Monday, December 31, 2007


In the academic fields of mythology, mythography, or folkloristics, a myth (mythos) is a sacred story concerning the origins of the world or how the world and the creatures in it came to be in their present form. The active beings in myths are generally gods and heroes. Myths often are said to take place before recorded history begins. In saying that a myth is a sacred narrative, what is meant is that a myth is believed to be true by people who attach religious or spiritual significance to it. Use of the term by scholars does not imply that the narrative is either true or false. See also legend and tale.
[Wikipedia entry for myth]
I will use the term "myth" in a yet broader sense: stories we tell ourselves to help us understand our lives.

I've occasionally offended folks by referring to the "Christian myth." Most folks take "myth" to mean, "not true." I do not. I take the expanded view suggested above, that a myth - personal, cultural, national - is a story told to help us understand ourselves.

My personal myth is tied to Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. I saw my first G&S operetta - The Pirates of Penzance at Highfield Theater in Falmouth, MA, at age 9. I listened to recordings of G&S throughout junior high & high school. I worked "tech" on G&S productions in college. In 1995, at age 42, I auditioned for a G&S show (The Pirates of Penzance) - the audition was the first time I sang in public.

I established the first "career development plan" I've ever successfully completed, with the goal of singing a minor lead in a G&S production. I took singing lessons, acting lessons, dance lessons. I auditioned for dramatic roles in local community theater - and played Frank Doel in 84 Charing Cross Road and Felix Unger in The Odd Couple.

My goal was attained in 2001 when I sang the role of Dick Deadeye in a local production of H.M.S. Pinafore.

I now collect G&S-related Victorian tradecards.

This particular personal myth has grounded me for more than 40 years. G&S operettas, and my participation in them - as audience, listener, techie, performer, and collector, - have provided a narrative anchor for my life.

Our shared national myth is documented in the U.S. Constitution. This is the founding document to which we can refer to discover who we are as a nation.

No, we have not always - or ever - lived up to its ideals... but it tells us who we are, nevertheless.

The Constitution is both the legal basis and the founding myth for our country. Without it we are no longer Americans.

Who killed Bhutto?

I haven't a clue!

But... with a little encouragement, I can make a convincing case that Cheney was behind the assassination.

Anyone out there to encourage me?

"The good old days" OR "The Golden Age"

A lengthy, desultory digression: Yes, I realize my view of the Constitution is incredibly naive and ahistorical!
... in order to form a more perfect Union
Many of my posts may suggest that our current relationship to our Constitution constitutes an aberration. I am sufficiently well-versed in U.S. history to realize that this is not quite the case.

We - the people of the United States - have never quite lived up to our ideals. Even the exalted Framers compromised some fairly basic ideals, allowing slavery to remain in order to produce The Document.

That slaves counted as 3/5 of a person for the purpose of allocating Representatives is a documentary testament to our imperfect heritage, from the beginning.

The Alien & Sedition Acts were passed by Congress during Adams's Administration. These were worse than today's egregious so-called "Patriot Act."

Andrew Jackson openly defied the Supreme Court, refusing to enforce Worcester v. Georgia.

The Mexican-American War was an unprovoked, unprincipled land grab.

Lincoln - one of our few Presidential Paragons - suspended habeas corpus by Executive fiat.

The Spanish-American War, an unprovoked imperialist venture.

The first Red Scare culminated in the 1917 Espionage Act and the ensuing Palmer Raids, which conveniently circumvented all sorts of Bill of Rights protections.

Another Presidential Paragon, FDR, attempted to stack the Supreme Court. He DID authorize the violent segregation of U.S. citizens of Japanese descent during WWII.

The second Red Scare, often associated with McCarthyism, is not a proud chapter in American liberty.

Hoover's FBI routinely violated the rights of U.S. citizens in the name of security and paranoia. [The complete history of this period will be told only long after my death... we've only just recently learned of Hoover's plan to "to apprehend and detain persons who are potentially dangerous to the internal security of the country"]

I suspect it would be difficult to identify a single decade in the 220 years of our history during which we - the people of the United States - in fact lived up to our Constitutional ideals.

All this does not absolve us. The Framers did not pretend to create a perfect Union - only to provide the basis for creating a more perfect Union.

The Constitution is, and always will be, a work in progress. We the people are ever challenged to realize the ideal it promises. We've never been shy to stray from the ideal in the name of national security. We have, to date, survived. It may not always be so.

I'm back - anybody miss me?

The holidays are over. Not to sound too much like Scrooge, but I'm glad.

On the bright side: I visited Tulsa, OK to visit with high school friends not seen in many years (12 yrs, 25 yrs, 27 yrs, if our reckoning was correct).

We played bridge - which is what we spent most our time doing in high school. No one plays anymore - just during these occasional reunions. We didn't keep score.

Monday, December 24, 2007

"Merry Xmas!", "Happy Holidays!", "Season's Greetings!"... or just "have a nice Tuesday!"

We just returned from Christmas Eve church service.

Christmas is my least favorite holiday. Most of my objection is theological. Tho' I am not Christian, if I were, I'd be of the "adoptionist" flavor: a heretic!

I have problems singing praise to the baby Jesus.


Friday, December 21, 2007

due process

Guantánamo detainees are 'bad people', says Cheney

What is "due process", and why should I care?

U.S. Constitution
Amendment V
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

An unlimited Executive, with the ability and legal competence to declare any individual a "bad person", an "enemy combatant", or an "enemy of the state" is what this country was founded AGAINST!

If the Executive be able to declare a person "bad" without judicial recourse then we live in tyranny.

"Due process" - habeas corpus, compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor - these are the BASIS of our nation.

Suspension of habeas corpus, invocation of "state secrets privilege", invocation of "executive privilege" - these are the the hallmarks of despotism. An unlimited Executive power is exactly what the Founders denied in The Declaration of Independence.

The "state secrets privilege" is antithetical to this foundation. If the State can arbitrarily assert that evidence in favor of the accused be a "state secret", then we are no longer a nation of laws. We have become a nation of arbitrary, despotic power, exercised by the Executive at will. By another name: tyranny.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

"If wishes were horses, Beggars would ride"

"We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality."
[unnamed White House aide, quoted by Ron Suskind, NYT Magazine, 17 Oct 2004]

"…my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators."
[VP Cheney, Meet the Press, 16 Mar 2003]

"I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency."
[VP Cheney, Larry King Live, 30 May 2005]

Please note the words: "... my belief", "I think".
In anthropology, psychology and cognitive science magical thinking is causal reasoning that often includes such ideas as the law of contagion, correlation equalling causation, the power of symbols and the ability of the mind to affect the physical world.
A common form of magical thinking is that one's own thoughts can influence events...
Another form of magical thinking occurs when people believe that words can directly affect the world.
Wikipedia entry, "magical thinking"

W's Administration is characterized by magical thinking.

The quotation opening this post ("... we create our own reality") is an explicit statement of this worldview.

SecDef Rumsfeld's "epiphany" provides another example. If we don't call the enemy "insurgents" the battlefield is changed, presto!

W himself engages in this "causal reasoning" continually in his speeches: saying the words is sufficient; follow-up action is not required.

Examples abound. I'll use my favorite: W's May 2004 War College speech in which he outlined "five steps in our plan to help Iraq achieve democracy and freedom." Two of these have been achieved:
1) "The first of these steps will occur next month, when our coalition will transfer full sovereignty to a government of Iraqi citizens who will prepare the way for national elections.
2) "The fifth and most important step is free, national elections, to be held no later than next January."

The other three steps?
"The second step in the plan for Iraqi democracy is to help establish the stability and security that democracy requires."

"The third step in the plan for Iraqi democracy is to continue rebuilding that nation's infrastructure..."

"The fourth step in our plan is to enlist additional international support for Iraq's transition."
I note that no actions were undertaken to implement any of these three steps. Simply saying the words was sufficient.

You do not have to look very hard to find many other examples of W and his minions attempting to create their own reality by simply reciting the correct incantation, with no attempt to match words with deeds. (Can you spell "Katrina"?)

This Administration's adoption of magical thinking is fully consistent with their anti-rational, anti-science worldview.

Evidence, facts, the ability to realistically anticipate consequences... none of these is held at a premium. Just make sure you say the right words!

... oh, well - maybe next time

Below I noted USN Capt Keith Allred's ruling that the Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) which had found Salim Ahmed Hamdan to be an "enemy combatant" had not the competence to, and had not been asked to, find regarding Hamdan's POW status. Today Capt Allred, in his capacity as Military Judge - the same capacity under which he found in favor of Hamdan's request for POW status review - determined that Hamdan is NOT entitled to POW status.

Okay - the CSRT had not the competence to address Hamdan's POW status. This implied however only that some other "competent tribunal" make the determination. ... and Capt Allred, as Military Judge at Gitmo, has effectively asserted that he is that "competent tribunal." (I'm so glad I'm NOT a lawyer!)

The burden of proof asserted by JAG Capt Allred was, "preponderance of evidence". At trial, Hamdan's defense will be allowed to address Hamdan's POW status... and at trial, prosecutors will be required to meet the stiffer standard of evidence, "beyond a reasonable doubt."

Don't get me wrong - if Hamdan is in fact a dangerous terrorist I'd like to see him behind bars. BUT... I'd prefer to see MY COUNTRY's legal system deal with him fairly; a conviction by what the world may easily perceive as a kangaroo court ("show trial") does little to further our anti-terror objectives.

Three options seem to present themselves regarding Gitmo:
1) treat detainees as POW, with full Geneva protections
2) bring them into established Federal court system - habeas corpus, rules of evidence, and all!
3) release 'em

I ignore the current de facto option: keep 'em locked up outside the law... forever!

If American citizens were held by another country under circumstances resembling Gitmo, would we tolerate it?

Words DO matter!

What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet...

Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

In some sense, however, words - names - DO matter.

When your friendly family physician diagnoses you with the flu, that diagnosis implies a treatment protocol: "stay home, rest, drink lots of clear liquids." A diagnosis of strep throat implies a treatment protocol including antibiotics. Gout? Still a different treatment protocol.

If friendly family physician observes symptoms of diabetes, but calls if "flu" and treats you for the flu, you could die.

So did SecDef Rumsfeld cripple our efforts in Iraq when he had his epiphany, deciding that
I've thought about it, and over the weekend, I thought to myself, "You know, that [calling them insurgents] gives them a greater legitimacy than they seem to merit." Why do you -- why would you call Zarqawi and his people insurgents against a legitimate Iraqi government with their own constitution?

If we're not fighting an insurgency, we aren't likely to employ counter-insurgency tactics and strategy.

Did this really have an impact on our conduct of the war?

We learned yesterday from USA Today that
Strategy that is making Iraq safer was snubbed for years
By Peter Eisler, Blake Morrison and Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY
... a USA TODAY investigation shows that the strategy now used to defeat the bombmaking networks and stabilize Iraq was ignored or rejected for years by key decision-makers. As early as 2004, when roadside bombs already were killing scores of troops, a top military consultant invited to address two dozen generals offered a "strategic alternative" for beating the insurgency and IEDs.

That plan and others mirroring the counterinsurgency blueprint that the Pentagon now hails as a success were pitched repeatedly in memos and presentations during the following two years, at meetings that included then-Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

The core of the strategy: Clear insurgents from key areas and provide security to win over Iraqis, who would respond by helping U.S. forces break IED networks and defeat the insurgency.

Bush administration officials, however, remained wedded to the idea that training the Iraqi army and leaving the country would suffice. Officials, including Cheney, insisted the insurgency was dying. Those pronouncements delayed the Pentagon from embracing new plans to stop IEDs and investing in better armored vehicles that allow troops to patrol more freely, documents and interviews show.

Yes, words DO matter! They shape our understanding of the world and our response to the world based on that understanding!

Added bonus: in a few previous posts I've noted that Pentagon's addiction to high-tech has been counter-productive. The USA Today cited above reinforces this opinion, going on to say...
Even after the Pentagon began committing substantial resources to combat IEDs, USA TODAY found, its spending focused mostly on high-tech devices with limited utility. Some silver-bullet solutions, such as microwave beams designed to destroy IEDs before they blew up, never worked.

Stop the madness!

Good news from U.S. Military! - our best hope?

Long ago I noted that CentComm Commander Adm Fallon may be our best hope against a pre-emptive strike against Iran on any pretext, he having put himself on the record declaring that Iran would not be attacked on his watch.

News from the past few days suggests that others in uniform are also getting fed up with W's heavy-handed agenda.

On 15 Dec the Boston Globe reported that the White House was seeking to politicize promotions within the Judge Advocate Corps by having political Pentagon appointees vet all proposed promotions.
On 18 Dec the Army Times reports that Plan to politicize JAG promotions blocked:
By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Thursday Dec 20, 2007 9:03:22 EST
An attempt within the Pentagon to politicize promotions for military judge advocates general appears to have been blocked after protests from military lawyers and threats from key lawmakers.
In other heartening news, USN Capt Keith J. Allred, JAGC, ruled in favor of Gitmo detainee Salim Ahmed Hamdan regarding his request for a hearing to determine his status as a POW. Capt Allred found that the Combatant Status Review Tribunal before which Hamdan has appeared had not the competence to determine, and did not in fact address the issue of, Hamdan's alleged status as a POW. Another blow for team W.

In still other news, Marine Maj. Gen. Doug Stone, who oversees detainees for the US-led force wonders, Do U.S. prisons in Iraq breed insurgents?
By Gordon Lubold
Thu Dec 20
Christian Science Monitor
Washington - American officials have detained thousands of insurgents in the months since the surge of forces began this spring, in an effort that most agree has improved security in Iraq. But now the commander of the American detention facilities in Iraq is wondering aloud if holding all those detainees is breeding a "micro-insurgency" and asking whether it's time to begin releasing thousands of people.

Does anyone recall W's proposed "gift" to the new Iraq?
A new Iraq will also need a humane, well-supervised prison system. ... America will fund the construction of a modern, maximum security prison.[Remarks by the President on Iraq and the War on Terror
United States Army War College
Carlisle, Pennsylvania
24 May 2004]

In a related note,
Afghanistan Commanders Want Iraq Troops
By Mark Impomeni
Dec 17th 2007
AOL News
The U.S. military is looking to step up its efforts in Afghanistan and is pressuring the White House for troops from Iraq to help strengthen it's fight against Taliban militants. The Administration is said to be cautious about removing troops from Iraq, in order to protect the military progress made there over the past year. However, commanders in Afghanistan are seeking an additional three combat battalions and see a planned drawdown in Iraq as a potential source of troops for their conflict.

Will W listen to his generals?

light posting for next several days....

All (?):
Expect sporadic posting over next few days, as holidays & other items keep me otherwise engaged.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Quotations: take care with sources!

As my regular readers (?) might guess, I routinely read "progressive" blogs, including Firedoglake (FDL) and DailyKos.

Today, FDL included the following from the Senate telecom debate:
Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama said in a derogatory tone: “The civil libertarians among us would rather defend the constitution than protect our nation’s security.”...
Now, I try to be careful regarding quotations, so I sought corroboration.

DailyKos included this from a diarist, quoting Sessions:
"Some people in this chamber love the Constitution more than the love the safety of this nation."
What did Sen Sessions (R-AL) really say?

As noted above, I try to be careful with quotations, seeking corroboration whenever possible, and relying on what I regard as best authorities when corroboration isn't possible. Having two similar but distinctly different versions of this quotation is bothersome.

To resolve the discrepancy, I retreated to the Congressional Record, where I found this:
Mr. SESSIONS: ... I would point out to my colleagues that we have made two dramatic errors some years ago in a situation just like this, on emotion driven by our civil libertarian friends, such that a wall was put up between the FBI and the CIA which barred the sharing of information between those two critical agencies.
But, oh no, the others loved the Constitution more, they loved liberty more, so these unwise laws were passed. And what happened afterwards, after 9/11? Well, we properly removed
both of those silly rules. We have taken them off the books, in a bipartisan, unanimous way. They were never required by the Constitution. They were never sensible from the beginning. But we passed them on emotion not reason. Some ideas being promoted now are not sensible either and can leave our country in dangerous straits. So this is an important matter. These things are life and death issues.
[Congressional Record, 17 Dec 2007, S15724]
This is considerably less inflammatory than either of the two versions of the quotation cited above.

I skimmed the entire 58 pages of the Congressional Record devoted to the telecom-immunity debate - using the very primitive page-by-page interface provided, and the Adobe Reader search function (one page at a time!) - and this was the ONLY statement by Sen Sessions that corresponded to the "quotations" provided in the blogs!

In most of my posts I attempt to provide a link to the source of a quotation, or indicate explicitly that it is a "remembered" or "paraphrased" quotation. It'd be nice if others were as scrupulous.

W and his minions are sufficiently evil. We don't need to misquote 'em!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wow! Maybe they DO listen!!

In response to suggestions on several 'progressive' blogs requesting folks to send Sen Chris Dodd (D-CT) reading material for his anti-telecom-immunity filibuster, yesterday I sent Sen Dodd an email including the exchange from Robt Bolt's A Man for All Seasons in which More asserts that, yes, he would give the Devil the benefit of law.

Reading the Congressional Record for 17 Dec 2007, I find the following:
Mr. DODD: ... I don’t know how many of my colleagues have ever seen the wonderful movie ‘‘A Man For All Seasons,’’ the story of St. Thomas More. There is a wonderful scene in that movie in which More is asked whether he’d be willing to cut down every law in England to get his hands on the devil.

And More replies, absolutely not. ‘‘When the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where you hide, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast—Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down . . . do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?’’

Maybe we could find excuses for every one of this president’s abuses of power: ‘‘It was just a little overreach.’’ ‘‘You just have to give a little.’’

But if you do that day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, all of a sudden you look up to find that all of the laws have been cut down, that there is nothing to protect us from the winds. Before that day comes, Mr. President, we must draw a line. I am here today to draw it.
[Congressional Record, 17 Dec 2007, S15743]
I cannot tell you how gratifying it was to see this!... even if I'm not in fact the source!!... I'll take credit for it anyway...

A suggestion for training Iraq security forces

Report: Iraqi security forces still lag
By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer
18 Dec 2007
WASHINGTON - ... The Defense Department's quarterly report on progress in Iraq said that while the size and capabilities of the Iraqi Army and police forces have grown, many are still dependent on the U.S. and coalition nations for logistics and training.

A reminder:
'As Iraqis Stand Up, We Will Stand Down,' Bush Tells Nation
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 28, 2005 – On the one-year anniversary of the transfer of sovereignty in Iraq to a transitional Iraqi government, President Bush tonight promised that U.S. forces would remain in Iraq until the job is complete, "but not one day longer."

I've just a couple of questions:
1) When is "the job complete"?
2) How much have we spent training Iraqi security forces so far?

Okay, anyone can criticize W - it's not that hard!
How 'bout offering a constructive alternative?

For what it's worth:
A suggestion related to training Iraqi forces.

As a U.S. Army Basic Trainee in 1975, my training included a couple of days in the classroom with lectures covering (VERY briefly) the history of the U.S. and the history of the U.S. Army. I learned who von Steuben was, and what he did for Washington's Continental Army - something I'd NOT learned in public school U.S. History class!

My bet is that training for Iraqi army & police is focused solely on what might be called "technical" aspects of the job: drilling in formation, basic weapons training, crowd control, etc. ... with NO training designed to provide them a sense of purpose, a link with any meaningful heritage, a belief that their country is worth defending.

The article cited above notes that, "As of November, 21,000 Iraqi soldiers had been dropped from the rolls this year after going AWOL, the report said." Now, even the U.S. Army suffers from AWOLs, but the level reported here suggests that recruits don't have any sense of a "greater good" to be served.

My suggestion? Include a full week of history in the Army & Police basic curriculum. Emphasize that Iraq is the "cradle of civilization"; that Hammurabi with his palace in Babylon gave the world the first law code; that art, literature, architure derive from Iraq. Mention the Epic of Gilgamesh with its remarkable Flood story. Include the history of Baghdad's greatness - of Harun al-Rashid & the Arabian Nights. Emphasize the grandeur of Harun's court at the time of his correspondence with the European barbarian Charlemagne. Remind them that one of their Kurdish countrymen - Saladin - defeated Richard the Lion-Heart! Theirs is a country worth preserving, worth fighting for, worth dying for.

If the Army & Police are our best bets for establishing a post-Saddam national Iraqi identity, the training that we provide ought to nurture that identity!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Words memorized in 8th grade civics

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The Declaration of Independence

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Preamble, United States Constitution

... that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

The Declaration is a formal apologia: a defense especially of one's opinions, position, or actions.
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
[emphasis added to stress the apologetic nature of the document]
The legal status of the Declaration is interesting. From the British Parliament's perspective it has no legal standing - the Colonists have not the legal competence to declare themselves independent of Great Britain. The Continental Congress itself asserted no legal authority over the several States. The Declaration, after the rousing and memorable introduction which we all presumably learned by heart at some point during our education, is phrased as a legal tort against King George III - it is extremely dry reading. No one is likely to quote from memory any of the specific charges brought against George III. It is, and is best understood as, a formal apologia.

The Preamble introduces the legal document which follows. Of the three quotations, only the Preamble is directly relevant to legal foundation of the United States. It is the Framers' "mission statement", explaining the origin, scope, and purpose of the Constitution.

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is a speech - one of the most quoted speeches in U.S. history. It has no legal standing. Strangely, however, the phrase, "government of the people, by the people, for the people" is frequently assumed to derive from the Constitution! (Recent NYT "Letters to the Editor" confirm this.) Perhaps owing to its brevity and conciseness, this phrase has assumed a popular quasi-legal status, as defining the nature of the United States government.

As noted above, the Declaration is the oddest of these three "founding" documents. The opening paragraph is a single 71-word sentence!

To emphasize the Declaration's oddness, I'd like to examine what is perhaps its most well-known clause:
We hold these truths to be self-evident
"We" - presumably the Continental Congress, and perhaps by extension the people of the [lowercase]united States whom they represent - "hold these truths to be self-evident." Note: simply by asserting that "We hold these truths to be self-evident" suggests that others may not! What kind of self-evident truths are these, that they are subject to debate, and that we must make known whether or not we accept them?

A quick look at the "self-evident" truths reveals that they are anything but!
that all men are created equal
Libraries have been written regarding the truth-value of this "self-evident" truth - what, exactly, is being asserted here? This was - and is - a revolutionary concept!
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights
This is particularly tricky. The Congress wants to assert something like "the rights of man", but are shrewd enough to realize that, under common law, rights are things granted by lords to vassals - rights derive from relationships. How to overcome this logical difficulty? Ah! Our "rights" are endowed us by our Creator! The term "Creator" - instead of, say, "our G-d" - was probably sufficiently neutral to satisfy the Deists!
that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness
Locke's Second Treatise on Government cites "life, liberty, and property" as inalienable rights. The Founders shied away from "property" for a variety of contrasting and contradictory reasons - "the pursuit of happiness" was sufficiently wishy-washy to satisfy all!

Of the three documents cited, only one has legal standing: The Preamble of the United States Constitution. It is the Constitution which is the law of the land! It is the Constitution which all "Senators and Representatives... and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states" are bound by oath to support (Article VI).

Judiciary vs Executive: Andrew Jackson and W

Judge: White House logs are public
By MATT APUZZO, Associated Press Writer
17 Dec 2007
WASHINGTON - White House visitor logs are public documents, a federal judge ruled Monday, rejecting a legal strategy that the Bush administration had hoped would get around public records laws.

The courts have spoken... of course W will appeal... and even if Supreme Court rules against the Administration, will it matter?

A bit of history: Worcester v. Georgia
Worcester v. Georgia, 31 U.S. (6 Pet.) 515 (1832), was a case in which the United States Supreme Court held that Cherokee Native Americans were entitled to federal protection from the actions of state governments which would impinge on the tribe's sovereignty.

The result? Other than setting a precedent, the decision had no effect - President Andrew Jackson chose not to enforce the ruling!

Quote frequently attributed to Andrew Jackson regarding the decision:
"John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!"

What Jackson really said:
"The decision of the Supreme Court has fell still born, and they find that they cannot coerce Georgia to yield to its mandate."

I've also heard the sentiment expressed as, "And just how many troops does the Supreme Court command?" - also attributed to Jackson.

In any event, there is nothing to compel W to comply with a court's decision... except impeachment should he refuse!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

fun stuff: Tom Lehrer

"Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize."
Tom Lehrer

"Fortunately in times of crisis just like this America always has this number one instrument of diplomacy to fall back on. Here's a song about it."
When someone makes a move
Of which we don't approve,
Who is it that always intervenes?
U.N. and O.A.S.,
They have their place, I guess,
But first send the Marines!

We'll send them all we've got,
John Wayne and Randolph Scott,
Remember those exciting fighting scenes?
To the shores of Tripoli,
But not to Mississippoli,

What do we do? We send the Marines!
For might makes right,
And till they've seen the light,
They've got to be protected,
All their rights respected,
'Till somebody we like can be elected.

Members of the corps
All hate the thought of war,
They'd rather kill them off by peaceful means.
Stop calling it aggression,
O we hate that expression.
We only want the world to know
That we support the status quo.
They love us everywhere we go,
So when in doubt,
Send the Marines!

the good old days!

US Shuns Iran-Style Theocracy for Iraq
By Geneive Abdo
Boston Globe
Friday 25 April 2003
WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld declared yesterday that the United States would not tolerate an Iranian-style theocracy in Iraq.

... and today?
UK has left behind murder and chaos, says Basra police chief
Mona Mahmoud, Maggie O'Kane and Ian Black
Monday December 17, 2007
The Guardian
... Basra has become so lawless that in the last three months 45 women have been killed for being "immoral" because they were not fully covered or because they may have given birth outside wedlock...

Yeah, this isn't an "Iranian-style theocracy"... it's worse!

"Pascal's wager" & global warming... bear with me!

Pascal's Wager is an argument for belief in G-d. (Pascal acknowledged that proof of G-d's existence was impossible.)
If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible, since, having neither parts nor limits, He has no affinity to us. We are then incapable of knowing either what He is or if He is....

..."God is, or He is not." But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up. What will you wager? According to reason, you can do neither the one thing nor the other; according to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions.

Do not, then, reprove for error those who have made a choice; for you know nothing about it. "No, but I blame them for having made, not this choice, but a choice; for again both he who chooses heads and he who chooses tails are equally at fault, they are both in the wrong. The true course is not to wager at all."

Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose. This is one point settled. But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. "That is very fine. Yes, I must wager; but I may perhaps wager too much." Let us see. Since there is an equal risk of gain and of loss, if you had only to gain two lives, instead of one, you might still wager. But if there were three lives to gain, you would have to play (since you are under the necessity of playing), and you would be imprudent, when you are forced to play, not to chance your life to gain three at a game where there is an equal risk of loss and gain. But there is an eternity of life and happiness. And this being so, if there were an infinity of chances, of which one only would be for you, you would still be right in wagering one to win two, and you would act stupidly, being obliged to play, by refusing to stake one life against three at a game in which out of an infinity of chances there is one for you, if there were an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain. But there is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite.

Okay - so where does global warming come in?

Suppose for the moment that global warming is illusory, or perhaps that it be real, but not caused by man's activity. What is to be lost by acting as if it were real & man-made?

What is posited as the human-related cause of global warming? The increase of the greenhouse gas carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere which results from burning fossil fuels. What is the cure implied by this supposed cause? Burn less fossil fuel.

What other consequences result from burning less fossil fuel?

Well... we'd have far less strategic interest in the Persian Gulf region, for a start. Why do we worry about Arabia, Iraq, and Iran? Because they sit on the largest oil reserves in the world. If we weaned ourselves from oil, we'd have little or no strategic interest in the region.

Would this be a bad thing? No!

Are there any other consequences attending our acting as if burning fossil fuel causes global warming, and therefore decreasig our use of and dependence on fossil fuels?

Well... it's hard to argue that there's an infinite supply of fossil fuel. There may be lots of coal & lots of oil, but the supply is NOT infinite. At some point in the future we - humans - will have to face a scarcity of these fuels. Why not start now? To the extent that we start weaning ourselves from fossil fuels now, today, we will be contributing to the general welfare of our posterity. We're doing enough to make our posterity's life hard already - saddling 'em with an unprecedented national debt comes to mind. Why not do something that'll help 'em?

So - even if global warming be illusory, or be real but not the result of human agency, acting as if it IS real and IS caused by human agency is not a bad thing!

Same basic logic as Pascal's wager... (and probably subject to many of the same criticisms!)

and - I almost forgot: there's always a chance that global warming is being caused (or at least accelerated) by our buring fossil fuels! Cutting back might just help...

"Which word(-s)..." + "Digby nails it"... a repeat

Digby nailed it, 11 Nov 2007:
One of the hallmarks of an authoritarian state is surveillance of its own citizens --- if you give them the power they will use it to gain more. It's inevitable. We Americans should be guarding our privacy more zealously than ever and insisting that our representatives find ways to ensure that the government does not repeal the fourth amendment in slow motion.

United States Constitution
Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Again: Which word(-s) don't they understand?

Which word(-s) don't they understand?

U.S. Constitution
Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Wider Spying Fuels Aid Plan for Telecom Industry
Eric Lichtblau, James Risen and Scott Shane.
NYT, 16 Dec 2007
WASHINGTON —... The N.S.A.’s reliance on telecommunications companies is broader and deeper than ever before, according to government and industry officials, yet that alliance is strained by legal worries and the fear of public exposure.

To detect narcotics trafficking, for example, the government has been collecting the phone records of thousands of Americans and others inside the United States who call people in Latin America, according to several government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the program remains classified.
The government’s dependence on the phone industry, driven by the changes in technology and the Bush administration’s desire to expand surveillance capabilities inside the United States, has grown significantly since the Sept. 11 attacks. The N.S.A., though, wanted to extend its reach even earlier. In December 2000, agency officials wrote a transition report to the incoming Bush administration, saying the agency must become a “powerful, permanent presence” on the commercial communications network, a goal that they acknowledged would raise legal and privacy issues.

Stop the madness!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

anyone wanna guess what'll result from this?

U.S. to keep most troops in Baghdad
By Peter Spiegel and Julian E. Barnes, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
December 15, 2007
CAMP VICTORY, IRAQ -- In a change of plans, American commanders in Iraq have decided to keep the bulk of their forces concentrated in Baghdad when the U.S. troop buildup ends next year, removing extra troops instead from outlying areas of the country.

The change represents the military's first attempt to confront its big challenge in 2008: how to reduce the number of troops without sacrificing security.

Another change in strategy with no clear notion of any strategic objective! Why do we keep changing our plans? Simple: 'cause we have no idea what we want to achieve! The strategic objective implicit in this latest "strategy" is to keep Baghdad calm. Okay. I guess that's a start. What about the rest of the country? When all hell breaks loose in Samarra, Basra, Mosul, Najaf... what then? Another surge? The next grand new "strategy"?

All original war aims have been achieved:
1) Iraq has no WMD
2) Saddam has been deposed... and executed for war crimes
3) Democracy has been established
--- Constitution in place
--- Elections held
--- Government seated

The on-going violence? Not a problem:
"Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things."
SecDef Rumsfeld, 12 Apr 2003

The Iraqis are exercising their freedom with a vengeance!

Stop the madness!

Let's assume they're not idiots (continued)

Control sought on military lawyers
Bush wants power over promotions
By Charlie Savage
Globe Staff / December 15, 2007
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration is pushing to take control of the promotions of military lawyers, escalating a conflict over the independence of uniformed attorneys who have repeatedly raised objections to the White House's policies toward prisoners in the war on terrorism.

The administration has proposed a regulation requiring "coordination" with politically appointed Pentagon lawyers before any member of the Judge Advocate General corps - the military's 4,000-member uniformed legal force - can be promoted.

Again I ask: Has no one in W's Administration asked, "Do we really want to bequeath an unlimited Executive to our Democratic successors?"

Again, three (3) possibilities present themselves:
1) W truly believes in Rove's permanent Republican majority.
2) (the I, Claudius option) W wants Congress to strip the Executive of all authority and is doing everything in his power to provoke Congress to action!
3) They've something else in mind.

... and, again:
a) I find it hard to believe that even W believes in Rove's permanent Republican majority.
b) I include option #2 only to be complete. No, this is not plausible.
c) Conclusion: they've something else in mind!

"Something else"? Like what, exactly?

W has no intention of relinquishing the Presidency in Jan 2009. A pretext will be created to enable him to remain as Imperator G.W. Bush I, founder of a grand imperial dynasty.

Do I believe this? With each new expansion of Executive power my skepticism is diminished.

The pretext? see previous post.

Fun stuff: W channels Jack McCoy

Law and Order
season 8, episode 158, "Thrill" (1997)
[paraphrased... I'd be grateful to get the exact quotation]
Jack McCoy: There's nothing to prevent the prosecution from presenting two different theories of the crime to two different juries in simultaneous trials.

Judge Urged Not to Ask About CIA Tapes
By MATT APUZZO Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON Dec 15, 2007 (AP)
... In court documents filed Friday night, government lawyers told U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy that demanding information about the tapes would interfere with current investigations by Congress and the Justice Department.
On Friday, the Justice Department urged Congress to hold off on questioning witnesses and demanding documents because that evidence is part of a joint CIA-Justice Department investigation.

Two different venues, two different "theories of the crime"!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Strategic Objectives

In at least one previous post I’ve noted the futility of discussing strategy in Iraq absent any clearly-stated strategic objective. If we don’t know where we want to end up, it’s pretty pointless discussing how we’re going to get there!

I’d like now to extend this notion beyond the Iraq quandary, and to suggest that most current political dialog centers on discussions of strategy with a glaring absence of any clearly articulated strategic objectives. Immigration, anti-terrorism, taxation, even the role of religion in politics – all are discussions of ‘how’, without context – “What do we want to achieve?”

“We need to limit Iran’s influence in the Persian Gulf.” Why? Because Iran is “bad”? What do we want to achieve in the Persian Gulf region? - what is our strategic objective?

“We need to restrict illegal immigration.” Why? Because it’s “illegal”? – this could be changed by legislative fiat immediately! What do we want an immigration policy to achieve?

Furthermore, I’ll assert again that discussions of strategy in the absence of well-articulated strategic objectives are fruitless: If we don’t know where we want to end up, it’s impossible to figure out how to get there!

So, what are the nation’s strategic objectives? I do not need polling or focus-groups or think-tanks to answer this question. The answer was provided 220 years ago, by the Framers:

United States Constitution
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Here are our strategic objectives:
1) to form a more perfect union
2) to establish justice
3) to insure domestic tranquility
4) to provide for the common defense
5) to promote the general welfare
6) to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity

Let’s start here and see where it goes!

the myth of private sector efficiency, continued

Previous post noted need for iron-clad contractual controls when government awards no-bid contracts.

That these controls have not been incorporated in current contracts reflects two dominant characteristics of W's Administration:
1) "Controls" sound a lot like "regulations", and this Administration firmly believes that "regulation" is wrong. The Administration's consistent policy has been to denigrate regulation as the bane of business. Regulation is seen as unwarranted and unhealthy interference in "the market" - even when, as in the case of no-bid contracts, no "market" exists.

2) Including contractual controls in no-bid contracts implies a belief that the Government's job is to govern. This Administration has never believed in governing. Post-war planning? That implies "governing". Coveted government appointments have gone repeatedly to Republican loyalists, as the spoils of electoral victory - seldom to individuals with any competence relevant to the particular job. If, as Thomas Paine suggests, "That government is best which governs least", then W's is one of the best governments in history. W likes to give speeches - and he's given some very good ones! - but there is NEVER any follow-up to take actions that would actually achieve any of the initiatives proposed in these speeches. Saying the words is sufficient.

4+ years on, we face an indefinite presence in Iraq, at a current stated cost of ~$200,000,000,000/year. Our strategic goal? Who knows? Where is the money going? Who knows? BUT... the Halliburtons, Parsons, and KBRs of the world seem quite happy with the status quo... must be good for us all!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Republican myth: Private Sector is inherently efficient

The great Republican myth: private enterprise is inherently efficient.

No, it’s not.

Private enterprise is focused solely on the bottom line. What drives efficiency in the private sector is market-driven competition.

If you give folks no-bid contracts on a cost-plus basis, you’ll get reamed – as we have been reamed by Blackwater, Halliburton, Parsons, and every other contractor in Iraq. Who cares if the materials are sub-standard and the workmanship is shoddy? I made money for my stockholders which is my ONLY obligation! You want me to be efficient and effective? You better provide plausible competition!

Publicly-held companies owe a LEGAL obligation only to the stockholders. If they can make money by providing no value-added product or service, so much the better. Privately-held companies are bound by NO legal constraints - their sole focus is on enriching the owners! This is not a bad thing, but it makes a lie of the Republican shibboleth that private enterprise is inherently efficiency.

In the absence of a market, government regulations can prod efficiency.

You want to get something in return for the $ you're paying on a no-bid contract? You better have some iron-clad controls in place!

You want the product to be non-polluting? Impose external, regulatory requirements on the entire industry. Only then will all players have an interest in providing efficient business and manufacturing processes to achieve the mandated requirements.

We do NOT live in Adam Smith's ideal market. We never have. We never will. Government does have a role in shaping the market to serve the public good, while at the same time enabling private enterprise to thrive!

How many years did we give Big Oil an "oil depletion allowance"? This was far from the unfettered market at work.

Parsons, KBR, Halliburton, Blackwater... we've designed a contracting system that invites abuse, that comes close to guaranteeing we'll get little or nothing for our $... all in the name of a mythical private-sector efficiency. It doesn't have to be this way!

Stop the madness!

"Liberty City 7": maybe NOT a clear & present danger! (shocking!)

Jurors deadlock on 6 of 7 in Sears plot
13 Dec 2007
MIAMI - In a stinging defeat for the Bush administration, one of seven Miami men accused of plotting to join forces with al-Qaida to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower was acquitted Thursday, and the case against the rest ended in a hung jury.

Seven defendants.
One acquittal.
Six mistrials.

Doesn't sound like the slam dunk the Administration promised when arrests were made.

Meanwhile, Osama bin Laden (remember him?) is still at large... and W doesn't seem to care - though I DO expect to hear something about him during 2008 "State of the Union." ho-hum.

Stop the madness!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

$196Bn/yr for Iraq, no problem... $7Bn/yr for SCHIP: too expensive!

... and none of that $7Bn/yr would go to Big Insurance Bush buds... unlike the $196Bn/yr, much of which WILL go to the inept-but-well-connected BigBiz Bud's of Bush!

Bush vetoes kids health insurance bill
By JENNIFER LOVEN, Associated Press Writer
12 Dec 2007
WASHINGTON - President Bush vetoed legislation Wednesday that would have expanded government-provided health insurance for children, his second slap-down of a bipartisan effort in Congress to dramatically increase funding for the popular program.
"This bill does not put poor children first, and it moves our country's health care system in the wrong direction," Bush's statement said. "Ultimately, our nation's goal should be to move children who have no health insurance to private coverage, not to move children who already have private health insurance to government coverage."
The bill Bush vetoed would have increased federal funding for SCHIP by $35 billion over five years, to add an estimated 4 million people to the program that provides insurance coverage for children from families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private insurance.

[emphasis added]

W's priorities: supporting the insurance industry! ... and who cares about the kids!

Compare: an additional $35Bn for five years versus $196Bn this year for Iraq!!!

Stop the madness!

Letter to DSCC[DCCC]... sent 12 Dec 2007


Realizing that messages from “we the people” are not understood unless accompanied by $, I enclose a check to DSCC[DCCC] for $2.71[$2.29].

The routine coupling of "Congressional Democrats" with predicates like "back down", "cave", and "surrender" convinces me that the current crop of Congressional Dems does not deserve my support.

If you can't stand up to W, how can you stand up to al Qaeda?

I volunteered for Dem candidate in 2006 (a losing candidate I'm afraid).
I'll likely volunteer for Dem candidate in 2008.

Nevertheless, if current crop of Dems continues to cave to W, my extra $ will go exclusively to ActBlue candidates, even against Dem incumbents.

I've voted 3rd-party before, I can easily do so again. If you're a Dem voting to support W's failed policies (too many to list), I'm agin' ya!

We - the voters (I among them) - gave you Congressional majorities in 2006 for a reason: to oppose W. You ain't doin' it! 2008 could be a nasty surprise if others adopt my attitude.

Stop the madness!

[my name]
[my address]
Occupation: statistician
Employer: [my employer]
Yes, I am a U.S. citizen
Yes, the check for $2.71[$2.29] is from my personal bank account, given voluntarily to DSCC[DCCC]

note: 2 is prime; 71 is prime; 271 is prime; hence $2.71

2 is prime; 29 is prime; 229 is prime; hence $2.29

$2.29 + $2.71 = $5.00... a nice number for my check register...

Both $2.29 & $2.71 seem sufficiently insulting to perhaps get someone's attention!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Treaty of Tripoli (1796)

(thanks to Geoffrey R. Stone for pointing this out!)

The Treaty of Tripoli
Article XI
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
[emphasis added]

From Wikipedia entry:
Official records show that after President John Adams sent the treaty to the Senate for ratification in May 1797, the entire treaty was read aloud on the Senate floor, including the famous words in Article 11, and copies were printed for every Senator. A committee considered the treaty and recommended ratification, and the treaty was ratified by a unanimous vote of all 23 Senators. It was the 339th time a recorded vote was taken in the Senate and only the third time a unanimous result was obtained. The treaty was reprinted in full in three newspapers, two in Philadelphia and one in New York City. There is no record of any public outcry or complaint in subsequent editions of the papers.
[emphasis added]

Gentle reminder:
U.S. Constitution
Article VI
This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.
[emphasis added]

Tilting at Windmills: Charles Houston, "separate but equal", and the "state secrets privilege"

Charles Houston slowly but methodically attacked the "separate but equal" doctrine first enunciated by the Supreme Court in its 1896 decision, Plessy v. Ferguson. Beginning in 1938 he chose cases with care to nail shut the coffin of "separate but equal", choosing access to public education as the arena in which to demonstrate that separate was inherently not equal.

His efforts were rewarded after his death in the Supreme Court's landmark 1954 decision, Brown v. Board of Education.

I would like to suggest a similar incremental strategy to attack the "state secrets privilege", first formally enunciated by the Supreme Court in the 1953 decision United States v. Reynolds.

An incremental attack might start by attacking the presumption that,
"Where there is a strong showing of necessity, the claim of privilege should not be lightly accepted, but even the most compelling necessity cannot overcome the claim of privilege if the court is ultimately satisfied that military secrets are at stake."

The following facts might be asserted to undermine the presumption that the government's assertion of privilege is sacrosanct.
In 2000, the accident reports were declassified and released, and were found to contain no secret information. They did, however, contain information about the poor state of condition of the aircraft itself, which would have been very compromising to the Air Force's case. Many commentators have alleged government misuse of secrecy in the landmark case.

This documented governmental abuse of the privilege from its inception might provide the wedge to open the door. The current Administration has not been shy in asserting the privilege under much shadier circumstances. It's time to shed some light on OUR government.

Always remember,
"We the people... do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Any bright, young attorney out there willing to tilt at this windmill?

May we return to smoke-filled rooms? PLEASE!

I frequently comment to friends & colleagues that I couldn't have hand-picked a better slate of Republican presidential wannabes.

Unfortunately, I suspect my Republican counterparts might say the same about the current crop of Democratic presidential wannabes.

This is the best America has to offer?

I believe we need a law to the effect that anyone who VOLUNTEERS to be a Presidential candidate is, by that very act of volunteering, automatically disqualified from running!

My view of the past is as warped as anyone's, but REALLY: how did we get Huckabee-Giuliani-Romney vs Clinton-Obama? (I've really nothing against Obama - I just happen to agree with some pundit that the Presidency isn't an entry-level position!)

Anyone for a return to the time-honored smoke-filled room? We couldn't do any worse!

Monday, December 10, 2007

A repeat: "Give the Devil benefit of Law?" YES!


From Robert Bolt's, A Man for All Seasons

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
[emphasis added]

This in a nutshell is the argument against torture, against "extraordinary rendition", against extra-legal anti-terrorist tactics of any kind. Those laws we ignore to get the bad guys are the very laws that protect US! We ignore them at our peril.

Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!

What have we become?

Tonight on "Live with Dan Abrams", Arianna Huffington observed that
"... torture is against the United States Constitution, and torture is not effective..."

Dan Abrams countered this with...
"The AP's reporting today that Zubaydah's water-boarding actually led to capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed..."

Abrams advanced this as a serious argument for the effectiveness of torture.

[Note: Abrams did NOT cite completely fabricated al Qaeda-Iraq link provided by some other schmuck under torture... "evidence" cited by Sec State Powell at the U.N.!]

"Terrorism expert" Cliff May contributed that, "I'm willing to give him [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] an uncomfortable afternoon in order to save American lives..."

What have we become?
"an uncomfortable afternoon"???... nice euphemism for TORTURE!

We've NOT captured Osama - should we be crushing more testicles? Has our failure been that we've been too gentle? Too civil?

... and I believe all Republican candidates - except McCain - have essentially embraced torture as official policy.


Sunday, December 9, 2007

Watch list: AP photographer gets first hearing

By KIM GAMEL, Associated Press Writer
Sun Dec 9
BAGHDAD - An Iraqi investigating magistrate on Sunday convened the first criminal hearing in the case of Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein, who has been held by the U.S. military without charges for nearly 20 months.

Hussein was present for most of the nearly seven-hour, closed-door proceeding in the Central Criminal Court of Iraq before magistrate Dhia al-Kinani. It was the first time Hussein or his lawyers have seen any of the materials gathered by the U.S. military against him since his arrest in Ramadi on April 12, 2006.

Al-Kinani, however, issued an order that the proceedings and details of the material presented remain secret.
Under Iraqi law, al-Kinani will review the material and recommend whether the defendant should stand trial before a three-judge panel.

... "Bilal Hussein and his lawyers have finally had a chance to learn about the allegations that the U.S. military has withheld from them since they imprisoned Bilal 20 months ago. But, they were not given a copy of the materials that were presented today, and which they need to prepare a defense for Bilal. We would hope that we have an opportunity to review the material."

Gardephe strongly protested the refusal of the U.S. military to allow him to meet with Hussein privately. Since the U.S. decided Nov. 19 to send the case to the criminal court, a U.S. soldier and a military interpreter have been in the room whenever Gardephe has seen Hussein, allowing no privacy to plan a defense.

"You cannot prepare a defendant for a criminal trial with the prosecutor in the room," said Gardephe...

This should be interesting!

one more thing I'd like to hear from Dem Presidential Candidates...

Early on in the debate season - perhaps last summer(?) - at least one Dem candidate made the point, "anyone on this stage would make a better President that any of the Republicans."

I'd like to see a return to this Democratic ecumenism, between the sniping.

Yes, I know each candidate wants to distinguish him/her-self from the rest, but still... in the end only one of 'em will be the nominee. Is it too much to ask that each one of 'em go out of his or her way to make it clear that ANY Democrat is preferable to ANY Republican?

It could be very simple. "Before responding to Congressman Kucinich's remarks, I'd like to make it clear that he would make a far better President than any of the Republican candidates. That said, let me emphasisze that I think I would make a better President than Congressman Kucinich, and this is why, getting back to his comments..."

THIS is the speech I'd like to hear!

This speech is from the movie, The American President. President Andrew Shepherd [Michael Douglas] is responding to a question about attacks on his character by his challenger, Sen. Bob Rumson [Richard Dreyfuss].

The full speech is a bit longer... here's a slightly shorter version:

For the last couple of months, Senator Rumson has suggested that being President of this country was, to a certain extent, about character. And although I've not been willing to engage in his attacks on me, I have been here three years and three days, and I can tell you without hesitation: Being President of this country is entirely about character.

For the record, yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU, but the more important question is "Why aren't you, Bob?" Now this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the question, why would a senator, his party's most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the constitution? Now if you can answer that question, folks, then you're smarter than I am, because I didn't understand it until a few hours ago.

America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say, "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours." You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms.

Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.
We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who's to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.
We've got serious problems, and we need serious people. ... If you want to talk about character and American values, fine. Just tell me where and when, and I'll show up. This a time for serious people, Bob, and your fifteen minutes are up.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

"... deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed"

CIA, Justice open videotape probe
By PAMELA HESS, Associated Press Writer
8 Dec 2007
WASHINGTON - The Justice Department and the CIA's internal watchdog announced Saturday a joint inquiry into the spy agency's destruction of videotaped interrogations of two suspected terrorists as the latest scandal to rock U.S. intelligence gathered steam.

This is being done in OUR name!

"We the people... do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

It's time to reclaim OUR government!

What is being done in our name without our consent? Will we ever know? "We the people" ARE the government - not W's Administration... not ANYONE's Admininstration. "We the people" can no longer tolerate the arbitrary exercise of Executive power in OUR name!

Stop the madness!

Pot, meet Kettle!

Gates says Iran seeks to cause chaos
By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer
8 Dec 2007
MANAMA, Bahrain - Pentagon chief Robert Gates lashed out at Iran on Saturday for seeking to cause chaos "everywhere you turn" regardless of the blood spilled...

How can you satirize this stuff?

Okay - I can't. So I won't try.

Let's try something else: "constructive criticism". Might there be a different approach to Iran to get us closer to our strategic objectives in the region? Something like at least pretending to engage in adult conversation instead of name-calling? Let's face it - the name-calling routine hasn't worked very well.

Gentle reminder: a popular definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over, and expect different results!

Our fearless, stalwart, principled Democratic Leaders!

Dems to back down on war money
By ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer
8 Dec 2007
WASHINGTON - After weeks of tough talk, Democrats appear resigned to back down again on providing money for the Iraq war.

As mentioned in one of my very first posts, it's headlines like this that have made me re-think my support of DCCC & DSCC. The routine coupling of "Congressional Democrats" with predicates like "back down", "cave", and "surrender" convinces me that the current crop of Congressional Dems does not deserve my support.

If they can't stand up to W, how can they stand up to al Qaeda?

Friday, December 7, 2007

"foundation of faith": an Apologia

Main Entry: ap·o·lo·gia
Pronunciation: \ˌa-pə-ˈlō-j(ē-)ə\
Function: noun
Etymology: Late Latin
Date: 1784
: a defense especially of one's opinions, position, or actions

Word of the Day: desultory
Main Entry: des·ul·to·ry
Pronunciation: \ˈde-səl-ˌtȯr-ē also -zəl-\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin desultorius, literally, of a circus rider who leaps from horse to horse, from desilire to leap down, from de- + salire to leap
Date: 1581
1 : marked by lack of definite plan, regularity, or purpose
2 : not connected with the main subject

In post below I stated that I was an agnostic. This assertion was followed a few lines later by the rhetorical exhange:
"Do I believe in God? No."

So why do I not characterize myself as an atheist?

Simple, short answer: the shrill, strident certainty of professed atheists is off-putting. For me the truth-value of the proposition "G-d exists" is unknown and unknowable. If I am unwilling to profess faith in G-d, I am no more willing to positively assert G-d's non-existence.

Full disclosure: I sing in a Lutheran church choir.

As an undergraduate I took classes in Old Testament history, New Testament theology, and Mesopotamian Religion & Thought - offered jointly by the College and the Divinity School. I have an affinity for religious metaphor. (I recommended the class on Mesopotamian Religion & Thought to others as a sure "A" - they didn't have the same impression of the class as I!)

Most everyone I know is a believer. I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which at the time could be honestly described by Time Magazine as "the buckle of the Bible Belt."

I am not ignorant of the Judaeo-Christian tradition of which I am a product! I simply don't believe.

I participate in church service to the extent I can without offending my conscience. During the "prayers of the people" I am more than happy to respond, "Hear our prayer." I recite the Lord's Prayer (more on this below). I cannot in good conscience recite the Creed. I do not take Communion. (I am the only non-communicant in the choir.)

Why do I attend church? To sing in the choir. I really like singing choral music. Church provides the opportunity to sing choral music weekly!

As promised: more on my recitation of the "Lord's Prayer."
I learned the Lord's Prayer in 4th-grade, in public school! One of my classmates - Penny (last name now long-forgotten) - requested of the teacher, Mrs. Shaner, that she be allowed to lead the class in prayer to begin each day. Park Elementary School; Casper, Wyoming; 1961. Later that year I was in hospital for some now-forgotten reason. On the wall of the hospital ward was an embroidered copy of the Lord's Prayer - I was surprised to see the words I'd been reciting in class on the wall of the ward!

My high school girlfriend was a preacher's daughter. Don Newby - her dad - was one of the finest men I have ever known. I attended a few church 'retreats' with her - and always found myself playing the role of resident atheist. It was fun.

I've not read the entire Bible, but am sufficiently familiar with it that I can find the Sunday texts without needing helpful, "the reading can be found on page xxx of your pew Bible."

I believe the Bible to be men's responses to what they perceived as the Divine in history. I believe the Qur'an is likewise one man's response to what he perceived as his encounter with the Divine. [I've not read the Qur'an... I've read an English paraphrase of the Qur'an - to the believing Muslim, the Qur'an exists only in Arabic: no translation is possible; all translations are at best paraphrases.] I think to myself, "Maybe Gabriel was deaf." ... the Qur'an being the words of G-d recited to Mohammed by the angel Gabriel directly from G-d... What if Gabriel didn't hear so well?

"And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." (Luke 6:31)
This seems like a reasonable rule by which to live.

“L’État, c’est moi”

In FISA Speech, Whitehouse Sharply Criticizes Bush Administration's Assertion of Executive Power
7 Dec 2007
... For years under the Bush Administration, the Office of Legal Counsel [OLC] within the Department of Justice has issued highly classified secret legal opinions related to surveillance.
As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I was given access to those opinions, and spent hours poring over them. Sitting in that secure room, as a lawyer, as a former U.S. Attorney, legal counsel to Rhode Island’s Governor, and State Attorney General, I was increasingly dismayed and amazed as I read on.
To give you an example of what I read, I have gotten three legal propositions from these OLC opinions declassified. Here they are, as accurately as my note taking could reproduce them from the classified documents.
1. An executive order cannot limit a President. There is no constitutional requirement for a President to issue a new executive order whenever he wishes to depart from the terms of a previous executive order. Rather than violate an executive order, the President has instead modified or waived it.

2. The President, exercising his constitutional authority under Article II, can determine whether an action is a lawful exercise of the President’s authority under Article II.

3. The Department of Justice is bound by the President’s legal determinations.

Forgive me if I'm being obtuse, but it seems to me that opinion #2 above logically implies that OLC is asserting unlimited Executive Power.
Opinions #1 & #3 reinforce this assertion by allowing the Executive to over-ride both Executive precedent and statutory limitations.
Am I missing something?

Does W really want to bequeath this legacy of unlimited Executive power to his Democratic successor? [see, e.g., Let's assume they're not idiots, below, for further commentary.]

U.S. Constitution
Article I, section 1
Before he [The President] enter on the execution of his office, he shall take the following oath or affirmation:--"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Article VI
... all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution...

Article II, section 3
... [The President] shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed...

"Iran NIE a game-changer"... NOT! (part 3)

Pentagon thinking on Iran unchanged
By ROBERT BURNS, Associated Press Writer
Fri Dec 7, 2007
WASHINGTON... "There has been no course correction — slowdown, speedup — given to us inside the Joint Staff" for military crisis planning on Iran, based on the intelligence report released Monday, said Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Sattler, the director of strategic plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

No comment.

Ted Rall's good idea

Trim Bush from American History
... Let's begin America's long slog toward moral and political redemption by demanding that our next president's first act be to declare the Bush Administration null and void. Every law and act carried out between 12 noon on January 20, 2001 and January 20, 2009 should just...go...poof. ...
[26 Nov 2007]

I'll add to this:
Give new (presumably Democratic) Attorney General one very specific instruction: bring RICO charges against Republican National Committee.

Voter intimidation, vote suppression, allowing RNC email accounts to be used for official WH business - circumventing Official Records Act, bribery, influence peddling... I'm sure an energetic young organized crime DoJ prosecutor could find plenty more evidence of RNC corruption.

Sure, Republicans would claim it was just a political stunt, but the prosecution's closing statement could be a doozy:
"RNC has used its corrupt influence to undermine our democracy, our Constitution!... more dangerous to America than any Mafia don..." ... etc.

With the expanded Executive powers bequeathed by W to his Democratic successor, this isn't that much of a stretch! (extralegal wiretaps, anyone?)

a lesson for Congressional Democrats

Russia ignores Rice's call for sanctions
By MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Writer
7 Dec 2007

See how it's done, folks?

Why can't we see a headline like Congressional Dems ignore W's call for _____ [insert your favorite W demand!]

Would Putin be available to tutor our fearless Dem leaders? How much would he charge?

"Ignore", "Mock", "Ridicule", "Defy"... these are verbs I'd like to see with Congress as subject and W as object. Just one headline would do... for now.

Struggling to find the perfect Xmas gift?

Here are a couple of recommendations:

Miracle At Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention May - September 1787

Your Rugged Constitution: How America's House of Freedom Is Planned and Built
(This was my 8th-grade Civics text. I still have a copy, well-thumbed!)

The Genius of America: How the Constitution Saved Our Country--and Why it Can Again
(I'm making this recommendation based only on reviews. I've asked for this one for myself for Xmas!)

If not for a loved one, maybe send one of these to your Senator or Representative - it's a plausible inference that most of 'em haven't read the Constitution since 8th-grade!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

"the foundation of faith upon which our Constitution rests"???

The Constitution of the United States of America
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Forgive me: I can discern no "foundation of faith" in these words.

"Religion" is mentioned once in the Constitution (including Amendments):
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...
Amendment 1

The derivative, "religious", is likewise mentioned once: religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
Article VI, paragraph 3

Again, forgive me: I am unable to discern in these words a "foundation of faith" underlying them.

In civic ritual I repeat the words, "under God." I can sing with appropriate emotion, "God bless America." I am an agnostic. I regard my participation in these civic rituals as a concommitant of citizenship, not as a profession of faith. Do I believe in God? No. Do I believe myself a good U.S. citizen? Yes.

I am disturbed by any implication that my non-belief in any way excludes me from civic life, or somehow makes me an inferior, even second-class citizen.

As a good Baptist reads the Bible as a guide to faith, so do I read the U.S. Constitution as a guide to my civic responsibility. I believe it - as THE document which establishes the United States of America - is worthy of study.

The Preamble makes clear that "We the people of the United States... do ordain and establish this Constitution" in order to secure very secular objectives: "to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."

This is a secular creed, not a religious manifesto.

a logical fallacy: Post hoc, ergo propter hoc

Recent headlines regarding the increase in teen pregnancy rates (e.g., U.S. teen pregnancy rate rises) have provoked more than a few folks to condemn W's funding of "abstinence only" sex-education programs.

Now, I think "abstinence only" programs are pretty silly, and there's some legitimate research available that suggests they're not effective,...
BUT... the observation that teen pregnancy rates have increased after W funded "abstinence only" programs does NOT imply that W's funding of "abstinence only" programs caused the increase in teen pregnancy rates.

This reasoning is an example of a classical logical fallacy:
Post hoc, ergo propter hoc
... which is Latin (this really is a classical fallacy!) for
"After this, therefore because of this."

The Wikipedia entry is pretty good:
"Post hoc is a particularly tempting error because temporal sequence appears to be integral to causality. The fallacy lies in coming to a conclusion based solely on the order of events, rather than taking into account other factors that might rule out the connection. Most familiarly, many superstitious beliefs and magical thinking arise from this fallacy."

Note: W's funding of "abstinence only" programs may, in fact, be the cause of the recent increase in teen pregnancy. BUT the arguments advanced to date are not logically compelling! If the case can be made, make it!... but don't rely on intellectually lazy and dishonest argumentation!

Regarding the relationship to "magical thinking", one recent example (from yesterday!) is Senator Clinton's observation that the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment caused Iran to reduce its influence in Iraq!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Warning: raw conspiracy theory ahead... (part 2)

Full disclosure: I'm just a guy writing fun stuff for my own amusement, commenting on news I find interesting, scary, bizarre. It is therefore a bit weird to have a major premise of yesterday's post, Warning: raw conspiracy theory ahead, at least partially confirmed by what TPM suggests are "some pretty knowledgeable DC insiders."

Here's the link:
Iran: Focus on Iraq, not Nuclear Weapons
... and here are a few relevant quotes:
In our last key judgment on Iran, we noted that the main driver of possible military action has switched from Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program to Iranian activities in Iraq. This conclusion is hardening... the WMD argument will not gain traction from the IC [Intelligence Community]. Iraq, however, is a different story. Pentagon officials have told us that the stress on the Iranian threat to Iraqi stability in the Petraeus and Crocker testimony is entirely deliberate. These officials say that the Sunni elements with whom the US military has been cutting deals in Anbar province are violently “anti-Persian” and have convinced US commanders to see Iranian meddling as the source of destabilization.

My "raw conspiracy theory" relied heavily on Kyl-Lieberman Amendment to provide justification for military action against Iran. Three of the four points cited against Iran in Kyl-Lieberman are related to regional stability, and Iran's destabilizing interference in Iraq!

I must be psychic! Maybe I should hang out a shingle!

Who knew? WH speech writers are WGA members!

That, at least, would explain W's continual recycling of old speeches:
Bush calls on Iran to 'come clean'
AP, 5 Dec 2007

"It is up to Iraq to show exactly where it is hiding its banned weapons, lay those weapons out for the world to see, and destroy them as directed. Nothing like this has happened."
President George W. Bush, State of the Union, Jan 2003

Justices grill Gitmo detainees' lawyer

By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer
5 Dec 2007
WASHINGTON - A lawyer for the detainees at Guantanamo Bay underwent a barrage of questions Wednesday from Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia, with the attorney portraying the case as a fundamental test of the U.S. system of justice.
Roberts and Scalia questioned whether the detainees are entitled to hearings in civilian courts.

"Show me one case" down through the centuries where circumstances similar to those at Guantanamo Bay entitled an alien to challenge his detention in civilian courts, said Scalia.

[emphasis added]

Yes, well, that's the point, isn't it? "Down through the centuries" circumstances similar to those at Guantanamo Bay have been signatures of lawless, despotic regimes! My understanding of MY COUNTRY is that it is a country of laws, not arbitrary power.

The supposed "legal basis" for denying Guantanamo detainees the right to challenge their detention is "last year's Military Commissions Act, strips federal courts of their ability to hear detainee cases." [quote lifted from the AP article cited above]

Though I am NOT a Constitutional scholar - what I know about the Constitution I learned in 8th-grade Civics - it seems to me that the following pretty much limits Congress's power to circumvent the federal courts:
U.S. Constitution
Article I, section 8
"The Congress shall have power to... constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court"
[emphasis added]

Under this paragraph, Congress hath not the competence to place Military Tribunals outside the federal court system - at the very least, the Supreme Court is superior to these Tribunals.

Am I missing something?

Stop the madness!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Warning: raw consipiracy theory ahead!

"The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason, but . . . there have always been three fundamental concerns. One is weapons of mass destruction, the second is support for terrorism, the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people."
Paul Wolfowitz on reasons for invading Iraq,
Vanity Fair, May 2003
[sorry - the only link I have is to Weekly Standard article, What Wolfowitz Really Said by Willian Kristol that quotes the interview at length.]

Iran NIE debunks Iranian nuclear threat?
Not a problem!

The Kyl-Lieberman Amendment provides several alternative "concerns", any one of which could justify attacking Iran:
1) "... the capability of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to pose a threat to the security of the region [the Persian Gulf and the Middle East]."
2) "... it is a vital national interest of the United States to prevent the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran from turning extremist Shi'a militia in Iraq into a Hezbollah-like force..."
3) "... it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran..."
4) "... the United States should designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization..."

Four (4) perfectly good excuses to attack Iran - and Iran's nuclear threat is not among them!

... and who's back in town?
Rice plans to name Wolfowitz to advisory panel
Reuters, 3 Dec 2007
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Paul Wolfowitz, forced to resign from the World Bank because of his role in obtaining a high-paying promotion for his companion, is slated to chair a U.S. State Department advisory panel on arms control, a U.S. official said on Monday.

Can this really be coincidence or, alternatively, simply extremely poor judgment?
Or is there a more sinister explanation?

Note the heading of this post: "Warning: raw conspiracy theory ahead!"... of course I'm going to opt for the more sinister explanation!

W's legacy - which he worries about (he has on occasion compared himself to the first President George W!) - is crumbling. W knows this. A Democratic successor in 2009 would seal his fate - a Democratic successor would work feverishly to undo all the damage W has managed in eight years. Who knows, maybe W worries that with the expanded Presidential power his successor will inherit, even the history books will be re-written to omit his Administration!

[full disclosure: with the exception of the references to Wolfowitz, what follows is copy/pasted in its entirety from a previous post, Let's assume they're not idiots.]

Let's assume the Democratic candidate leads in the polls come 15 Oct 2008. This is not an unwarranted assumption.

The W cabal cannot afford to hand over his carefully crafted expansive Executive to the Democrats. What other option do they have?


With Wolfowitz's help, orchestrate a "clear and present danger": an imminent threat to the the nation! With the help of the CIA and whatever other Executive agencies can help, stage a terrorist attack on the U.S. It probably isn't that hard to manipulate Hezbollah - give 'em some money, suggest a target. Hezbollah as the enemy has two advantages:
1. they are a non-state actor
2. they can easily and plausibly be linked to Iran

[The need to orchestrate a "clear and present danger" helps to explain why Wolfowitz is now rejoining W's Administration! - he was a great fabulist as Undersecretary of Defense, providing much of the narrative that led us into Iraq!]

So, come 16 Oct, the U.S. experiences a terrorist attack from Hezbollah.

In response, W declares a "state of emergency" (learning lessons from his best bud, Musharraf). Martial law is declared. Elections are cancelled. The Permanent Republican Executive becomes a fact.

W could even cite the U.S. Constitution to justify adjourning Congress - permanently:
Article II, Section 3
"... [The President] may adjourn them [both Houses of Congress] to such time as he shall think proper"
[note: the introductory ellipsis ("...") is crucial to this reading!]

Do I believe this? ... well, not quite. BUT: neither will I be surprised if Dems are ahead in the polls in Oct and the U.S. is hit by terrorists a few weeks before the election!