Saturday, June 30, 2007

When the Vice President Does It, That Means It's Not Illegal

By Frank Rich
The New York Times

WHO knew that mocking the Constitution could be nearly as funny as shooting a hunting buddy in the face? Among other comic dividends, Dick Cheney's legal theory that the vice president is not part of the executive branch yielded a priceless weeklong series on "The Daily Show" and an online "Doonesbury Poll," conducted at Slate, to name Mr. Cheney's indeterminate branch of government.

The ridicule was so widespread that finally even this White House had to blink. By midweek, it had abandoned that particularly ludicrous argument, if not its spurious larger claim that Mr. Cheney gets a free pass to ignore rules regulating federal officials' handling of government secrets.

That retreat might allow us to mark the end of this installment of the Bush-Cheney Follies but for one nagging problem: Not for the first time in the history of this administration — or the hundredth — has the real story been lost amid the Washington kerfuffle. Once the laughter subsides and you look deeper into the narrative leading up to the punch line, you can unearth a buried White House plot that is more damning than the official scandal. This plot once again snakes back to the sinister origins of the Iraq war, to the Valerie Wilson leak case and to the press failures that enabled the administration to abuse truth and the law for too long.

One journalist who hasn't failed is Mark Silva of The Chicago Tribune. He first reported more than a year ago, in May 2006, the essentials of the "news" at the heart of the recent Cheney ruckus. Mr. Silva found that the vice president was not filing required reports on his office's use of classified documents because he asserted that his role in the legislative branch, as president of the Senate, gave him an exemption.

This scoop went unnoticed by nearly everybody. It would still be forgotten today had not Henry Waxman, the dogged House inquisitor, called out Mr. Cheney 10 days ago, detailing still more egregious examples of the vice president's flouting of the law, including his effort to shut down an oversight agency in charge of policing him. The congressman's brief set off the firestorm that launched a thousand late-night gags.

That's all to the public good, but hiding in plain sight was the little-noted content of the Bush executive order that Mr. Cheney is accused of violating. On close examination, this obscure 2003 document, thrust into the light only because the vice president so blatantly defied it, turns out to be yet another piece of self-incriminating evidence illuminating the White House's guilt in ginning up its false case for war.

The tale of the document begins in August 2001, when the Bush administration initiated a review of the previous executive order on classified materials signed by Bill Clinton in 1995. The Clinton order had been acclaimed in its day as a victory for transparency because it mandated the automatic declassification of most government files after 25 years.

It was predictable that the obsessively secretive Bush team would undermine the Clinton order. What was once a measure to make government more open would be redrawn to do the opposite. And sure enough, when the White House finally released its revised version, the scant news coverage focused on how the new rules postponed the Clinton deadline for automatic declassification and tightened secrecy so much that previously declassified documents could be reclassified.

But few noticed another change inserted five times in the revised text: every provision that gave powers to the president over classified documents was amended to give the identical powers to the vice president. This unprecedented increase in vice-presidential clout, though spelled out in black and white, went virtually unremarked in contemporary news accounts.

Given all the other unprecedented prerogatives that President Bush has handed his vice president, this one might seem to be just more of the same. But both the timing of the executive order and the subsequent use Mr. Cheney would make of it reveal its special importance in the games that the White House played with prewar intelligence.

The obvious juncture for Mr. Bush to bestow these new powers on his vice president, you might expect, would have been soon after 9/11, especially since the review process on the Clinton order started a month earlier and could be expedited, as so much other governmental machinery was, to meet the urgent national-security crisis. Yet the new executive order languished for another 18 months, only to be published and signed with no fanfare on March 25, 2003, a week after the invasion of Iraq began.

Why then? It was throughout March, both on the eve of the war and right after "Shock and Awe," that the White House's most urgent case for Iraq's imminent threat began to unravel. That case had been built around the scariest of Saddam's supposed W.M.D., the nuclear weapons that could engulf America in mushroom clouds, and the White House had pushed it relentlessly, despite a lack of evidence. On "Meet the Press" on March 16, Mr. Cheney pressed that doomsday button one more time: "We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." But even as the vice president spoke, such claims were at last being strenuously challenged in public.

Nine days earlier Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency had announced that documents supposedly attesting to Saddam's attempt to secure uranium in Niger were "not authentic." A then-obscure retired diplomat, Joseph Wilson, piped in on CNN, calling the case "outrageous."

Soon both Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Congressman Waxman wrote letters (to the F.B.I. and the president, respectively) questioning whether we were going to war because of what Mr. Waxman labeled "a hoax." And this wasn't the only administration use of intelligence that was under increasing scrutiny. The newly formed 9/11 commission set its first open hearings for March 31 and requested some half-million documents, including those pertaining to what the White House knew about Al Qaeda's threat during the summer of 2001.

The new executive order that Mr. Bush signed on March 25 was ingenious. By giving Mr. Cheney the same classification powers he had, Mr. Bush gave his vice president a free hand to wield a clandestine weapon: he could use leaks to punish administration critics.

That weapon would be employed less than four months later. Under Mr. Bush's direction, Mr. Cheney deputized Scooter Libby to leak highly selective and misleading portions of a 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq to pet reporters as he tried to discredit Mr. Wilson. By then, Mr. Wilson had emerged as the most vocal former government official accusing the White House of not telling the truth before the war.

Because of the Patrick Fitzgerald investigation, we would learn three years later about the offensive conducted by Mr. Libby on behalf of Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush. That revelation prompted the vice president to acknowledge his enhanced powers in an unguarded moment in a February 2006 interview with Brit Hume of Fox News. Asked by Mr. Hume with some incredulity if "a vice president has the authority to declassify information," Mr. Cheney replied, "There is an executive order to that effect." He was referring to the order of March 2003.

Even now, few have made the connection between this month's Cheney flap and the larger scandal. That larger scandal is to be found in what the vice president did legally under the executive order early on rather than in his more recent rejection of its oversight rules.

Timing really is everything. By March 2003, this White House knew its hype of Saddam's nonexistent nuclear arsenal was in grave danger of being exposed. The order allowed Mr. Bush to keep his own fingerprints off the nitty-gritty of any jihad against whistle-blowers by giving Mr. Cheney the authority to pick his own shots and handle the specifics. The president could have plausible deniability and was free to deliver non-denial denials like "If there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is." Mr. Cheney in turn could delegate the actual dirty work to Mr. Libby, who obstructed justice to help throw a smoke screen over the vice president's own role in the effort to destroy Mr. Wilson.

Last week The Washington Post ran a first-rate investigative series on the entire Cheney vice presidency. Readers posting comments were largely enthusiastic, but a few griped. "Six and a half years too late," said one. "Four years late and billions of dollars short," said another. Such complaints reflect the bitter legacy of much of the Washington press's failure to penetrate the hyping of prewar intelligence and, later, the import of the Fitzgerald investigation.

We're still playing catch-up. In a week in which the C.I.A. belatedly released severely censored secrets about agency scandals dating back a half-century, you have to wonder what else was done behind the shield of an executive order signed just after the Ides of March four years ago. Another half-century could pass before Americans learn the full story of the secrets buried by Mr. Cheney and his boss to cover up their deceitful path to war.

Photo Credit: Frank Rich. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

Tears on My Pillow

By Maureen Dowd
The New York Times
“I miss Albania!” W. wails. “They know how to treat a president there. Women were kissing me and men rubbed my hair. The crowd kept yelling, ‘Bushie!,’ and they almost grabbed the watch right off my wrist trying to get at me.”

The concerned group huddling outside the president’s closed-bedroom door in Kennebunkport can barely hear him. His voice is muffled because he has his face buried in his feather pillow, which the Secret Service has carefully transported from Washington to Maine for the weekend, knowing that it would be needed. They guard it so conscientiously that they have even given it a code name. Since the president’s Secret Service name is Tumbler, his agents christened his beloved pillow Slumber.

“Son, I know how you feel,” Poppy calls in to him, trying to sound positive. “Riding high in 2002, shot down in 2007. That’s life, as Sinatra says. You were a puppet and a pawn to King Dick and it screwed up your presidency and our party and the Middle East and the Atlantic alliance and the family legacy and Jeb’s future, not to mention the fate of the planet. But you can’t just roll yourself up in a big ball and die, George. Your friend Vlad the Impaler is here, and I think you should come out and talk to him. You invited him and he came all the way from Russia, and you don’t want to be rude.

“I’ve already taken him to Mabel’s Lobster Claw and out on the boat. He scared all the fish away. I don’t know what else to do with him, George. He brained the Filipino manservant, the little brown one, with a horseshoe.”

Putin steps forward. “Let me try,” he tells Poppy.

“George, hey, it’s me, Ostrich Legs, Pooty Poot. Remember when you gave me those nicknames? Come out, and I show you my real soul. Dark, dark, dark. I put the Putin back in Rasputin. Listen, Albania stinks. Maine much nicer. I saw Moose and Squirrel in the woods. Let’s throw horseshoes at them! I love this American sport.”

Tumbler burrows into Slumber. “Why doesn’t anybody like me anymore, Daddy?” he keens. “Man, I miss Tony. My Iraq poodle left me with a porcupine. And I can’t believe my own Republicans crossed me on the immigration bill. Now my Mexican buddies from Midland are saying, ‘Adiós, Jorge.’ Vice doesn’t even want to be in the same branch of government as me. Where is Dick, by the way?”

His mother steps briskly up to the door. “Now listen, Georgie,” Barbara says. “We didn’t invite Dick. He’s not our kind. He has utterly ruined your presidency. There’s a Washington Post series I want you to read. I’ve put it in the kitchen by your bowl of Cookie Crisps. It explains all about how Dick played you for a fool on everything from Iraq to capital gains. He set up the West Wing paper flow in a way that undermined your goals and advanced his. He let you act like you were the Decider, dear, when you were really just the Dupe.”

W. howls, “Dick promised me I would never be a wimp and now I’m a wimp!”

Putin intervenes. “No, George, don’t blame Dick,” he says. “Dick good man. Shoots friend in face. But Dick too soft. Friend lived. He needs put more people in your Gitmo gulag, shut down newspapers, kill more critics. I’ll send you some of my special polonium-210 pellets. They just like Altoids, curiously strong.”

Clarence Thomas rushes up to the door, black robes flapping. “I got here as fast as I could,” he assures Poppy, before yelling in to W.: “I’m sorry about the Guantánamo decision. I don’t know what my brethren were thinking, applying the Constitution to Cuba. What’s law got to do with it? I should have fought harder. I was a little distracted by our decision to stop race from being a factor in making schools racially diverse. I needed to make sure that black children all over America would have none of the advantages I had.”

Henry Kissinger oils his way across the floor. “Mr. President,” he rumbles through the door, “it’s not so bad bungling a war. I got to date Jill St. John.”

Condi joins the group, and wrinkles her nose at Putin. He puts his arm around her and gives her head a noogie. “When I said U.S. aggression is like Third Reich,” he tells her, with his most charming K.G.B. smile, “I meant it in a good way.”

Condi ignores him and coos to W.: “There’s bad news and good news, sir. Or maybe it’s Vice versa. Cheney’s going to pardon Scooter. And the Albanians have agreed to put your presidential library in Tirana.”

Photo Credit: Maureen Dowd. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

"Fringe Liberal Bloggers"

Glenn Greenwald (Salon) reports:
When establishment journalists speak of the liberal blogosphere, it is virtually an article of faith that it represents the "far left," that it is composed of the radical and fringe elements of liberalism. This week, the increasingly dishonest Fred Thompson castigated Harry Reid for participating on a conference call with bloggers from some of the largest liberal blogs by describing the participants as "fringe elements of the blogosphere who think we're the bad guys. This is a place where even those who think the 9/11 attacks were an inside job find a home."

Before I began blogging in October, 2005, I was an avid reader of blogs. What motivated me to begin blogging was that the most insightful and informed political analysis was to be found, far and away, on blogs, and I wanted to be part of that discussion. And, as is true for thousands of people, I believed (and still do) that the most insightful political analysis of all came from the keyboard of Digby, who -- until now -- has shielded all parts of her identity, including her gender, behind her pseudonym.

Yesterday, Digby unmasked herself. Appearing at the Take Back America Conference in Washington, she accepted an award on behalf of all liberal bloggers and gave a truly superb speech about the blogosphere, which can be viewed here.

The speech in its entirety is worth watching, principally because it provides one of the most accurate portrayals of who bloggers are, what motivates them, their demographic diversity and the role they play -- certainly far more accurate than the trite caricatures which are typically embraced by media mavens, including (albeit to a lesser extent) Jonathan Chait in his much-discussed New Republic cover story on the "netroots."

But I want to focus on one part of Digby's speech, where she identifies what she contends (accurately, I think) are the core, commonly held views defining the "progressive blogosphere": (Continue reading)

Saturday Night Video

In case you missed this .... it's a hoot!

-- Brought to you by The Asylum Street Spankers, with a great big hat tip to Al B. for sending it my way.

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Weekend Reader

  • MUST WATCH VIDEO - Exposed: The Carlyle Group: Shocking documentary uncovers the subversion of Americas democracy.

  • New York Times: The Break-In That History Forgot:
    "...I finally realized that what had gone wrong in the Nixon White House was a meltdown in personal integrity. Without it, we failed to understand the constitutional limits on presidential power and comply with statutory law.

    In early 2001, after President Bush was inaugurated, I sent the new White House staff a memo explaining the importance of never losing their personal integrity. In a section addressed specifically to the White House lawyers, I said that integrity required them to constantly ask, is it legal? And I recommended that they rely on well-established legal precedent and not some hazy, loose notion of what phrases like “national security” and “commander in chief” could be tortured into meaning. I wonder if they received my message."
  • NY Times editorial -Resegregation Now:
    "The Supreme Court ruled 53 years ago in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated education is inherently unequal, and it ordered the nation’s schools to integrate. Yesterday, the court switched sides and told two cities that they cannot take modest steps to bring public school students of different races together. It was a sad day for the court and for the ideal of racial equality...."
  • The Raw Story | Revealed: Bush EPA chief says she quit after Cheney rewrote coal power plant rules:
    "Christine Todd Whitman is the media darling of talk shows, the conservative former governor of New Jersey and head of President George W. Bush's Environmental Protection Agency who quit the Bush Administration to "spend more time with her family."

    Evidently, that's not true.

    In a groundbreaking article today by the Washington Post, the paper alleges that Whitman left the Administration because they pressured her to accept pro-industry coal power plant rules which threatened ghoulish levels of air pollution...."
  • LA Times - Bush's offices reportedly refused probe:
    "A federal watchdog agency planned to inspect the president's executive offices in the White House in 2005 for evidence of suspected leaks of classified information, but it was rebuffed by Bush administration officials, congressional investigators have been told.

    The report of the White House's refusal to be inspected comes amid criticism from congressional Democrats of how President Bush signed an executive order requiring federal agencies to submit to independent oversight of their handling of classified information, but did not enforce it for his office or that of Vice President Dick Cheney...."
  • The Progressive - Kudos to Kucinich, But There's More to Impeach Cheney For:
    "Comedians like to poke fun at Kucinich, but the guy’s got guts.

    On Tuesday, the Ohio Democrat and presidential candidate introduced a bill to impeach Dick Cheney.

    I’ve been waiting for someone to get the impeachment ball rolling, either against Bush or Cheney, and I certainly understand the logic of going after Cheney first, because who wants to impeach Bush and end up with the prince of darkness.

    I think they both should go.

    And for more reasons than Kucinich enumerates...."
  • Sen. Mike Gravel: Why Hillary Scares Me

  • ABC News - Gay Groups Decry Bush Top Doc Nominee:
    "President Bush's nominee for surgeon general, Dr. James W. Holsinger, wrote a paper in 1991 arguing that homosexuality is unnatural and unhealthy, suggesting a scientific view rooted in anti-gay beliefs, valuing anti-gay ideology over sound science. These views are seen by many as incompatible with the job of serving the medical health of all Americans...."
  • Political Affairs Magazine - Australia: Howard Government Knew About Torture and Rendition:
    "On Monday evening last week, a documentary news program went to air on the Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC) containing material of a sort that used to bring down governments or at least cause some of their ministers and senior public servants to fall on their swords. Sally Neighbour's 'Ghost Prisoners' on the ABC program Four Corners was the second part of an exposé �that brought together a wealth of material and expert opinion to show conclusively that Australian authorities have co-operated and will continue to co-operate with the CIA's 'rendition' program...."
  • Bin Laden may have arranged family's US exit: FBI docs

  • U.S.-IRAN: New Arms Claim Reveals Cheney-Military Rift:
    "WASHINGTON, Jun 20 (IPS) - In a development that underlines the tensions between the anti-Iran agenda of the George W. Bush administration and the preoccupation of its military command in Afghanistan with militant Sunni activism, a State Department official publicly accused Iran for the first time of arming the Taliban forces last week, but the U.S. commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan rejected that charge for the second time in less than two weeks...."
  • NY Times Editorial -Don't Veto, Don't Obey:
    "President Bush is notorious for issuing statements taking exception to hundreds of bills as he signs them. This week, we learned that in a shocking number of cases, the Bush administration has refused to enact those laws. Congress should use its powers to insist that its laws are obeyed...."
  • WAPO - Ex-Surveillance Judge Criticizes Warrantless Taps:
    A federal judge who used to authorize wiretaps in terrorism and espionage cases criticized yesterday President Bush's decision to order warrantless surveillance after the September 11, 2001, attacks...."
  • The Black Vote

    While I agree with Bob Herbert in today's Times column (see below), it will take more than voting to change things for Blacks in this country.

    The evidence is clear in the last three elections that vote fraud and the intentional disenfranchisement of voters, particularly students and blacks, was rampant. Until we -- all Americans of all colors -- demand secure elections and votes that can be counted and recounted accurately (a paper trail for every vote and every voter) and prosecute those who maliciously attempt to disenfranchise voters -- nothing will change.

    Further, Blacks and others who have been intentionally marginalized in our society rightfully must question the importance of their vote -- even if counted. Although the Democrats have a better record on Black issues, when in power they haven't done nearly enough. Both sides of the aisle pay lip service to Black causes in political debates -- and then forget all about their promises once elected. The resulting voter cynicism is both understandable and reasonable. Neither party has a vision to change foreign policy in this country (with the exception of Kucinich) so that we can stop pouring billions of dollars into our obscenely bloated military budget and start using those billions to take care of our own people and our own country. Until that happens, nothing will change.

    I had such hope for Barack Obama, but the more I listen to him, the more disingenuous he seems. His platform lacks boldness; it's stuck in the middle-ground, baby-step politics of today. We need a Martin Luther King. A JFK. A truly heroic and courageous leader with real vision and real ideas and a genuine desire to implement them. Where is that leader? Dennis Kucinich could fill the bill -- but people dismiss him and chuckle when he talks of a US Department of Peace, as if "Peace" was a dirty word and "War" idyllic. He's not photogenic or charismatic enough for the CNN or MSNBC crowd, and he's much too wimpy for the violent, macho American electorate.

    It is evident that the strategy of the Bush administration has been to decimate education in this country in order to assure that fewer young people will have the ability to get a decent education. Why would they do that? Because an uneducated populace -- a people incapable of critical thinking -- can be all the more easily manipulated by the politicians; they can be easily convinced to vote against their best interests, to believe the political propaganda, to swallow poisonous lies whole without questioning their venom.

    The problem for Blacks, the poor, and others who have been forgotten in America is a particularly vicious circle that cannot be solved as simply as Herbert implies. Would only that it were so simple....

    When Is Enough Enough?
    By Bob Herbert
    The New York Times
    Chances are you didn’t hear it, but on Thursday night Senator Hillary Clinton said, “If H.I.V./AIDS were the leading cause of death of white women between the ages of 25 and 34, there would be an outraged outcry in this country.”

    Her comment came on the same day that a malevolent majority on the U.S. Supreme Court threw a brick through the window of voluntary school integration efforts.

    There comes a time when people are supposed to get angry. The rights and interests of black people in the U.S. have been under assault for the longest time, and in the absence of an effective counterforce, that assault has only grown more brutal.

    Have you looked at the public schools lately? Have you looked at the prisons? Have you looked at the legions of unemployed blacks roaming the neighborhoods of big cities across the country? These jobless African-Americans, so many of them men, are so marginal in the view of the wider society, so insignificant, so invisible, they aren’t even counted in the government’s official jobless statistics.

    And now this new majority on the Supreme Court seems committed to a legal trajectory that would hurl blacks back to the bad old days of the Jim Crow era.

    Where’s the outcry? Where’s the line in the sand that the prejudiced portion of the population is not allowed to cross?

    Mrs. Clinton’s comment was made at a forum of Democratic presidential candidates at Howard University that was put together by Tavis Smiley, the radio and television personality, and broadcast nationally by PBS. The idea was to focus on issues of particular concern to African-Americans.

    It’s discouraging that some of the biggest issues confronting blacks — the spread of AIDS, chronic joblessness and racial discrimination, for example — are not considered mainstream issues.

    Senator John Edwards offered a disturbingly bleak but accurate picture of the lives of many young blacks: “When you have young African-American men who are completely convinced that they’re either going to die or go to prison and see absolutely no hope in their lives; when they live in an environment where the people around them don’t earn a decent wage; when they go to schools that are second-class schools compared to the wealthy suburban areas — they don’t see anything getting better.”

    The difficult lives and often tragic fates of such young men are not much on the minds of so-called mainstream Americans, or the political and corporate elites who run the country. More noise needs to be made. There’s something very wrong with a passive acceptance of the degraded state in which so many African-Americans continue to live.

    Mr. Smiley is also organizing a forum of Republican candidates to be held in September. I wholeheartedly applaud his efforts. But if black people were more angry, and if they could channel that anger into political activism — first and foremost by voting as though their lives and the lives of their children depended on it — there would not be a need to have separate political forums to address their concerns.

    If black people could find a way to come together in sky-high turnouts on Election Day, if they showed up at polling booths in numbers close to the maximum possible turnout, if they could set the example for all other Americans about the importance of exercising the franchise, the politicians would not dare to ignore their concerns.

    For black people, especially, the current composition of the Supreme Court should be the ultimate lesson in the importance of voting in a presidential election. No branch of the government has been more crucial than the judiciary in securing the rights and improving the lives of blacks over the past five or six decades.

    George W. Bush, in a little more than six years, has tilted the court so radically that it is now, like the administration itself, relentlessly hostile to the interests of black people. That never would have happened if blacks had managed significantly more muscular turnouts in the 2000 and 2004 elections. (The war in Iraq would not have happened, either.)

    There are, of course, many people, black and white, who are working on a vast array of important issues. But much, much more needs to be done. And blacks, in particular, need to intervene more directly in the public policy matters that concern them.

    In the 1960s, there were radicals running around screaming about black power. But the real power in this country has always been the power of the vote. Black Americans have not come close to maximizing that power.

    It’s not too late.

    Photo Credit: Bob Herbert. (The New York Times)

    Friday, June 29, 2007

    Dems Call White House Out on Subpoenas

    The Huffington Post reports:
    "Democrats took the first steps Friday in what could be a long march to court in a tug-of-war between the White House and Congress over subpoenas and executive and legislative branch powers.

    In a letter to White House counsel Fred Fielding, the heads of the Senate and House Judiciary committees demanded an explanation in 10 days of why the White House claimed executive privilege on subpoenaed documents and vowed to invoke 'the full force of law....'"

    Colbert Report: Ben & Jerry

    Cheer up. Put a little of Stephen Colbert's "Americone Dream" into your morning....

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    Also See:

    Thursday, June 28, 2007

    America's Media Empire

    The Murdoch Factor
    By Paul Krugman
    The New York Times
    In October 2003, the nonpartisan Program on International Policy Attitudes published a study titled “Misperceptions, the media and the Iraq war.” It found that 60 percent of Americans believed at least one of the following: clear evidence had been found of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda; W.M.D. had been found in Iraq; world public opinion favored the U.S. going to war with Iraq.

    The prevalence of these misperceptions, however, depended crucially on where people got their news. Only 23 percent of those who got their information mainly from PBS or NPR believed any of these untrue things, but the number was 80 percent among those relying primarily on Fox News. In particular, two-thirds of Fox devotees believed that the U.S. had “found clear evidence in Iraq that Saddam Hussein was working closely with the Al Qaeda terrorist organization.”

    So, does anyone think it’s O.K. if Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, which owns Fox News, buys The Wall Street Journal?

    The problem with Mr. Murdoch isn’t that he’s a right-wing ideologue. If that were all he was, he’d be much less dangerous. What he is, rather, is an opportunist who exploits a rule-free media environment — one created, in part, by conservative political power — by slanting news coverage to favor whoever he thinks will serve his business interests.

    In the United States, that strategy has mainly meant blatant bias in favor of the Bush administration and the Republican Party — but last year Mr. Murdoch covered his bases by hosting a fund-raiser for Hillary Clinton’s Senate re-election campaign.

    In Britain, Mr. Murdoch endorsed Tony Blair in 1997 and gave his government favorable coverage, “ensuring,” reports The New York Times, “that the new government would allow him to keep intact his British holdings.”

    And in China, Mr. Murdoch’s organizations have taken care not to offend the dictatorship.

    Now, Mr. Murdoch’s people rarely make flatly false claims. Instead, they usually convey misinformation through innuendo. During the early months of the Iraq occupation, for example, Fox gave breathless coverage to each report of possible W.M.D.’s, with little or no coverage of the subsequent discovery that it was a false alarm. No wonder, then, that many Fox viewers got the impression that W.M.D.’s had been found.

    When all else fails, Mr. Murdoch’s news organizations simply stop covering inconvenient subjects.

    Last year, Fox relentlessly pushed claims that the “liberal media” were failing to report the “good news” from Iraq. Once that line became untenable — well, the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that in the first quarter of 2007 daytime programs on Fox News devoted only 6 percent of their time to the Iraq war, compared with 18 percent at MSNBC and 20 percent at CNN.

    What took Iraq’s place? Anna Nicole Smith, who received 17 percent of Fox’s daytime coverage.

    Defenders of Mr. Murdoch’s bid for The Journal say that we should judge him not by Fox News but by his stewardship of the venerable Times of London, which he acquired in 1981. Indeed, the political bias of The Times is much less blatant than that of Fox News. But a number of former Times employees have said that there was pressure to slant coverage — and everyone I’ve seen quoted defending Mr. Murdoch’s management is still on his payroll.

    In any case, do we want to see one of America’s two serious national newspapers in the hands of a man who has done so much to mislead so many? (The Washington Post, for all its influence, is basically a Beltway paper, not a national one. The McClatchy papers, though their Washington bureau’s reporting in the run-up to Iraq put more prestigious news organizations to shame, still don’t have The Journal’s ability to drive national discussion.)

    There doesn’t seem to be any legal obstacle to the News Corporation’s bid for The Journal: F.C.C. rules on media ownership are mainly designed to prevent monopoly in local markets, not to safeguard precious national informational assets. Still, public pressure could help avert a Murdoch takeover. Maybe Congress should hold hearings.

    If Mr. Murdoch does acquire The Journal, it will be a dark day for America’s news media — and American democracy. If there were any justice in the world, Mr. Murdoch, who did more than anyone in the news business to mislead this country into an unjustified, disastrous war, would be a discredited outcast. Instead, he’s expanding his empire.

    Photo Credit: Paul Krugman. (The New York Times)

    Peter Dale Scott: Richard Cheney, Continuity of Government, and 9/11

    Trouble viewing this video? Click Here.

    Peter Dale Scott presents a condensed version of the two chapters from his forthcoming book, "The Road to 9/11", that deal with the actions of Dick Cheney on the morning of 9/11, and a host of troubling contradictions on that day, in lecture form.

    Recorded on February 25, 2007.

    A great researcher comes through once again.

    This video is posted with the permission of

    Please contact for DVD copies of the entire 9/11 Accountability Conference.

    Please visit for more on Scott's work.

    Note: Since this lecture, a report indicating a much longer intercept time in the Payne Stewart case has been brought to Scott's attention;​AAB0001.htm .

    Wednesday, June 27, 2007

    The results are in!

    And the Winners are (DRUM ROLL) ....

    ExxonMobile, Halliburton, and Wal-Mart!

    Corporate Accountability International reports:
    "Nearly 8,600 voters have voiced their choice, and the 2007 inductees are ExxonMobil, Halliburton and Wal-Mart. Here are the results:

    ExxonMobil: 4,834 Votes Cast

    Halliburton: 4,324 Votes Cast

    Wal-Mart: 2,882 Votes Cast

    Kimberly-Clark: 2,822 Votes Cast

    Coke: 1,935 Votes Cast

    Ford: 1,465 Votes Cast

    Nestlé: 1,075 Votes Cast

    Merck: 879 Votes Cast

    Write-Ins: 313 Votes Cast

    Total Voters: 8,592

    Each voter could select up to three different nominees, or they could write in their own candidate. More than 300 people did so, with corporations such as Monsanto, Lockheed Martin and McDonald’s named the most frequently. And many of you posted comments...."
    To find out why the new inductees led the voting: CLICK HERE.

    Good News Poll: Young Americans Are Leaning Left

    (Click Graphic for Larger View)
    The New York Times reports:
    Young Americans are more likely than the general public to favor a government-run universal health care insurance system, an open-door policy on immigration and the legalization of gay marriage, according to a New York Times/CBS News/MTV poll. The poll also found that they are more likely to say the war in Iraq is heading to a successful conclusion.

    The poll offers a snapshot of a group whose energy and idealism have always been as alluring to politicians as its scattered focus and shifting interests have been frustrating. It found that substantially more Americans ages 17 to 29 than four years ago are paying attention to the presidential race. But they appeared to be really familiar with only two of the candidates, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, both Democrats.

    They have continued a long-term drift away from the Republican Party. And although they are just as worried as the general population about the outlook for the country and think their generation is likely to be worse off than that of their parents, they retain a belief that their votes can make a difference, the poll found.

    More than half of Americans ages 17 to 29 — 54 percent — say they intend to vote for a Democrat for president in 2008....
    Read more.

    Maybe there is hope for the next generation. Ours certainly has botched things up royally.

    The Whole World Is Watching

    By Thomas L. Friedman
    The New York Times
    Three years ago, I was catching a plane at Boston’s Logan airport and went to buy some magazines for the flight. As I approached the cash register, a woman coming from another direction got there just behind me — I thought. But when I put my money down to pay, the woman said in a very loud voice: “Excuse me! I was here first!” And then she fixed me with a piercing stare that said: “I know who you are.” I said I was very sorry, even though I was clearly there first.

    If that happened today, I would have had a very different. I would have said: “Miss, I’m so sorry. I am entirely in the wrong. Please, go ahead. And can I buy your magazines for you? May I buy your lunch? Can I shine your shoes?”

    Why? Because I’d be thinking there is some chance this woman has a blog or a camera in her cellphone and could, if she so chose, tell the whole world about our encounter — entirely from her perspective — and my utterly rude, boorish, arrogant, thinks-he-can-butt-in-line behavior. Yikes!

    When everyone has a blog, a MySpace page or Facebook entry, everyone is a publisher. When everyone has a cellphone with a camera in it, everyone is a paparazzo. When everyone can upload video on YouTube, everyone is filmmaker. When everyone is a publisher, paparazzo or filmmaker, everyone else is a public figure. We’re all public figures now. The blogosphere has made the global discussion so much richer — and each of us so much more transparent.

    The implications of all this are the subject of a new book by Dov Seidman, founder and C.E.O. of LRN, a business ethics company. His book is simply called “How.” Because Seidman’s simple thesis is that in this transparent world “how” you live your life and “how” you conduct your business matters more than ever, because so many people can now see into what you do and tell so many other people about it on their own without any editor. To win now, he argues, you have to turn these new conditions to your advantage.

    For young people, writes Seidman, this means understanding that your reputation in life is going to get set in stone so much earlier. More and more of what you say or do or write will end up as a digital fingerprint that never gets erased. Our generation got to screw up and none of those screw-ups appeared on our first job résumés, which we got to write. For this generation, much of what they say, do or write will be preserved online forever. Before employers even read their résumés, they’ll Google them.

    “The persistence of memory in electronic form makes second chances harder to come by,” writes Seidman. “In the information age, life has no chapters or closets; you can leave nothing behind, and you have nowhere to hide your skeletons. Your past is your present.” So the only way to get ahead in life will be by getting your “hows” right.

    Ditto in business. Companies that get their hows wrong won’t be able to just hire a P.R. firm to clean up the mess by a taking a couple of reporters to lunch — not when everyone is a reporter and can talk back and be heard globally.

    But this also creates opportunities. Today “what” you make is quickly copied and sold by everyone. But “how” you engage your customers, “how” you keep your promises and “how” you collaborate with partners — that’s not so easy to copy, and that is where companies can now really differentiate themselves.

    “When it comes to human conduct there is tremendous variation, and where a broad spectrum of variation exists, opportunity exists,” writes Seidman. “The tapestry of human behavior is so varied, so rich and so global that it presents a rare opportunity, the opportunity to outbehave the competition.”

    How can you outbehave your competition? In Michigan, Seidman writes, one hospital taught its doctors to apologize when they make mistakes, and dramatically cut their malpractice claims. In Texas, a large auto dealership allowed every mechanic to spend freely whatever company money was necessary to do the job right, and saw their costs actually decline while customer satisfaction improved. A New York street doughnut-seller trusted his customers to make their own change and found he could serve more people faster and build the loyalty that keeps them coming back.

    “We do not live in glass houses (houses have walls); we live on glass microscope slides ... visible and exposed to all,” he writes. So whether you’re selling cars or newspapers (or just buying one at the newsstand), get your hows right — how you build trust, how you collaborate, how you lead and how you say you’re sorry. More people than ever will know about it when you do — or don’t.

    Photo Credit: Thomas Friedman. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

    W. Learns From Students

    By Maureen Dowd
    The New York Times
    A group of high school Presidential Scholars visiting the White House on Monday surprised President Bush by slipping him a handwritten letter pleading with him to not let America become known for torture and urging him to stick to the Geneva Conventions with terror detainees.

    The president reassured the teenagers that the United States does not torture. Then the vice president unleashed a pack of large dogs on the kids, running them off the White House lawn, before he shut down the Presidential Scholars program and abolished high schools.

    Since it’s rare that Mr. Bush ever sees groups that have not been prescreened to be nice to him, he made the mistake of opening the letter in front of the students and was surprised to learn that he has made many Americans ashamed by subverting values that the country has always held dear, like abiding by the Constitution and respecting human dignity.

    Mari Oye from Wellesley, Mass., who is headed to Yale in the fall, handed W. the letter signed by 50 students as they posed for a group picture. She told John Roberts on CNN that her mother had been a Presidential Scholar back in 1968 and always regretted not saying something to Lyndon Johnson about the Vietnam War. She also said her grandparents were Japanese-Americans who were interned during World War II, so she has compassion for those “in a similar situation.”

    “We asked him to remove the signing statement attached to the anti-torture bill, which would have allowed presidential power to make exemptions to the ban on torture,” she said. “I really feel strongly about this issue and also about the treatment of some Arab- and Muslim-Americans after September 11th.”

    The president was trying to talk to the students about No Child Left Behind. Maybe that program’s working better than we thought if these kids are able to pull off such a knowing note left behind.

    The White House got another unpleasant surprise Monday when the ordinarily compliant Dick Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee who has gone along with the Bush administration on every Iraq vote, came to the Senate floor to upbraid the president on his Iraq policy in a 50-minute speech.

    “Those who offer constructive criticism of the surge strategy are not defeatists, any more than those who warn against a precipitous withdrawal are militarists,” the 75-year-old senator told the deserted chamber.

    Another Republican on the committee, George Voinovich, sent a letter to the president yesterday, suggesting it’s time to start pulling troops out. “My heart has been heavy for a long time,” he told Jeff Zeleny of The Times. “We’re talking $620 billion. We’re talking over 3,500 people killed.” He said he keeps a photo of an Ohio Marine killed in Iraq on his desk “so I don’t forget, O.K.?” Mr. Lugar said the ’08 race is on, so time is scarce for a bipartisan solution.

    Dick Cheney, the president of the Senate, immediately expelled Mr. Lugar and appointed himself the new senator from Indiana. It was a busy day of Constitutional shape-shifting for the vice president, who had earlier nominated and confirmed himself to the Supreme Court, so that he could roll back judicial decisions tempering his desire for torture galore, and then morphed back into his executive branch role to bar the door to the Oval Office sandbox and prevent Condi and Bob Gates from giving W. the plan he wanted to close down Gitmo.

    Once his BFF Rummy was pushed out, Vice mentally absorbed the role of Defense Secretary into his own portfolio. He allows Mr. Gates — that pragmatic meddler from the skeptical world of Daddy Bush — to keep Rummy’s chair warm, but the new Pentagon chief is certainly not included in the super-secret paper flow Vice created to always get his own way. And Mr. Cheney never acknowledges the power of any secretary of state, be it Colin or Condi. Diplomacy is for wimps.

    The Black Adder, David Addington, the Vice’s enforcer of all things evil, sent a snippy reply to a letter from Senator John Kerry yesterday, asking why Vice says his dual role in the legislative and executive branches means he doesn’t have to catalog any classified papers. What could those papers be? Cooked intelligence on invading Iraq? Ill-gotten profits for Halliburton? More chicanery about Scooter Libby? Gitmo and Abu Ghraib torture memos? So many embarrassing options, so little oversight.

    In essence, the bizarre response is that nothing applies to the vice president because the vice president is everything. Because he is everything, he relaunched the Swift Boats against Skipper Kerry.

    Photo Credit: Maureen Dowd. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

    Tuesday, June 26, 2007

    Wonders Never Cease

    A GOP Plan To Oust Cheney
    Sally Quinn of the Washington Post reports
    "The big question right now among Republicans is how to remove Vice President Cheney from office. Even before this week's blockbuster series in The Post, discontent in Republican ranks was rising.

    As the reputed architect of the war in Iraq, Cheney is viewed as toxic, and as the administration's leading proponent of an attack on Iran, he is seen as dangerous. As long as he remains vice president, according to this thinking, he has the potential to drag down every member of the party -- including the presidential nominee -- in next year's elections...."
    Now if the Yakkety-Yak-No-Act Democrats would get off their rear ends and actually initiate impeachment proceedings, Hell, I might even reconsider voting for one or two of them.

    Might reconsider. Then again, at this late date, with virtually no meaningful leadership from the Dems (Kucinich excepted), probably not.

    The sad thing is, that the Republicans, yet again, have the ability to take the lead, usurp the Democrats' power, force Cheney out, install a replacement they deem would be politically helpful to them in the coming election, and, essentially, show up the Democrats as ineffectual wimps.

    All the Dems have to do to prevent this distasteful scenario is to impeach Bush & Cheney, constitutionally putting Nancy Pelosi in charge (better her than another neo-con). That would empower Pelosi and the Dems to get us out of Iraq and pass meaningful domestic legislation that would otherwise take years to pass (since Bush intends to veto just about anything to do with spending on healthcare, social security, education, or anything else that might benefit non-elite Americans). With the successful passage of popular social legislation under their belts, the Democrats would be optimally positioned for the 2008 election.

    So how come the Democratic Party can't figure this out? Obviously, something more sinister is going on in our "Two!-Two!-Two-Parties-in-One!" system of government.

    Calling all Independents.....

    Also See:

    Sunday, June 24, 2007

    Everything "Is the Iraqis' Fault"

    Guillemette Faure for Rue 89:
    "'The Iraqis did not seize the opportunity they were presented.' That's what Hillary Clinton said Sunday night during the Democratic debate. She explained that the American troops had fulfilled their mission. "They've overthrown Saddam and given them elections." And look what the Iraqis did with that ...

    This is not the first time that Hillary has made the Iraqis responsible for the debacle in Iraq. Last summer at a conference at the Council of Foreign Relations, she accused the Iraqi government of 'holding American credibility hostage.' According to her, it was time to explain that, 'American forces would not always be there to accommodate their refusal.'


    Democrats and Republicans should have read what well-known military analyst Anthony Cordesman explained as early as last November to Time magazine as he felt this tendency rising: 'When someone lets an elephant loose in a china shop, you don't blame the china shop for the broken dishes.'..."

    Last Plamegate Worry for Bush-Cheney

    Robert Parry for
    "It's a well-worn talking point for George W. Bush's supporters to say there was no underlying crime beneath former White House aide I. Lewis Libby's conviction for obstructing justice, a debatable point itself. But the evidence is clear there was a larger cover-up conspiracy -- and it could still unravel...."
    Technorati tags: , , , ,

    Who Is Really Running The Country?

    As if we didn't know ....

    Cheney Announced Bush Detainee Policy Before Bush Approved It
    "On Nov. 14, 2001, the day after Bush signed the commissions order, Cheney took the next big step. He told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that terrorists do not "deserve to be treated as prisoners of war." [Read Cheney's full remarks]

    The president had not yet made that decision. Ten weeks passed, and the Bush administration fought one of its fiercest internal brawls, before Bush ratified the policy that Cheney had declared: The Geneva Conventions would not apply to al-Qaeda or Taliban fighters captured on the battlefield...."
    Hat Tip to Huffington Post.



    The Unknown Candidate: Send a Letter to Congress

    Summer Sign-up Tour Across America

    On July 9th, 2007 PTI will join the Jim Goodnow “Bring the Troops Home” Bus Tour Across America. Traveling from town to town and speaking on Congress’ recent snubbing of hundreds of thousands of petition signatures for impeachment, PTI will SIGN UP Americans willing to participate in PTI’s Plan to force Congress to defend the Constitution and end the war in Iraq.

    To see a presentation of “The Plan” watch the video below:

    Trouble viewing this video? Click Here.

    If you want the bus to come to your town and address your group or event, contact us ASAP and we will coordinate the date and time.



    Also See:

    Kucinich on his bill to impeach Cheney and politics in America.

    TAKE ACTION NOW: Send a Free Email to Congress and DEMAND IMPEACHMENT NOW.

    Bush Says He is Above the Law

    In the slightly paraphrased words of my astute friend Al Buono, "This is incredibly arrogant and brazenly unconstitutional ... IMPEACH THEM BOTH; NOW!

    Then fire up the war crimes trials."

    Bush Claims Oversight Exemption Too :
    The LA Times reports:
    "The White House says the president's own order on classified data does not apply to his office or the vice president's.

    The White House said Friday that, like Vice President Dick Cheney's office, President Bush's office is not allowing an independent federal watchdog to oversee its handling of classified national security information.

    An executive order that Bush issued in March 2003 — amending an existing order — requires all government agencies that are part of the executive branch to submit to oversight. Although it doesn't specifically say so, Bush's order was not meant to apply to the vice president's office or the president's office, a White House spokesman said...."
    Hat tip yet again to Al.

    Related Articles:

    • Dick Cheney: Check and Balance This!
      Quick, forget everything you learned in 5th-grade social studies (or Election) about the three branches of government. You know, the executive, judicial, and legislative. Now it turns out we actually have four branches of government. Like so many of the interesting new things we've learned about how the federal government is really supposed to work, this head-scratcher comes from Dick Cheney....
    • NY Times Editorial: White House of Mirrors:
      "President Bush has turned the executive branch into a two-way mirror. They get to see everything Americans do: our telephone calls, e-mail, and all manner of personal information. And we get to see nothing about what they do...."
    • Finally, Some Answers on NSA Domestic Spying?
      The Senate Judiciary Committee has made at least nine formal requests for documents regarding the NSA's domestic spying programs, but the Bush Administration has refused to hand anything over. The stonewalling may finally cease now that the committee has voted to issue subpoenas, with Chairman Leahy openly questioning what the Administration has to hide.

      A list of the documents Leahy and the committee hope to uncover can be found here.
    • The Hill's Pundit Blog: � CIA Skeletons, The Mortal Sins of Dick Cheney, The Nobility Of Al Gore
      "Soon, CIA Director Michael Hayden will release documents that describe major misdeeds of the CIA in darker days, after General Antonio Taguba went public in The New Yorker with charges of an Abu Ghraib cover-up.

      A great and noble debate will begin in America. Revelations about past and current misdeeds will bring into focus what went wrong in the Iraq war, and why opponents of these policies are voices of American patriotism...."
    • The Hill's Pundit Blog: � Abu Ghraib Cover-up About to Explode
      "Gen. Antonio Taguba is one of America’s most respected senior officers, was put in charge of the Abu Ghraib investigation, and has now leveled a series of powerful public
      charges that will soon blow this case sky-high.

      Gen. Taguba went public early this week in long on-the-record interviews with Sy Hersh reported in his New Yorker piece now on newsstands.

      Among other things, Taguba says:

      1. He was ordered not to investigate higher-ups in the chain of command, which means
      there was (is) a cover-up protecting the highest-ranking Bush administration officials who might have criminal liability.

      2. Early in his investigation he was threatened with career retribution if he dared to seek the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

      3. After his investigation he was punished by being forced into early retirement.

      4. He suggests that Don Rumsfeld might have lied when he testified before Congress, which would be a criminal offense.

      5. He details meetings in which Rumsfeld spoke to him in terms that were sarcastic,
      rude and unprofessional shortly before Rumsfeld would publicly say how much he
      supported the investigation and wanted the truth to come out.

      6. He reveals specific acts of torture that are beyond what was publicly known, and videos of Abu Ghraib torture have not been released that provide strong evidence that the crimes of Abu Ghraib were known earlier and far higher up than previously reported.

      7. He expresses serious concern that the same forms of torture used at Abu
      Ghraib were (are?) also used at Guantanamo Bay, which remains open and the subject of world-wide condemnation.

      At some point Gen. Taguba will be called to testify publicly and will prove one of the most explosive witnesses in six years, while investigative reporters and almost certainly congressional committees are currently looking into Abu Ghraib.

      The implications of this are enormous because they go to potential perjury and giving false testimony to Congress and investigators, and lead outward throughout the dark side of the Bush years.

      There is a high probability that investigation of the Abu Ghraib crimes and cover-up will lead upward to Donald Rumsfeld and his coterie of neoconservative aides and their
      shadow CIA run through the Department of Defense.

      There is a substantial possibility this leads to the role of Alberto Gonzales on the range of torture issues at the Department of Justice and during his years as White House Counsel.

      There is significant possibility this leads to Vice President Cheney, the most aggressive
      advocate of what the world considers torture of any senior official anywhere in the free world.

      Gen. Taguba should be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his honor, integrity and courage throughout this shameful episode and for having the honor to speak out publicly, visibly and unequivocally now.

      The stakes are high and the storm clouds are gathering for those who committed, ordered or covered up crimes of torture."
    • NY Times: Agency Is Target in Cheney Fight on Secrecy Data

    • Inmates' Words: The Poems of Guantanamo
      The publication of an anthology of works, composed on paper cups by detainees, provides a harrowing insight into the torments and fading hopes of prisoners.

    • The CIA's torture teachers | Salon News:
      "Psychologists helped the CIA exploit a secret military program to develop brutal interrogation tactics -- likely with the approval of the Bush White House...."

    Invisible Cheney

    A Vice President Without Borders, Bordering on Lunacy
    By Maureen Dowd
    The New York Times
    It’s hard to imagine how Dick Cheney could get more dastardly, unless J. K. Rowling has him knock off Harry Potter next month.

    Harry’s cloak of invisibility would be no match for Vice’s culture of invisibility.

    I’ve always thought Cheney was way out there — the most Voldemort-like official I’ve run across. But even in my harshest musings about the vice president, I never imagined that he would declare himself not only above the law, not only above the president, but actually his own dark planet — a separate entity from the White House.

    I guess a man who can wait 14 hours before he lets it dribble out that he shot his friend in the face has no limit on what he thinks he can keep secret. Still, it’s quite a leap to go from hiding in a secure, undisclosed location in the capital to hiding in a secure, undisclosed location in the Constitution.

    Dr. No used to just blow off the public and Congress as he cooked up his shady schemes. Now, in a breathtaking act of arrant arrogance, he’s blowing off his own administration.

    Henry Waxman, the California congressman who looks like an accountant and bites like a pit bull, is making the most of Congress’s ability, at long last, to scrutinize Cheney’s chicanery.

    On Thursday, Mr. Waxman revealed that after four years of refusing to cooperate with the government unit that oversees classified documents, the vice president tried to shut down the unit rather than comply with the law ensuring that sensitive data is protected. The National Archives appealed to the Justice Department, but who knows how much justice there is at Justice, now that the White House has so blatantly politicized it?

    Cheney’s office denied doing anything wrong, but Cheney’s office is also denying it’s an office. Tricky Dick Deuce declared himself exempt from a rule that applies to everyone else in the executive branch, instructing the National Archives that the Office of the Vice President is not an “entity within the executive branch” and therefore is not subject to presidential executive orders.

    “It’s absurd, reflecting his view from the first day he got into office that laws don’t apply to him,” Representative Waxman told me. “The irony is, he’s taking the position that he’s not part of the executive branch.”

    Ah, if only that were true. Then maybe W. would be able to close Gitmo, which Vice has insisted he not do. And Condi wouldn’t have to worry every night that she’ll wake up to find crazy Dick bombing Iran, whispering to W. that they have to do it before that weak sister Hillary takes over.

    “Your decision to exempt your office from the president’s order is problematic because it could place national security secrets at risk,” Mr. Waxman, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote to Cheney.

    Of course, it’s doubtful, now that Vice has done so much to put our national security at risk, that he’ll suddenly listen to reason.

    Cheney and Cheney’s Cheney, David Addington, his equally belligerent, ideological and shadowy lawyer and chief of staff, have no shame. After claiming executive privilege to withhold the energy task force names and protect Scooter Libby, they now act outraged that Vice should be seen as part of the executive branch.

    Cheney, they argue, is the president of the Senate, so he’s also part of the legislative branch. Vice is casting himself as a constitutional chimera, an extralegal creature with the body of a snake and the head of a sea monster. It’s a new level of gall, to avoid accountability by saying you’re part of a legislative branch that you’ve spent six years trying to weaken.

    But gall is the specialty of Addington, who has done his best to give his boss the powers of a king. He was the main author of the White House memo justifying torture of terrorism suspects, and he helped stonewall the 9/11 commission. He led the fights supporting holding terrorism suspects without access to courts and against giving Congress and environmentalists access to information about the energy industry big shots who secretly advised Cheney on energy policy.

    Dana Perino, a White House press spokeswoman, had to go out on Friday and defend Cheney’s bizarre contention that he is his own government. “This is an interesting constitutional question that legal scholars can debate,” she said.

    I love that Cheney was able to bully Colin Powell, Pentagon generals and George Tenet when drumming up his fake case for war, but when he tried to push around the little guys, the National Archive data collectors — I’m visualizing dedicated “We the People” wonky types with glasses and pocket protectors — they pushed back.

    Archivists are the new macho heroes of Washington.

    Photo Credit: Maureen Dowd. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

    Energy Dud

    The Capitol Energy Crisis
    By Thomas L. Friedman
    The New York Times
    When you watch a baby being born, after a difficult pregnancy, it is so painful and bloody for the mother it is always hard to tell the truth and say, “Gosh, that baby is really ugly.” But that’s how I feel about the energy legislation passed (and not passed) by the Senate last week.

    The whole Senate energy effort only reinforced my feelings that we’re in a green bubble — a festival of hot air by the news media, corporate America and presidential candidates about green this and green that, but, when it comes to actually doing something hard to bring about a green revolution at scale — and if you don’t have scale on this you have nothing — we wimp out. Climate change is not a hoax. The hoax is that we are really doing something about it.

    No question, it’s great news that the Democrat-led Senate finally stood up to the automakers, and to the Michigan senators, and said, “No more — no more assisted suicide of the U.S. auto industry by the U.S. Congress. We’re passing the first bill since 1975 that mandates an increase in fuel economy.” If the Senate bill, which now has to go through the House, becomes law, automakers will have to boost the average mileage of new cars and light trucks to 35 miles per gallon by 2020, compared with about 25 miles per gallon today.

    But before you celebrate, pay attention to some fine print in the Senate bill. If the Transportation Department determines that the fuel economy goal for any given year is not “cost-effective” — that is, too expensive for the car companies to meet — it can ease the standard. That loophole has to be tightened by the House, which takes up this legislation next week.

    But even this new mileage standard is not exactly world leading. The European Union is today where we want to be in 2020, around 35 miles per gallon, and it is committed to going well over 40 m.p.g. by 2012. Ditto Japan.

    There are other things that make the Senate energy effort ugly. Senate Republicans killed a proposed national renewable electricity mandate that would have required utilities to produce 15 percent of their power from wind, solar, biomass and other clean-energy sources by 2020. Twenty-three states already have such mandates. No matter. Making it national was too much for the Republicans.

    And the Senate, thanks again to the Republicans, also squashed a Democratic proposal to boost taxes on oil and gas companies that would have raised some $32 billion for alternative fuel projects.

    Despite all the new research on climate change, the Senate didn’t even touch the idea of either a cap-and-trade system or a carbon tax to limit carbon dioxide emissions. An effort by Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota to legislate a national reporting (“carbon counter”) system to simply measure all sources of greenhouse gas emissions, which would enable a cap-and-trade system to work if we ever passed one, also got killed by Republicans. We can’t cap and trade something we can’t measure.

    Here is the truth: the core of our energy crisis is in Washington. We have all the technology we need right now to make huge inroads in becoming more energy efficient and energy independent, with drastically lower emissions. We have all the capital we need as well. But because of the unique nature of the energy and climate-change issues — which require incentives and regulations to build alternatives to dirty, but cheap, fossil fuels — you need public policy to connect the energy and capital the right way. That is what has been missing.

    “We have to work to ensure that the House will at least toughen the provisions that the Senate passed,” said Dan Becker, director of the Sierra Club’s Global Warming Program.

    The public wants it. But energy policy gets shaped in the halls of Congress — where wily lobbyists, legacy industries and politicians greedy for campaign contributions regularly sell out the country’s interests for their own. Only when the public really rises up — as it has finally done against the auto companies — do we even get moderate change. Don’t look to the Bush team to lead the revolution.

    “We are the only major country in the world where no one even knows the name of the environment minister — the head of our Environmental Protection Agency,” said Representative Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat. “Whoever it is — and most people don’t even know if it is a he or a she — has been in a six-year witness protection program. Until the Democrats took over, no Bush E.P.A. administrator appeared before the House committee in charge of energy and climate change.”

    Folks, we’re home alone. So call your House member — especially the Republicans. If you don’t, some lobbyist will.

    Photo Credit: Thomas Friedman. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)