The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Friday, March 04, 2005

Frank Rich -- Gonzo Gone, Rather Going, Watergate Still Here

The New York Times
March 6, 2005
FRANK RICH
Gonzo Gone, Rather Going, Watergate Still Here

TWO weeks ago Hunter S. Thompson committed suicide. Next week Dan Rather commits ritual suicide, leaving the anchor chair at CBS prematurely as penance for his toxic National Guard story. The two journalists shared little but an abiding distaste - make that hatred in Thompson's case - for the Great Satan of 20th-century American politics, Richard Nixon. The best work of both was long behind them. Yet memories of that best work - not to mention the coincidental timing of their departures - only accentuate the vacuum in that cultural category we stubbornly insist on calling News.

What's missing from News is the news. On ABC, Peter Jennings devotes two hours of prime time to playing peek-a-boo with U.F.O. fanatics, a whorish stunt crafted to deliver ratings, not information. On NBC, Brian Williams is busy as all get-out, as every promo reminds us, "Reporting America's Story." That story just happens to be the relentless branding of Brian Williams as America's anchorman - a guy just too in love with Folks Like Us to waste his time looking closely at, say, anything happening in Washington.

In this environment, it's hard to know whom to root for. After the "60 Minutes" fiasco, Mr. Williams's boss, the NBC president Jeff Zucker, piously derided CBS for its screw-up, bragging of the reforms NBC News instituted after a producer staged a truck explosion for a "Dateline NBC" segment in 1992. "Nothing like that could have gotten through, at any level," Mr. Zucker said of the CBS National Guard story, "because of the safeguards we instituted more than a decade ago." Good for him, but it's not as if a lot else has gotten through either. When was the last time Stone Phillips delivered a scoop, with real or even fake documents, on "Dateline"? Or that NBC News pulled off an investigative coup as stunning as the "60 Minutes II" report on Abu Ghraib? That, poignantly enough, was Mr. Rather's last hurrah before he, too, and through every fault of his own, became a neutered newsman.

Hunter Thompson did not do investigative reporting, but he would have had a savage take on our news-free world - not least because it resembles his own during the Nixon era, before he had calcified into the self-parodistic pop culture cartoon immortalized by Garry Trudeau, Bill Murray, Johnny Depp and most of his eulogists. Read "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72" - the chronicle of his Rolling Stone election coverage - and you find that his diagnosis of journalistic dysfunction hasn't aged a day: "The most consistent and ultimately damaging failure of political journalism in America has its roots in the clubby/cocktail personal relationships that inevitably develop between politicians and journalists." He cites as a classic example the breathless but belated revelations of the mental history of George McGovern's putative running mate, the Missouri Senator Thomas Eagleton - a story that had long been known by "half of the political journalists in St. Louis and at least a dozen in the Washington press corps." This same clubby pack would be even tardier on Watergate, a distasteful assignment left to a pair of lowly police-beat hacks at The Washington Post.

Thompson was out to break the mainstream media's rules. His unruly mix of fact, opinion and masturbatory self-regard may have made him a blogger before there was an Internet, but he was a blogger who had the zeal to leave home and report firsthand and who could write great sentences that made you want to savor what he found out rather than just scroll quickly through screen after screen of minutiae and rant. When almost all "the Wizards, Gurus and Gentlemen Journalists in Washington" were predicting an unimpeded victory march for Edmund Muskie to the Democratic presidential nomination, it was Thompson who sniffed out the Muskie campaign's "smell of death" and made it stick. The purported front-runner, he wrote, "talked like a farmer with terminal cancer trying to borrow money on next year's crop."

But even Thompson might have been shocked by what's going on now. "The death of Thompson represents the passing from the Age of Gonzo to the Age of Gannon," wrote Russell Cobb in a column in The Daily Texan at the University of Texas. As he argues, today's White House press corps is less likely to be invaded by maverick talents like a drug-addled reporter from a renegade start-up magazine than by a paid propagandist like Jeff Gannon, a fake reporter for a fake news organization (Talon News) run by a bona fide Texas Republican operative who was a delegate to the 2000 Bush convention.

Though a few remain on the case - Eric Boehlert of Salon, mediamatters.org, Joe Strupp of Editor and Publisher - the Gannon story is fast receding. In some major news venues, including ABC and CBS, it never surfaced at all. Yet even as Mr. Gannon has quit his "job" as a reporter and his "news organization" has closed up shop, the plot thickens. His own Web site - which only recently shut down with the self-martyring message "The voice goes silent" - has now restarted as a blog with Gonzo pretensions. The title alone of his first entry, "Fear and Loathing in the Press Room," would send Thompson spinning in his grave had he not asked that his remains be shot out of a cannon.

As a blogger, Mr. Gannon's new tactic is to encourage fellow right-wing bloggers to portray him as the victim of a homophobic left-wing witch hunt that destroyed his privacy. Given that it was Mr. Gannon himself who voluntarily exhibited his own private life by appearing on Web sites advertising his services as a $200-per-hour escort, that's a hard case to make. But it is a clever way to deflect attention from an actual sexual witch hunt conducted by his own fake news organization in early 2004. It was none other than Talon News that advanced the fictional story that a young woman "taped an interview with one of the major television networks" substantiating a rumor on the Drudge Report that John F. Kerry had had an extramarital affair with an intern. (Mr. Kerry had to publicly deny the story just as his campaign came out of the gate.) This is the kind of dirty trick only G. Gordon Liddy could dream up. Or maybe did. Mr. Gannon's Texan boss, Bobby Eberle, posted effusive thanks (for "their assistance, guidance and friendship") to both Mr. Liddy and Karl Rove on Talon News's sister site, GOPUSA, last Christmas.

Mr. Gannon, a self-promoting airhead, may well be a pawn of larger forces as the vainglorious Mr. Liddy once was. But to what end? That Kerry "intern" wasn't the only "news" Mr. Gannon helped stuff in the pipeline during an election year. A close reading of the transcripts of televised White House press conferences reveals that at uncannily crucial moments he was called on by the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, to stanch tough questioning on such topics as Abu Ghraib and Mr. Rove's possible involvement in the outing of the C.I.A. spy Valerie Plame. We still don't know how this Zelig, using a false name, was given a daily White House pass every day for two years. Last weekend, Jim Pinkerton, a former official in the Reagan and Bush I White Houses, said on "Fox News Watch," no less, that such a feat "takes an incredible amount of intervention from somebody high up in the White House," that it had to be "conscious" and that "some investigation should proceed and they should find that out."

Given an all-Republican government, the only investigation possible will have to come from the press. Which takes us back to 1972, the year of Thompson's fear and loathing on the campaign trail. That was no golden age for news either. As Thompson's Rolling Stone colleague, Timothy Crouse, wrote in his own chronicle of that year, "The Boys on the Bus," months of stories by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein failed to "sink in" and only 48 percent of those polled by Gallup had heard of Watergate by Election Day.

Some news organizations had simply ignored The Post's scoops "out of petty rivalry," wrote Mr. Crouse. Others did so because they "feared the administration or favored Nixon in the presidential race." Others didn't initially recognize the story's importance. (The New York Times played the Watergate break-in on page 30.) The White House's pathological secrecy and penchant for threatening to use the Federal Communications Commission as a battering ram on its broadcast critics took care of the rest. According to a superb new history of the Washington press corps, "Reporting from Washington," by Donald A. Ritchie, even Mr. Rather, then CBS's combative man in the Nixon White House, "left the Watergate story alone at first, sure that it would fade like 'a puff of talcum powder.' "

For similar if not identical reasons, journalistic investigations into the current administration rarely "sink in" either. Early stories in The Boston Globe and Washington Post on what Jeff Gannon himself (on his blog) now calls "Gannongate" faded like that puff of powder. So did Eric Lichtblau's recent Times report on the White House's suppression of the 9/11 commission finding that federal aviation officials ignored dozens of advance warnings of Al Qaeda airline hijackings and suicide missions. But we've now entered a new twilight zone: in 1972, at least, the press may have been stacked with jokers but not with counterfeit newsmen.

Today you can't tell the phonies without a scorecard. Besides the six "journalists" we know to have been paid by the administration or its backers, bloggers were on the campaign payrolls of both a Republican office-seeker (South Dakota's Senator John Thune) and a Democrat (Howard Dean) during last year's campaign. This week The Los Angeles Times reported that Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration, "taking a cue from President Bush's administration," had distributed fake news videos starring a former TV reporter to extol the governor's slant on a legislative proposal. Back in Washington, the Social Security Administration is refusing to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests for information about its use of public relations firms - such as those that funneled taxpayers' money to the likes of Armstrong Williams. Don't expect news organizations dedicated to easy-listening news to get to the bottom of it.

"Reporting America's Story," NBC's slogan, is what Hunter Thompson actually did before the phrase was downsized into a vacuous marketing strategy. As for Mr. Rather, he gave a valedictory interview to Ken Auletta of The New Yorker in which he said, "The one thing I hope, and I believe, is that even my enemies think that I am authentic." The bar is so low these days that authenticity may well constitute a major journalistic accomplishment in itself.

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Mike Whitney: Scalia and Opus Dei

Scalia and Opus Dei
Radicals on the High Court

By MIKE WHITNEY

"After I joined they gave me a barbed wire chain to wear on my leg for two hours a day and a whip to hit my buttocks with."

Sharon Clasen, former member of Opus Dei

"Blessed be pain. Loved be pain. Glorified be pain"

Josemarie Escriva, Founder, Opus Dei

(Commentary on Ron Grossman's article in the Chicago Tribune; Covert Catholics)

Whether or not an alleged member of Opus Dei, like Justice Antonin Scalia, enjoys a touch of the lash on his prodigious derriere from time to time, is certainly no business of ours. However, the affiliation of a Justice on the highest court in the land to an organization that, for all appearances, is nothing more than a right-wing cult should arouse not only suspicion, but an investigation.

Opus Dei is a clandestine Catholic organization based in Chicago, Ill. In size, it is insignificant, a mere 85,000 members (only 3,000 members in the US) compared to the one billion Catholics worldwide. But, its membership boasts of some of the most powerful and wealthy people in the country. The group catapulted to national attention when spymaster, Robert Hanson, was arrested and convicted in what turned out to be the greatest act of treachery in the history of the FBI. Hanson's arrest drew immediate and unwelcome notoriety to the secretive group.

Opus Dei came under the microscope again when it was featured rather unflatteringly in the popular mystery novel, The Da Vinci Code. The novel did a great deal to support the notion that the organization had a sinister underlying purpose. If their purpose, however, is to acquire as much power as possible within the Church, as many believe it is, then they have succeeded quite nicely. For one thing the Pope's spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, is an active member, which indicates that a devoted party loyalist is as close as possible to the seat of authority in the Church.

The secrecy surrounding the group has generated widespread curiosity. "Former members claim it is a cult that pressures psychologically vulnerable college students into joining." opines Ron Grossman of the Chicago Times.

Grossman goes on to add, "Critics are put off because, as part of their devotional regimen, some Opus Dei members inflict pain on themselves that seems to border on masochism. Supporters respond that mortification of the flesh is an ancient and honorable Christian practice that puts them spiritually in touch with the great saints of the past."

One of the former members, Sharon Clasen remembers, "After I joined they gave me a barbed-wire chain to wear on my leg for two hours a day and a whip to hit my buttocks with." (Again, reported in the Ron Grossman article)

We can only wonder what the Senate hearings might have been like if they suspected that Scalia's attitudes towards self-inflicted punishment might be dramatically out of the mainstream? It certainly may have called his sense of judgment into question.

Grossman recounts some of the details related to Opus Dei's founder, Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, who was a young priest in Spain during the 1930's. "Because the Church was identified with the ruling class, many priests were killed, a fate Escriva narrowly escaped by going into hiding. When Gen. Francisco Franco won the war, Escriva allied his movement with Franco's authoritarian regime, with several Opus Dei members occupying key positions in his government," avers Grossman.

What Mr. Grossman conveniently leaves out, is that he has just provided a detailed description of an ultra-conservative group that has its roots in European fascism.

Their ideology must have been attractive to the rightward-tilting Pope John Paul 2, who bestowed on the group a "personal prelature", which is tantamount to virtual autonomy. (Rather than being under the control of the regional Bishop) This suggests that Opus Dei operates independent of the traditional Church hierarchy and outside its conventional jurisdictions. If it is a cult, it is a cult that "marches to its own drummer".

And, there is much to imply that Opus Dei is a religious cult. Its members are targeted for recruitment, (preferably, impressionable college-age idealists) sworn to secrecy, told they are the "elite guard of God", trained in isolation, censored in their reading and, indoctrinated in the group ideology.

O, and did I mention those blissful evenings at home alone with the cat-o nine-tails?

It is precisely these bizarre rituals of physical abuse that elicit the most negative curiosity to Opus Dei. Apart from the self-inflicted whipping, (a practice that was apparently perfected by the founder, Escriva, who would lock himself in a small room until the blood was splattered on all four walls. Its doubtful that today's devotees practice with such unbridled zeal) members are expected to wear "cilices" (a necklace similar in character to two strands of barbed wire) around their upper thigh for two hours a day. The degree to which this accoutrement produces is pain depends on how tight the penitent fixes it to his leg. Somehow, this suffering is assumed to be pleasing to the Almighty.

Members are also required to sleep on rough-hewn boards, dress simply and avoid physical adornments; most of which is reasonably consistent with many of the monastic traditions.

The old saw, "Beat the body and train the mind" is a custom that is enthusiastically maintained throughout the ranks of Opus Dei. Or, as Escriva put it, "If you realize that your body is your enemy, and an enemy of God's glory, why do you treat it so softly?"

Why, indeed?

The larger issue surrounding the group, however, relates to its recruiting regimen. The aggressiveness of their approach has led some to refer to them as "Catholic Mormons". By situating their facilities around college campus's Opus Dei has a steady stream of young, idealistic candidates for potential enlisting. They target "attractive and impressionable" students, offering friendship, without revealing any ulterior motive. Then, when they suspect the time is right, (or when the candidate is most vulnerable) they make their pitch for them to engage in "God's Work", which is the meaning of Opus Dei in Latin.

The long-range affects of these recruitments has been varied. Members conform to a strict regimen while in the group so, a strong degree of dependency is formed. Control is exerted over everything from reading material (no Balzac or Marx) to hairstyle. Needless to say, the corrosive affects of coerced behavior can have some lasting affects.

Groups such as ONAN (Opus Dei Awareness Network) have sprung up to address the need for "de-programming" practitioners who require intervention to escape the group's emotional and psychological attachments. Their methods are not measurably different from those used to restore Moonies or Hare Krishna's to the warm embrace of planet earth. Their web site chronicles the disturbing stories of those who have broken the Opus Dei addiction. (Also check; "How Opus Dei is Cult-Like" by Sharon Clasen)

Our central question in this essay is to determine whether or not a Justice on the Supreme Court should be challenged on the basis of his alleged involvement in a religious cult. It is our belief that, however benign the goals of the organization may be, the public needs a full accounting the objectives of secret societies to evaluate if nominee's views are compatible with the workings of the justice system. Details of the group's activities and motives were absent from the Scalia hearings.

Our reading of the Constitution suggests that individuals should enjoy limitless freedom unless it threatens or harms someone else. We apply that same standard to Antonin Scalia regarding his life as a private citizen. The question is whether Scalia's understanding of the Constitution could be seriously maligned by his involvement in a religious cult. For this we need to determine whether his ability to arrive at an impartial rendering of the law is impaired by his commitment to a radical orthodoxy. As clever as Scalia's rulings are, they are entirely predictable, never veering from his narrow perspective. This implies that rather than being the result of a reasoned deliberation of the law, they are nothing more than the logical extension of a particular dogma. This guarantees that his rulings will be an upshot of his religious affectations instead of an unbiased reading of the facts. We see this as an illustration of his judgment being overshadowed by a competing ethic; an ethic that disparages our fundamental understanding of the law.

Moreover, the consistency of Scalia's rulings suggests that there is really no deliberation at all, just a summarizing of his personal ideology so it coincides with the details of a particular case. This alone, suggests that his position on the bench should be challenged. In everything from gay relations to defending the fundamental principle of democratic society, the counting of votes in a presidential election, Scalia has openly ignored the guidance of the law, choosing to stand firm in his doctrinal positions. Again, this indicates that his religious feelings precede the need for impartiality and evenhandedness.

The deleterious affects of cults on an individual's ability to think clearly cannot be overstated and should be part of the debate to determine whether Scalia is fit to serve on the court. If Scalia is not a member of this Byzantine group, let him say so publicly and dispel the rumors. Had he been properly vetted prior to his appointment, the allegations of his involvement in this clandestine organization would have generated much greater interest. Nominees need to come clean about the groups to which they belong, and the nature of those groups. This applies doubly to organizations like Opus Dei that are shrouded in secrecy. If a nominee refuses to be straightforward, he simply should not be considered.

We count on the Supreme Court to rule on basic issues of civil liberties and justice. If it's clear that one's judgment is impaired by extremism, he should either step down or be removed. We don't need radicals on the High Court.

Mike Whitney can be reached at: fergiewhitney@msn.com

Michael Hasty - Paranoid shift

Paranoid shift

By Michael Hasty
Online Journal Contributing Writer

January 10, 2004—Just before his death, James Jesus Angleton, the legendary chief of counterintelligence at the Central Intelligence Agency, was a bitter man. He felt betrayed by the people he had worked for all his life. In the end, he had come to realize that they were never really interested in American ideals of "freedom" and "democracy." They really only wanted "absolute power."

Angleton told author Joseph Trento that the reason he had gotten the counterintelligence job in the first place was by agreeing not to submit "sixty of Allen Dulles' closest friends" to a polygraph test concerning their business deals with the Nazis. In his end-of-life despair, Angleton assumed that he would see all his old companions again "in hell."

The transformation of James Jesus Angleton from an enthusiastic, Ivy League cold warrior, to a bitter old man, is an extreme example of a phenomenon I call a "paranoid shift." I recognize the phenomenon, because something similar happened to me.

Although I don't remember ever meeting James Jesus Angleton, I worked at the CIA myself as a low-level clerk as a teenager in the '60s. This was at the same time I was beginning to question the government's actions in Vietnam. In fact, my personal "paranoid shift" probably began with the disillusionment I felt when I realized that the story of American foreign policy was, at the very least, more complicated and darker than I had hitherto been led to believe.

But for most of the next 30 years, even though I was a radical, I nevertheless held faith in the basic integrity of a system where power ultimately resided in the people, and whereby if enough people got together and voted, real and fundamental change could happen.

What constitutes my personal paranoid shift is that I no longer believe this to be necessarily true.

In his book, "Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower," William Blum warns of how the media will make anything that smacks of "conspiracy theory" an immediate "object of ridicule." This prevents the media from ever having to investigate the many strange interconnections among the ruling class—for example, the relationship between the boards of directors of media giants, and the energy, banking and defense industries. These unmentionable topics are usually treated with what Blum calls "the media's most effective tool—silence." But in case somebody's asking questions, all you have to do is say, "conspiracy theory," and any allegation instantly becomes too frivolous to merit serious attention.

On the other hand, since my paranoid shift, whenever I hear the words "conspiracy theory" (which seems more often, lately) it usually means someone is getting too close to the truth.

Take September 11—which I identify as the date my paranoia actually shifted, though I didn't know it at the time.

Unless I'm paranoid, it doesn't make any sense at all that George W. Bush, commander-in-chief, sat in a second-grade classroom for 20 minutes after he was informed that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center, listening to children read a story about a goat. Nor does it make sense that the Number 2 man, Dick Cheney—even knowing that "the commander" was on a mission in Florida—nevertheless sat at his desk in the White House, watching TV, until the Secret Service dragged him out by the armpits.

Unless I'm paranoid, it makes no sense that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sat at his desk until Flight 77 hit the Pentagon—well over an hour after the military had learned about the multiple hijacking in progress. It also makes no sense that the brand-new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sat in a Senate office for two hours while the 9/11 attacks took place, after leaving explicit instructions that he not be disturbed—which he wasn't.

In other words, while the 9/11 attacks were occurring, the entire top of the chain of command of the most powerful military in the world sat at various desks, inert. Why weren't they in the "Situation Room?" Don't any of them ever watch "West Wing?"

In a sane world, this would be an object of major scandal. But here on this side of the paranoid shift, it's business as usual.

Years, even decades before 9/11, plans had been drawn up for American forces to take control of the oil interests of the Middle East, for various imperialist reasons. And these plans were only contingent upon "a catastrophic and catalyzing event, like a new Pearl Harbor," to gain the majority support of the American public to set the plans into motion. When the opportunity presented itself, the guards looked the other way . . . and presto, the path to global domination was open.

Simple, as long as the media played along. And there is voluminous evidence that the media play along. Number one on Project Censored's annual list of underreported stories in 2002 was the Project for a New American Century (now the infrastructure of the Bush Regime), whose report, published in 2000, contains the above "Pearl Harbor" quote.

Why is it so hard to believe serious people who have repeatedly warned us that powerful ruling elites are out to dominate "the masses?" Did we think Dwight Eisenhower was exaggerating when he warned of the extreme "danger" to democracy of "the military industrial complex?" Was Barry Goldwater just being a quaint old-fashioned John Bircher when he said that the Trilateral Commission was "David Rockefeller's latest scheme to take over the world, by taking over the government of the United States?" Were Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt or Joseph Kennedy just being class traitors when they talked about a small group of wealthy elites who operate as a hidden government behind the government? Especially after he died so mysteriously, why shouldn't we believe the late CIA Director William Colby, who bragged about how the CIA "owns everyone of any major significance in the major media?"

Why can't we believe James Jesus Angleton—a man staring eternal judgment in the face—when he says that the founders of the Cold War national security state were only interested in "absolute power?" Especially when the descendant of a very good friend of Allen Dulles now holds power in the White House.

Prescott Bush, the late, aristocratic senator from Connecticut, and grandfather of George W Bush, was not only a good friend of Allen Dulles, CIA director, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and international business lawyer. He was also a client of Dulles' law firm. As such, he was the beneficiary of Dulles' miraculous ability to scrub the story of Bush's treasonous investments in the Third Reich out of the news media, where it might have interfered with Bush's political career . . . not to mention the presidential careers of his son and grandson.

Recently declassified US government documents, unearthed last October by investigative journalist John Buchanan at the New Hampshire Gazette, reveal that Prescott Bush's involvement in financing and arming the Nazis was more extensive than previously known. Not only was Bush managing director of the Union Banking Corporation, the American branch of Hitler's chief financier's banking network; but among the other companies where Bush was a director—and which were seized by the American government in 1942, under the Trading With the Enemy Act—were a shipping line which imported German spies; an energy company that supplied the Luftwaffe with high-ethyl fuel; and a steel company that employed Jewish slave labor from the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Like all the other Bush scandals that have been swept under the rug in the privatized censorship of the corporate media, these revelations have been largely ignored, with the exception of a single article in the Associated Press. And there are those, even on the left, who question the current relevance of this information.

But Prescott Bush's dealings with the Nazis do more than illustrate a family pattern of genteel treason and war profiteering—from George Senior's sale of TOW missiles to Iran at the same time he was selling biological and chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein, to Junior's zany misadventures in crony capitalism in present-day Iraq.

More disturbing by far are the many eerie parallels between Adolph Hitler and George W. Bush:

A conservative, authoritarian style, with public appearances in military uniform (which no previous American president has ever done while in office). Government by secrecy, propaganda and deception. Open assaults on labor unions and workers' rights. Preemptive war and militant nationalism. Contempt for international law and treaties. Suspiciously convenient "terrorist" attacks, to justify a police state and the suspension of liberties. A carefully manufactured image of "The Leader," who's still just a "regular guy" and a "moderate." "Freedom" as the rationale for every action. Fantasy economic growth, based on unprecedented budget deficits and massive military spending.

And a cold, pragmatic ideology of fascism—including the violent suppression of dissent and other human rights; the use of torture, assassination and concentration camps; and most important, Benito Mussolini's preferred definition of "fascism" as "corporatism, because it binds together the interests of corporations and the state."

By their fruits, you shall know them.

What perplexes me most is probably the same question that plagues most paranoiacs: why don't other people see these connections?

Oh, sure, there may be millions of us, lurking at websites like Online Journal, From the Wilderness, Center for Cooperative Research, and the Center for Research on Globalization, checking out right-wing conspiracists and the galaxy of 9/11 sites, and reading columnists like Chris Floyd at the Moscow Times, and Maureen Farrell at Buzzflash. But we know we are only a furtive minority, the human remnant among the pod people in the live-action, 21st-century version of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

And being paranoid, we have to figure out, with an answer that fits into our system, why more people don't see the connections we do. Fortunately, there are a number of possible explanations.

First on the list would have to be what Marshal McLuhan called the "cave art of the electronic age:" advertising. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's Karl Rove, gave credit for most of his ideas on how to manipulate mass opinion to American commercial advertising, and to the then-new science of "public relations." But the public relations universe available to the corporate empire that rules the world today makes the Goebbels operation look primitive. The precision of communications technology and graphics; the century of research on human psychology and emotion; and the uniquely centralized control of triumphant post-Cold War monopoly capitalism, have combined to the point where "the manufacture of consent" can be set on automatic pilot.

A second major reason people won't make the paranoid shift is that they are too fundamentally decent. They can't believe that the elected leaders of our country, the people they've been taught through 12 years of public school to admire and trust, are capable of sending young American soldiers to their deaths and slaughtering tens of thousands of innocent civilians, just to satisfy their greed—especially when they're so rich in the first place. Besides, America is good, and the media are liberal and overly critical.

Third, people don't want to look like fools. Being a "conspiracy theorist" is like being a creationist. The educated opinion of eminent experts on every TV and radio network is that any discussion of "oil" being a motivation for the US invasion of Iraq is just out of bounds, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a "conspiracy theorist." We can trust the integrity of our 'no-bid" contracting in Iraq, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a "conspiracy theorist." Of course, people sometimes make mistakes, but our military and intelligence community did the best they could on and before September 11, and anybody who thinks otherwise is a "conspiracy theorist."

Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole assassin of JFK, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a "conspiracy theorist."

Perhaps the biggest hidden reason people don't make the paranoid shift is that knowledge brings responsibility. If we acknowledge that an inner circle of ruling elites controls the world's most powerful military and intelligence system; controls the international banking system; controls the most effective and far-reaching propaganda network in history; controls all three branches of government in the world's only superpower; and controls the technology that counts the people's votes, we might be then forced to conclude that we don't live in a particularly democratic system. And then voting and making contributions and trying to stay informed wouldn't be enough. Because then the duty of citizenship would go beyond serving as a loyal opposition, to serving as a "loyal resistance"—like the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, except that in this case the resistance to fascism would be on the side of the national ideals, rather than the government; and a violent insurgency would not only play into the empire's hands, it would be doomed from the start.

Forming a nonviolent resistance movement, on the other hand, might mean forsaking some middle class comfort, and it would doubtless require a lot of work. It would mean educating ourselves and others about the nature of the truly apocalyptic beast we face. It would mean organizing at the most basic neighborhood level, face to face. (We cannot put our trust in the empire's technology.) It would mean reaching across turf lines and transcending single-issue politics, forming coalitions and sharing data and names and strategies, and applying energy at every level of government, local to global. It would also probably mean civil disobedience, at a time when the Bush regime is starting to classify that action as "terrorism." In the end, it may mean organizing a progressive confederacy to govern ourselves, just as our revolutionary founders formed the Continental Congress. It would mean being wise as serpents, and gentle as doves.

It would be a lot of work. It would also require critical mass. A paradigm shift.

But as a paranoid, I'm ready to join the resistance. And the main reason is I no longer think that the "conspiracy" is much of a "theory."

That the US House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that the murder of John Fitzgerald Kennedy was "probably" the result of "a conspiracy," and that 70 percent of Americans agree with this conclusion, is not a "theory." It's fact.

That the Bay of Pigs fiasco, "Operation Zapata," was organized by members of Skull and Bones, the ghoulish and powerful secret society at Yale University whose membership also included Prescott, George Herbert Walker and George W Bush; that two of the ships that carried the Cuban counterrevolutionaries to their appointment with absurdity were named the "Barbara" and the "Houston"—George HW Bush's city of residence at the time—and that the oil company Bush owned, then operating in the Caribbean area, was named "Zapata," is not "theory." It's fact.

That George Bush was the CIA director who kept the names of what were estimated to be hundreds of American journalists, considered to be CIA "assets," from the Church Committee, the US Senate Intelligence Committe chaired by Senator Frank Church that investigated the CIA in the 1970s; that a 1971 University of Michigan study concluded that, in America, the more TV you watched, the less you knew; and that a recent survey by international scholars found that Americans were the most "ignorant" of world affairs out of all the populations they studied, is not a "theory." It's fact.

That the Council on Foreign Relations has a history of influence on official US government foreign policy; that the protection of US supplies of Middle East oil has been a central element of American foreign policy since the Second World War; and that global oil production has been in decline since its peak year, 2000, is not "theory." It's fact.

That, in the early 1970s, the newly-formed Trilateral Commission published a report which recommended that, in order for "globalization" to succeed, American manufacturing jobs had to be exported, and American wages had to decline, which is exactly what happened over the next three decades; and that, during that same period, the richest one percent of Americans doubled their share of the national wealth, is not "theory." It's fact.

That, beyond their quasi-public role as agents of the US Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve Banks are profit-making corporations, whose beneficiaries include some of America's wealthiest families; and that the United States has a virtual controlling interest in the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization, the three dominant global financial institutions, is not a "theory." It's fact.

That—whether it's heroin from Southeast Asia in the '60s and '70s, or cocaine from Central America and heroin from Afghanistan in the '80s, or cocaine from Colombia in the '90s, or heroin from Afghanistan today—no major CIA covert operation has ever lacked a drug smuggling component, and that the CIA has hired Nazis, fascists, drug dealers, arms smugglers, mass murderers, perverts, sadists, terrorists and the Mafia, is not "theory." It's fact.

That the international oil industry is the dominant player in the global economy; that the Bush family has a decades-long business relationship with the Saudi royal family, Saudi oil money, and the family of Osama bin Laden; that, as president, both George Bushes have favored the interests of oil companies over the public interest; that both George Bushes have personally profited financially from Middle East oil; and that American oil companies doubled their records for quarterly profits in the months just preceding the invasion of Iraq, is not "theory." It's fact.

That the 2000 presidential election was deliberately stolen; that the pro-Bush/anti-Gore bias in the corporate media had spiked markedly in the last three weeks of the campaign; that corporate media were then virtually silent about the Florida recount; and that the Bush 2000 team had planned to challenge the legitimacy of the election if George W had won the popular, but lost the electoral vote—exactly what happened to Gore—is not "theory." It's fact.

That the intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was deceptively "cooked" by the Bush administration; that anybody paying attention to people like former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, knew before the invasion that the weapons were a hoax; and that American forces in Iraq today are applying the same brutal counterinsurgency tactics pioneered in Central America in the 1980s, under the direct supervision of then-Vice President George HW Bush, is not a "theory." It's fact.

That "Rebuilding America's Defenses," the Project for a New American Century's 2000 report, and "The Grand Chessboard," a book published a few years earlier by Trilateral Commission co-founder Zbigniew Brzezinski, both recommended a more robust and imperial US military presence in the oil basin of the Middle East and the Caspian region; and that both also suggested that American public support for this energy crusade would depend on public response to a new "Pearl Harbor," is not "theory." It's fact.

That, in the 1960s, the Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously approved a plan called "Operation Northwoods," to stage terrorist attacks on American soil that could be used to justify an invasion of Cuba; and that there is currently an office in the Pentagon whose function is to instigate terrorist attacks that could be used to justify future strategically-desired military responses, is not a "theory." It's fact.

That neither the accusation by former British Environmental Minister Michael Meacher, Tony Blair's longest-serving cabinet minister, that George W Bush allowed the 9/11 attacks to happen to justify an oil war in the Middle East; nor the RICO lawsuit filed by 9/11 widow Ellen Mariani against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the Council on Foreign Relations (among others), on the grounds that they conspired to let the attacks happen to cash in on the ensuing war profiteering, has captured the slightest attention from American corporate media is not a "theory." It's fact.

That the FBI has completely exonerated—though never identified—the speculators who purchased, a few days before the attacks (through a bank whose previous director is now the CIA executive director), an unusual number of "put" options, and who made millions betting that the stocks in American and United Airlines would crash, is not a "theory." It's fact.

That the US intelligence community received numerous warnings, from multiple sources, throughout the summer of 2001, that a major terrorist attack on American interests was imminent; that, according to the chair of the "independent" 9/11 commission, the attacks "could have and should have been prevented," and according to a Senate Intelligence Committee member, "All the dots were connected;" that the White House has verified George W Bush's personal knowledge, as of August 6, 2001, that these terrorist attacks might be domestic and might involve hijacked airliners; that, in the summer of 2001, at the insistence of the American Secret Service, anti-aircraft ordnance was installed around the city of Genoa, Italy, to defend against a possible terrorist suicide attack, by aircraft, against George W Bush, who was attending the economic summit there; and that George W Bush has nevertheless regaled audiences with his first thought upon seeing the "first" plane hit the World Trade Center, which was: "What a terrible pilot," is not "theory." It's fact.

That, on the morning of September 11, 2001: standard procedures and policies at the nation's air defense and aviation bureaucracies were ignored, and communications were delayed; the black boxes of the planes that hit the WTC were destroyed, but hijacker Mohammed Atta's passport was found in pristine condition; high-ranking Pentagon officers had cancelled their commercial flight plans for that morning; George H.W. Bush was meeting in Washington with representatives of Osama bin Laden's family, and other investors in the world's largest private equity firm, the Carlyle Group; the CIA was conducting a previously-scheduled mock exercise of an airliner hitting the Pentagon; the chairs of both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees were having breakfast with the chief of Pakistan's intelligence agency, who resigned a week later on suspicion of involvement in the 9/11 attacks; and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the United States sat in a second grade classroom for 20 minutes after hearing that a second plane had struck the towers, listening to children read a story about a goat, is not "theoretical." These are facts.

That the Bush administration has desperately fought every attempt to independently investigate the events of 9/11, is not a "theory."

Nor, finally, is it in any way a "theory" that the one, single name that can be directly linked to the Third Reich, the US military industrial complex, Skull and Bones, Eastern Establishment good ol' boys, the Illuminati, Big Texas Oil, the Bay of Pigs, the Miami Cubans, the Mafia, the FBI, the JFK assassination, the New World Order, Watergate, the Republican National Committee, Eastern European fascists, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, the United Nations, CIA headquarters, the October Surprise, the Iran/Contra scandal, Inslaw, the Christic Institute, Manuel Noriega, drug-running "freedom fighters" and death squads, Iraqgate, Saddam Hussein, weapons of mass destruction, the blood of innocents, the savings and loan crash, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, the "Octopus," the "Enterprise," the Afghan mujaheddin, the War on Drugs, Mena (Arkansas), Whitewater, Sun Myung Moon, the Carlyle Group, Osama bin Laden and the Saudi royal family, David Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger, and the presidency and vice-presidency of the United States, is: George Herbert Walker Bush.

"Theory?" To the contrary.

It is a well-documented, tragic and—especially if you're paranoid—terrifying fact.

Michael Hasty is a writer, activist, musician, carpenter and farmer. His award-winning column, "Thinking Locally," appeared for seven years in the Hampshire Review, West Virginia's oldest newspaper. His writing has also appeared in the Highlands Voice, the Washington Peace Letter, the Takoma Park Newsletter, the German magazine Generational Justice, and the Washington Post; and at the websites Common Dreams and Democrats.com. In January 1989, he was the media spokesperson for the counter-inaugural coalition at George Bush's Counter-Inaugural Banquet, which fed hundreds of DC's homeless in front of Union Station, where the official inaugural dinner was being held.

Permission to reprint is granted, provided it includes this autobiographical note, and credit for first publication to Online Journal.

Ernest Partridge - The Language Trap

The Language Trap


Ernest Partridge, Co-Editor
The Crisis Papers
February 22, 2005


“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you
can make words mean so many things.

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty,
“which is to be master -- that’s all.”

Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking Glass.



The Right has not only captured all branches of our government and much of our media, it has also largely succeeded in defining the terms of our political discourse. Thus, a progressive who engages in political debate while failing to appreciate this fact and to deal with it, is vulnerable to serious tactical errors. The progressive is thus, in effect, carelessly agreeing to “play the game” in the opponents’ ball-park and by the opponent’s rules. Accordingly, casual and uncritical use of terms such as “liberal” and “conservative,” and “right” and “left,” as they have come to be understood in the mass media and thence in everyday conversation, leads one carelessly to concede some of The Right’s basic assumptions. Sadly, most well-intentioned liberal politicians and pundits seem to be unaware of this, and have therefore fallen into the semantic trap. They need not and should not do so.

The language trap should be familiar to progressives. Noam Chomsky has sounded a warning for years, and George Lakoff's work on “framing” has received a great deal of well-deserved attention. And yet, amazingly, progressives continue to fall into the right-wing traps, carelessly applying The Right’s preferred self-description “conservative” (it isn’t), and referring to themselves with the much maligned word, “liberal.” It is past time for the progressives to regain control of the English language. After all, it’s their language too.

George Orwell gave us fair warning of how language can be used as a political weapon. In the appendix to his novel, 1984 (“The Principles of Newspeak”) he writes:

The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the [Party's] world-view and mental habits ... , but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought - that is, a thought diverging from the principles of [the Party] - should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meanings and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words, and by stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings... .Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought...

One must suppose that former History professor (and ousted GOP House Speaker), Newton Gingrich, Ph.D, had Orwell’s “Newspeak” in mind, when he concocted the infamous GOPAC memo, “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control”.


“Conservative” and “Liberal.”

The progressive opposition must break the habit of applying the word “conservative” to the right wing – except with “warning quotes” or with such qualifiers as “so-called” They must do so because (so-called) “conservatives,” aren’t. That is to say, the historically conventional meaning of the word “conservative” does not apply to the program and dogma of the self-described “conservatives” of today’s right-wing.

Here’s how Webster’s Unabridged (Second Edition) defines “conservative.”

The practice of preserving what is established; disposition to oppose change in established institutions and methods.

Up to the time of Barry Goldwater’s candidacy in 1964, “conservatives” had traditionally advocated small government, non-interference with personal lives, distrust of centralized federal power, fiscal responsibility (i.e., balanced budgets), restrained influence and use of the military, a judiciary guided by precedent, non-aggressive foreign policy, due process of law, and the protection of and adherence to the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

A moment’s reflection will confirm that all of these traditional precepts of “conservatism” have been openly violated by the self-described “conservative” Republican party and the self-described “conservative” administration of George W. Bush.

And yet, having discarded the content of “conservatism,” The Right steadfastly retains the label.

But where The Right leads, the progressives need not follow. Instead, the progressives should refer to The Right as “the regressives” with the hope that the term will soon “catch on” in political discourse. Fortunately, I am not alone with this proposal. (See Green, Podvin, Terich and Spivak).

The Right is “regressive,” in the sense that their program proposes to take us back, economically, to a time before The New Deal, and even before the Progressive reforms of Theodore Roosevelt – back to the late nineteenth-century Gilded Age” of unrestrained capitalism. With their rejection of the separation of church and state, of due process of law and of Constitutional guarantees of civil liberties, there are some regressives who would take us back to before the founding of our Republic.


The trouble with (the word) “Liberalism.” In numerous public opinion polls, when a sampling of American voters are asked to identify their political persuasion as “conservative,” “moderate” or “liberal,” the answers generally appear in that order – with “conservative” first, and “liberal” a poor third.

And yet, when that sampling of American citizens are asked their opinions as to the content (with the word “liberal” discretely hidden), most liberal programs come out well ahead. Specifically, most Americans support public education, progressive taxation, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, environmental protection, civil rights for minorities, non-discrimination for minorities and women, the United Nations, and the observance of international law.

So it appears that the decades of unrelenting media attacks on the word “liberalism” have had a telling effect. And yet public support of the program of liberalism has survived quite well.

It follows that The Right has attacked a “straw man” – a caricature – as “the liberals” have been falsely identified as “bleeding hearts,” anti-guns and anti-God. And Ann Coulter has no hesitation in condemning liberalism as “treason.”

Once again, Webster’s Unabridged tells us how far the propaganda of The Right has strayed from conventional American English usage. For there, we find the following definition of “Liberal:”

From the latin, liberalis – of or pertaining to a freeman. Favoring reform or progress, as in religion, education, etc.; specifically, favoring political reforms tending toward democracy and personal freedom for the individual. Progressive.

That definition rather nicely characterizes the aforementioned liberal program.

In the face of The Right’s smearing of the good name of “liberalism,” what is the poor liberal to do? Many worthy liberals are determined to restore the word “liberalism” to its rightful place as a respectable and respected term of political discourse. While I sympathize with the sentiments that motivate such effort, I can not recommend it. There are far more important battles to wage. While the liberal program is worthy of defense, the label “liberal” has been irredeemably besmirched by the decades of right-wing assault. Far better to shed the label, like a soiled garment, and protect the program by awarding it a new label: “progressive.” “Liberalism” is a mere word – it’s the program that matters. For, as fair Juliet wisely asked, “what’s in a name? – a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

And so I propose that henceforth the word we apply to the tradition and program of the left, should be “progressive.”


‘The Right” and “The Left”

What, then, of the familiar political labels, “the left” and “the right.”

These terms have also been distorted in recent political discourse, and pose problems for the progressives. The origin of the dichotomy is unremarkable and politically neutral: the terms were originally derived from the seating in the early nineteenth-century French Assembly of Deputies. But today, “left” is associated with Socialism and Communism, and the word connotes “sinister.” (Old English and Old French, “sinistre” – on the left hand). In contrast, “the right” connotes, well, “right” – i.e., good, proper, even “righteous.” I have often been told that it is no accident that “conservatism” is referred to as “the right.” In fact, it is exactly that: an accident. And yet the right/left terminology bears a moral connotation, to the disadvantage of “the left.”

For all that, I believe that the terms should be retained, albeit cautiously, for they serve an essential function in political discourse for which there is no available substitute. In the jargon of analytic philosophy, “right” and “left” function denotatively. They indicate ("point to”) individuals, groups, organizations, the unifying qualities of which (“designations”) might be difficult or even impossible to enumerate. For example, “the right” refers to libertarians, free-market absolutists, neo-conservatives, and many (most?) Christian fundamentalists. What, if anything, can be said to be common to all these, other then their self-identification as members of “the right”?


In Conclusion:

We end as we began: with a recognition that the regressive-right has selected, and still worse, defined, the pivotal vocabulary of today’s political debates. Accordingly, if the progressive-left continues to accept this vocabulary intact and uncritically, with all morally charged and historically inaccurate connotations, then the progressives will engage in these debates at great disadvantage, for by so doing they will have conceded without warrant many of the hidden assumptions and much of the agenda of The Right. In George Lakoff's words, they will have been "framed."

Just as The Right has chosen the terms of their debate, the left is equally entitled to choose its own. Furthermore, the left has the advantage that their chosen vocabulary has a foundation in the established usage of the English language.

The upshot proposal: (a) Maintain the “right/left” distinction, but cautiously. (b) Reject The Right’s historically inaccurate self-description of “conservative,” and refer to The Right as “The Regressives.” (c) Drop the abused word “liberal” and replace it with “progressive.”

Many additional words appropriated by The Right deserve careful scrutiny – among them, “freedom,” “liberty,” “rights,” not to mention the Orwellian labels for the Bush programs: “clear skies,” “healthy forests,” “compassionate conservatism,” “no child left behind,” “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” But an analysis of “conservative/regressive” and “liberal/progressive” – the basic terms of political identification – is a good place to begin.


(Excerpt from the opening chapter of a book in progress: “A Progressive Manifesto.”)


Copyright 2005, by Ernest Partridge

DuctapeFatwa - What the Bankruptcy Ban Means to YOU!

What the Bankruptcy Ban Means to YOU!

If you should suffer a serious injury, or are diagnosed with a serious illness, or any illness or disorder requiring long-term medical treatment and/or costly prescription drugs, the Bankruptcy Ban empowers you to choose to forego medical treatment and allow the disease process to take its course in the comfort of your home, which, unless you are very wealthy, you will lose if you continue obtaining medical treatment. Who wouldn't prefer passing away in their own comfy bed to trying to get comfortable in an alley?

When your employer gives you the freedom to choose a new career from the array of jobs of the future, and you find that your new wage is less than your basic expenses, thanks to the Bankruptcy Ban, you will not have to choose between paying your mortgage or charging groceries on your credit card. You choose whether to abandon your home now, or later, and whether to begin your new housing-free lifestyle with a few extra pounds from the charged food, or work on new skills like locating dumpsters in your area that have not yet been locked to keep people like you out of them.

Even if you are a renter, the Bankruptcy Ban has not forgotten you! In fact, you are one of the reasons so many people worked so hard to make the Ban a reality!

You see, before the Ban, if you did not own a home, once your debts were discharged through bankruptcy, your income would go to pay rent, buy food, etc. But now, you can feel safe knowing that any income you should have will instead go directly to the credit card companies, leaving you free to enjoy the same housing-free lifestyle as a former homeowner!

Most of all, the Ban simplifies and streamlines what was once a difficult and confusing process, full of decisions and options and all the worry and stress that comes with them.

Now, it's simple. If your debts total $2000 a month, and your income is $1500, you don't have to worry about coming up with that $500 any more, or trying to keep your credit card charges down. There won't be any more credit card charges. You're bankrupt! That means you get to pay the credit card companies back, no matter if you lose your job AND your housing! Some companies will even let you set aside some of any income you might have for incidental expenses. It might not sound like much, but once you've been living under the bridge and washing up at the gas station before your job of the future at McDonald's for a few weeks, you'll be mighty glad to be able to buy some soap at the convenience store - with cash!

For the rest of your life, you will be an important asset of some of America's largest and most respected companies! No matter where you go or what happens to you, your credit card company will be there, watching, and taking such a personal interest in you that if you get so much as a check for ten dollars for mowing a lawn, they will know about it! That's right! Who ever thought that big companies would take the time for details like that.

You're somebody now! You're a bankrupt - or a bankrupt-to-be. Don't get impatient, big changes like the exciting ones happening in the US economy take some time, but don't worry, your turn will come!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

MaxSpeak - TSP THE MODEL (NOT)

MaxSpeak, You Listen!: TSP THE MODEL
(NOT)
: "TSP THE MODEL
(NOT)

From the blog Maxspeak:

Why is this personal savings account different from all other personal savings accounts. A related paper from the Employee Benefits Research Institute, explains how privatization means rilly big government.

One interesting aspect: right now employers' reporting requirements on payroll are much more lax than they would have to become for private accounts. Under SS, it is not necessary to get payroll right to the penny, nor to report on a timely basis. With private accounts, they both matter because you can't be correctly credited with a deposit to your private account until the precise amount is reported. If there is a delay or 'float' period, you lose money. To get credit for the delay, information must be reconciled and checked.

Lots of employers, though they account for a minority of workers, don't use computers. Lots of workers don't have standard 40-hour week, 52 week a year jobs. They have multiple employers and addresses. There is no comparison to the minority of relatively well-off workers in the hundreds of 401(k) plans around the country. Administrative costs will come out of somebody's hide, and they won't be 30 basis points (.3 percent).

Think of customer service at the IRS, whom you deal with once a year, if at all. Then think of 150 million workers trying to twiddle their money among accounts, all at the same time."

Daily Kos :: Confessions of a Former Dittohead: The Weak Faith of the Religious Right

Daily Kos :: Confessions of a Former Dittohead: The Weak Faith of the Religious Right: "

A brief exerpt from the diary of a blogger calling himself "Former Dittohead":

One of the things religious conservatives fail to realize is that they have everything they want. They say all they want is prayer in schools. In Tennessee there's a state-mandated moment of silence during which their kids are free to pray. They say they want a warning sticker on science textbooks about evolution. But if a family doesn't believe in evolution, they're free to tell their kids that some people believe in it, but we don't. If you want your child's education to be based in the Bible, you can send them to a private school or even home school them! They don't want schools teaching their kids about anything but abstinence when it comes to sex. But you can hold your kids out of sex-ed classes if you don't want them learning it in school (sex-ed is a whole other topic that gets my hackles up, and it's likely its own diary). So their kids can pray in school, ignore evolution, and be taught abstinence without any interference from the state. There is nothing to prevent the free exercise of their private religious beliefs.

But that's not enough. Sure, their kids can pray in school, but they can't form a prayer clique where they can find safety in numbers during school hours. They worry that if their kids even hear the word `evolution' it will cause them to question their faith. If their kid so much as meets a homosexual, he'll become gay!

That is a startlingly weak faith, don't you think? To believe that your kids will turn away from God unless He has been officially sanctioned by the Government? It almost deserves more pity than contempt. Ultimately the entire basis for the desired legislation of the Religious Right is that they need to protect their kids from themselves. What happened to `Personal Responsibility?' Do the 10 Commandments have to be sanctioned by the government before you can consider them valid? These are the questions we should be ask"

LLOYD AXWORTHY - Missile Counter-Attack

Missile Counter-Attack

Axworthy fires back at U.S. -- and Canadian -- critics of our BMD decision in An Open Letter to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

Thursday, March 3rd, 2005

By LLOYD AXWORTHY

(Lloyd Axworthy is president of the University of Winnipeg and a former Canadian foreign minister)

Dear Condi, I'm glad you've decided to get over your fit of pique and venture north to visit your closest neighbour. It's a chance to learn a thing or two. Maybe more.

I know it seems improbable to your divinely guided master in the White House that mere mortals might disagree with participating in a missile-defence system that has failed in its last three tests, even though the tests themselves were carefully rigged to show results.

But, gosh, we folks above the 49th parallel are somewhat cautious types who can't quite see laying down billions of dollars in a three-dud poker game.

As our erstwhile Prairie-born and bred (and therefore prudent) finance minister pointed out in presenting his recent budget, we've had eight years of balanced or surplus financial accounts. If we're going to spend money, Mr. Goodale added, it will be on day-care and health programs, and even on more foreign aid and improved defence.

Sure, that doesn't match the gargantuan, multi-billion-dollar deficits that your government blithely runs up fighting a "liberation war" in Iraq, laying out more than half of all weapons expenditures in the world, and giving massive tax breaks to the top one per cent of your population while cutting food programs for poor children.

Just chalk that up to a different sense of priorities about what a national government's role should be when there isn't a prevailing mood of manifest destiny.

Coming to Ottawa might also expose you to a parliamentary system that has a thing called question period every day, where those in the executive are held accountable by an opposition for their actions, and where demands for public debate on important topics such a missile defence can be made openly.

You might also notice that it's a system in which the governing party's caucus members are not afraid to tell their leader that their constituents don't want to follow the ideological, perhaps teleological, fantasies of Canada's continental co-inhabitant. And that this leader actually listens to such representations.

Your boss did not avail himself of a similar opportunity to visit our House of Commons during his visit, fearing, it seems, that there might be some signs of dissent. He preferred to issue his diktat on missile defence in front of a highly controlled, pre-selected audience.

Such control-freak antics may work in the virtual one-party state that now prevails in Washington. But in Canada we have a residual belief that politicians should be subject to a few checks and balances, an idea that your country once espoused before the days of empire.

If you want to have us consider your proposals and positions, present them in a proper way, through serious discussion across the table in our cabinet room, as your previous president did when he visited Ottawa. And don't embarrass our prime minister by lobbing a verbal missile at him while he sits on a public stage, with no chance to respond.

Now, I understand that there may have been some miscalculations in Washington based on faulty advice from your resident governor of the "northern territories," Ambassador Cellucci. But you should know by now that he hasn't really won the hearts and minds of most Canadians through his attempts to browbeat and command our allegiance to U.S. policies.

Sadly, Mr. Cellucci has been far too closeted with exclusive groups of 'experts' from Calgary think-tanks and neo-con lobbyists at cross-border conferences to remotely grasp a cross-section of Canadian attitudes (nor American ones, for that matter).

I invite you to expand the narrow perspective that seems to inform your opinions of Canada by ranging far wider in your reach of contacts and discussions. You would find that what is rising in Canada is not so much anti-Americanism, as claimed by your and our right-wing commentators, but fundamental disagreements with certain policies of your government. You would see that rather than just reacting to events by drawing on old conventional wisdoms, many Canadians are trying to think our way through to some ideas that can be helpful in building a more secure world.

These Canadians believe that security can be achieved through well-modulated efforts to protect the rights of people, not just nation-states.

To encourage and advance international co-operation on managing the risk of climate change, they believe that we need agreements like Kyoto.

To protect people against international crimes like genocide and ethnic cleansing, they support new institutions like the International Criminal Court -- which, by the way, you might strongly consider using to hold accountable those committing atrocities today in Darfur, Sudan.

And these Canadians believe that the United Nations should indeed be reformed -- beginning with an agreement to get rid of the veto held by the major powers over humanitarian interventions to stop violence and predatory practices.

On this score, you might want to explore the concept of the 'Responsibility to Protect' while you're in Ottawa. It's a Canadian idea born out of the recent experience of Kosovo and informed by the many horrific examples of inhumanity over the last half-century. Many Canadians feel it has a lot more relevance to providing real human security in the world than missile defence ever will.

This is not just some quirky notion concocted in our long winter nights, by the way. It seems to have appeal for many in your own country, if not the editorialists at the Wall Street Journal or Rush Limbaugh. As I discovered recently while giving a series of lectures in southern California, there is keen interest in how the U.S. can offer real leadership in managing global challenges of disease, natural calamities and conflict, other than by military means.

There is also a very strong awareness on both sides of the border of how vital Canada is to the U.S. as a partner in North America. We supply copious amounts of oil and natural gas to your country, our respective trade is the world's largest in volume, and we are increasingly bound together by common concerns over depletion of resources, especially very scarce fresh water.

Why not discuss these issues with Canadians who understand them, and seek out ways to better cooperate in areas where we agree -- and agree to respect each other's views when we disagree.

Above all, ignore the Cassandras who deride the state of our relations because of one missile-defence decision. Accept that, as a friend on your border, we will offer a different, independent point of view. And that there are times when truth must speak to power.

In friendship, Lloyd Axworthy

Bradley Smith - The coming crackdown on blogging

CNET News.com http://www.news.com/
The coming crackdown on blogging

By Declan McCullagh
http://news.com.com/The+coming+crackdown+on+blogging/2008-1028_3-5597079.html

Story last modified Thu Mar 03 04:00:00 PST 2005


Bradley Smith says that the freewheeling days of political blogging and online punditry are over.

In just a few months, he warns, bloggers and news organizations could risk the wrath of the federal government if they improperly link to a campaign's Web site. Even forwarding a political candidate's press release to a mailing list, depending on the details, could be punished by fines.

Smith should know. He's one of the six commissioners at the Federal Election Commission, which is beginning the perilous process of extending a controversial 2002 campaign finance law to the Internet.

In 2002, the FEC exempted the Internet by a 4-2 vote, but U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly last fall overturned that decision. "The commission's exclusion of Internet communications from the coordinated communications regulation severely undermines" the campaign finance law's purposes, Kollar-Kotelly wrote.

Smith and the other two Republican commissioners wanted to appeal the Internet-related sections. But because they couldn't get the three Democrats to go along with them, what Smith describes as a "bizarre" regulatory process now is under way.

CNET News.com spoke with Smith about the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, better known as the McCain-Feingold law, and its forthcoming extrusion onto the Internet.

Q: What rules will apply to the Internet that did not before?
A: The commission has generally been hands-off on the Internet. We've said, "If you advertise on the Internet, that's an expenditure of money--much like if you were advertising on television or the newspaper."
Do we give bloggers the press exemption?

The real question is: Would a link to a candidate's page be a problem? If someone sets up a home page and links to their favorite politician, is that a contribution? This is a big deal, if someone has already contributed the legal maximum, or if they're at the disclosure threshold and additional expenditures have to be disclosed under federal law.

Certainly a lot of bloggers are very much out front. Do we give bloggers the press exemption? If we don't give bloggers the press exemption, we have the question of, do we extend this to online-only journals like CNET?

How can the government place a value on a blog that praises some politician?
How do we measure that? Design fees, that sort of thing? The FEC did an advisory opinion in the late 1990s (in the Leo Smith case) that I don't think we'd hold to today, saying that if you owned a computer, you'd have to calculate what percentage of the computer cost and electricity went to political advocacy.

It seems absurd, but that's what the commission did. And that's the direction Judge Kollar-Kotelly would have us move in. Line drawing is going to be an inherently very difficult task. And then we'll be pushed to go further. Why can this person do it, but not that person?

How about a hyperlink? Is it worth a penny, or a dollar, to a campaign?
I don't know. But I'll tell you this. One thing the commission has argued over, debated, wrestled with, is how to value assistance to a campaign.

Corporations aren't allowed to donate to campaigns. Suppose a corporation devotes 20 minutes of a secretary's time and $30 in postage to sending out letters for an executive. As a result, the campaign raises $35,000. Do we value the violation on the amount of corporate resources actually spent, maybe $40, or the $35,000 actually raised? The commission has usually taken the view that we value it by the amount raised. It's still going to be difficult to value the link, but the value of the link will go up very quickly.

Then what's the real impact of the judge's decision?
The judge's decision is in no way limited to ads. She says that any coordinated activity over the Internet would need to be regulated, as a minimum. The problem with coordinated activity over the Internet is that it will strike, as a minimum, Internet reporting services.

They're exempt from regulation only because of the press exemption. But people have been arguing that the Internet doesn't fit under the press exemption. It becomes a really complex issue that would strike deep into the heart of the Internet and the bloggers who are writing out there today. (Editor's note: federal law limits the press exemption to a "broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine or other periodical publication." )

How do you see this playing out?
There's sensitivity in the commission on this. But remember the commission's decision to exempt the Internet only passed by a 4-2 vote.

This time, we couldn't muster enough votes to appeal the judge's decision. We appealed parts of her decision, but there were only three votes to appeal the Internet part (and we needed four). There seem to be at least three commissioners who like this.

Then this is a partisan issue?
Yes, it is at this time. But I always point out that partisan splits tend to reflect ideology rather than party. I don't think the Democratic commissioners are sitting around saying that the Internet is working to the advantage of the Republicans.

One of the reasons it's a good time to (fix this) now is you don't know who's benefiting. Both the Democrats and Republicans used the Internet very effectively in the last campaign.

What would you like to see happen?
I'd like someone to say that unpaid activity over the Internet is not an expenditure or contribution, or at least activity done by regular Internet journals, to cover sites like CNET, Slate and Salon. Otherwise, it's very likely that the Internet is going to be regulated, and the FEC and Congress will be inundated with e-mails saying, "How dare you do this!"

What happens next?
It's going to be a battle, and if nobody in Congress is willing to stand up and say, "Keep your hands off of this, and we'll change the statute to make it clear," then I think grassroots Internet activity is in danger. The impact would affect e-mail lists, especially if there's any sense that they're done in coordination with the campaign. If I forward something from the campaign to my personal list of several hundred people, which is a great grassroots activity, that's what we're talking about having to look at.

Senators McCain and Feingold have argued that we have to regulate the Internet, that we have to regulate e-mail. They sued us in court over this and they won.

If Congress doesn't change the law, what kind of activities will the FEC have to target?
We're talking about any decision by an individual to put a link (to a political candidate) on their home page, set up a blog, send out mass e-mails, any kind of activity that can be done on the Internet.

Again, blogging could also get us into issues about online journals and non-online journals. Why should CNET get an exemption but not an informal blog? Why should Salon or Slate get an exemption? Should Nytimes.com and Opinionjournal.com get an exemption but not online sites, just because the newspapers have a print edition as well?

Why wouldn't the news exemption cover bloggers and online media?
Because the statute refers to periodicals or broadcast, and it's not clear the Internet is either of those. Second, because there's no standard for being a blogger, anyone can claim to be one, and we're back to the deregulated Internet that the judge objected to. Also I think some of my colleagues on the commission would be uncomfortable with that kind of blanket exemption.

So if you're using text that the campaign sends you, and you're reproducing it on your blog or forwarding it to a mailing list, you could be in trouble?
Yes. In fact, the regulations are very specific that reproducing a campaign's material is a reproduction for purpose of triggering the law. That'll count as an expenditure that counts against campaign finance law.

This is an incredible thicket. If someone else doesn't take action, for instance in Congress, we're running a real possibility of serious Internet regulation. It's going to be bizarre.


Copyright ©1995-2005 CNET Networks, Inc. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

David Orr - The Imminent Demise of the Republican Party

Following the election of 2004, much has been made of the weaknesses of the Democratic Party, even its possible end. But it has escaped the notice of our blow-dry television pundits and political observers alike that the Republican Party, in the full blush of triumph in control of all the branches of government and large sections of the media, stands on the edge of certain extinction. The reasons grow daily more evident. Over the past three decades, the moderate, business-oriented party of Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower was captured by its extreme right-wing thereby becoming a party dominated by ideologues, increasingly divorced from unmovable facts. But no organization, political party, or nation can long survive by ignoring realities of ecology, social justice, law, economics, and true security. Sooner or later, it will step off the proverbial curb into onrushing traffic of events, forces, and trends that it refused to see.


The Republican Party has already stepped into the road. The question is not whether it will survive as presently constituted, but what else will be destroyed as it collapses in ruin and ignominy, sooner than later. Beneath the noisy spin of its media echo chamber, the true platform of the Republican Party, its future epitaph, is founded on denial. The rules of the Republican Party of George Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Tom Delay, and their brethren are these:

Deny science when its findings are not agreeable to your base. Republicans, notably, are on the wrong side of the largest issue in human history: human driven, rapid climate change. They’ve chosen instead to live in a Crichton-esque science fiction fantasy in which real science has no standing and human actions have no tragic, irreversible, and global ecological consequences. This is not just boneheaded, it is a form of criminality for which we have, as yet, no adequate words.

Deny the looming approach of peak oil extraction thereby advancing the potential of economic, political, and social chaos when global oil supply and demand diverge as soon they will.

Deny the proven potential of superior technologies, design strategies, and policies that would move the country toward energy efficiency and a secure energy base of solar and wind power as well as the reasons of self-interest and economic advantage for doing so.

Deny the true costs of air and water pollution thereby undermining the health of Americans.

Deny the human and economic effects of pandering to the wealthy, thereby undermining social cohesion and the sense of fairness?historically, often a prelude to societal breakdown and revolution.

Deny any and all mistakes, bad judgment, and corruption, relying on spin not truth and thereby building a solid reputation for mendacity and incompetence.
Deny the limitations of military power to impose order on a recalcitrant world and thereby condemn the U.S. to a future of international isolation, conflict, and endless terrorism.

Deny the great vulnerability of the American infrastructure to malice, malfeasance, and acts of God, thereby laying the groundwork for a future of recurring disasters.
Deny the necessity for civil discourse, honesty, and transparency in the conduct of public life, thereby holding the citizenry in contempt and promoting a spirit of meanness.

Deny without admitting it the democratic values of the country enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the Gettysburg Address, and the Four Freedoms of Franklin Roosevelt, thereby undermining democracy at home while purportedly fighting for it in Iraq.

The Republican Party has chosen to deny social, ecological, cultural, religious, and economic realities which are unavoidably complicated, complex, diverse, ironic, and paradoxical. Instead they have chosen to make their own simplistic, ideological, and chauvinistic fantasy world that has little affinity for law, science, a free and independent press, fairness, true security, ecological sustainability, and the accountability that is requisite for genuine democracy.

That fantasy is on the cusp of becoming a real life nightmare. Having made the United States a large bulls’ eye for terrorists and malcontents, it may implode catastrophically taking much else with it. It may come undone more gradually, but no less catastrophically, as the economy sinks under the weight of war debt and foolish tax cuts. It may be overthrown if and when thoughtful conservatives disturbed by fiscal recklessness and imperial pretensions, all honest persons offended by mendacity, bombast, criminality, conniving, and diversion, and all Christians sufficiently alert to notice the discrepancy between the words and life of the “Prince of Peace” and our foreign and domestic policies finally shift alignments. It may take longer as the die of climate change and ecological deterioration is finally cast and we trigger adverse global changes of which we have been often warned. Unlikely as it seems, in a different scenario the Republican nightmare still could be averted by an effective, committed, agile, and strategic opposition smart enough to recognize the historic convergence of opportunity, patriotic duty, sheer necessity.

David Orr (David.Orr@oberlin.edu) is a Paul Sears Distinguished Professor at Oberlin College. Author of The Last Refuge (Island Press, 2004).

Senator Robert Byrd on Proposal to End Senate Filibusters

Mr. President, in 1939, one of the most famous American movies of all time, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," hit the box office. Initially received with a combination of lavish praise and angry blasts, the film went on to win numerous awards and to inspire millions around the globe. The director, the legendary Frank Capra, in his autobiography, "Frank Capra: The Name Above the Title," cites this moving review of the film, appearing in the Hollywood Reporter, November 4, 1942:

Frank Capra's "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," chosen by French Theaters as the final English language film to be shown before the recent Nazi-ordered countrywide ban on American and British films went into effect, was roundly cheered. . . .

Storms of spontaneous applause broke out at the sequence when, under the Abraham Lincoln monument in the Capital, the word, "Liberty," appeared on the screen and the Stars and Stripes began fluttering over the head of the great Emancipator in the cause of liberty.

Similarly, cheers and acclamation punctuated the famous speech of the young senator on man's rights and dignity. "It was . . . as though the joys, suffering, love and hatred, the hopes and wishes of an entire people who value freedom above everything, found expression for the last time. . . ."

For those who may not have seen it, "Mr. Smith" is the fictional story of one young Senator's crusade against forces of corruption and his lengthy filibuster -- his lengthy filibuster -- for the values he holds dear.

My, how things have changed. These days, Mr. Smith would be called an obstructionist. Rumor has it that there is a plot afoot to curtail the right of extended debate in this hallowed Chamber, not in accordance with its rules, mind you, but by fiat from the Chair -- fiat from the Chair.

The so-called nuclear option -- hear me -- the so-called nuclear option -- this morning I asked a man, What does nuclear option mean to you? He said: Oh, you mean with Iran? I was at the hospital a few days ago with my wife, and I asked a doctor, What does the nuclear option mean to you? He said: Well, that sounds like we're getting ready to drop some device, some atomic device on North Korea.

Well, the so-called nuclear option purports to be directed solely at the Senate's advice and consent prerogatives regarding Federal judges. But the claim that no right exists to filibuster judges aims an arrow straight at the heart of the Senate's long tradition of unlimited debate.

The Framers of the Constitution envisioned the Senate as a kind of executive council, a small body of legislators, featuring longer terms, designed to insulate Members from the passions of the day.

The Senate was to serve as a check on the executive branch, particularly in the areas of appointments and treaties, where, under the Constitution, the Senate passes judgment absent the House of Representatives. James Madison wanted to grant the Senate the power to select judicial appointees with the Executive relegated to the sidelines. But a compromise brought the present arrangement: appointees selected by the Executive, with the advice and consent of the Senate confirmed. Note -- hear me again -- note that nowhere in the Constitution of the United States is a vote on appointments mandated.

When it comes to the Senate, numbers can deceive. The Senate was never intended to be a majoritarian body. That was the role of the House of Representatives, with its membership based on the populations of States. The Great Compromise of July 16, 1787, satisfied the need for smaller States to have equal status in one House of Congress, the Senate. The Senate, with its two Members per State, regardless of population, is, then, the forum of the States.

Indeed, in the last Congress -- get this -- in the last Congress 52 Members, a majority, representing the 26 smallest States, accounted for just 17.06 percent of the U.S. population. Let me say that again. Fifty-two Members, a majority, representing the 26 smallest States -- two Senators per State -- accounted for just 17.06 percent of the U.S. population. In other words, a majority in the Senate does not necessarily represent a majority of the population of the United States.

The Senate is intended for deliberation. The Senate is intended for deliberation, not point scoring. The Senate is a place designed, from its inception, as expressive of minority views. Even 60 Senators, the number required under Senate rule XXII for cloture, would represent just 24 percent of the population if they happened to all hail from the 30 smallest States.

So you can see what it means to the smallest States in these United States to be able to stand on this floor and debate, to their utmost, until their feet will no longer hold them, and their lungs of brass will no longer speak, in behalf of their States, in behalf of a minority, in behalf of an issue that affects vitally their constituents.

Unfettered debate, the right to be heard at length, is the means by which we perpetuate the equality of the States. In fact, it was 1917, before any curtailing of debate was attempted, which means that from 1789 to 1917, there were 129 years; in other words, it means also that from 1806 to 1917, some 111 years, the Senate rejected any limits to debate. Democracy flourished along with the filibuster. The first actual cloture rule in 1917 was enacted in response to a filibuster by those people who opposed the arming of merchant ships. Some might say they opposed U.S. intervention in World War I, but to narrow it down, they opposed the arming of merchant ships.

But even after its enactment, the Senate was slow to embrace cloture, understanding the pitfalls of muzzling debate. In 1949, the 1917 cloture rule was modified to make cloture more difficult to invoke, not less, mandating that the number needed to stop debate would be not two-thirds of those present and voting but two-thirds of all Senators elected and sworn. Indeed, from 1919 to 1962, the Senate voted on cloture petitions only 27 times and invoked cloture just 4 times over those 43 years.

On January 4, 1957, Senator William Ezra Jenner of Indiana spoke in opposition to invoking cloture by majority vote. He stated with great conviction:

We may have a duty to legislate, but we also have a duty to inform and deliberate. In the past quarter century we have seen a phenomenal growth in the power of the executive branch. If this continues at such a fast pace, our system of checks and balances will be destroyed. One of the main bulwarks against this growing power is free debate in the Senate . . . So long as there is free debate, men of courage and understanding will rise to defend against potential dictators . . . The Senate today is one place where, no matter what else may exist, there is still a chance to be heard, an opportunity to speak, the duty to examine, and the obligation to protect. It is one of the few refuges of democracy. Minorities have an illustrious past, full of suffering, torture, smear, and even death. Jesus Christ was killed by a majority; Columbus was smeared; and Christians have been tortured. Had the United States Senate existed during those trying times, I am sure that these people would have found an advocate. Nowhere else can any political, social, or religious group, finding itself under sustained attack, receive a better refuge.

Senator Jenner was right. The Senate was deliberately conceived to be what he called "a better refuge," meaning one styled as guardian of the rights of the minority. The Senate is the "watchdog" because majorities can be wrong and filibusters can highlight injustices. History is full of examples.

In March 1911, Senator Robert Owen of Oklahoma filibustered the New Mexico statehood bill, arguing that Arizona should also be allowed to become a State. President Taft opposed the inclusion of Arizona's statehood in the bill because Arizona' State constitution allowed the recall of judges. Arizona attained statehood a year later, at least in part because Senator Owen and the minority took time to make their point the year before.

In 1914, a Republican minority led a 10-day filibuster of a bill that would have appropriated more than $50,000,000 for rivers and harbors. On an issue near and dear to the hearts of our current majority, Republican opponents spoke until members of the Commerce Committee agreed to cut the appropriations by more than half.

Perhaps more directly relevant to our discussion of the "nuclear option" are the 7 days in 1937, from July 6 to 13 of that year, when the Senate blocked Franklin Roosevelt's Supreme Courtpacking plan -- one of my favorite presidents.

Earlier that year, in February 1937, FDR sent the Congress a bill drastically reorganizing the judiciary. The Senate Judiciary Committee rejected the bill, calling it "an invasion of judicial power such as has never before been attempted in this country" and finding it "essential to the continuance of our constitutional democracy that the judiciary be completely independent of both the executive and legislative branches of the Government." The committee recommended the rejection of the court-packing bill, calling it "a needless, futile, and utterly dangerous abandonment of constitutional principle . . . without precedent and without justification."

What followed was an extended debate on the Senate floor lasting for 7 days until the majority leader, Joseph T. Robinson of Arkansas, a supporter of the plan, suffered a heart attack and died on July 14. Eight days later, by a vote of 70 to 20, the Senate sent the judicial reform bill back to committee, where FDR's controversial, court-packing language was finally stripped. A determined, vocal group of Senators properly prevented a powerful President from corrupting our Nation's judiciary.

Free and open debate on the Senate floor ensures citizens a say in their government. The American people are heard, through their Senator, before their money is spent, before their civil liberties are curtailed, or before a judicial nominee is confirmed for a lifetime appointment. We are the guardians, the stewards, the protectors of the people who send us here. Our voices are their voices.

If we restrain debate on judges today, what will be next: the rights of the elderly to receive social security; the rights of the handicapped to be treated fairly; the rights of the poor to obtain a decent education? Will all debate soon fall before majority rule?

Will the majority someday trample on the rights of lumber companies to harvest timber or the rights of mining companies to mine silver, coal, or iron ore? What about the rights of energy companies to drill for new sources of oil and gas? How will the insurance, banking, and securities industries fare when a majority can move against their interests and prevail by a simple majority vote? What about farmers who can be forced to lose their subsidies, or western Senators who will no longer be able to stop a majority determined to wrest control of ranchers' precious water or grazing rights? With no right of debate, what will forestall plain muscle and mob rule?

Many times in our history we have taken up arms to protect a minority against the tyrannical majority in other lands. We, unlike Nazi Germany or Mussolini's Italy, have never stopped being a nation of laws, not of men.

But witness how men with motives and a majority can manipulate law to cruel and unjust ends. Historian Alan Bullock writes that Hitler's dictatorship rested on the constitutional foundation of a single law, the Enabling Law. Hitler needed a two-thirds vote to pass that law, and he cajoled his opposition in the Reichstag to support it. Bullock writes that "Hitler was prepared to promise anything to get his bill through, with the appearances of legality preserved intact." And he succeeded.

Hitler's originality lay in his realization that effective revolutions, in modern conditions, are carried out with, and not against, the power of the State: the correct order of events was first to secure access to that power and then begin his revolution. Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality; he recognized the enormous psychological value of having the law on his side. Instead, he turned the law inside out and made illegality legal.

That is what the nuclear option seeks to do to rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate. (Go back to the top of this file.)

I said to someone this morning who was shoveling snow in my area: What does nuclear option mean to you?

He answered: Do you mean with Iran?

The people generally don't know what this is about. The nuclear option seeks to alter the rules by sidestepping the rules, thus making the impermissible the rule, employing the nuclear option, engaging a pernicious, procedural maneuver to serve immediate partisan goals, risks violating our Nation's core democratic values and poisoning the Senate's deliberative process.

For the temporary gain of a handful of out-of-the-mainstream judges, some in the Senate are ready to callously incinerate each and every Senator's right of extended debate. Note that I said each Senator. Note that I said every Senator. For the damage will devastate not just the minority party -- believe me, hear me, and remember what I say -- the damage will devastate not just the minority party, it will cripple the ability of each Member, every Member, to do what each Member was sent here to do -- namely, represent the people of his or her State. Without the filibuster -- it has a bad name, old man filibuster out there. Most people would be happy to say let's do away with him. We ought to get rid of that fellow; he has been around too long. But someday that old man filibuster is going to help me, you, and every Senator in here at some time or other, when the rights of the people he or she represents are being violated or threatened. That Senator is then going to want to filibuster. He or she is going to want to stand on his or her feet as long as their brass lungs will carry their voice.

No longer. If the nuclear option is successful here, no longer will each Senator have that weapon with which to protect the people who sent him or her here. And the people finally are going to wake up to who did it. They are going to wake up to it sooner or later and ask: Who did this to us?

Without the filibuster or the threat of extended debate, there exists no leverage with which to bargain for the offering of an amendment. All force to effect compromise between the parties will be lost. Demands for hearings will languish. The President can simply rule. The President of the United States can simply rule by Executive order, if his party controls both Houses of Congress and majority rule reigns supreme. In such a world, the minority will be crushed, the power of dissenting views will be diminished, and freedom of speech will be attenuated. The uniquely American concept of the independent individual asserting his or her own views, proclaiming personal dignity through the courage of free speech will forever have been blighted. This is a question of freedom of speech. That is what we are talking about -- freedom of speech. And the American spirit, that stubborn, feisty, contrarian, and glorious urge to loudly disagree, and proclaim, despite all opposition, what is honest, what is true, will be sorely manacled.

Yes, we believe in majority rule, but we thrive because the minority can challenge, agitate, and ask questions. We must never become a nation cowed by fear, sheeplike in our submission to the power of any majority demanding absolute control.

Generations of men and women have lived, fought, and died for the right to map their own destiny, think their own thoughts, speak their own minds. If we start here, in this Senate, to chip away at that essential mark of freedom -- here of all places, in a body designed to guarantee the power of even a single individual through the device of extended debate -- we are on the road to refuting the principles upon which that Constitution rests.

In the eloquent, homespun words of that illustrious, obstructionist, Senator Smith, in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington":

Liberty is too precious to get buried in books. Men ought to hold it up in front of them every day of their lives and say, "I am free -- to think -- to speak. My ancestors couldn't. I can. My children will."