Archive for the ‘weird bush stuff’ Category

thanks for hanging in there for the last 8 years

November 8, 2008

stevens

Bush v Gore (2000) Dissenting Opinion On Stolen Election

“Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today’s decision. One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.”

What happens to the Republican Party after the election?

November 2, 2008

What happens to the Republican Party after the election?

A vital opposition party being essential in a two-party system, the fate of the Republican Party will deserve almost as much attention as the activities of the newly dominant Democratic Party.

  1. Collapse of the Republican Party
  2. Defectors from the Party
  3. Door #1:  Purge the Party’s membership, keeping only the faithful
  4. Door #2:  reflection and rebuilding
  5. A historical note on the two Party system

1.  Collapse of the Republican Party

After a quarter-century in power, to varying degrees, the Republican Party not only faces defeat but disintegration, political and intellectual.  The Administrations of the two Bushes have ripped the Party from its modern foundation forged by Barry Goldwater and William Buckley in the 1960’s.  A massive tax increase and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 under Bush Sr., the latter of the largest expansions of Federal power for decades — until Bush Jr.  Bush Jr’s contempt for civil liberties (other than gun control), massive spending and deficits (a Republican tradition since Reagan), massive expansion of government power, pro-open borders, and enthusiasm for foreign wars. 

McCain’s erratic political history — spun as being a “maverick” — gave few signs of change to this mess, other than his steadfast enthusiasm for foreign wars.

As a result the party has almost no doctrinal coherence — what does it stand for?  The only strong, consistent policy is opposition to abortion — a long-term aspect of its platform that has over decades has had little impact on public policy.  Probably because of the strong public consensus for a position between the extreme views held by the two major parties.

Politically the party has alienated many of its core constituencies.  McCain’s long-held contempt for the “religious right”.  Bush Jr’s and McCain’s strong support for open borders –opposing one of the most strongly held beliefs of the party core.  Most of all, Bush Jr’s disastrous management of the domestic economy and our foreign wars.

 

Note:  before commenting that we have won in Iraq, please explain what we have “won” — in terms of American national objectives.

2.  Defectors from the Party

A tangible indication of the Party’s internal weakness is the defection of so many conservatives from McCain-Palin ticket.  This has few parallels in American history.  Here is a partial list of well-known conseratives or Republicans (distinct but overlapping categories) who have expressed serious concerns about Gov Palin’s fitness as a potential President — some to the point of outright support for Obama.

  1. Christopher Buckley (source)
  2. David Frum and Kathleen Parkerat National Review Online.
  3. Peggy Noonan (President Reagan’s speechwriter) at the Wall Street Journal.
  4. Colin Powell.
  5. Kenneth Adelman, long-time diplomat under several Republican administrations (source; bio).
  6. Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and former Securities and Exchange Commissioner William Donaldson (source).
  7. Douglas Kmiec, diplomat, long-time conservative (source; bio).
  8. Lawrence Eagleburger, Sec of State under Bush Sr. and whose endorsement is often cited by McCain, speaking on NPR (AP story, recording) (bio).  Later, his walkback (quote here; video here).
  9. Ken Duberstein, President Reagan’s Chief of Staff, on CNN (bio).

How will the Republican Party’s core react?

3.  Door #1:  Purge the Party’s membership, keeping only the faithful

Door #1 is to purge all but the faithful remnant.  Key Republicans are already digging holes for the stakes and gathering firewood.  Two examples follow.

Sarah Palin’s Future“, Fred Barnes (Executive Editor), Weekly Standard, 27 October 2008 — “Alaska’s most valuable resource.”  Excerpt:

Palin, by the way, is unsure about her ultimate role in national politics even if McCain wins, but it’s bound to be more complicated if he loses.

“I don’t know what kind of role the Republican party would want me to play,” she told me. “In the past, I have not been one to be considered for anything by the hierarchy of the party. Certainly not in my state. In some sense, I ran against my party.”

Palin remains skeptical of Republicans. “I would love to promote the party ideals if we’re going to live out the ideals and maybe allow other American voters to understand what the principles of the party are,” she says. “We’ve got to be assured we have enough people in the party who will live out those ideals and it’s not just rhetoric. Otherwise, I’d be wasting my time. There are a lot of things I would and should be doing.”

Rush Limbaugh spoke more explicitly during his 24 October show: ”Good Riddance, GOP Moderates.”  Excerpt:

This is Sarah Palin to Fred Barnes; and that, ladies and gentlemen, is why the rebuilding of the conservative movement — even if there is no direct leader in charge of making it happen, it will happen by default because it’s going to have to. Even if McCain wins, Colin Powell going to come running back? Is Bill Weld going to come running back? Hell, yes, they will! Hell, yes, they’ll come running back. They’ll do everything they can to stay in the circle of power. Of course they’ll come running back. All these people are out for self-interest. That’s what Sarah Palin is saying. She’s not in it for self-interest. The party had better be what the party is or I don’t have any future in it.

We’re going to rebuild it even if McCain wins. We’re going to have to. These people, these moderates who wanted the big tent, they have taken the party exactly where they said they wanted it to be — and when it got there, these little cowards jumped the ship! I have lost all respect for these people.

And, folks, when I said at the beginning of this that I wanted to turn around and pat myself on the back, it’s because I (and so many like me) knew this exact thing was going to happen and tried to warn people about it during the primaries and so forth. I am not happy it’s happened except for one reason. We flushed ‘em out. We found out they’re not really Republicans and they’re by no means conservatives, and now they’re gone. Now the trick is to keep ‘em out.

What might be the results of this course:

(1)  Becoming irrelevant extremists, like the Green and Socialist parties, as both membership and (equally or more important) funding dwindle. Few Americans, and even fewer in our ruling elites, have much interest in losers.  No matter how pure their ideology.

(2)  The center of gravity to America’s political ideological spectrum shifts left.  In most of America the primaries become the key contests in local, State, and national elections, are they are in so many areas today (due to both local political dominance plus gerrymandering).

4.  Door #2:  reflection and rebuilding

The second option would be far more difficult.  What did the Party do wrong?  How should its platform change to better express its beliefs for the 21st century?  How can it offer something to America that is more than a weak echo of the Democratic Party’s solutions, but not policies attractive only to a small extreme? 

5.  A historical note on the two Party system

For most of American history the two Party’s were divided by cross-cutting fractures, as a result of the Civil War making the South solidly Democratic terrain.  Many of the most conservative factions were in the Democratic Party.

After Johnson’s “New Society” much of the South changed affiliation, but this gave a racist tinge to the Republicans.  This weakened or even polluted the foundation laid by Goldwater and Buckley.

Now Obama gives new life to the Democratic Party, but also an opportunity for a fresh start to the Republican Party.  America needs a strong second party to provide not just alternative policies, but an alternative view of what America should be.  Are the Republicans up to this challenge?

Afterword

If you are new to this site, please glance at the archives below.  You may find answers to your questions in these.

Please share your comments by posting below.  Please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp relevance to this topic:

Some solutions, ways to reform America:

  1. Diagnosing the Eagle, Chapter III – reclaiming the Constitution, 3 January 2008
  2. Obama might be the shaman that America needs, 17 July 2008
  3. Obama describes the first step to America’s renewal, 8 August 2008
  4. Let’s look at America in the mirror, the first step to reform, 14 August 2008  
  5. Fixing America: elections, revolt, or passivity?, 16 August 2008
  6. Fixing American: taking responsibility is the first step, 17 August 2008
  7. Fixing America: solutions — elections, revolt, passivity, 18 August 2008

Questions for Republicans, Democrats, and Others

June 11, 2008

By David Swanson

http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/node/33999

A question for Republicans: Do you want to hand a President Barack Obama the right and power to spy on any American citizens he chooses, including his political opponents, without any court-ordered warrant, in blatant violation of the law and the Fourth Amendment?

A question for Democrats: Do you want to hand a President John McCain, who has already openly said he will use it, the right and power to spy on any American citizens he chooses, including his political opponents, without any court-ordered warrant, in blatant violation of the law and the Fourth Amendment?

A question for everyone: Do you want to give any president, and the presidents after him, this power and all the other powers that have been seized by President George W. Bush? Do you want to have to bet your safety, security, prosperity, and liberty on the chance that each successive president will turn out to be the sort of person able to exercise remarkable resistance to abusing available powers, even though the American colonists fought a revolution so that you wouldn’t have to?

Exactly what illegal power to spy has Bush seized for himself and all future presidents? The ones laid out in the 24th article of impeachment introduced by Congressman Dennis Kucinich on Monday night:

Article XXIV

SPYING ON AMERICAN CITIZENS, WITHOUT A COURT-ORDERED WARRANT, IN VIOLATION OF THE LAW AND THE FOURTH AMENDMENT

In his conduct while President of the United States, George W. Bush, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed”, has both personally and acting through his agents and subordinates, knowingly violated the fourth Amendment to the Constitution and the Foreign Intelligence Service Act of 1978 (FISA) by authorizing warrantless electronic surveillance of American citizens to wit:

(1) The President was aware of the FISA Law requiring a court order for any wiretap as evidenced by the following:

(A)”Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires — a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so.” White House Press conference on April 20, 2004 [White House Transcript]

(B) “Law enforcement officers need a federal judge’s permission to wiretap a foreign terrorist’s phone, or to track his calls, or to search his property. Officers must meet strict standards to use any of the tools we’re talking about.” President Bush’s speech in Baltimore Maryland on July 20th 2005 [White House Transcript]

(2) The President repeatedly ordered the NSA to place wiretaps on American citizens without requesting a warrant from FISA as evidenced by the following:

(A) “Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.” New York Times article by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau on December 12, 2005. [NYTimes]

(B) The President admits to authorizing the program by stating “I have reauthorized this program more than 30 times since the September the 11th attacks, and I intend to do so for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from al Qaeda and related groups. The NSA’s activities under this authorization are thoroughly reviewed by the Justice Department and NSA’s top legal officials, including NSA’s general counsel and inspector general. Leaders in Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this authorization and the activities conducted under it.” Radio Address from the White House on December 17, 2005 [White House Transcript]

(C) In a December 19th 2005 press conference the President publicly admitted to using a combination of surveillance techniques including some with permission from the FISA courts and some without permission from FISA.

Reporter: It was, why did you skip the basic safeguards of asking courts for permission for the intercepts?

THE PRESIDENT: … We use FISA still — you’re referring to the FISA court in your question — of course, we use FISAs. But FISA is for long-term monitoring. What is needed in order to protect the American people is the ability to move quickly to detect. Now, having suggested this idea, I then, obviously, went to the question, is it legal to do so? I am — I swore to uphold the laws. Do I have the legal authority to do this? And the answer is, absolutely. As I mentioned in my remarks, the legal authority is derived from the Constitution, as well as the authorization of force by the United States Congress.” [White House Transcript]

(D) Mike McConnel, the Director of National Intelligence, in a letter to to Senator Arlen Specter, acknowledged that Bush’s Executive Order in 2001 authorized a series of secret surveillance activities and included undisclosed activities beyond the warrantless surveillance of e-mails and phone calls that Bush confirmed in December 2005. “NSA Spying Part of Broader Effort” by Dan Eggen, Washington Post, 8/1/07

(3) The President ordered the surveillance to be conducted in a way that would spy upon private communications between American citizens located within the United States borders as evidenced by the following:

(A) Mark Klein, a retired AT&T communications technician, submitted an affidavit in support of the Electronic Fronteir Foundation’s FF’s lawsuit against AT&T. He testified that in 2003 he connected a “splitter” that sent a copy of Internet traffic and phone calls to a secure room that was operated by the NSA in the San Francisco office of AT&T. He heard from a co-worker that similar rooms were being constructed in other cities, including Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego. From “Whistle-Blower Outs NSA Spy Room”, Wired News, 4/7/06 [Wired] [EFF Case]

(4) The President asserted an inherent authority to conduct electronic surveillance based on the Constitution and the “Authorization to use Military Force in Iraq” (AUMF) that was not legally valid as evidenced by the following:

(A) In a December 19th, 2005 Press Briefing General Alberto Gonzales admitted that the surveillance authorized by the President was not only done without FISA warrants, but that the nature of the surveillance was so far removed from what FISA can approve that FISA could not even be amended to allow it. Gonzales stated “We have had discussions with Congress in the past — certain members of Congress — as to whether or not FISA could be amended to allow us to adequately deal with this kind of threat, and we were advised that that would be difficult, if not impossible.”.

(B) The fourth amendment to the United States Constitution states “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.”

(C) “The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 unambiguously limits warrantless domestic electronic surveillance, even in a congressionally declared war, to the first 15 days of that war; criminalizes any such electronic surveillance not authorized by statute; and expressly establishes FISA and two chapters of the federal criminal code, governing wiretaps for intelligence purposes and for criminal investigation, respectively, as the “exclusive means by which electronic surveillance . . . and the interception of domestic wire, oral, and electronic communications may be conducted.” 50 U.S.C. §§ 1811, 1809, 18 U.S.C. § 2511(2)(f).” Letter from Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Tribe to John Conyers on 1/6/06

(D) In a December 19th, 2005 Press Briefing Attorney General Alberto Gonzales stated “Our position is, is that the authorization to use force, which was passed by the Congress in the days following September 11th, constitutes that other authorization, that other statute by Congress, to engage in this kind of signals intelligence.”

(E) The “Authorization to use Military Force in Iraq” does not give any explicit authorization related to electronic surveillance. [HJRes114]

(F) “From the foregoing analysis, it appears unlikely that a court would hold that Congress has expressly or impliedly authorized the NSA electronic surveillance operations here under discussion, and it would likewise appear that, to the extent that those surveillances fall within the definition of “electronic surveillance” within the meaning of FISA or any activity regulated under Title III, Congress intended to cover the entire field with these statutes.” From the “Presidential Authority to Conduct Warrantless Electronic Surveillance to Gather Foreign Intelligence Information” by the Congressional Research Service on January 5, 2006.

(G) “The inescapable conclusion is that the AUMF did not implicitly authorize what the FISA expressly prohibited. It follows that the presidential program of surveillance at issue here is a violation of the separation of powers — as grave an abuse of executive authority as I can recall ever having studied.” Letter from Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Tribe to John Conyers on 1/6/06

(H) On August 17, 2006 Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of the United States District Court in Detroit, in ACLU v. NSA, ruled that the “NSA program to wiretap the international communications of some Americans without a court warrant violated the Constitution. … Judge Taylor ruled that the program violated both the Fourth Amendment and a 1978 law that requires warrants from a secret court for intelligence wiretaps involving people in the United States. She rejected the administration’s repeated assertions that a 2001 Congressional authorization and the president’s constitutional authority allowed the program.” From a New York Times article “Judge Finds Wiretap Actions Violate the Law” 8/18/06 and the Memorandum Opinion

(I) In July 2007, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case, ruling the plaintiffs had no standing to sue because, given the secretive nature of the surveillance, they could not state with certainty that they have been wiretapped by the NSA. This ruling did not address the legality of the surveillance so Judge Taylor’s decision is the only ruling on that issue. [ACLU Legal Documents]

In all of these actions and decisions, President George W. Bush has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, President George W. Bush, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

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The US-Iran sound bite showdown

May 20, 2008

By Pepe Escobar

They just can’t keep from going at each other’s throats.

Just in time for President George W Bush’s special guest appearance at the 60th anniversary of the founding of Israel, his ultimate nemesis, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, unleashed another rhetorical shot across the bow as his own way of “celebrating” the anniversary.

And once again the substance of what Ahmadinejad actually said risks being lost in (mis)translation.

According to Agence France Presse (AFP), quoting the Fars news agency, Ahmadinejad, speaking in the Iranian northern province of Golestan in one of his popular provincial tours, said, “They [Israel] must know that the nations of the region hate this

counterfeit regime. And if there is the slightest chance, they will uproot this counterfeit regime.”

Reuters had a much more bellicose take. According to its translation, “They [Israel] should know that regional nations hate this fake and criminal regime and if the smallest and briefest chance is given to regional nations they will destroy it.”

It is hardly a secret that for a substantial majority of Arab populations in the Middle East – but not for their unrepresentative regimes – an Israel driven by Zionism should not have a place in the region. Thus Israel would qualify as a “counterfeit” regime that should be “uprooted”. But this does not mean that Arabs – or Persians – are in favor of the actual physical destruction of Israel.

The Associated Press’s (AP) version of the quote is even more apocalyptic. It reads: “The criminals assume that by holding celebrations … they can save the sinister Zionist regime from death and destruction.” The AP copy notes, “Ahmadinejad used an Arabic word, ismihlal, than can also be translated as destruction, death and collapse.” An Arabic expert contacted by Asia Times Online said ismihlal means basically “to break down in smaller parts”. That’s not exactly nuclear annihilation.

We are back to the situation of Ahmadinejad’s 2005 alleged threat to “wipe Israel off the map”. What he actually said then, quoting his personal icon, the leader of the Islamic revolution in 1979, ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, was that the “regime occupying Jerusalem should vanish from the pages of time”. Yes, this means regime change – as much as the Bush administration always wanted regime change in Tehran. It does not mean a call for a nuclear holocaust.

Now, the fact remains that the Reuters translation – distributed to countless newspapers all over the world – will inevitably be seized by the Bush administration and assorted armchair neo-conservative warriors as yet more evidence that Iran wants to “destroy” Israel – muscling up the case in Washington for a preemptive US attack on Iran.

This week, Philip Giraldi published a groundbreaking story on the American Conservative, according to which the US National Security Council (NSC) has agreed – in principle – on a cruise missile strike against an Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force training camp near Tehran. This would be a sort of “warning” to the Iranian leadership. The only NSC member to urge for a delay was allegedly Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Giraldi carefully noted that Bush “will still have to give the order to launch after all preparations are made”. But the decision to attack seems to have been made.

Annihilation a-go-go
Juicy extras are inevitable when it comes to Ahmadinejad’s runaway tongue at ease in cozy provincial settings. What AFP translates as “the Zionist regime is on the verge of dying … throwing a birthday party for this regime is like having a birthday party for a dead person”, Reuters prefers to package as “the Zionist regime is dying. The criminals imagine that by holding celebrations … they can save the Zionist regime from death”.

But in this case it was up to APTN, the video arm of AP, to provide the meatier translation: “The criminals wrongly suppose that by holding celebrations, coming to the occupied lands of Palestine and supporting these criminals, they can save the resented Zionist regime from death, annihilation and from the claws of Palestinian fighters.”

This is as contextual as what Ahmadinejad had said a day before, in a press conference in Tehran. According to the Deutsche Presse Agentur, the German news agency, he said, “This terrorist and criminal state is backed by foreign powers, but this regime would soon be swept away by the Palestinians.” And he added, “As far as the regional countries are concerned, this regime does not exist.” This is better in terms of framing the anger expressed by Ahmadinejad – as well as the theocratic leadership in Tehran, and most of the Arab world for that matter – towards Israel as a direct consequence of Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians.

It is interesting to note that for the Iranian press, the references to Israel were not even on the map. Press TV, for instance, went with the headline “Ahmadinejad: Tyranny falling from grace”, stressing other parts of the president’s speech, for instance when he said that “tyrannical powers have fallen from grace and the sound of their cracking bones can be heard”.

Whatever Ahmadinejad said, Bush, for his part, totally stuck to script. Even before his arrival in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Bush commented that “the message to Iran is that your desire to have a nuclear weapon, coupled with your statements about the destruction of our close ally, have made it abundantly clear to everybody that we have got to work together to stop you from having a nuclear weapon. To me the single-biggest threat to peace in the Middle East is the Iranian regime.” Once again, a call for regime change.

To add fuel to the fire, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal – in synch with Washington – started accusing Iran of backing a Hezbollah coup in Lebanon. That is predictable, considering that the Hariri clan in Beirut is a Saudi client. But nothing could be further from the truth. Last week, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah was blunt: “Had we wanted a coup, they [government leaders] would have woken up to find themselves in jail, or [thrown) in the sea.”

Nasrallah was cunning enough to see it would be politically impossible for Hezbollah to control Beirut – even though they proved they could do it, on the ground with weapons, in less than 24 hours. Nasrallah also said last week, “If they told us to come and take over, we would say ‘no thank you’.”

There is no evidence the celebrity sound bite showdown will abate any time soon. Bush appears to want war – to bolster his “legacy”. Ahmadinejad, too, might want war to bolster his faltering administration. American and world public opinion can only hope the clock does not run out before a possibly upcoming changing of the guard in the White House.

Just as the rhetoric between Tehran and Washington was once again at red alert levels, former Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Edwards stepped into the ring to announce his endorsement of Democratic Senator Barack Obama in the US presidential race – sucking out the hate waves. “Walls” inside and outside the US may soon come tumbling down, as Edwards hinted in his speech. But the fact remains that the hardline faction in the Bush administration centered around Vice President Dick Cheney still has over five months to fulfill its agenda of regime change in Iran. And the danger is Ahmadinejad will do absolutely nothing to dissuade them.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

Where’s George?

April 23, 2008

Harvey Wasserman

http://www.freepress.org/columns/display/7/2008/1648

So what ever happened to George W. Bush, the worst chief executive this nation has ever endured?

This is an election year. Aren’t we supposed to be evaluating the legacy of the previous administration?

In this case, we have a man whose approval ratings are subterranean. Who’s sunk us into an endless war based on impeachable lies. Who’s dragged our national honor into the toxic mud. Who’s brought us to the brink of depression. Who’s dropped the dollar into the toilet. Who wants more subsidies for terror-target nuke reactors and more tax breaks for CO2-spewing oil barons.

Who screams “Terror! Terror! Terror!” at every possible moment, but lets Osama bin Laden run free.

What would Limbaugh, O’Reilly and the rest of the corporate bloviators be screaming today if a Democrat had hosted the 9/11 attacks and then let their perpetrator roam the world without capture for more than six years?

The only thing the American people can say with pride about George W. Bush is that we never elected him president of the United States.

Is it a surprise that the corporate media has mostly removed this monster from public view? That instead it has Obama and Hillary yelling over such burning issues as flag pins, memory lapses, and the word “bitter”?

The GOP’s very own Nero is now rarely seen. And his puppeteer, Dick “Caligula” Cheney has become equally invisible. When last sighted, he was telling the world that the overwhelming anti-war sentiment of the majority of this once-proud democracy does not matter.

For the record: Nero was the deranged boy-emperor who fiddled while Rome burned. Caligula was the twisted, sadistic torturer-emperor who helped preside over the final demise of a once-great empire. (See the movie of the same name.)

While they should be the daily targets of the Clinton-Obama road show, the ghastly Bush-Cheney has become what Ross Perot said of the national deficit: the crazy aunt that’s stashed in the closet and nobody wants to talk about.

That John McCain will further their policies of endless war on Iraq, on the global environment, on working people and for shredding the Bill of Rights, is patently obvious.

How about Barack and Hillary sign a pact. They can snipe at each other all they want.

But they agree to start each public appearance by reminding everyone who’s in the White House and what he’s done to us all. No matter what moronic questions their debate “moderators” ask them, they can start by asking “Where’s George?”

And then they can say: “When George Bush first ran, you insisted he wasn’t stupid. If that’s true, given what he’s done to the country, what’s his excuse?”

Or is that too much “spin” for prime time?


Harvey Wasserman’s SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH is at http://www.solartopia.org. He is senior editor of http://freepress.org, where this article first appeared.

Families Torn by Citizenship for Fallen

March 24, 2008

bush_bombardier.jpg

A young, ambitious immigrant from Guatemala who dreamed of becoming an architect. A Nigerian medic. A soldier from China who boasted he would one day become an American general. An Indian native whose headstone displays the first Khanda, emblem of the Sikh faith, to appear in Arlington National Cemetery.

These were among more than 100 foreign-born members of the U.S. military who earned American citizenship by dying in Iraq.

Jose Gutierrez was one of the first to fall, killed by friendly fire in the dust of Umm Qasr in the opening hours of the invasion.

In death, the young Marine was showered with honors his family could only have dreamed of in life. His sister was flown in from Guatemala for his memorial service, where a Roman Catholic cardinal presided and top military officials saluted his flag-draped coffin.

And yet, his foster mother agonized as she accompanied his body back for burial in Guatemala City: Why did Jose have to die for America in order to truly belong?

Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, who oversaw Gutierrez’s service, put it differently.

“There is something terribly wrong with our immigration policies if it takes death on the battlefield in order to earn citizenship,” Mahony wrote to President Bush in April 2003. He urged the president to grant immediate citizenship to all immigrants who sign up for military service in wartime.

“They should not have to wait until they are brought home in a casket,” Mahony said.

But as the war continues, more and more immigrants are becoming citizens in death — and more and more families are grappling with deeply conflicting feelings about exactly what the honor means.

Gutierrez’s citizenship certificate — dated to his death on March 21, 2003, — was presented during a memorial service in Lomita, Calif., to Nora Mosquera, who took in the orphaned teen after he had trekked through Central America, hopping freight trains through Mexico before illegally sneaking into the U.S.

“On the one hand I felt that citizenship was too late for him,” Mosquera said. “But I also felt grateful and very proud of him. I knew it would open doors for us as a family.”

“What use is a piece of paper?” cried Fredelinda Pena after another emotional naturalization ceremony, this one in New York City where her brother’s framed citizenship certificate was handed to his distraught mother. Next to her, the infant daughter he had never met dozed in his fiancee’s arms.

Cpl. Juan Alcantara, 22, a native of the Dominican Republic, was killed Aug. 6, 2007, by an explosive in Baqouba. He was buried by a cardinal and eulogized by a congressman but to his sister, those tributes seemed as hollow as citizenship.

“He can’t take the oath from a coffin,” she sobbed.

There are tens of thousands of foreign-born members in the U.S. armed forces. Many have been naturalized, but more than 20,000 are not U.S. citizens.

“Green card soldiers,” they are often called, and early in the war, Bush signed an executive order making them eligible to apply for citizenship as soon as they enlist. Previously, legal residents in the military had to wait three years.

Since Bush’s order, nearly 37,000 soldiers have been naturalized. And 109 who lost their lives have been granted posthumous citizenship.

They are buried with purple hearts and other decorations, and their names are engraved on tombstones in Arlington as well as in Mexico and India and Guatemala.

Among them:

_ Marine Cpl. Armando Ariel Gonzalez, 25, who fled Cuba on a raft with his father and brother in 1995 and dreamed of becoming an American firefighter. He was crushed by a refueling tank in southern Iraq on April 14, 2003.

_ Army Spc. Justin Onwordi, a 28-year-old Nigerian medic whose heart seemed as big as his smiling 6-foot-4 frame and who left behind a wife and baby boy. He died when his vehicle was blown up in Baghdad on Aug. 2, 2004.

_ Army Pfc. Ming Sun, 20, of China who loved the U.S. military so much he planned to make a career out of it, boasting that he would rise to the rank of general. He was killed in a firefight in Ramadi on Jan. 9, 2007.

_ Army Spc. Uday Singh, 21, of India, killed when his patrol was attacked in Habbaniyah on Dec. 1, 2003. Singh was the first Sikh to die in battle as a U.S. soldier, and it is his headstone at Arlington that displays the Khanda.

_ Marine Lance Cpl. Patrick O’Day from Scotland, buried in the California rain as bagpipes played and his 19-year-old pregnant wife told mourners how honored her 20-year-old husband had felt to fight for the country he loved.

“He left us in the most honorable way a man could,” Shauna O’Day said at the March 2003 Santa Rosa service. “I’m proud to say my husband is a Marine. I’m proud to say my husband fought for our country. I’m proud to say he is a hero, my hero.”

Not all surviving family members feel so sure. Some parents blame themselves for bringing their child to the U.S. in the first place. Others face confusion and resentment when they try to bury their child back home.

At Lance Cpl. Juan Lopez’s July 4, 2004, funeral in the central Mexican town of San Luis de la Paz, Mexican soldiers demanded that the U.S. Marine honor guard surrender their arms, even though the rifles were ceremonial. Earlier, the Mexican Defense Department had denied the Marines’ request to conduct the traditional 21-gun salute, saying foreign troops were not permitted to bear arms on Mexican soil.

And so mourners, many deeply opposed to the war, witnessed an extraordinary 45-minute standoff that disrupted the funeral even as Lopez’s weeping widow was handed his posthumous citizenship by a U.S. embassy official.

The same swirl of conflicting emotions and messages often overshadows the military funerals of posthumous citizens in the U.S.

Smuggled across the Mexican border in his mother’s arms when he was 2 months old, Jose Garibay was just 21 when he died in Nasiriyah. The Costa Mesa police department made him an honorary police officer, something he had hoped one day to become. America made him a citizen.

But his mother, Simona Garibay, couldn’t conceal her bewilderment and pain. It seemed, she said in interviews after the funeral, that more value was being placed on her son’s death than on his life.

Immigrant advocates have similar mixed feelings about military service. Non-citizens cannot become officers or serve in high-security jobs, they note, and yet the benefits of citizenship are regularly pitched by recruiters, and some recruitment programs specifically target colleges and high schools with predominantly Latino students.

“Immigrants are lured into service and then used as political pawns or cannon fodder,” said Dan Kesselbrenner, executive director of the National Immigration Project, a program of the National Lawyers Guild. “It is sad thing to see people so desperate to get status in this country that they are prepared to die for it.”

Others question whether non-citizens should even be permitted to serve. Mark Krikorian of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, argues that defending America should be the job of Americans, not non-citizens whose loyalty might be suspect. In granting special benefits, including fast-track citizenship, Krikorian says, there is a danger that soldiering will eventually become yet another job that Americans won’t do.

And yet, immigrants have always fought — and died — in America’s wars.

During the Cvil War, the Union army recruited Irish and German immigrants off the boat. Alfred Rascon, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, received the Medal of Honor for acts of bravery during the Vietnam war. In the 1990s, Gen. John Shalikashvili, born in Poland after his family fled the occupied Republic of Georgia, became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

After the Iraq invasion, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico fielded hundreds of requests from Mexicans offering to fight in exchange for citizenship. They mistakenly believed that Bush’s order also applied to nonresidents.

The right to become an American is not automatic for those who die in combat. Families must formally apply for citizenship within two years of the soldier’s death, and not all choose to do so.

“He’s Italian, better to leave it like that,” Saveria Romeo says of her 23-year-old son, Army Staff Sgt. Vincenzo Romeo, who was born in Calabria, died in Iraq and is buried in New Jersey. A miniature Italian flag marks his grave, next to an American one.

“What good would it do?” she says. “It won’t bring back my son.”

But it would allow her to apply for citizenship for herself, a benefit only recently offered to surviving parents and spouses. Until 2003 posthumous citizenship was granted only through an act of Congress and was purely symbolic. There were no benefits for next of kin.

Romeo says she has no desire to apply. She says she couldn’t bear to benefit in any way from her son’s death. And besides, she feels Italian, not American.

Fernando Suarez del Solar just feels angry — angry at what he considers the futility of a war that claimed his only son, angry at the military recruiters he says courted young Jesus relentlessly even when the family still lived in Tijuana.

His son was just 13, Suarez del Solar said, when he was first dazzled by Marine recruiters in a California mall. For the next two years Jesus begged the family to emigrate and eventually they did, settling in Escondido, Calif., where the teen signed up for the Marines before he left high school.

Lance Cpl. Jesus Suarez Del Solar was 20 when he was killed by a bomb in the first week of the war. He left behind a wife and baby and parents so bitter about his death that they eventually divorced.

Today, his 52-year-old father has become an outspoken peace activist who travels the country organizing anti-war marches, giving speeches and working with counter-recruitment groups to dissuade young Latinos from joining the U.S. military.

“There is nothing in my life now but saving these young people,” he says. “It is just something I feel have to do.”

But first he had to journey to Iraq. He had to see for himself the dusty stretch of wasteland where his son became an American. In tears, he planted a small wooden cross. And he prayed for his son — and for all the other immigrants who became citizens in death.

mission accomplished – Bush has undone a century of progress by the US’s environmental protection movement

March 16, 2008
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By By Kaleem Omar

3/15/2008

President George W. Bush isn’t only hated by people in countries around the world opposed to the US’s invasion, occupation and destruction of Afghanistan and Iraq; he is also hated by many people in his own country opposed to his anti-environmental protection policies. Among other things, those policies have opened up millions of acres of America’s protected national wildlife refuges to oil and gas drilling operations by big US energy companies – putting the pristine wilderness at risk.A century ago, US President Teddy Roosevelt gave Americans the bountiful and enlightened National Wildlife Refuge System – the world’s first such system and one of America’s glories.There are national wildlife refuges in every American state, important centres for the preservation of a sense of wildness in each place. In addition, these refuges have served as models for states like New York, which have created their own supplemental patchwork of refuges large and small.

As much as anything, the refuge safety net has created a long-standing public policy for establishing wildlife sanctuaries, and the tacit understanding that without them, the wilderness is doomed.

As New York State’s Albany Times-Union newspaper noted, “For a century, a critical underpinning of America’s view of wilderness has been that we can’t live without it. It’s our heritage. National forests and parks have steadily grown in numbers and size, and public appreciation.”

Americans have consistently recognised that significant pieces of their natural environment need to be set aside. It hasn’t been a Republican agenda or a Democratic one; it’s been a remarkably bipartisan vision.

Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the far-reaching Wilderness Act forty-five years ago. Republican President Richard M. Nixon gave the country the Environmental Protection Agency and the Endangered Species Act; and Republican Ronald Reagan signed more wilderness protection legislation than any other president.

But what the Bush administration has been attempting seems to be nothing less than total reversal of a century of environmental flow in the United States. As the Albany Times-Union noted, “At every turn, the Bush administration is thumbing its nose at every president who’s gone before, back to Teddy Roosevelt.”

It is staggering how much environmental progress President George W. Bush is trying to undo. There is a cumulative sense over the last seven years of a level of greed and exploitation encouraged by the White House that at some points of America’s history would have been the stuff of impeachment.

Mining, lumbering, oil interests and developers in general have never had it so good on public lands, much of which were set aside explicitly or in the spirit of protecting the wilderness. “Sadly, public reaction has been surprisingly muted,” the Albany Times-Union noted.

One of the main reasons for this muted reaction, of course, has been the climate of fear created by the Bush administration as it has gone about pursuing its so-called “war against terrorism.” Dire warnings of imminent terrorist attacks continue to emanate from administration officials on an almost weekly basis. The result is a population so traumatised and apprehensive about what the future holds for them that environmental concerns have been pushed on to the backburner.

Known for its close links to US energy companies and other big business interest groups, the Bush administration seems more interested in giving its business cronies the opportunity to line their pockets by allowing them to exploit the natural resources of public lands and less interested in preserving the wilderness.

The administration has already allowed energy companies to drill for oil in some protected sections of the Alaska wilderness and plans are afoot to allow similar operations in other western states.

The topper has to be an attempt to export the Bush brand of exploitation abroad and turn on its head the Endangered Species Act.

As the Albany Times-Union noted, “Under a proposal being floated by the administration, trophy hunters, circuses and the pet industry would be permitted to kill, capture or legally import certain desired species, many of which are at the door of extinction.”

The sick premise being used by the Bush administration to justify the move is that poor countries can use the money raised by selling some of their endangered wildlife to support badly needed conservation efforts for the others.

The most reprehensible part of this plan is that only foreign endangered species would be involved: trophy hunting for rare beasts, exporting Asian elephants for US circuses and zoos, resuming a partial African ivory trade (internationally banned since the early 1980s), and encouraging shadowy collectors to retrieve rare birds from the Amazon rain forest.

American endangered species are not part of the proposal, probably because the hue and cry that would result nationally would deafen a few ears in Washington.

Worldwide, and especially in poorer countries, the black market trade in endangered species is a huge problem, tying up all kinds of international policing resources. But at least at present there’s something of a cap on the illegal activity.

With the Bush proposal, however, we may as well put up billboards telling poachers they now have a place in line behind lumbering, mining and oil. And please, after you’ve shot the last elephant, turn out the lights.

American national parks are not merely places of spectacular scenic features and curiosities. This sounds like a strange statement in the face of the advertised lure of wonders like the geysers of Yellowstone, the incredible blue of Oregon’s Crater Lake (which I had the good fortune to see in the summer of 1989), the unrivalled picture of the Grand Canyon, and the waterfalls of the Yosemite with their legends of Yosemite Sam and his “hoard of King Solomon’s gold,” of all things.

But nearly all the national parks, and many of the wilderness areas, would justify their existence even if they did not possess so great a scenic merit. The scenery is inspiring, unforgettable; but the meaning goes deeper.

When the Yellowstone National Park was established through an Act of Congress in 1872, it was as “a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Whatever Congress meant by those words, it occurred naturally to the early exploration parties that the wonders of the region were no ordinary creation of nature – that the volcanic phenomena especially were of world significance; and that consequently any private interests that could gain ownership would reap large profits.

In the act of Congress that set up the National Park Service, some forty-five years afterward, the field of purpose was much widened. The words of the act should be well remembered, for the National Park System operates today under that organic law, which orders the conservation of “the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life” in the national parks, and the provision “for the enjoyment of the same in such a manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

This is what the national parks are for – not a part, but the whole of the stated purpose. This, with the implication of policies and methods to achieve the stated ends, is the full meaning of the national parks. It is no longer “conservation.” It is preservation. Or it may be called conservation in another and newer sense: the conserving of resources that are not to be expressed in terms of money, but embrace the moral, spiritual, and educational welfare of the people and add to the joy of their living.

Included in the National Park System are twenty-eight areas designated as national parks, and eighty-six areas called national monuments. In addition, there are about sixty preserved places, mostly of small extent, which fall into various categories, according to the historical reasons for which they were set aside. Finally, there are three national parkways and the integrated group known as the National Capital Parks.

In 1898, the great American naturalist John Muir wrote: “Thousands of nerve-shaken, over-civilised people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”

With every passing year, the truth of that statement in emphasised. But it is that very vision of Muir and Teddy Roosevelt that the Bush administration is seeking to undo. To Bush and his business cronies, the wilderness is not a necessity, not a fountain of life; it is a resource to be exploited for money.

 

Bush’s King Midas in reverse – everthing he touches turns to shit

March 16, 2008

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by Ed Naha | March 15, 2008 -dit_title=Mission accomplished: FUBAR 'R' us digg_skin=’compact’; 

Which one of these headlines scares you the most? “Recession fears rise on more job cuts.” “Fed takes new steps to boost cash for banks.” “World markets slide as US economy groans.” “Housing market spirals, no end in sight.” “Consumer confidence at lowest since 2002.” “Studies: Iraq costs US $12B per month.” “Gas prices rise to new national record.” “Consumers increased their borrowing by $6.9 billion in January.” “Bush says no recession in sight.”

Yeah, I know. It’s not even close. Once again, our President emerges victorious.

Over the years, Bush has acquired many critics. Some think him as being arrogant, stubborn, ill informed, short-sighted, paranoid, clueless and out of touch. Others consider him an ideologue, an overgrown frat boy with a warped sense of entitlement, a dry drunk, a sociopath, a fascist, a belligerent blow-hard, a monarch wannabe with the inherent intelligence of a kadota fig and a total failure. To be fair to Bush, he is all that and more – an unprecedented Black Hole in the history of American governance.

Our president, who believes in the piss on ’em, I mean, er, trickle down theory of economics and who has made a practice out of robbing the poor to give to the rich, is now faced with his latest monstrous creation: an American economy that has gone bust. The only reason there aren’t Hoovervilles popping up around the country is that nobody can afford the cardboard.

The sheer madness of King George has been highlighted in the past week by dire financial headline after headline and Bush’s reaction, or lack of it, to the consequences of his “let them eat caca” economic policies.

Last week, the Labor Department announced that 63,000 non-farm jobs were lost in February, following January’s 22,000 goners. February’s figures were the worst in five years. In addition, 450,000 folks bade adios to the labor force. They just stopped looking for jobs that weren’t there. (As a result, our unemployment rate eased to 4.8% from 4.9%, a fact Bush actually bragged about.)

The real job loss for February is a tad higher than the official number. Construction lost 39,000 posts. Manufacturing took a 52,000 hit. Retailers cut 34,100 jobs. Financial companies slashed 12,000 positions. Even temp agencies reported 27,600 jobs cut. The total job loss number was offset by the creation of new jobs in such sectors as government, service, prostitution and television punditry. (Okay, I made some of that last stuff up.)

Consumer confidence sank to a new low of 33.1%.

“We’ve gotten to a point where there’s very little for the consumer to cheer about. Everywhere you look – homes, grocery stores, gasoline stations – there are things that are all weighing on consumer attitudes,” said Richard Yamarone, economist at Argus Research. “You have soaring energy and food prices, rising home foreclosures and uncertainties about the jobs climate. When you mix it altogether it is a recipe for miserable consumer sentiment.”

D’ya think?

Adding to the hilarity, the dollar slid to record international lows this past week. It’s right down there with colored beads, trinkets and beaver pelts.

Oil soared to a new high, just about $110 a barrel. Gas prices hit an all-time record, with regular unleaded going for $3.2272 a gallon, a figure that doesn’t accurately reflect what’s happening at the pump. In California, for instance, a gallon of unleaded averages $3.50, with one station in the northern part of the state pumping it up to $5.19! In other words, gas is now almost as costly as a D.C. hooker.

The amount of consumer credit owed to banks and credit cards rose to $6.9 billion this year because people are now using their credit cards to survive.

Probably not coincidentally, a survey measuring an individual’s outlook about their personal financial standing as well as that of the country’s came up with a resounding NEGATIVE 41.6%

Think of this way: all those folks who wanted to have a beer with Bush can no longer afford the beer. (Nor can they afford his policies.)

Bush’s King Midas in reverse financial touch is spreading across the land. Retail sales in January fell at the fastest pace in the last five years.

Retailers including AnnTaylor Stores Corp., Talbots Inc. and Pacific Sunwear of California Inc. have closed hundreds of stores so far this year. Gadget seller Sharper Image filed for bankruptcy protection last month and plans to shutter nearly half of its 184 stores.

That, along with the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of catalog retailer Lillian Vernon Corp., could mark the beginning of a wave of retail bankruptcies that’s expected to go well beyond the home furnishings stores hurt by the housing disaster.

Unless the economy dramatically improves, retail bankruptcies this year could reach the highest level since the 1991 recession. More closings could leave gaping holes in the nation’s retail centers, which have already seen average vacancy rates creep up to between 7 percent and 8 percent from 5 percent over the last six months.

David Solomon, president and CEO of ReStore, NAI Global’s retail division, expects the vacancy rate could hit 10 percent by the end of the year. Suzanne Mulvee, senior economist at Property & Portfolio Research, figures that vacancies could rise as high as 12.5 percent this year. Her figure includes retail spaces where tenants have defaulted on their rents.

Part of the problem, according to Mulvee, is that more retail space is coming to the market just as consumer demand is falling. Another 130 million square feet of retail space will become available this year, she predicts, on top of last year’s 143 million.

Another reason malls are being hit hard is that, despite dwindling business, landlords are raising rents, driving a lot of small stores out. Clearly, landlords subscribe to Bush’s sunny economic views. Either that or Helen Keller’s.

U.S. home foreclosure filings jumped 60 percent and bank seizures more than doubled in February as rates on adjustable mortgages rose and property owners were unable to sell or refinance amid falling prices.

More than 223,000 properties were in some stage of default, or 1 in every 557 U.S. households.

About $460 billion of adjustable-rate mortgages are scheduled to reset this year and another $420 billion will rise in 2011, according to New York-based analysts at Citigroup Inc. Homeowners faced higher payments as fourth-quarter home prices fell 8.9 percent, the biggest drop in 20 years as measured by the S&P/Case- Shiller home price index.

Foreclosure filings are likely to be “explosive” in May and June as more payments jump Rick Sharga, executive vice president of RealtyTrac, said in an interview. There may be between 750,000 and 1 million bank repossessions in 2008. Bank seizures rose 110 percent in February from a year ago, he said.

Even interest rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgage are rising. Why? The mortgage market is short by roughly $1 trillion in capital.

Despite BushCo.’s efforts to make it nearly impossible for regular folks to declare bankruptcy, an average of 4,000 bankruptcy filings were made PER DAY in February.

Meanwhile, hidden bank fees are on the rise, with consumers paying over $36 billion in 2006, the last year on record.

Americans are getting slapped around worse than Curly of The Three Stooges. The official government response? “I’m not saying there’s a recession,” insists Edward Lazear, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. (Bush has Council of Economic Advisers??? One that even has a president??? Who knew?) Ever the realist, Lazear stated: “We have definitely downgraded our forecast for this quarter.”

That sort of thinking is akin to the National Weather Service forecasting “drizzle” before Katrina hit New Orleans.

The Ponzi Schemes run by unregulated lenders while Bush was asleep at the wheel has resulted in a housing credit mess that is almost unparalleled in American history.

For the first time since the Federal Reserve started tracking the data in 1945, the amount of debt tied up in American homes now exceeds the equity homeowners have built.

The Fed reported last week that homeowner equity actually slipped below 50 percent in the second quarter of last year, and fell to just below 48 percent in the fourth quarter.

Economy.com estimates 8.8 million homeowners, or about 10 percent of homes, will have zero or negative equity by the end of this month. Even more disturbing, about 13.8 million households will be “upside down” if prices fall 20 percent from their peak. Again, U.S. home prices plunged 8.9 percent in the final quarter of 2007, so that 20 percent figure isn’t all that far-fetched.

So far, the government has stepped in with a number of half-assed measures to contain the housing fallout. Last month, Congress passed a $168 billion economic stimulus package with provisions aimed at helping homeowners refinance into more affordable loans. The Federal Reserve has also slashed interest rates in hopes of spurring growth.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke suggested lenders reduce loan amounts to provide relief to beleaguered homeowners. (The lenders are sure to cave. That “pretty please with sugar on top” negotiating style has worked so well nationally during the last seven years.) Most economists believe that it’s all too little too late.

Peter Morici of the University of Maryland School of Business stated, on CNN: “This is a wholesale meltdown… Across the board the economy is shrinking. Over 600,000 Americans left the labor force. The labor department reports that unemployment is falling. That is simply because so many people have quit the labor market. They only count those that are looking for a job, not all those that are discouraged and decided to stay at home.

“We need 115,000 jobs (created a month) to break even. We lost over 100,000 jobs (in February). So, by all rights, the unemployment rate should have gone up to over 5 percent. The labor department only computes it on the basis of people that are actually participating, those that are employed and those that are looking. Those that quit looking don’t count in their mind. If we counted all the people that have quit, if we adjusted it for the labor force participation rate we had seven or eight years ago, the unemployment rate would be near 7 percent.”

As for Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed chief Ben Bernanke insisting that the sun will come out tomorrow, betcha bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be sun, Morici was less than impressed.

“If you look at the (Congressional) testimony last week, Ben Bernanke’s testimony and Paulson’s speech in Chicago, according to Paulson, our manufacturing sector is just plain healthy, and there is nothing to worry about, even though it lost 50,000 jobs last month and over 3.5 million jobs during the course of the Bush administration. As for Bernanke, he keeps cutting interest rates thinking that is going to push the economy forward. But as he cuts interests rates credit card terms are becoming more difficult. Housing loans have all but dried up. The reason is that we have a wholesale breakdown in the credit markets.

“Normally, banks loan money to homeowners and they turn around and turn them into bonds and sell them to insurance companies. Because of the sub prime meltdown and all of the bad bonds they wrote, all of the bogus securities that are melting away in value, the fixed income buyers, the insurance companies, large private buyers, foreign governments and investors are no longer willing to accept paper that Citibank and the other large banks create. Bernanke has showed no recognition of this problem. He is not addressing it, instead he tells the banks to mark down the debt a bit. The credit markets are not functioning. Cutting the Fed rates will not help.”

But surely, our fearless leader has planned for such an economic emergency! Surely, he can face down a recession. Uh, not really. In fact, he doesn’t even think we’re in a recession. We’re experiencing a “slowdown.” And, once again, he’s on the case. (Uh-oh.) He’s administered, what he calls, “a booster shot.”

Bush addressed the economy in-between FISA snit-fits and anti-Cuba rants. “Losing a job is painful,” he imagined, “and I know Americans are concerned about our economy. So am I. It’s clear our economy has slowed, but the good news is, we anticipated this and took decisive action to bolster the economy, by passing a growth package that will put money into the hands of American workers and businesses.”

Unfortunately, Bush was not done in his speechifying: “I signed this growth package into law just three weeks ago, and its provisions are just starting to kick in. First, a growth package includes incentives for businesses to make investments in new equipment this year. These incentives are now in place, and they are starting to have an impact. My advisors tell me that investment in new equipment remains solid thus far in the first quarter.”

So, lets review. Businesses are going belly up. What’s the first thing on their minds? “Hey, we’re going under! Let’s expand and upgrade.” Note to whoever is advising Bush. Hide the bong when Cheney shows up.

Bush summed up his sunny views with a succinct: “So my message to the American people is this: I know this is a difficult time for our economy, but we recognized the problem early (Note: what tipped you off? The quiche lines in Kennebunkport?), and provided the economy with a booster shot. We will begin to see the impact over the coming months. And in the long run, we can have confidence that so long as we pursue pro-growth, low-tax policies that put faith in the American people, our economy will prosper.”

In other words, we’re fucked until a new president takes over.

The checks that Bush is sending out to some Americans are in the $600 to $1200 range. (“Look, ma! Now we kin buy ourselves that terlet paper we’ve been a’ hankerin’ for.”) Bush sincerely believes that these checks will perk up the economy. Why? Because, with all that dough burning a hole in their pockets, Americans will spend like drunken sailors.

Theorized Bush: “The purpose is to encourage our consumers. The purpose is to give them money — their own to begin with, by the way — but give them money to help deal with the adverse effects of the decline in housing value. Consumerism is a significant part of our GDP growth, and we want to sustain the American consumer, encourage the American consumer and, at the same time, we want to encourage investment. So we’ll see how the plan works.”

In other words: lost your home, your job, and your health insurance? Buy shit! You know like you did after 9/11! Buy lotsa shit! “When the money reaches the American people, we expect they will use it to boost consumer spending,” Bush fantasized.

Clearly Bush has his pulse on the upraised finger of the nation.

Why else would he be moved towards such profundities as: “I’m concerned about the economy because I’m concerned about working Americans, concerned about people who want to put money on the table and save for their kids’ education.”

If you’re like me, you put that money right next to the mashed potatoes on your table. Yum. Pass the unpaid mortgage, please. I’m saving bankruptcy for dessert!

One day after “The Wall Street Journal” ran the results of a survey wherein 71% of economists polled thought we were in a recession now, Bush gave a speech devoted to our current crises. “I’m coming to you as an optimistic fellow,” he golly-geed. “I’ve seen what happens when America deals with difficulty. I believe that we’re a resilient economy, and I believe that the ingenuity and resolve of the American people is what helps us deal with these issues.”

If you’re religious by nature, that nails it. All gods have officially abandoned us.

Probably the most telling reflection of America’s current Bizarro state of affairs can be found in the story headlined: “Dr. Death to run for US Congress.”

It seems that assisted-suicide advocate Jack (“Dr. Death”) Kevorkian has decided to throw his cowl into the ring and run as an independent in Oakland, California’s 9th Congressional district. Kevorkian spent more than eight years in jail for the murder of a man whose videotaped assisted suicide was aired on national television. He claims to have helped 130 folks kick the bucket.

In a sense, Bush has fashioned a political career doing what Kevorkian does but on a much larger scale. Unlike Bush, Kevorkian was always upfront with his patients as he ended their suffering.

With Bush, all you get is: don’t worry, be happy.

And don’t worry about that dirty needle.

It’s good for you.

The Hole In The Whole

March 9, 2008
1929crash.jpgWritten by Realist http://pessimistplace.blugginout.com/
Published March 07, 2008Do attempt to convince me that the economy is not now in recession. Please. I want to have something to laugh about when you brag about all those bargains you picked up on the way down. Will they be worth anything a year from now?

I’ve been through many recessions in my time, and over the years, I have discovered one sure-fire sign that the economy is in recession: employers carp about having to pay their workers more than they “deserve”. “Expensive” labor causes employers to take out their poor management on their employees’ incomes, including reducing their hours of work (if workers aren’t terminated completely) even though productivity improved. As Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at research firm Global Insight, insists, “As long wages stay under control, inflation is not going to be able to get out of control like it did in the 1970s”.

No matter how the captains of industry and commerce attempt to spin the facts, workers know that they are being made the fall guys. Those who have jobs are doing all that they can to keep them, and those who were thinking of changing jobs are delaying taking action. There is a significant correlation between workers’ impressions of the condition of the job market and the onset of recessions. As people lose jobs and seek work, their neighbors are approached to aid in the search for replacement income, being asked if their own employers are hiring. That condition is more likely to be seen as an accurate assessment of the state of the economy no matter what so-called experts like Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson say. These jobless facts don’t lie.

The search for new employment isn’t being helped by the record oil prices. Local LA television news is reporting, as of this writing, gas prices as high as $3.80 a gallon, and the effects of the record wholesale oil prices aren’t going to hit the pumps for several weeks yet. Few of those interviewed by the local reporters doubt that $4 gas is on the way.

Without that job, even those with good credit aren’t going to be able to continue to pay the mortgage. Those not yet caught up in the record numbers of foreclosures are instead walking away from their homes before they are foreclosed.

Just to show that the trickle-down theory can work only if one inverts the scale — as homeowners lose their homes, the investors who originally funded the mortgages are increasingly in borrowing trouble themselves. This will only lead to more investors distancing themselves from the mortgage market, making home loans as rare as a truthful statement from the Bush administration.

Mortgage investors and homeowners in distress are being joined by local governments, who are losing funding for their bonds as the costs of borrowing to float these notes exceeds the value of the notes’ collateral. Foreign investors are now seeking more profitable opportunities until the US economy stabilizes.

It doesn’t get any better soon. The Federal Reserve’s “Beige Book” report noted that the U.S. economy nearly ground to a halt in the fourth quarter of 2007 and that all of its districts reported decelerating economic growth in early 2008 as prices increased almost everywhere in the United States.

Throwing the effort to contain inflation overboard, the Fed has now clearly shifted its meager efforts to keeping the economic furnace of the ship of state stoked. Large banks are reporting tens of billion in losses, and expect more losses to emerge soon. The Fed is easing interest rates for large bank borrowing among themselves to deal with their short-term cash flow difficulties. This move does not change conditions for anyone else.

One move that will change conditions for the rest of us is the order from on high to increase the money supply by $100 billion in March. Allegedly, this is a move that will increase employment, but I expect to hear soon that the dollar is rapidly inflating and causing exchange rate slippage. Two dollar euros, anyone?

But even with all of these openly discussed difficulties, some CEOs still think they can party like there is no tomorrow. Countrywide Financial Corp. CEO Angelo Mozilo told a U.S. House panel that credit tightening has “gone too far”, but he’s only thinking of the poor homeowner who “can’t take advantage of lower home prices”.

Male. Bovine. Excrement.

After far too long, the Congress is beginning to look into the exorbitant remuneration executives receive even though their companies have gone in the tank. Angelo Mozilo is himself just one of the persons of interest to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman.

Things should get even more interesting now that the Bush Family’s Carlyle Group subsidiary Carlyle Capital Corp. couldn’t meet several of the margin calls placed by investors concerned with saving at least a portion of their investment from that political slush fund. This indicates a loss of investor confidence in the Bush style of business management, but is not the only clue. For example, one of the largest corporate sector beneficiaries of Bush economic policy and tax cutting is now backing Democratic presidential candidates more than they are Lame John McCain.

I’m sure that this support is intended to act as a rear-guard defense as these same companies leave the United States – and the high-wage jobs they offer American citizens – in search of more profitable venues elsewhere in the world. Care for some lead in your Lipitor? You’ll be getting it soon enough!

Having destroyed our national regulatory capability, the mad scramble is now on in the corporatist sector of our society to retain as much of the wealth they acquired, whether by fair means or foul, and move it offshore. This alone is a sign that the party is over, and the piper is coming up the walk to demand payment. Those who have the assets, such as Pfizer, will relocate out of the United States before the offal obstructs the aerodynamic obdurator. Others, like General Electric’s GE Money, already have, removing itself – and all of its top executives – to London.

That way, these companies won’t have to settle accounts for their share of the mess.

We, the People of the United States, have this penalty coming. We believed Ronald Reagan’s Morning in America lies despite much evidence to the contrary, not to mention PATCO. We accepted George HW Bush’s excuses for suppressing investigation of the economic and international treasons committed under his watch as both VP and president. We failed to recognize that Bill Clinton was selling us out with NAFTA and GATT, and we didn’t life a finger to limit the predations allowed under George W. Bush. We aren’t going to escape the consequences of our 30-year inaction, for the sheriff is coming to reclaim the homestead we can no longer afford.

He has no choice — he doesn’t want to lose his.

They knew, but did nothing

March 8, 2008
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In this exclusive extract from his new book, Philip Shenon uncovers how the White House tried to hide the truth of its ineptitude leading up to the September 11 terrorist attacks. .

In the American summer of 2001, the nation’s news organisations, especially the television networks, were riveted by the story of one man. It wasn’t George Bush. And it certainly wasn’t Osama bin Laden.

It was the sordid tale of an otherwise obscure Democratic congressman from California, Gary Condit, who was implicated – falsely, it later appeared – in the disappearance of a 24-year-old government intern later found murdered. That summer, the names of the blow-dried congressman and the doe-eyed intern, Chandra Levy, were much better known to the American public than bin Laden’s.

Even reporters in Washington who covered intelligence issues acknowledged they were largely ignorant that summer that the CIA and other parts of the Government were warning of an almost certain terrorist attack. Probably, but not necessarily, overseas.

The warnings were going straight to President Bush each morning in his briefings by the CIA director, George Tenet, and in the presidential daily briefings. It would later be revealed by the 9/11 commission into the September 11 attacks that more than 40 presidential briefings presented to Bush from January 2001 through to September 10, 2001, included references to bin Laden.

And nearly identical intelligence landed each morning on the desks of about 300 other senior national security officials and members of Congress in the form of the senior executive intelligence brief, a newsletter on intelligence issues also prepared by the CIA.

The senior executive briefings contained much of the same information that was in the presidential briefings but were edited to remove material considered too sensitive for all but the President and his top aides to see. Often the differences between the two documents were minor, with only a sentence or two changed between them. Apart from the commission’s chief director, Philip Zelikow, the commission’s staff was never granted access to Bush’s briefings, except for the notorious August 2001 briefing that warned of the possibility of domestic al-Qaeda strikes involving hijackings. But they could read through the next best thing: the senior executive briefings.

During his 2003 investigations it was startling to Mike Hurley, the commission member in charge of investigating intelligence, and the other investigators on his team, just what had gone on in the spring and summer of 2001 – just how often and how aggressively the White House had been warned that something terrible was about to happen. Since nobody outside the Oval Office could know exactly what Tenet had told Bush during his morning intelligence briefings, the presidential and senior briefings were Tenet’s best defence to any claim that the CIA had not kept Bush and the rest of the Government well-informed about the threats. They offered a strong defence.

The team’s investigators began to match up the information in the senior briefings and they pulled together a timeline of the headlines just from the senior briefings in the northern spring and summer:

“Bin Ladin Planning Multiple Operations” (April 20)and “Bin Ladin Threats Are Real” (June 30)It was especially troubling for Hurley’s team to realise how many of the warnings were directed to the desk of one person: Condoleezza Rice, the National Security Adviser. Emails from the National Security Council’s counter-terrorism director, Richard Clarke, showed that he had bombarded Rice with messages about terrorist threats. He was trying to get her to focus on the intelligence she should have been reading each morning in the presidential and senior briefings

“Bin Ladin Public Profile May Presage Attack” (May 3)

“Terrorist Groups Said Co-operating on US Hostage Plot” (May 23)

“Bin Ladin’s Networks’ Plans Advancing” (May 26)

“Bin Ladin Attacks May Be Imminent”

(June 23)

“Bin Ladin and Associates Making Near-Term Threats” (June 25)

“Bin Ladin Planning High-Profile

Attacks” (June 30),

“Planning for Bin Ladin Attacks Continues, Despite Delays” (July 2)

Other parts of the Government did respond aggressively and appropriately to the threats, including the Pentagon and the State Department. On June 21, the US Central Command, which controls American military forces in the Persian Gulf, went to “delta” alert – its highest level – for American troops in six countries in the region. The American embassy in Yemen was closed for part of the summer; other embassies in the Middle East closed for shorter periods.

But what had Rice done at the NSC? If the NSC files were complete, the commission’s historian Warren Bass and the others could see, she had asked Clarke to conduct inter- agency meetings at the White House with domestic agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration and the FBI, to keep them alert to the possibility of a domestic terrorist strike.

She had not attended the meetings herself. She had asked that the then attorney-general, John Ashcroft, receive a special briefing at the Justice Department about al-Qaeda threats. But she did not talk with Ashcroft herself in any sort of detail about the intelligence. Nor did she have any conversations of significance on the issue with the FBI director, Louis Freeh, nor with his temporary successor that summer, the acting director Tom Pickard.

There is no record to show that Rice made any special effort to discuss terrorist threats with Bush. The record suggested, instead, that it was not a matter of special interest to either of them that summer.

Bush seemed to acknowledge as much in an interview with Bob Woodward of The Washington Post that Bush almost certainly regretted later. In the interview in December 2001, only three months after the attacks, Bush said that “there was a significant difference in my attitude after September 11” about al-Qaeda and the threat it posed to the United States.

Before the attacks, he said: “I was not on point, but I knew he was a menace, and I knew he was a problem. I knew he was responsible, or we felt he was responsible, for the previous bombings that killed Americans. I was prepared to look at a plan that would be a thoughtful plan that would bring him to justice, and would have given the order to do that. I have no hesitancy about going after him. But I didn’t feel that sense of urgency, and my blood was not nearly as boiling.”

If anyone on the White House staff had responsibility for making Bush’s blood “boil” that summer about Osama bin Laden, it was Rice.

The members of Mike Hurley’s team were also alarmed by the revelations, week by week, month by month, of how close the commission’s chief director, Philip Zelikow, was to Rice and others at the White House. They learned early on about Zelikow’s work on the Bush transition team in 2000 and early 2001 and about how much antipathy there was between him and Richard Clarke. They They heard the stories about Zelikow’s role in developing the “pre-emptive war” strategy at the White House in 2002.

Zelikow’s friendships with Rice and others were a particular problem for Warren Bass, since Rice and Clarke were at the heart of his part of the investigation. It was clear to some members of team that they could not have an open discussion in front of Zelikow about Rice and her performance as National Security Adviser. They could not say openly, certainly not to Zelikow’s face, what many on the staff came to believe: that Rice’s performance in the spring and summer of 2001 amounted to incompetence, or something not far from it.

David Kay, the veteran American weapons inspector sent to Iraq by the Bush Administration in 2003 to search for weapons of mass destruction, passed word to the commission that he believed Rice was the “worst national security adviser” in the history of the job.

For Hurley’s team, there was a reverse problem with Clarke. It was easy to talk about Clarke in Zelikow’s presence, as long as the conversation centred on Clarke’s failings at the NSC and his purported dishonesty.

Long before Bass had seen Clarke’s files, Zelikow made it clear to the team’s investigators that Clarke should not be believed, that his testimony would be suspect.

He argued that Clarke was a braggart who would try to rewrite history to justify his errors and slander his enemies, Rice in particular. The commission had decided that in its private interviews with current and former government officials, witnesses would be placed under oath when there was a substantial reason to doubt their truthfulness. Zelikow argued that Clarke easily fell into that category; Clarke, he decreed, would need to be sworn in.

When he finally got his security clearance and was allowed into the reading room, Bass discovered he could make quick work of Rice’s emails and internal memos on the al-Qaeda threat in the spring and summer of 2001. That was because there was almost nothing to read, at least nothing that Rice had written herself.

Either she committed nothing to paper or email on the subject, which was possible since so much of her work was conducted face-to-face with Bush, or terrorist threats were simply not an issue that had interested her before September 11. Her speeches and public appearances in the months before the attacks suggested the latter.

Tipped off by an article in The Washington Post, the commission discovered the text of a speech that she had been scheduled to make on September 11, 2001 – the speech was canceled in the chaos following the attacks – in which Rice planned to address “the threats of today and the day after, not the world of yesterday”. The speech, which was intended to outline her broad vision on national security and to promote the Bush Administration’s plans for a missile defence system, included only a passing reference to terrorism and the threat of radical Islam. On the day that Osama bin Laden launched the most devastating attack on the United States since Pearl Harbour, bin Laden’s terrorist network was seen by Rice as only a secondary threat, barely worth mentioning.

But if Rice had left almost no paper trail on terrorism in 2001, Clarke’s files were everything that Bass could have hoped for. Clarke wrote down much of what he saw and heard at the White House, almost to the point of obsession when it came to al-Qaeda. Bass and his colleagues could see that Clarke had left a rich narrative of what had gone so wrong at the NSC in the months before September 11, albeit filtered through the writings of the very opinionated Clarke.

Repeatedly in 2001, Clarke had gone to Rice and others in the White House and pressed them to move, urgently, to respond to a flood of warnings about an upcoming and catastrophic terrorist attack by Osama bin Laden. The threat, Clarke was arguing, was as dire as anything that he or the CIA had ever seen.

He pushed for an early meeting in 2001 with Bush to brief him about bin Laden’s network and the “nearly existential” threat it represented to the United States. But Rice rebuffed Clarke. She allowed him to give a briefing to Bush on the issue of cyber terrorism, but not on bin Laden; she told Clarke the al-Qaeda briefing could wait until after the White House had put the finishing touches that summer on a broader campaign against bin Laden. She moved Clarke and his issues off centre stage – in part at the urging of Zelikow and the transition team.

Bass told colleagues that he gasped when he found a memo written by Clarke to Rice on September 4, 2001, exactly a week before the attacks, in which Clarke seemed to predict what was just about to happen. It was a memo that seemed to spill out all of Clarke’s frustration about how slowly the Bush White House had responded to the cascade of terrorist threats that summer. The note was terrifying in its prescience.

“Are we serious about dealing with the al-Qaeda threat?” he asked Rice. “Decision makers should imagine themselves on a future day when the CSG [Counterterrorism Security Group] has not succeeded in stopping al-Qaeda attacks and hundreds of Americans lay dead in several countries, including the US.

Bass’s colleagues said he knew instantly that the September 4 email was so sensitive – and potentially damaging, especially to Rice – that the White House would never voluntarily release a copy to the commission or allow him to take notes from the room if they came close to reproducing its language. Under a written agreement between the commission and the White House, notes could not “significantly reproduce” the wording of a classified document.

Bass decided he would have to try to memorise it in pieces, several sentences at a time, and then rush back to the commission to bat them out on a computer keyboard.

The day he discovered the document, Bass all but burst into the commission’s offices and rushed over to Hurley.

“Holy shit, chief,” Bass said excitedly. “You won’t believe what I found.”

He told Hurley that Clarke’s September 4 memo was a “document that grabs you by the throat, a document that you write when you’re at the end of your tether – or well past it”, as Clarke clearly was in the weeks before September 11. Hurley instantly understood the significance of what he was being told by Bass. The question for both men was whether Zelikow would allow them to share any of it with the public.

Months later, Bass could not take it any longer. He was going to quit, or least threaten to quit, and he was going to make it clear that Zelikow’s attempts at interference – his efforts to defend Rice and demean Clarke – were part of the reason why. He marched into the office of Dan Marcus, the general counsel, to announce his threat to leave the investigation.

“I cannot do this,” he declared to Marcus, who was already well aware of Bass’s unhappiness. “Zelikow is making me crazy.”

He was outraged by Zelikow and the White House; Bass felt the White House was trying to sabotage his work by its efforts to limit his ability to see certain documents from the NSC files and take useful notes from them. Marcus urged him to calm down: “Let’s talk this through.” But Bass made it clear to colleagues that he believed Zelikow was interfering in his work for reasons that were overtly political – intended to shield the White House, and Rice in particular, from the commission’s criticism. For every bit of evidence gathered by Bass and Hurley’s team to bolster Clarke’s allegation that the White House had ignored terrorist threats in 2001, Zelikow would find some reason to disparage it.

Marcus and Hurley managed to talk Bass out of resigning, although the threat lingered until the final weeks of the investigation.

On May 15, 2002, CBS network reported that a daily briefing presented to Bush a few weeks before the September 11 attacks warned him specifically about the threats of a domestic hijacking by al-Qaeda.

Instead of releasing the briefing or at least offering a detailed explanation of what was in the document, the White House chose to have Rice hold a news conference at the White House in which she raised as many questions about the briefing as she answered.

It would later become clear to many of the commission’s members and its staff that she had tried to mislead the White House press corps about the contents of the briefing.

She acknowledged that Bush had received a briefing about possible al-Qaeda hijackings, but she claimed that the brief offered “historical information” and “was not a warning – there was no specific time, place, or method”.

She failed to mention, as would later be clear, that the briefing focused entirely on the possibility that al-Qaeda intended to strike within the United States; it cited relatively recent FBI reports of possible terrorist surveillance of government buildings in New York.

Tom Kean, the commission’s chairman, could not deny the thrill of this. A former governor of New Jersey who had left politics to become president of Drew University in his home state, Kean took a seat in the reading room in the New Executive Office building where the commission was reviewing the White House’s most secret files.

Kean was handed a sheaf of presidential briefings from the Clinton and Bush administrations. Here in his hands were the documents that the White House had been so determined for so long to keep from him. Lee Hamilton liked to refer to the briefings as the “holy of holies” – the ultimate secret documents in the government – and Kean assumed that must be the case.

“I thought this would be the definitive secrets about al-Qaeda, about terrorist networks and all the other things that the President should act on,” he said. “I was going to find out the most important things that a president had learned.” He assumed they would contain “incredibly secretive, precise, and accurate information about anything under the sun.”

Each brief was only several pages long, so Kean could read through months of them in a stretch of a few hours.

And he found himself terrified by what he was reading, really terrified. Here were the digests of the most important secrets that were gathered by the CIA and the nation’s other spy agencies at a cost of tens of billions of dollars a year.

And there was almost nothing in them.

“They were garbage,” Kean said. “There really was nothing there – nothing, nothing.”

If students back at Drew turned in term papers this badly researched, “I would have given them an F,” he said.

Kean pointed that out to one of his White House minders who accompanied him to the reading room. “I’ve read all this,” he told the minder in astonishment. A lot of the information in the briefings and other supposedly top secret intelligence reports had already been revealed by the nation’s big news organisations. “I already knew this.”

“Oh, but you’re missing the point,” the minder replied. “Now you know it’s true.” It occurred to Kean that this might be the commission’s most frightening discovery of all: The emperors of espionage had no clothes. Perhaps the reason the White House had fought so hard to block the commission’s access to the briefings was that they revealed how ignorant the Government was of the threats it faced before September 11. Kean could understand their fear. Imagine the consequences if al-Qaeda and its terrorist allies knew how little the US really knew about them.

Commission member Jamie Gorelick, who, along with Zelikow, was given access to the larger universe of briefings, was more impressed by the documents than Kean had been. Or at least she was less unimpressed. She knew the Bush Administration was right to complain that much of the intelligence in the briefs in the months before September 11 was maddeningly non-specific about a possible date or place of an attack. Some of the intelligence in the briefs was “paltry”; sometimes the information contradicted itself from one day to the next, Gorelick said.

But she was astonished by the sheer volume of the warnings. Flood, cascade, tsunami, take your pick of metaphors. She could see that in the spring and summer of 2001, there was a consistent drum beat of warnings, day after day, that al-Qaeda was about to attack the United States or its allies. It was clear to Gorelick that the CIA had gone to Bush virtually every morning for months in 2001 to give him the message that the United States needed to be ready for a catastrophic terrorist strike, and from what she was reading, no one ruled out the possibility of a domestic attack.

“Something is being planned, something spectacular,” she said, summarising what the President had been told by George Tenet and what Bush should have read in the briefings. “We don’t know what it is, we don’t know where it is, but something is happening.”

She said CIA analysts were trying to tell Bush, as bluntly as they could, that the threat in those months was “the worst thing they’ve ever seen – an unprecedented threat,” worse than the threats before the millennium.

It seemed to Gorelick that Rice had “assumed away the hardest part of her job” as national security adviser – gathering the best intelligence available to the White House and helping the President decide how to respond to it. Whatever her job title, Rice seemed uninterested in actually advising him. Instead, she wanted to be his closest confidant – specifically on foreign policy – and to simply translate his words into action. Rice had wanted to be “the consigliere to the President”, Gorelick thought.

Domestic issues seemed to bore her. Her deputy, Stephen Hadley, had told the commission something remarkable in his private interview the month before: He and Rice had not seen themselves as responsible for co-ordinating the FBI and other domestic agencies about terrorism. But if they weren’t responsible, who was? There was no separate domestic security adviser in the White House. They had just demoted Clarke.

At the time of her May 2002 news conference, no reporter had a copy of the presidential briefing. CBS had broken the story of its existence but had few details of what was actually in the document. So the White House press corps would have to trust Rice’s description of what was in it.

She described it as a “warning briefing but an analytic report” about al-Qaeda threats and said that it contained “the most generalised kind of information – there was no time, there was no place, there was no method of attack” mentioned apart from a “very vague” concern about hijacking. “I want to reiterate,” she said. “It was not a warning.”

Asked if September 11 didn’t represent an intelligence failure by the Administration, she replied almost testily: “I don’t think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Centre, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon – that they would try to use an airplane as a missile.”

Rice’s news conference came eight months after the attacks. Yet she was suggesting that in all that time, no one had bothered to tell her that there were indeed several reports prepared within the CIA, the aviation administration, and elsewhere in the Government about the threat of planes as missiles.

Had no one told her in all those months that the Department of Defence had conducted drills for the possibility of a plane-as-missile attack on the Pentagon? Had she forgotten that when she and Bush attended the G8 summit in Italy in July 2001, the airspace was closed because of the threat of an aerial suicide attack by al-Qaeda?

Commission member Tim Roemer made it his goal to get the August 6 briefing made public and to prove once and for all that Rice and her White House colleagues had a concept of the truth about September 11 that was, at best, “flexible”. To Roemer, Rice had long ago passed the “threshold” between spin and dishonesty.

“She’d lost credibility with me,” he said. The question among the Democratic commissioners was whether anybody would be brave enough to go public to question Rice’s competence and her honesty.

Much as the staff felt beaten down by Zelikow, so did the other Democratic commissioners. By the end, they had given up the fight to document the more serious failures of Bush, Rice, and others in the Administration in the months before September. Zelikow would never have permitted it. Nor, they realised, would Kean and Hamilton. The Democrats hoped the public would read through the report and understand that September 11 did not have to happen – that if the Bush Administration had been more aggressive in dealing with the threats flooding into the White House from January 2001 through to September 10, 2001, the plot could have been foiled. The Clinton administration could not duck blame for having failed to stop bin Laden before 2001.

But what had happened in the White House in the first eight months of George Bush’s presidency had all but guaranteed that 19 young Arab men with little more than pocket knives, a few cans of mace, and a misunderstanding of the tenets of Islam could bring the US to its knees.

The Commission – The Uncensored History Of The 9/11 Investigation by Philip Shenon (Little, Brown, $35) is published on Monday.