Don't fool yourselves, folks. The strikes are coming. What was billed as Bush's new Iraq strategy will become Bush's Gulf War IV strategy.

[Indeed, it is a strategy that reads much like a tragedy].

Oh Poor Gulf! Oh Benefactor of both Patriot Missiles and Ruin!


Gerald said...

WH Moved Swiftly to Replace US Attorneys
By Paul Kiel - January 16, 2007, 3:22 PM
The administration is replacing U.S. Attorneys throughout the country. How'd they get that power?

It was an obscure provision in the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act, and it didn't take them very long to use it. The president signed it into law in March of last year -- by June, they were already moving to replace unwanted prosecutors.

Former Arkansas USA Bud Cummins told the Wall Street Journal that "a top Justice official asked for his resignation in June, saying the White House wanted to give another person the opportunity to serve." Cummins was finally forced out in December, replaced with Timothy Griffin, formerly the research director of the Republican National Committee.

Section 502 of the PATRIOT Act reauthorization, which was first drafted in July of 2005 and finally signed in March of 2006, changed the law regarding the appointment of U.S. Attorneys. Whereas before the relevant federal district court would have appointed a replacement within 120 days after the Attorney General picked one, now that pick stood without challenge.

How did this (brief, legalistically worded, but powerful) section get in to the bill? It's not clear. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has consistently referred to the provision as "little noticed." What is clear is that Feinstein and her colleagues did not expect the provision to be used in this way. We'll have more on this as we learn more.

Gerald said...

Iran Target of US Military Moves

Gerald said...

Target: Tehran

Gerald said...

Soon, Nazi Americans will be glorified at the sight of mayhem, slaughter, and the dismemberment of Iranian human body parts.

Saladin said...

But Gerald, the dems LOOK like they're doing something! And bushco continues to do what it has always done, lie us into war to secure oil, gas and Israel.

Saladin said...

Speaker Pelosi – Minimum Wage Queen

Let’s do the math on the 479,000 reported minimum wage workers using as a basis a single worker with no dependents other than themselves living in California.

Starting 60 days after the new minimum wage legislation is enacted hourly wages will be increased $.70 to $5.85 an hour or $234 gross pay a week netting $202.59 after income and payroll taxes. Increased net weekly income is $22.55 over the previous $5.15.

The $31.41 of increased income and payroll taxes gets the government $15 million a week or $780 million a year in new tax income from minimum wage workers.

An employer has total payroll expenses of $258.63 with Social Security – Medicare – Unemployment Taxes. The $24.63 in increased employer taxes generates some $615 million of new tax revenue paid to government coffers.

$1.4 billion of new increased tax revenue from minimum wage workers and employers is paid in taxes to the government from the first $.70 minimum wage increase.

The 3rd Year minimum wage increase is $7.25. A worker would get gross pay of $290.00 netting $245.77 after income and payroll taxes. Increased net weekly income is $65.73 more over the $5.15 minimum wage.

The $44.23 in increased weekly income and payroll taxes generates $21 million to the government coffers from minimum wage workers or $1.1 billion annually.

An employer has payroll expenses of $318.92 and this $28.92 in increased employer taxes will generate some $720 million of revenue paid to the government by employers.

$1.8 billion is paid in taxes to the government from minimum wage workers and employers in the 3rd year.

Thus $4.8 billion is paid by the 479,000 minimum wage workers and their employers to the government in extra income and payroll taxes in first three years.

If these figures were applied to the 1.9 million minimum wage workers and their employers this would generate four times the $4.8 billion government revenue or $20 billion in extra government income.

If these figures were applied to the 3.7 million minimum wage workers and their employers this would generate 8 times the $4.8 billion government revenue or $38 billion in increased government revenues.

If the figures were applied to the number of minimum wage workers Speaker Pelosi is claiming of 7.5 million this would be almost 16 times the $4.8 billion or $75 billion in additional government revenue.

In pure general terms during the first three years the Speaker Pelosi pogrom against minimum wage workers takes an average of $6,000 out of their pockets with her be-knighted plan to help low-wage workers. Each employer has $4,000 taken out of their pockets for each minimum wage worker during the same period.
This is just an excerpt but you get the picture. This is NOT the way to help low wages workers, but it sure dumps a lot of revenue into the govt. coffers! An extra $65 a week? What does that work out to after 3 more years of inflation? Running at the current 10% it doesn't amount to a hill of beans. There are better solutions, one being eliminate income tax for those at or beneath the poverty level, stop taxing these poor people to death! But then, that will only happen if the pelosi's of the world truly care about the poorest workers among us.

kathleen said...



capt said...

"one being eliminate income tax for those at or beneath the poverty level, stop taxing these poor people to death"

The two are not mutually exclusive, stop income tax for those living in poverty AND increase the minimum wage?

Stop FICA from the working poor and take off the "cap" so those making millions still contribute on all their pay not just the first $50 or 75 thousand.

The living wage laws passed here have had no negative effect and has helped many that were being exploited by large companies and corporations.

No reason to give the mega-dollar corporations a free hand to exploit low wage workers.


kathleen said...

Have been after Raw Story for a while about not posting stories about the negative actions of Israel...especially in regard to settlement expansion. Here is one article that they finally posted!

Contact your representatives let them know that you do not support Israel's move to expand illegal settlements. In fact just the opposite. Israel needs to pull back to the Internationally recognized 67 border. NOW

Rice plans summit with Israeli, Palestinian leaders
Goal is to move both sides toward 'final status' issues
By Paul Richter and Richard Boudreaux
January 16, 2007
LUXOR, Egypt // Seeking a fresh start for stalled Middle East peace efforts, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice won promises yesterday from the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to meet with her next month for their first discussion of a final peace deal in six years.

Rice said the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and the Palestinian Authority's president, Mahmoud Abbas, had agreed to meet for "informal, broad discussions" about the final moves toward a Palestinian state in hopes that it will inject energy into talks that have been in near gridlock over initial steps.

"The parties haven't talked about these [final-stage] issues for a long time," Rice said after a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in this city on the banks of the Nile. "It seems wise to begin this ... to really just sit and talk about the issues."

U.S. officials believe that by shifting the focus to what the outcome would look like, they could galvanize a process that has been bogged down for years in difficult preliminary issues.

The goal of the initiative from Rice, who spent the past three days meeting with Israeli and Palestinian officials, is to move the two sides toward "final- status" issues, such as the shape of the new Palestinian state, the claims of Palestinian refugees to return to sites now in Israel and the fate of Jerusalem.

But, in a reminder of the difficulties that negotiators face, on the same day that Rice met with Olmert, the Israeli Housing Ministry announced plans to expand Maale Adumim, a large Jewish settlement in the West Bank just east of Jerusalem. The ministry plans to build 44 more units.

U.S. officials have protested continued building in the West Bank, but Israeli officials defended the decision. They said that it would not expand the perimeter of the settlement and that it was consistent with an agreement between Israelis and former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell that was reached before a U.S.-backed peace plan known as the "road map" called for a building freeze.

Saeb Erekat, a veteran Palestinian negotiator, said: "We condemn this step. This undermines efforts by Dr. Rice to revive the peace process and the road map. Israel must choose between building settlements and peace."

U.S. officials remained vague about the goals of the three-way meeting, but a senior official traveling with Rice said that it would explore "where do we want to go" and develop "some joint understanding of what's in it for each side."

Israeli officials said they had agreed to the talks but emphasized that Olmert would continue to carry on bilateral talks that deal with the nuts-and-bolts issues of the relationship - such as movement and access, funds, prisoners and violence. Those often-stalled talks have been complicated by conflicts between Abbas' Fatah movement and the more militant Hamas, which controls the Palestinian government.

Olmert told Israeli lawmakers from his Kadima party that if a Palestinian unity government made up of Hamas and Fatah agreed to accept "road map" conditions - recognition of Israel, the renunciation of violence and acceptance of previous accords - then negotiations on a peace settlement could be possible.

Palestinian officials reacted cautiously.

Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, a political adviser to Abbas, said Abbas was ready "in principle" to attend the three-way summit but was waiting for a date and a venue to be agreed. "We welcome American participation in any Palestinian-Israeli meeting," he said.

Paul Richter and Richard Boudreaux write for the Los Angeles Times.

Saladin said...

Capt, another good article on that subject.


Gary North

...I can tell you what the highest priority of Democrats in the United States Senate is. How do I know? Because the Senate has labeled the following piece of proposed legislation, Senate Bill S1. That's numero uno. The bill's title: "To provide greater transparency in the legislative process."

When you see a high-falutin title like this, you can be certain of one thing: Its promoters intend the opposite.


What is this bill all about? Simple: taking heat off of Congress.

From Congress's point of view, there is a growing problem. That problem is the Internet. It allows people to communicate with each other almost free of charge.

An email can be sent to a million people at little or no marginal cost. A mailing list becomes a tool of instant education and motivation.

All over the wired world, politicians are finding that every government leak gets to a large audience within hours. I call this the Drudge-Lewinsky factor.

Every audience has a hot button. Politicians today cannot pass any bill, short of a national emergency, in which they do not inevitably press some special-interest group's negative hot button.

If people on an email list are alerted to what the politicians are planning to do to them, they will in turn send an email, phone their representatives, or even -- I am not making this up -- sit down, write a letter of protest, put it in an envelope, stamp the envelope, and mail it to their political representative. (Yes, such things are still done. Or so I'm told.)

Worse, from the politicians' point of view, the Internet allows organizations to remind people on their mailing lists which politicians voted the wrong way. The subscribers would normally forget within six months, but not if they keep getting reminded.

The Internet makes it cheap to remind them.


You know the term "grassroots." It is one of the traditional terms of endearment in American democracy. (It does not resonate in Arab oil nations, where there is neither democracy nor grass.) "Grassroots" means "back home, where the voters are." It means, above all, OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY.

Inside the beltway, the free ride has officially ended for the adjective, "grassroots." The term is being re- defined by Democrats in the Senate . . . and Trent Lott and Mitch McConnell. It now means, "special-interest lobbying."

The special-interest groups that provoke the ire of politicians are the ones that do not write checks but who instead send emails to their representatives. These groups are mobilized into action, more often than not, by negative reactions. Their subscribers are negative single-issue voters....
They are EVER so CLEVER! Jim Hightower couldn't have said it better himself. The DC club is NOT on our side! We've GOT to get past that illusion. Very good essay.

Saladin said...

Capt, you are right, but we still have the inflation monster to deal with, and you know what that means! Inflation is a wage gobbling tax on everyone, and we know who collects that tax. That is the foundation of the problem.

capt said...


"Revealed: US comptroller says US taxes would have to double to pay for Bush budget in 2040"


I CRACK myself up!

Here is my (unoriginal stupid) solution:

We just print twice as much fiat currency and pay the debt with the extra printed cash!

(laughing enough to make it hard to type)


kathleen said...

Bill Moyers speech at the Media conference in Tenn. Worth it to read at the Nation

BLOG | Posted 01/17/2007 @ 11:29am
Bill Moyers: A Pillar of Democracy is Under Attack
John Nichols


At the National Conference for Media Reform in Memphis last week, more than 3,000 people from across the United States cheered as Bill Moyers condemned the excesses and failures of big media, warning about "The Orwellian filigree of a public sphere in which language conceals reality, and the pursuit of personal gain and partisan power, is wrapped in rhetoric that turns truth to lies and lies to truth."

The crowd of media critics, media makers and media reformers rose to their feet to shout their enthusiastic endorsement of Moyers' call for the creation of new and alternative media outlets that speak truth to power. "We've got to get alternative content out there to people, or this country is going to die of too many lies," said Moyers, as he hailed Amy Goodman and Democracy Now and announced that he will be returning to PBS in April with a new public affairs program.

Here is Moyers' keynote address from January 12, 2007, the opening day of the conference:

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN ONCE SAID, "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner."

"Liberty," he said, "is a well-armed lamb, contesting the vote."

My fellow lambs -- it's good to be in Memphis and find you well-armed with passion for democracy, readiness for action, and courage for the next round in the fight for a free and independent press in America. I salute the conviction that brought you here. I cherish the spirit that fills this hall, and the camaraderie that we share here.

All too often, the greatest obstacle to reform is the reform movement itself. Factions rise, fences are erected, jealousies mount, and the cause all of us believe in is lost in the shattered fragments of what once was a clear and compelling vision.

Reformers, in fact, often remind me of Baptists. I speak as a Baptist. I know whereof I speak. One of my favorite stories is of the fellow who was about to jump off a bridge, when another fellow ran up to him crying, "Stop, stop, don't do it."

The man on the bridge looks down and asks, "Why not?"

@the Nation

Saladin said...

HEY, maybe we can fix inflation with the same method, HA!

kathleen said...

America to the Senate....

or LOSE IN 2008!

kathleen said...

@ John Dean findlaw. The third article in a series on impeachment and congressional oversight.

The Arsenal of Tools Congressional Democrats Can Use To Force the Bush Administration To Cooperate with Their Efforts To Undertake Oversight:
Part Three in a Three-Part Series
Friday, Jan. 12, 2007

In my last column, I argued that Congress has ample tools to conduct aggressive oversight of the Bush Administration, if it is only courageous enough to use them.

In this column, I will set forth each of those tools - as described in The Congressional Reference Service's (CRS) complete manual on oversight, which was updated recently, and in an excellent essay on these methods by Lou Fisher (one of the authors of the CRS manual), which is entitled "Congressional Access To Information: Using Legislative Will And Leverage."

The Appropriations Power: The "Power of the Purse"

Presidents are often willing "to surrender documents they consider sensitive or confidential to obtain funds from Congress to implement programs important to the executive branch," Fisher explains. Congress has used this leverage ever since the presidency of George Washington, when the House wanted documents relating to a treaty, which is, of course, a matter for the Senate, not the House. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson counseled Washington to provide information to both the House and the Senate, given that a House appropriations bill was needed to fund the treaty. Later, as President, Jefferson had no qualms about providing treaty information to the House when he needed its members to fund the Louisiana Purchase.

Fisher offers a few unique examples of early presidents providing information to the House. When the House wanted information about the Jay Treaty in 1796, Alexander Hamilton told President Washington that it need not be provided. Nevertheless, the House got almost everything it wanted.

Congress's funding of the government takes its oversight into every nook and cranny that receives federal funding. Fisher provides several nice contemporary examples of the leverage Congress can exert, based on its appropriations power:

It has long been the practice for presidents to refuse to produce White House staff members as witnesses before Congress. Yet Presidents Ford and Carter permitted their aides running the Office of Policy Development to appear before the House Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over their office.
Later, during the Reagan Administration, when Martin Anderson took charge of that office, he refused to testify. The House then refused to give him any money. Anderson met "informally" with the subcommittee, and his budget was restored.

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The Impeachment Power: Congress' Strongest Weapon

Needless to say, this is heavy ammunition - though ammunition perhaps unlikely to be used by current Democrats, in light of the Clinton impeachment debacle.

Fisher says, "Congress has especially strong leverage when it decides to initiate the impeachment process." President Washington, Fisher notes, was the first to concede this fact, but other presidents, from James Polk to Andrew Jackson have acknowledged the broad reach of an impeachment inquiry.

Fisher also cites a more recent example. Ronald Reagan gave Congress everything it wanted, regarding the Iran-Contra affair. Fisher reports, "Through this cooperation he hoped to derail any movement toward impeachment. Attorney General Edwin Meese, III, thought the Iran-Contra affair had the potential for 'toppling' the president and triggering impeachment proceedings in the House." Cooperation, indeed, did help Reagan survive, but the understanding around Washington has long been that when Reagan agreed to make Senator Howard Baker (R TN) his White House chief of staff, the Congress backed off -- believing Howard Baker would bring experienced supervision to the Reagan White House.


capt said...

New thread

kathleen said...

Amy's coverage of the Libby trial great. She had Murray Waas on!