Tuli Can't Stop Talking

These are just my thoughts on contemporary issues and an attempt to open up a dialogue.

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Location: New York City

A citizen who cares deeply about the United States Constitution and the Rule of Law.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

NYT’s Covers for Bush’s Search and Seizure.

As I said in my last post, Doug Thompson at Capital Hill Blue sometimes gets it right and should not be dismissed out of hand as when he reported that Bush, who swore to uphold the constitution, said the U.S. Constitution, “It’s just a god dammed piece of paper.”

Now, that “God dammed piece of paper” has what is known as The Fourth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, which is part of that pesky Bill of Rights, to protect American Citizens against the Government’s illegal searches and seizures.

“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.”

The Bill of Rights, for those who don’t remember, is part of our Constitution to protect us all from the Whim and Tyranny of the Monarch. This is part of what makes the United States a country of Laws and not Men.

So, it appears Thompson was right with his reporting over a year ago about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) domestic spying on U. S. Citizens at the President’s order.

As the Times reported:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 - 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.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible "dirty numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval was a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.”

That the New York Times reported that George W. Bush signed an executive order three years ago subverting the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the 1978 law establishing the rules for surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is indeed troubling and shows that Thompson indeed can not be dismissed out of hand.

That George W. Bush would engage in this contravention of the U. S. Constitution and any other law of the land is not shocking to me. Let’s face it this is not an administration that hews to the letter of the law as in torture and rendition. It has called the Geneva Conventions quaint and subverted Habeas Corpus by detaining American Citizens indefinitely without charges or access to lawyers and the court. Just ask Mr. Padilla and Mr. Hamdi if they are shocked at anything this administration would do.

The real nut of this disclosure is that the New York Times sat on this story and covered for the administration for at least a year.

According to the New York Times:

“The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting. Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted.”

Have these people learned nothing from the Judith Miller “WMD” debacle. Is this just another example of the “Liberal Media” that FOX screams about? That the “Paper of Record” acquiesced to this administration's request to sit on this vital information concerning the possible subverting of the law of the land in 2004 is unconscionable. When exactly in 2004 did they have this information, was it before or after November 2nd?

That Bush is unrepentant about this breach with the trust of American Citizens* and the U. S. Constitution is not surprising. That he is outraged by the press outing this more than likely unlawful activity is to be expected. Maybe he thought the “Liberal Media” would keep his secret forever.

It is heartening to see that some in Congress may have awakened from their slumber and will actually engage in some oversight. As the WAPO reports:

“Disclosure of the NSA plan had an immediate effect on Capitol Hill, where Democratic senators and a handful of Republicans derailed a bill that would renew expiring portions of the USA Patriot Act anti-terrorism law. Opponents repeatedly cited the previously unknown NSA program as an example of the kinds of government abuses that concerned them, while the GOP chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said he would hold oversight hearings on the issue.

"There is no doubt that this is inappropriate," said Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who favored the Patriot Act renewal but said the NSA issue provided valuable ammunition for its opponents.”

The Times reasoning for withholding this vital information from the U.S. electorate is less than convincing. As reported by one of their competitors, the Washington Post:

“The Times said it agreed to remove information that administration officials said could be "useful" to terrorists and delayed publication for a year "to conduct additional reporting."

The paper offered no explanation to its readers about what had changed in the past year to warrant publication. It also did not disclose that the information is included in a forthcoming book, "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration," written by James Risen, the lead reporter on yesterday's story. The book will be published in mid-January, according to its publisher, Simon & Schuster.

The decision to withhold the article caused some friction within the Times' Washington bureau, according to people close to the paper. Some reporters and editors in New York and in the bureau, including Risen and co-writer Eric Lichtblau, had pushed for earlier publication, according to these people. One described the story's path to publication as difficult, with much discussion about whether it could have been published earlier.

In a statement yesterday, Times Executive Editor Bill Keller did not mention the book. He wrote that when the Times became aware that the NSA was conducting domestic wiretaps without warrants, "the Administration argued strongly that writing about this eavesdropping program would give terrorists clues about the vulnerability of their communications and would deprive the government of an effective tool for the protection of the country's security."

So, what has changed that the Times is releasing this story now? Was it that the Patriot Act is being reconsidered? Could Sen. Feingold’s statements on the Senate floor during the Filibuster have anything to do with the decision to come clean?

Here is a portion of his statement and plea for the reconsideration of the USA Patriot Act and its Fourth Amendment ramifications:

“Let me make one final point about sneak and peek warrants. Don’t be fooled for a minute into believing that this power is needed to investigate terrorism or espionage. It’s not. Section 213 is a criminal provision that could apply in whatever kind of criminal investigation the government has undertaken. In fact, most sneak and peek warrants are issued for drug investigations. So why do I say that they aren’t needed in terrorism investigations? Because FISA also can apply to those investigations. And FISA search warrants are always executed in secret, and never require notice. If you really don’t want to give notice of a search in a terrorism investigation, you can get a FISA warrant. So any argument that limiting the sneak and peek power as we have proposed will interfere with sensitive terrorism investigations is a red herring.”

It is good to know that some of our legislators understand that these Fourth Amendment subversions are about undermining our Civil Liberties and not protecting us from the Terrorists.

In fact if we continue down this road the Terrorists will have won.

Wake Up “Liberal Media!” In your mealy mouthed desire to be “Balanced” you are betraying the American Public. You know there is a reason the New York Times is called “Pravda,” it is because it is seen as being the scribe and stenographer of the Administration and those in power.

Khrushchev and Nixon would have been thrilled.

UPDATE: Here is the earlier Yahoo Article* which I had posted before it was extensively edited:

Bush Won't Discuss Report of NSA Spying

By JENNIFER LOVEN, Associated Press Writer 21 minutes ago

President Bush refused to say whether the National Security Agency eavesdropped without warrants on people inside the United States but leaders of Congress condemned the practice on Friday and promised to look into what the administration has done.

"There is no doubt that this is inappropriate," said Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record), R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said there would be hearings early next year and that they would have "a very, very high priority." He wasn't alone in reacting harshly to the report. Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record), R-Ariz., said the story, first reported in Friday's New York Times, was troubling.

Bush said in an interview that "we do not discuss ongoing intelligence operations to protect the country. And the reason why is that there's an enemy that lurks, that would like to know exactly what we're trying to do to stop them.

"I will make this point," Bush said. "That whatever I do to protect the American people — and I have an obligation to do so — that we will uphold the law, and decisions made are made understanding we have an obligation to protect the civil liberties of the American people."

The president spoke in an interview to be aired Friday evening on "The Newshour with Jim Lehrer."

Bush played down the importance of the eavesdropping story. "It's not the main story of the day," Bush told Lehrer. "The main story of the day is the Iraqi elections" for parliament which took place on Thursday.

Neither Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice nor White House press secretary Scott McClellan would confirm or deny the report which said the super-secret NSA had spied on as many as 500 people at any given time since 2002 in this country.

That year, following the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush authorized the NSA to monitor the international phone calls and international e-mails of hundreds — perhaps thousands — of people inside the United States, the Times reported.

McClellan said the White House has received no requests for information from lawmakers because of the report. "Congress does have an important oversight role," he said.

Before the program began, the NSA typically limited its domestic surveillance to foreign embassies and missions and obtained court orders for such investigations. Overseas, 5,000 to 7,000 people suspected of terrorist ties are monitored at one time.

"This is Big Brother run amok," declared Sen. Edward Kennedy (news, bio, voting record), D-Mass. Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., called it a "shocking revelation" that "ought to send a chill down the spine of every senator and every American."

Administration officials reacted to the report by asserting that the president has respected the Constitution while striving to protect the American people.

Rice said Bush has "acted lawfully in every step that he has taken." And McClellan said Bush "is going to remain fully committed to upholding our Constitution and protect the civil liberties of the American people. And he has done both."

The report surfaced as the administration and its GOP allies on Capitol Hill were fighting to save provisions of the expiring USA Patriot Act that they believe are key tools in the fight against terrorism. An attempt to rescue the approach favored by the White House and Republicans failed on a procedural vote Friday morning.

The Times said reporters interviewed nearly a dozen current and former administration officials about the program and granted them anonymity because of the classified nature of the program.

Government officials credited the new program with uncovering several terrorist plots, including one by Iyman Faris, an Ohio trucker who pleaded guilty in 2003 to supporting al-Qaida by planning to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge, the report said.

Some NSA officials were so concerned about the legality of the program that they refused to participate, the Times said. Questions about the legality of the program led the administration to temporarily suspend it last year and impose new restrictions.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales refused to confirm that the NSA eavesdrops on Americans or whether he played any role, in his previous job as White House counsel, in providing legal justification for the program.

Gonzales said Bush is waging an aggressive fight against terrorism, but one that is "consistent with the Constitution."

But he said generally that the government has an intense need for information in the struggle. "Winning the war on terrorism requires winning the war of information We are dealing with a patient, diabolical enemy who wants to harm America," Gonzales said at a news conference at the Justice Department on child prostitution arrests.

Caroline Fredrickson, director of the Washington legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the group was shocked by the disclosure.

Earlier this week, the Pentagon said it was reviewing its use of a classified database of information about suspicious people and activity inside the United States after a report by NBC News said the database listed activities of anti-war groups that were not a security threat to Pentagon property or personnel.

The administration had briefed congressional leaders about the NSA program and notified the judge in charge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secret Washington court that handles national security issues.

The Times said it delayed publication of the report for a year because the White House said it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. The Times said it omitted information from the story that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists.


More from TalkLeft and Firedoglake

UPDATE: Bush Says he Ordered Secret Domestic Spying and he was Right!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

It is Just a Piece of Paper!

Many of the folks on the President’s list for SCOTUS and in this administration believe in dismissing the “Parchment Regime.” They believe that the U.S. Constitution is merely a piece of paper. They do not believe in its legitimacy. They believe that all law comes from a “Higher Being.”

This totally contradicts the “Higher Law of the Land,” the U. S. Constitution, which embraces and codifies the separation of Church and State.

Jill has a recount of a conversation in which the president, who has sworn to uphold this piece of parchment.

She is right in that this comes from Capital Blue, but Thompson has been right too many times to discount his report.

Here is her post:

Saturday, December 10, 2005

"It's just a goddamned piece of paper"

OK, sure, it's Capitol Hill Blue again, but consider George W. Bush's remarks about how he'd rather be a dictator, and consider also his penchant for thinking "l'état, c'est moi" before dismissing it out of hand:

Last month, Republican Congressional leaders filed into the Oval Office to meet with President George W. Bush and talk about renewing the controversial USA Patriot Act.

Several provisions of the act, passed in the shell shocked period immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, caused enough anger that liberal groups like the American Civil Liberties Union had joined forces with prominent conservatives like Phyllis Schlafly and Bob Barr to oppose renewal.

GOP leaders told Bush that his hardcore push to renew the more onerous provisions of the act could further alienate conservatives still mad at the President from his botched attempt to nominate White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

“I don’t give a goddamn,” Bush retorted. “I’m the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way.”

“Mr. President,” one aide in the meeting said. “There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution.”

“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush screamed back. “It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”

I’ve talked to three people present for the meeting that day and they all confirm that the President of the United States called the Constitution “a goddamned piece of paper.”

Mr. President, you swore on the Bible you pretend to hold so dear to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. If you think it's just a "goddamned piece of paper", then perhaps you ought to step down. If not, then it's time to think about impeachment for violation of your oath of office -- a violation far more sever than accepting a sexual favor from a woman of legal age.

(hat tip: "Radical Russ" at Pam's House Blend)

This would explain a lot of what is going on with this administration these days. It would also explain the comments made by a Senior White House official to Ron Suskind in October stating that the White House and Bush create their own reality and dismissing those of us in what they quaintly refer to as the Reality-based community.

Now who needs the tin foil hat?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Frank Rich: The Jig is Up!

WHEN a government substitutes propaganda for governing, the Potemkin village It Takes a Potemkin Village

is all. Since we don't get honest information from this White House, we must instead, as the Soviets once did, decode our rulers' fictions to discern what's really happening. What we're seeing now is the wheels coming off: As the administration's stagecraft becomes more baroque, its credibility tanks further both at home and abroad. The propaganda techniques may be echt Goebbels, but they increasingly come off as pure Ali G.

The latest desperate shifts in White House showmanship say at least as much about our progress (or lack of same) in Iraq over the past 32 months as reports from the ground. When President Bush announced the end of "major combat operations" in May 2003, his Imagineers felt the need for only a single elegant banner declaring "Mission Accomplished." Cut to Nov. 30, 2005: the latest White House bumper sticker, "Plan for Victory," multiplied by Orwellian mitosis over nearly every square inch of the rather "Queer Eye" stage set from which Mr. Bush delivered his oration at the Naval Academy.

And to no avail. Despite the insistently redundant graphics - and despite the repetition of the word "victory" 15 times in the speech itself - Americans believed "Plan for Victory" far less than they once did "Mission Accomplished." The first New York Times-CBS News Poll since the Naval Academy pep talk, released last Thursday, found that only 25 percent of Americans say the president has "a clear plan for victory in Iraq." Tom Cruise and evolution still have larger constituencies in America than that.

Mr. Bush's "Plan for Victory" speech was, of course, the usual unadulterated nonsense. Its overarching theme - "We will never accept anything less than complete victory" - was being contradicted even as he spoke by rampant reports of Pentagon plans for stepped-up troop withdrawals between next week's Iraqi elections and the more important (for endangered Republicans) American Election Day of 2006. The specifics were phony, too: Once again inflating the readiness of Iraqi troops, Mr. Bush claimed that the recent assault on Tal Afar "was primarily led by Iraqi security forces" - a fairy tale immediately unmasked by Michael Ware, a Time reporter embedded in that battle's front lines, as "completely wrong." No less an authority than the office of Iraq's prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, promptly released a 59-page report documenting his own military's inadequate leadership, equipment and training.

But this variety of Bush balderdash is such old news that everyone except that ga-ga 25 percent instantaneously tunes it out. We routinely assume that the subtext (i.e., the omissions and deliberate factual errors) of his speeches and scripted town meetings will be more revealing than the texts themselves. What raised the "Plan for Victory" show to new heights of disinformation was the subsequent revelation that the administration's main stated motive for the address - the release of a 35-page document laying out a "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" - was as much a theatrical prop as the stunt turkey the president posed with during his one furtive visit to Baghdad two Thanksgivings ago.

As breathlessly heralded by Scott McClellan, this glossy brochure was "an unclassified version" of the strategy in place since the war's inception in "early 2003." But Scott Shane of The New York Times told another story. Through a few keystrokes, the electronic version of the document at whitehouse.gov could be manipulated to reveal text "usually hidden from public view." What turned up was the name of the document's originating author: Peter Feaver, a Duke political scientist who started advising the National Security Council only this June. Dr. Feaver is an expert on public opinion about war, not war itself. Thus we now know that what Mr. McClellan billed as a 2003 strategy for military victory is in fact a P.R. strategy in place for no more than six months. That solves the mystery of why Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey of the Army, who is in charge of training Iraqi troops, told reporters that he had never seen this "National Strategy" before its public release last month.

In a perfect storm of revelations, the "Plan for Victory" speech fell on the same day that The Los Angeles Times exposed new doings on another front in the White House propaganda war. An obscure Defense Department contractor, the Lincoln Group, was caught paying off Iraqi journalists to run upbeat news articles secretly written by American Army personnel and translated into Arabic (at a time when American troops in harm's way are desperate for Arabic translators of their own). One of the papers running the fake news is Al Mutamar, the Baghdad daily run by associates of Ahmad Chalabi. So now we know that at least one P.R. plan, if not a plan for victory, has been consistent since early 2003. As Mr. Chalabi helped feed spurious accounts of Saddam's W.M.D. to American newspapers to gin up the war, so his minions now help disseminate happy talk to his own country's press to further the illusion that the war is being won.

The Lincoln Group's articles (e.g., "The Sands Are Blowing Toward a Democratic Iraq") are not without their laughs - for us, if not for the Iraqis, whose intelligence is insulted and whose democratic aspirations are betrayed by them. But the texts are no more revealing than those of Mr. Bush's speeches. Look instead at the cover-up that has followed the Los Angeles Times revelations. The administration and its frontmen at once started stonewalling from a single script. Mr. McClellan, Pentagon spokesmen, Senator John Warner and Donald Rumsfeld all give the identical answer to the many press queries. We don't have the facts, they say, even as they maintain that the Lincoln Group articles themselves are factual.

The Pentagon earmarks more than $100 million in taxpayers' money for various Lincoln Group operations, and it can't get any facts? Though the 30-year-old prime mover in the shadowy outfit, one Christian Bailey, fled from Andrea Mitchell of NBC News when she pursued him on camera in Washington, certain facts are proving not at all elusive.

Ms. Mitchell and other reporters have learned that Mr. Bailey has had at least four companies since 2002, most of them interlocking, short-lived and under phantom names. Government Executive magazine also discovered that Mr. Bailey "was a founder and active participant in Lead21," a Republican "fund-raising and networking operation" - which has since scrubbed his name from its Web site - and that he and a partner in his ventures once listed a business address identical to their Washington residence. This curious tale, with its trail of cash payoffs, trading in commercial Iraqi real estate and murky bidding procedures for lucrative U.S. government contracts, could have been lifted from "Syriana" or "Glengarry Glen Ross." While Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. McClellan valiantly continue their search for "the facts," what we know so far can safely be filed under the general heading of "Lay, DeLay and Abramoff."

The more we learn about such sleaze in the propaganda war, the more we see it's failing for the same reason as the real war: incompetence. Much as the disastrous Bremer regime botched the occupation of Iraq with bad decisions made by its array of administration cronies and relatives (among them Ari Fleischer's brother), so the White House doesn't exactly get the biggest bang for the bucks it shells out to cronies for fake news.

Until he was unmasked as an administration shill, Armstrong Williams was less known for journalism than for striking a deal to dismiss a messy sexual-harassment suit against him in 1999. When an Army commander had troops sign 500 identical good-news form letters to local newspapers throughout America in 2003, the fraud was so transparent it was almost instantly debunked. The fictional scenarios concocted for Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman also unraveled quickly, as did last weekend's Pentagon account of 10 marines killed outside Falluja on a "routine foot patrol." As the NBC correspondent Jim Miklaszewski told Don Imus last week, he received calls within hours from the fallen's loved ones about how the marines had been slaughtered after being recklessly sent to an unprotected site for a promotion ceremony.

Though the White House doesn't know that its jig is up, everyone else does. Americans see that New Orleans is in as sorry shape today as it was under Brownie three months ago. The bipartisan 9/11 commissioners confirm that homeland security remains a pork pit. Condi Rice's daily clarifications of her clarifications about American torture policies are contradicted by new reports of horrors before her latest circumlocutions leave her mouth. And the president's latest Iraq speeches - most recently about the "success" stories of Najaf and Mosul - still don't stand up to the most rudimentary fact checking.

This is why the most revealing poll number in the Times/CBS survey released last week was Mr. Bush's approval rating for the one area where things are going relatively well, the economy: 38 percent, only 2 points higher than his rating on Iraq. It's a measure of the national cynicism bequeathed by the Bush culture that seeing anything, even falling prices at the pump, is no longer believing.

Enough said.

R.I.P. Richard Pryor

It breaks my heart. Here it is from the WAPO via AP:

Pathbreaking Comedian Richard Pryor Dies

The Associated Press
Saturday, December 10, 2005; 7:11 PM

LOS ANGELES -- Richard Pryor, the groundbreaking comedian whose profanely personal insights into race relations and modern life made him one of Hollywood's biggest stars, died of a heart attack Saturday. He was 65.

Pryor died shortly before 8 a.m. after being taken to a hospital from his home in the San Fernando Valley, said his business manager, Karen Finch. He had been ill for years with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease of the nervous system.

Music producer Quincy Jones described Pryor as a true pioneer of his art.

"He was the Charlie Parker of comedy, a master of telling the truth that influenced every comedian that came after him," Jones said in a statement. "The legacy that he leaves will forever be with us."

Pryor lived dangerously close to the edge, both on stage and off.

He was regarded early in his career as one of the most foul-mouthed comics in the business, but he gained a wide following for his universal and frequently personal routines. After nearly losing his life in 1980 when he caught on fire while freebasing cocaine, he incorporated the ordeal into his later routines.

His audacious style influenced generations of stand-up artists, from Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock to Robin Williams and David Letterman, among others.

A series of hit comedies and concert films in the '70s and '80s helped make Pryor one of the highest paid stars in Hollywood, and he was one of the first black performers to have enough leverage to cut his own deals. In 1983, he signed a $40 million, five-year contract with Columbia Pictures.

His films included "Stir Crazy," "Silver Streak," "Which Way Is Up?" and "Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip."

Throughout his career, Pryor focused on racial inequality, once joking as the host of the Academy Awards in 1977 that Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier were the only black members of the Academy.

Pryor once marveled "that I live in racist America and I'm uneducated, yet a lot of people love me and like what I do, and I can make a living from it. You can't do much better than that."

But he battled drug and alcohol addictions for years, most notably when he suffered severe burns over 50 percent of his body while freebasing at his home. An admitted "junkie" at the time, Pryor spent six weeks recovering from the burns and much longer from his addictions.

He battled multiple sclerosis throughout the '90s.

In his last movie, the 1991 bomb "Another You," Pryor's poor health was clearly evident. Pryor made a comeback attempt the following year, returning to standup comedy in clubs and on television while looking thin and frail, and with noticeable speech and movement difficulties.

In 1995, he played an embittered multiple sclerosis patient in an episode of the television series "Chicago Hope." The role earned him an Emmy nomination as best guest actor in a drama series.

"To be diagnosed was the hardest thing because I didn't know what they were talking about," he said. "And the doctor said `Don't worry, in three months you'll know.'

"So I went about my business and then, one day, it jumped me. I couldn't get up. ... Your muscles trick you; they did me."

While Pryor's material sounds modest when compared with some of today's raunchier comedians, it was startling material when first introduced. He never apologized for it.

Pryor was fired by one Las Vegas hotel for "obscenities" directed at the audience. In 1970, tired of compromising his act, he quit in the middle of another Vegas stage show with the words, "What the (blank) am I doing here?" The audience was left staring at an empty stage.

He didn't tone things down after he became famous. In his 1977 NBC television series "The Richard Pryor Show," he threatened to cancel his contract with the network. NBC's censors objected to a skit in which Pryor appeared naked save for a flesh-colored loincloth to suggest he was emasculated.

"I wish that every new and young comedian would understand what Richard was about and not confuse his genius with his language usage," comedian Bill Cosby said through a spokesman Saturday.

In his later years, Pryor mellowed considerably, and his film roles looked more like easy paychecks than artistic endeavors. His robust work gave way to torpid efforts like "Harlem Nights," "Brewster's Millions" and "Hear No Evil, See No Evil."

"I didn't think `Brewster's Millions' was good to begin with," Pryor once said. "I'm sorry, but they offered us the money. I was a pig, I got greedy."

"I had some great things and I had some bad things. The best and the worst," he said in 1995. "In other words, I had a life."

Recognition came in 1998 from an unlikely source: The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington gave Pryor the first Mark Twain Prize for humor. He said in a statement that he was proud that, "like Mark Twain, I have been able to use humor to lessen people's hatred."

Born in 1940 in Peoria, Ill., Pryor grew up in his grandmother's brothel. His first professional performance came at age 7, when he played drums at a night club.

Following high school and two years of Army service, he launched his performing career, honing his comedy in bars throughout the United States. By the mid-'60s, he was appearing in Las Vegas clubs and on the television shows of Ed Sullivan, Merv Griffin and Johnny Carson.

His first film role came with a small part in 1967's "The Busy Body." He made his starring debut as Diana Ross' piano man in 1972's "Lady Sings the Blues."

Pryor also wrote scripts for the television series "Sanford and Son," "The Flip Wilson Show" and two specials for Lily Tomlin. He collaborated with Mel Brooks on the script for the movie "Blazing Saddles."

Later in his career, Pryor used his films as therapy. "Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling," was an autobiographical account of a popular comedian re-examining his life while lying delirious in a hospital burn ward. Pryor directed, co-wrote, co-produced and starred in the film.

"I'm glad I did `Jo Jo,'" Pryor once said. "It helped me get rid of a lot of stuff."

Pryor also had legal problems over the years. In 1974, he was sentenced to three years' probation for failing to file federal income tax returns. In 1978, he allegedly fired shots and rammed his car into a vehicle occupied by two of his wife's friends.

Even in poor health, his comedy was vital. At a 1992 performance, he asked the room, "Is there a doctor in the audience?" All he got was nervous laughter. "No, I'm serious. I want to know if there's a doctor here."

A hand finally went up.

"Doctor," Pryor said, "I need to know one thing. What the (blank) is MS?"

Pryor was married six times. His children include sons Richard and Steven, and daughters Elizabeth, Rain and Renee.

Daughter Rain became an actress. In an interview in 2005, she told the Philadelphia Inquirer that her father always "put his life right out there for you to look at. I took that
approach because I saw how well audiences respond to it. I try to make you laugh at life."

God Bless you Richard, you spoke truth to power.

We morn your passing.

Rendition Smells!

In a past life I lived near a rendering plant in Massachusetts. Let me tell you that rendering smells. It is disgusting. It clings to your body and makes you a part of the process. There is no escaping its outcome.

It is called rendering because it is about separation. It is about the separation of organs. It is about “melting down.” It is ugly.

And so our policy of rendering folks to other countries smells as well. Do we render them there so that we, US Citizens, can feel superior that we don’t torture? Do we render them to other countries so that U.S. Citizens don’t have to smell the acrid air that rendition produces?

The cloying smell and affects of rendition, like the factory in Auburn Massachusetts, is just as clinging as the stench from this Administration’s policy.

We are all a part of this and must shut down this factory.

Or are we just “Good Germans” who will ignore the smell of acrid air?

High Jacking Democracy and the Courts.

When you want to destroy democracy and consolidate your power what better way to do it than to control and undermine the electoral process and voting? Well, the Bush Administration has finally gotten around to the sure fire way of doing it. They have decided that the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice will be a political wing of the Republican Party.

Now as my two readers know, I don’t think that BushCo. is either Republican or Conservative. As we all know the Conservative American endorsed John Kerry in the last election as did the Economist by endorsing “Incoherence over Incompetence.” I believe that for some bizarre reason the Repubs and the Conservatives have let the Corporatists and Christofascists take over the party. Why this happened is still a mystery to me. The only reason I can come up with is that the GOP and the Conservatives have decided that Power is more important than Principle. But that is a story for another day.

That said, this takeover and politization of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice is nothing more than a high jacking of the democratic process and thus democracy itself. The recent exposure of the staff memos which analyze the Voter ID legislation in Georgia and the redistricting of Congressional Districts in Texas as illegal, underming voter rights, and thereby democracy, which were rejected and overruled by Bush political appointees is a frightening development.

More frightening, however, is that in light of this exposure, this administration has decided to implement a structural change in DOJ and keep the non-political and career lawyers from having any say on Voter Rights Legislation.

As the WAPO reports:

The Justice Department has barred staff attorneys from offering recommendations in major Voting Rights Act cases, marking a significant change in the procedures meant to insulate such decisions from politics, congressional aides and current and former employees familiar with the issue said.

Disclosure of the change comes amid growing public criticism of Justice Department decisions to approve Republican-engineered plans in Texas and Georgia that were found to hurt minority voters by career staff attorneys who analyzed the plans. Political appointees overruled staff findings in both cases.


"It's an attempt by the political hierarchy to insulate themselves from any accountability by essentially leaving it up to a chief, who's there at their whim," said Jon Greenbaum, who worked in the voting section from 1997 to 2003, and who is now director of the Voting Rights Project at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "To me, it shows a fear of dealing with the legal issues in these cases."

Many congressional Democrats have sharply criticized the Civil Rights Division's performance, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said this week that he is considering holding hearings on the Texas redistricting case. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) said in a statement yesterday: "America deserves better than a Civil Rights Division that puts the political agenda of those in power over the interests of the people its serves."

Thankfully, Arlen Specter, a Republican from Pennsylvania, and the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, is going to call for hearings on this development and structural change at the DOJ. If it were just the Dems interest in this it would die a fast death in the Senate and elsewhere.

Now say Senator Spector is really concerned with preserving our fragile democracy, he would then also take an interest in questioning SCOTUS nominee, Judge Samuel Alito as to his disagreement with the Baker v. Carr decision that one man one vote is basic to democracy and the role of the Judiciary in our democracy. The Judiciary committee should closely question the nominee on why he is one with Justice Frankfurter’s dissent in the case.

Edward Lazarus has written a good analysis at Findlaw on the Baker decision and why it is important to democracy. He has also made the case that the Committee must thoroughly examine the nominee’s stance on this apportionment case and the philosophy of the role of the Supreme Court in our democracy as well as the ramifications for our fragile democracy.

Lazarus says:

To be sure, apportionment cases can raise difficult questions about what standards to apply in evaluating whether a given electoral scheme is lawful. Basically, the problem boils down to a judgment about how much gerrymandering is too much gerrymandering. But this is a practical problem of how to devise and apply a set of reasonably objective standards; it does not implicate the kind of moral judgments that can really enmesh the Court in the political thickets that so concerned Frankfurter.

Moreover, in my view, it is hard to imagine an area of law more appropriate to judicial intervention or more essential to furthering the goals of our Constitution, than the area of apportionment. Our whole system depends on ensuring the accountability of our elected representatives. That these representatives actually reflect the will of the people, is the very reason we give them power, and the reason the judicial branch will generally defer to legislative judgments. Without a truly representative voting system, democracy is, by definition, shattered.

Put another way, if the elected representatives are rigging the system for accountability, either by tipping the electoral scales in favor of incumbency, or by undermining the franchise of some particular group of citizens, then the core integrity of our democratic system is put in jeopardy.

Moreover, it borders on the silly to argue in Frankfurterian fashion, that the elected representatives themselves can be trusted to police this system. After all, they are highly self-interested in the outcomes here - with the temptation to ensure their own re-election, and that of allies, especially others from their party.


Put simply, the problem today is not too much judicial intervention to police the channels of democracy, but too little. For instance, two years ago, in Vieth v Jubelirer, the Court made a terrible mistake when, by a 5-4 vote, declined to stop a blatant instance of political gerrymandering in Pennsylvania.

For this reason, one of the most important questions Alito has to answer at his confirmation hearing is whether he is still a devotee of Frankfurter's antiquated views - or whether, with the perspective of time and age, he now grasps the historical lesson of Baker v. Carr: the lesson that there is no higher or better judicial calling than to help clear away the arterial sclerosis that ails our body politic.

That this administration would attack democracy through attacking the Voter Rights Act and the Civil Rights Division of DOJ is made all the more explicit by the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

Anyone who thinks that those of us who are decrying the electoral process as corrupt, and tinfoil hat wearers, need look no farther than this as the expansion of the felony voter registration lists, and the whole Diebold paper less voting scandals.

When the College Republican’s run classes on Voter Suppression it isn’t just quixotic it is a plan. From whence we got Abramoff and Norquist.

It is all connected folks.

UPDATE: For those who may have missed the connection, and there are some, the connection is hubris.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Dear John Love Letter from Jack’s Partner!

Is Carl Hiaasen taking notes for his next novel?

Well, now that Kidan is going to cop a plea it looks like Abramoff is toast in the SunCruz fraud case. What that means for the “gangland style murder case” is still up in the air.

I would posit that if Kidan flips on the fraud and is pressed on the “gangland style murder case” he will flip there as well.

Then I would expect that Jack will try to cut a deal with the Feds by implicating just about every POL he has ever spoken to, never mind every POL that he has paid to vote, or engage in Pay-for-Play.

“Pass the popcorn.”

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I Apologize!

I just watched President Jimmy Carter on the Daily Show. And once again I have been embarrassed to admit that I voted against this man. Now, I did it because he was anti-choice and so I felt as a young-un, and one with a genuine lack of understanding of our First Past the Post electoral process, that I had to vote for John Anderson.

I have since then been personally accused of being responsible for the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Now the actual vote in 1980 belies that. But, never-the-less, I have felt embarrassed since the election of Ronald Reagan.

And so began my life of apologizing.

This kind of reminds me of all those young-uns who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000. However, by the time 2000 rolled around I fully understood our electoral system and just who the opposition was. And because I had erred in 1980 I was even more outraged at those who, with a lack of civic understanding, voted for Ralph Nader and helped elect George W. Bush. Not that I am letting the SCOTUS Five off the hook here.

Luckily for all of us, President Carter keeps on doing the good work and speaking out for all of us. His latest book, Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis is up there on the Best Seller’s List. So, as he hammers away at the Bush Administration’s assault on civil liberties and human rights, his voice as a Southern Baptist Christian is authoritative and cannot be ignored in the political climate of fundamentalist Christianity embraced by Republican conservatism.

Some folks are just better Ex-Presidents, aren’t they? So, do I get credit for that?