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)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Frank Rich - It’s Not the Democrats Who Are Divided

It’s Not the Democrats Who Are Divided


ELECTIONS may come and go, but Washington remains incorrigible. Not even voters delivering a clear message can topple the town’s conventional wisdom once it has been set in the stone of punditry.

Right now the capital is entranced by a fictional story line about the Democrats. As this narrative goes, the party’s sweep of Congress was more or less an accident. The victory had little to do with the Democrats’ actual beliefs and was instead solely the result of President Bush’s unpopularity and a cunning backroom stunt by the campaign Machiavellis, Chuck Schumer and Rahm Emanuel, to enlist a smattering of “conservative” candidates to run in red states. In this retelling of the 2006 election, the signature race took place in Montana, where the victor was a gun-toting farmer with a flattop haircut: i.e., a Democrat in Republican drag. And now the party is deeply divided as its old liberals and new conservatives converge on Capitol Hill to slug it out.

The only problem with this version of events is that it’s not true. The overwhelming majority of the Democratic winners, including Jon Tester of Montana, are to the left of most Republicans, whether on economic policy or abortion. For all of the hyperventilation devoted to the Steny Hoyer-John Murtha bout for the House leadership, the final count was lopsided next to the one-vote margin in the G.O.P. Senate intramural that yielded that paragon of “unity,” Trent Lott. But the most telling barometer is the election’s defining issue: there is far more unanimity among Democrats about Iraq than there is among Republicans. Disengaging America from that war is what the country voted for overwhelmingly on Nov. 7, and that’s what the Democrats almost uniformly promised to speed up, whatever their vague, often inchoate notions about how to do it.

Even before they officially take over, the Democrats are trying to deliver on this pledge. Carl Levin and Joe Biden, among the party’s leaders in thinking through a new Iraq policy, are gravitating toward a long-gestating centrist exit strategy: a phased withdrawal starting in four to six months; a loosely federal Iraqi government that would ratify the de facto separation of the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds and fairly allocate the oil spoils; and diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy to engage Iraq’s neighbors, including Iran and Syria, in securing some kind of peace.

None of these ideas are radical, novel or much removed from what James Baker’s Iraq Study Group is expected to come up with. All are debatable and all could fail. At this late date, only triage is an option, not “victory.” There’s no panacea to end the civil war that four years of American bumbling have wrought. But the one truly serious story to come out of the election — far more significant than the Washington chatter about “divided Democrats” — is that the president has no intention of changing his policy on Iraq or anything else one iota.

Already we are seeing conclusive evidence that the White House’s post-thumpin’ blather about bipartisanship is worth as little as the “uniter, not a divider” bunk of the past. The tip-off came last week when Mr. Bush renominated a roster of choices for the federal appeals court that he knew faced certain rejection by Democrats. Why? To deliver a message to the entire Senate consonant with the unprintable greeting Dick Cheney once bestowed on Patrick Leahy, the senator from Vermont. That message was seconded by Tony Snow on Monday when David Gregory of NBC News asked him for a response to the Democrats’ Iraq proposals. The press secretary belittled them as “nonspecific” and then tried to deflect the matter entirely by snickering at Mr. Gregory’s follow-up questions.

Don Imus has been rerunning the video ever since, and with good reason. The laughing-while-Baghdad-burns intransigence of the White House makes your blood run cold. The day after Mr. Snow ridiculed alternative policies for Iraq, six American soldiers were killed. It was on that day as well that militia assailants stormed the education ministry in Baghdad in broad daylight, effortlessly carrying out a mass abduction of as many as 150 government officials in some 15 minutes. Given that those kidnappers were probably in cahoots with a faction of the very government they were terrorizing, it would be hard to come up with a more alarming snapshot of those “conditions on the ground” the president keeps talking about: utter chaos, with American troops in the middle, risking their lives to defend which faction, exactly?

Yet here was what Mr. Snow had to say about the war in this same press briefing: “We are winning, but on the other hand, we have not won” and “Our commitment is to get to the point where we achieve victory.” If that’s the specificity the White House offers to counter the Democrats’ “nonspecific” ideas about Iraq, bring back Donald Rumsfeld.

Mr. Snow’s performance was echoed by the more sober but equally nonsensical testimony of Gen. John Abizaid, our chief commander in the Middle East, before the Senate Armed Services Committee less than 48 hours later. It was déjà stay-the-course all over again. The general is not for withdrawing American troops or, as John McCain would prefer, adding them. (General Abizaid delicately pointed out to Mr. McCain that a sustainable supply of new American troops is in any case “simply not something that we have right now”; the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, doesn’t want them even if we did.) The general’s hope instead is for more Iraqi troops, even though, as he conceded, we still don’t have any such forces operating “completely independently” of their embedded American advisers. In other words: We are still, so many sacrifices later, waiting for the Iraqis to stand up so we can stand down.

An even more telling admission was to follow. “General Abizaid,” Jack Reed of Rhode Island asked, “how much time do you think we have to bring down the level of violence in Baghdad before we reach some type of tipping point where it accelerates beyond the control of even the Iraqi government?” After some hemming and hawing came a specific answer: “Four to six months.” Thus did our commander in Iraq provide the perfect exit ramp into the Democrats’ exit strategy, whether intentionally or not: the Iraqis must stand up by exactly the same deadline that Mr. Levin proposed for the start of a phased withdrawal.

Everyone outside of the Bush bunker knows that’s where we’re heading. As the retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey told Keith Olbermann last week, “The American people have walked away from the war.” The general predicted, as many in Washington have, that the Baker commission, serving as a surrogate Papa Bush, would give the White House the “intellectual orchestration” to label the withdrawal “getting out with honor.” But might this Beltway story line, too, be wrong? Everything in the president’s behavior since the election, including his remarkably naïve pronouncements in Vietnam, suggests that he will refuse to catch the political lifeline that Mr. Baker might toss him. Mr. Bush seems more likely instead to use American blood and money to double down on his quixotic notion of “victory” to the end. Not for nothing has he been communing with Henry Kissinger.

So what then? A Democratic Congress can kill judicial appointments but cannot mandate foreign policy. The only veto it can exercise is to cut off the war’s funding, political suicide that the Congressional leadership has rightly ruled out. The plain reality is that the victorious Democrats, united in opposition to the war and uniting around a program for quitting it, have done pretty much all they can do. Republican leaders must join in to seal the deal.

Don’t count Mr. McCain among them. His call for more troops even when there are no more troops is about presidential politics, a dodge that allows him to argue in perpetuity that we never would have lost Iraq if only he had been heeded from the start. True or not, that gets America nowhere now. Look instead to two other Republican military veterans in the Senate, one who is not running for president and one who yet might. The first is John Warner, who said a month before the election that he would seek an overhaul of Iraq policy in 60 to 90 days if there was no progress. The second is Chuck Hagel, who has been prescient about the war’s potential pitfalls since 2002 and started floating exit strategies parallel to the Levin-Biden track last summer.

There’s an incentive for other Republicans to join them in advancing the endgame. Even if the Democrats self-destructively descend into their own Abramoff-style scandals — Mr. Murtha referred to House ethics reforms as “total crap” — that may not be enough to save the Republicans if they’re still staring down the bloody barrel of their Iraq fiasco in 2008.

But most of all, disengagement from Iraq is the patriotic thing to do. Diverting as “divided Democrats” has been, it’s escapist entertainment. The Washington story that will matter most going forward is the fate of the divided Republicans. Only if they heroically come together can the country be saved from a president who, for all his professed pipe dreams about democracy in the Middle East, refuses to surrender to democracy’s verdict at home.

Embittered Insiders Turn Against Bush

Embittered Insiders Turn Against Bush

By Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 19, 2006; A01

The weekend after the statue of Saddam Hussein fell, Kenneth Adelman and a couple of other promoters of the Iraq war gathered at Vice President Cheney's residence to celebrate. The invasion had been the "cakewalk" Adelman predicted. Cheney and his guests raised their glasses, toasting President Bush and victory. "It was a euphoric moment," Adelman recalled.

Forty-three months later, the cakewalk looks more like a death march, and Adelman has broken with the Bush team. He had an angry falling-out with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld this fall. He and Cheney are no longer on speaking terms. And he believes that "the president is ultimately responsible" for what Adelman now calls "the debacle that was Iraq."

Adelman, a former Reagan administration official and onetime member of the Iraq war brain trust, is only the latest voice from inside the Bush circle to speak out against the president or his policies. Heading into the final chapter of his presidency, fresh from the sting of a midterm election defeat, Bush finds himself with fewer and fewer friends. Some of the strongest supporters of the war have grown disenchanted, former insiders are registering public dissent and Republicans on Capitol Hill blame him for losing Congress.

A certain weary crankiness sets in with any administration after six years. By this point in Bill Clinton's tenure, bitter Democrats were competing to denounce his behavior with an intern even as they were trying to fight off his impeachment. Ronald Reagan was deep in the throes of the Iran-contra scandal. But Bush's strained relations with erstwhile friends and allies take on an extra edge of bitterness amid the dashed hopes of the Iraq venture.

"There are a lot of lives that are lost," Adelman said in an interview last week. "A country's at stake. A region's at stake. This is a gigantic situation. . . . This didn't have to be managed this bad. It's just awful."

The sense of Bush abandonment accelerated during the final weeks of the campaign with the publication of a former aide's book accusing the White House of moral hypocrisy and with Vanity Fair quoting Adelman, Richard N. Perle and other neoconservatives assailing White House leadership of the war.

Since the Nov. 7 elections, Republicans have pinned their woes on the president.

"People expect a level of performance they are not getting," former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said in a speech. Many were livid that Bush waited until after the elections to oust Rumsfeld.

"If Rumsfeld had been out, you bet it would have made a difference," Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said on television. "I'd still be chairman of the Judiciary Committee."

And so, in what some saw as a rebuke, Senate Republicans restored Trent Lott (Miss.) to their leadership four years after the White House helped orchestrate his ouster, with some saying they could no longer place their faith entirely in Bush.

Some insiders said the White House invited the backlash. "Anytime anyone holds themselves up as holy, they're judged by a different standard," said David Kuo, a former deputy director of the Bush White House's faith-based initiatives who wrote "Tempting Faith," a book that accused the White House of pandering to Christian conservatives. "And at the end of the day, this was a White House that held itself up as holy."

Richard N. Haass, a former top Bush State Department official and now president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said a radically different approach to world affairs naturally generates criticism. "The emphasis on promotion of democracy, the emphasis on regime change, the war of choice in Iraq -- all of these are departures from the traditional approach," he said, "so it's not surprising to me that it generates more reaction."

The willingness to break with Bush also underscores the fact that the president spent little time courting many natural allies in Washington, according to some Republicans. GOP leaders in Congress often bristled at what they perceived to be a do-what-we-say approach by the White House. Some of those who did have more personal relationships with Bush, Cheney or Rumsfeld came to feel the sense of disappointment more acutely because they believed so strongly in the goals the president laid out for his administration.

The arc of Bush's second term has shown that the most powerful criticism originates from the inside. The pragmatist crowd around Colin L. Powell began speaking out nearly two years ago after he was eased out as secretary of state. Powell lieutenants such as Haass, Richard L. Armitage, Carl W. Ford Jr. and Lawrence B. Wilkerson took public the policy debates they lost on the inside. Many who worked in Iraq returned deeply upset and wrote books such as "Squandered Victory" (Larry Diamond) and "Losing Iraq" (David L. Phillips). Military and CIA officials unloaded after leaving government, culminating in the "generals' revolt" last spring when retired flag officers called for Rumsfeld's dismissal.

On the domestic side, Bush allies in Congress, interest groups and the conservative media broke their solidarity with the White House out of irritation over a number of issues, including federal spending, illegal immigration, the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers, the response to Hurricane Katrina and the Dubai Ports World deal.

Most striking lately, though, has been the criticism from neoconservatives who provided the intellectual framework for Bush's presidency. Perle, Adelman and others advocated a robust use of U.S. power to advance the ideals of democracy and freedom, targeting Hussein's Iraq as a threat that could be turned into an opportunity.

In an interview last week, Perle said the administration's big mistake was occupying the country rather than creating an interim Iraqi government led by a coalition of exile groups to take over after Hussein was toppled. "If I had known that the U.S. was going to essentially establish an occupation, then I'd say, 'Let's not do it,' " and instead find another way to target Hussein, Perle said. "It was a foolish thing to do."

Perle, head of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board at the time of the 2003 invasion, said he still believes the invasion was justified. But he resents being called "the architect of the Iraq war," because "my view was different from the administration's view from the very beginning" about how to conduct it. "I am not critical now of anything about which I was not critical before," he said. "I've said it more publicly."

White House officials tend to brush off each criticism by claiming it was over-interpreted or misguided. "I just fundamentally disagree," Cheney said of the comments by Perle, Adelman and other neoconservatives before the midterm elections. Others close to the White House said the neoconservatives are dealing with their own sense of guilt over how events have turned out and are eager to blame Bush to avoid their own culpability.

Joshua Muravchik, a neoconservative at the American Enterprise Institute, said he is distressed "to see neocons turning on Bush" but said he believes they should admit mistakes and openly discuss what went wrong. "All of us who supported the war have to share some of the blame for that," he said. "There's a question to be sorted out: whether the war was a sound idea but very badly executed. And if that's the case, it appears to me the person most responsible for the bad execution was Rumsfeld, and it means neocons should not get too angry at Bush about that."

It may also be, he said, that the mistake was the idea itself -- that Iraq could serve as a democratic beacon for the Middle East. "That part of our plan is down the drain," Muravchik said, "and we have to think about what we can do about keeping alive the idea of democracy."

Few of the original promoters of the war have grown as disenchanted as Adelman. The chief of Reagan's arms control agency, Adelman has been close to Cheney and Rumsfeld for decades and even worked for Rumsfeld at one point. As a member of the Defense Policy Board, he wrote in The Washington Post before the Iraq war that it would be "a cakewalk."

But in interviews with Vanity Fair, the New Yorker and The Post, Adelman said he became unhappy about the conduct of the war soon after his ebullient night at Cheney's residence in 2003. The failure to find weapons of mass destruction disturbed him. He said he was disgusted by the failure to stop the looting that followed Hussein's fall and by Rumsfeld's casual dismissal of it with the phrase "stuff happens." The breaking point, he said, was Bush's decision to award Medals of Freedom to occupation chief L. Paul Bremer, Gen. Tommy R. Franks and then-CIA Director George J. Tenet.

"The three individuals who got the highest civilian medals the president can give were responsible for a lot of the debacle that was Iraq," Adelman said. All told, he said, the Bush national security team has proved to be "the most incompetent" of the past half-century. But, he added, "Obviously, the president is ultimately responsible."

Adelman said he remained silent for so long out of loyalty. "I didn't want to bad-mouth the administration," he said. In private, though, he spoke out, resulting in a furious confrontation with Rumsfeld, who summoned him to the Pentagon in September and demanded his resignation from the defense board.

"It seemed like nobody was getting it," Adelman said. "It seemed like everything was locked in. It seemed like everything was stuck." He agrees he bears blame as well. "I think that's fair. When you advocate a policy that turns bad, you do have some responsibility."

Most troubling, he said, are his shattered ideals: "The whole philosophy of using American strength for good in the world, for a foreign policy that is really value-based instead of balanced-power-based, I don't think is disproven by Iraq. But it's certainly discredited."

Anonymous Liberal - Cheney’s Deeply Pathological Speech to the Federalist Society

Cheney’s Deeply Pathological Speech to the Federalist Society

Guest Post by Anonymous Liberal

At an event sponsored by the Federalist Society on Thursday, Vice President Cheney said the following to a room full of lawyers and law students:

We’re confident because the Terrorist Surveillance Program rests on firm legal ground. The Joint Authorization to Use Military Force, passed by Congress after 9/11, provides more than enough latitude for these activities. Therefore the warrant requirements of the FISA law do not apply to this wartime measure. And the program falls squarely within the constitutional powers of the President. Every appellate court to rule on this issue has recognized inherent presidential authority to conduct warrantless surveillance to counter threats directed at the country from abroad.

It’s hard to understate just how wrong Cheney is as a matter of law and how deeply delusional he should sound to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the legal issues involved here. But then again, this is the Federalist Society, so naturally his speech was interrupted repeatedly by applause.

Though I wrote most of this post last night, I see this morning that Glenn Greenwald has picked Cheney’s speech apart line by line. As is so often the case, particularly with respect to this issue, Glenn’s post is right on the money and well worth reading in its entirety.

Rather than be repetitive, let me just add that if Cheney truly is confident that the “Terrorist Surveillance Program” rests on “firm legal ground,” then he is utterly detached from reality and entirely insulated from the people actually running things in the West Wing. After all, there’s a reason the White House has been trying so hard, post Hamdan, to secure legislation legalizing the TSP. There’s a reason why, after Hamdan, they were suddenly interested in working with Arlen Specter where they hadn’t been before. It’s because they know that, absent legislation, the program is sure to be struck down. Indeed it already has been by one court (a decision Cheney is “confident” will be overturned).

Let’s do a quick review of the relevant law. Cheney claims that the AUMF “provides more than enough latitude for these activities” and “[t]herefore the warrant requirements of the FISA law do not apply to this wartime measure.” That is just such rubbish. No serious person bought this argument even before Hamdan, but post-Hamdan, it is entirely frivolous.

The Court observed in Hamdan that “there is nothing in the text or legislative history of the AUMF even hinting that Congress intended to expand or alter the authorization set forth in . . . the UCMJ.” All you have to do is substitute “FISA” for “UCMJ” and you know exactly what the Court would say about Cheney’s argument. You’ll never see a Supreme Court precedent more precisely on point.

Moreover, everyone who has even a cursory understanding of these issues knows how utterly frivolous this claim is. That includes people like Andrew McCarthy of the National Review, who, from the beginning, has been one of the chief apologists for the Bush administration on these issues. McCarthy wrote a column in July entitled “Dead Man Walking: Hamdan sounds the death knell for the NSA’s Terrorist Surveillance Program.”

As for Cheney’s claim that “[e]very appellate court to rule on this issue has recognized inherent presidential authority to conduct warrantless surveillance to counter threats directed at the country from abroad,” again this is total and complete rubbish. The cases he’s referring to are all pre-FISA cases. They stand merely for the unremarkable proposition that, absent any statute to the contrary, the President can conduct warrantless surveillance related to issues of national security.

But these cases most certainly do not stand for the proposition that the president can act in direct violation of a duly enacted statute. Again, as the Court made clear in Hamdan:

Whether or not the President has independent power, absent congressional authorization, to convene military commissions, he may not disregard limitations that Congress has, in proper exercise of its own war powers, placed on his powers.

Again, just substitute the phrase “conduct warrantless surveillance” for “convene military tribunals” and it’s perfectly clear what the Court thinks about Cheney’s position. Let me repeat: everyone knows this. I know that Cheney (and Addington and Yoo) have a deep desire for the law to be something other than what it actually is, but I don’t see what is to be gained by simply asserting, and with unmistakable condescension, that up is down. This sort of arrogant disregard for the actual state of the law can’t really be helpful to Cheney’s case. It’s only going to anger those in the Senate whom the White House is hoping will pass some version of the “Terrorist Surveillance Bill” passed by the House prior to the election.

And perhaps even more importantly, I can only see this kind of hubris hurting the government in the case currently pending before Judge Lynch in the Southern District of New York. Judge Lynch held a hearing in that case in September (transcript available here), and in it, he gave more than a few hints that he found these arguments to be frivolous. For instance, at one point, the DOJ attorney said the following:

By the way, the AUMF argument, which we advanced, which we’re quite confident of, nevertheless is an attempt to avoid this constitutional issue, as the court is advised to do.

To which Judge Lynch responded, diplomatically: “Well I think I’ll just in summary say I’m not that impressed by that one.”

In other words, it took Judge Lynch about one second to brush aside Cheney’s AUMF claim, and understandably so. It’s a terrible argument. And that exchange was followed by this one, which is even better:

Judge Lynch: Is there any case that you’re aware of where the Supreme Court or any court has held that an act of Congress that purports to regulate some foreign affairs matter is unconstitutional because it infringes the inherent war powers or commander in chief powers of the president?

DOJ Attorney: It’s not jumping to mind, your Honor. I don’t want to say there’s one that isn’t out there.

Judge Lynch: You haven’t cited me one that I know of?

DOJ Attorney: I don’t believe we have.

Judge Lynch: There are cases, of course, like the appointments powers cases where acts of Congress have been found unconstitutional for infringing on presidential power. But there aren’t many, are there? I mean, this is pretty uncharted ground that you’re asking me to get on, or you’re asking me to stay off it. But basically, in saying that FISA can be unconstitutional for this reason, if we got to the merits of this, you would be asking this Court and ultimately more authoritative courts than this one to rule that on the basis of implicit understandings, conundrums and emanations and unspecific things in the Constitution, that an act of Congress signed by the President of the United States into law enacted after full debate by the political branches is nevertheless unconstitutional.

Judge Lynch was my criminal law professor at Columbia, so I recognize his tone, even from the transcript. It’s borderline sarcastic. He clearly doesn’t buy the government’s arguments on the merits. And it can’t help when someone like Cheney gives condescending speeches repeating these bogus arguments as if they were somehow obviously correct. Cheney is more or less daring district court judges, like Lynch, to strike this program down.

I hope they do.

Dick Cheney at the Federalist Society last night -- translated

Dick Cheney at the Federalist Society last night -- translated

by Glenn Greenwald

(updated below)

Vice President Dick Cheney and the Federalist Society got together last night and shared some hearty laughs about the administration's ongoing eavesdropping on American citizens, inside the U.S., in violation of the law, along with the hilarious notion that these things called "laws" or "courts" could somehow restrain the Leader:

In the days following 9/11, the President authorized the National Security Agency to intercept a certain category of terrorist-linked international communications. On occasion you will hear this called a domestic surveillance program. That is more than a misnomer; it's a flat-out falsehood. We are talking about international communications, one end of which we have reason to believe is related to al Qaeda and to terrorist networks.

We are spying on American citizens inside the U.S. as they talk on the telephones in their homes. And we are doing so in secret, with no warrants or oversight of any kind. But it is a "flat-out falsehood" to say that this is "domestic surveillance." Everyone knows that when a Government spies on the conversations of its own citizens while they are inside the country, that has nothing to do with "domestic surveillance."

In addition, the entire program undergoes a thorough review approximately every 45 days. After each review, the President personally has to determine whether to reauthorize the program. And he has done so more than 30 times since September 11th - and he has indicated his intent to continue doing so as long as our nation faces a threat from al Qaeda and related organizations.

There is no need to worry about our illegal, secret spying on you, because the Leader Himself -- "personally" -- reviews this and approves of it. And even though there is a law in place enacted almost 30 years ago by your democratically-elected representatives making it a felony for us to do this, and even though the only court to rule on this issue has ruled that we are violating not only your constitutional rights, but also a federal criminal statute, we are still doing it, and we will continue to. Because we want to and because we can.

Yet none of these considerations was persuasive to a federal district court in the state of Michigan, which ruled three months ago that the NSA program violated the Constitution and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The court found, among other factors, that warrantless surveillance of terrorist-related communications would cause irreparable injury to the American Civil Liberties Union and other plaintiffs. (Laughter.)

Some loser activist federal judge somewhere ruled that we are breaking the law and violating the constitutional rights of Americans by spying on them with no judicial oversight (laughter). Isn't that hilarious! This woman, sitting in her robe, actually thinks she has some sort of authority or something over the Leader. God, that is so funny (laughter). And isn't it also hilarious how the judge unwittingly agreed with us that the ACLU are terrorists? After all, why else would the judge say that the ACLU was harmed by our surveillance of terrorists (laughter)? Get it? (laughter).

Every appellate court to rule on this issue has recognized inherent presidential authority to conduct warrantless surveillance to counter threats directed at the country from abroad. The district court's opinion — which The New York Times called "careful and thoroughly grounded" — (Laughter.) — did not distinguish any of those prior federal decisions. Nor, indeed, did the district court even cite those decisions.

Not only did the judge not mention those cases, but neither did we, the Government, because instead, we, told the judge (.pdf) that she should just mind her own business and that she had no right to butt into what we doing, so we never even bothered to justify to her what we were doing by mentioning those cases (which, in any event, have nothing to do with the NSA scandal since no court anywhere -- including in those cases -- has ever held that the President has the right to engage in warrantless eavesdropping when there is a duly enacted law such as FISA which criminally prohibits that very eavesdropping).

But since we're on the subject of separation of powers, one conclusion is hard to escape: the Michigan district court's decision is an indefensible act of judicial overreaching. (Applause.)

As law students and lawyers, of course, all of you understand that a given point of view isn't necessarily correct, or even persuasive, merely because it's been handed down by a judge. There's a reason these things are called opinions. (Laughter.) But the Michigan decision is something altogether different, and it's very troubling: It is a court order tying the hands of the President of the United States in the conduct of a war. And this is a matter entirely outside the competence of the judiciary. (Applause.).

Hey, Federalist Society patriots -- check out these premises that we have:

(1) Neither Congress nor the Courts can "tie the hands of the President" during war.

(2) We are at war forever.

(3) The war is everywhere, including inside the U.S.

(4) Ergo, by definition, no more courts, no more laws, to restrain Our Leader (raucous laughter; wild applause).

It means -- by definition -- that the Leader exists outside of and above the law, no matter what some liberal judge, the ACLU, The New York Times or all the other terrorist-lovers might say (laughter). What a court says is merely an "opinion" which we are free to ignore like we do everyone else's opinions (and that goes double for the the aspect of what the court says that is called an "Order").

We are at war, and we will be forever, and the war is Everywhere, even in our Homeland, and as a result, unlimited power is vested in our Leader, who will use it for your own Good, to protect you, because the Leader is Good and he loves you (applause, saluting, embracing, dancing).

Federalist Society meeting ends.

It is worth reminding ourselves -- as the Vice President just made quite clear again-- that the pathological individuals who occupy the White House do not recognize the power of the law or the power of the courts to limit what they can do. Therefore, the fact that Democrats now control the Congress will be of little concern to them, because the most the Democrats can do is enact little laws or issue cute, little Subpoenas --- but, as the Vice President just said, they think that nothing can "tie the hands of the President of the United States in the conduct of a war." And he means that.

I hope Democrats in Congress recognize that and are prepared to do something about it. This constitutional crisis will exist until it's confronted.

UPDATE: Anonymous Liberal, guest-posting over at The Carpetbagger Report, documents just how frivolous are the legal assertions on which Cheney depends to justify the administration's ongoing violations of the law.

And courtesy of selise, here is the mp3 audio recording of Cheney's speech at the authortarian pageant held last night by the Federalist Society.



Andrew Stephen
The New Statesman (UK)
Monday 13th November 2006

Americans have used the midterm elections to send a resounding message of no-confidence in their president. But victory was not entirely sweet for the Democrats. Our US editor, Andrew Stephen, reports

The White House knew the game was up as early as last Monday morning. Its schedule that day, distributed to the White House media pool, showed that Charlie Crist - the 50-year-old moderate Republican candidate hoping to succeed Jeb Bush, Dubbya's younger brother, after his maximum two terms as Florida's governor - would introduce the 43rd US president at a campaign rally in Pensacola, for which Bush was flying in specially on Air Force One.

But Crist, much to Bush's rage, had done a bunk: he simply could not face the prospect of election-eve footage of himself cavorting with Bush all over local television news that evening, and had hightailed it downstate to Palm Beach so that he would avoid even being seen side by side with him. Bush thus found himself at a campaign rally, attended by 10,000 excitable Republicans, with nobody actually to campaign for - other than Katherine Harris, 49, the disastrous senatorial candidate whom the Republicans had long since abandoned and who had become such an embarrassment that she was not even allowed on the stage. (She was subsequently one of Tuesday evening's first Republican losers.)

Even Karl Rove, America's high priest of electoral smear tactics, was unprepared and visibly humiliated. Then, just to rub salt in the wound, Crist flew back north later to Jacksonville to appear at a rally with John McCain - currently the front runner for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. In that symbolic moment, Bush became the lame-duck president, contemptuously and publicly discarded even by his party; and 70-year-old McCain, as predicted here last year, became the anointed de facto Republican leader.

Thus Florida, again, became the focal point for the changing of America's political guard. Replacing Jeb in the gubernatorial mansion in Tallahassee in January will be Governor Crist; and Harris, who presided over Dubbya's "victory" over Al Gore as Florida's "secretary of state" in 2000, is consigned to deserved, everlasting political obscurity. We can now expect Rove to try to exact revenge on Crist by spreading vicious personal smears in much the same way as he effectively destroyed McCain in 2000: expect rumours, in this case, to surface mysteriously about the recently divorced Crist's sexuality.

But there was no mistaking the underlying message of the midterm elections. The Democrats did not soar to victory in the dramatic way they should have done given the shambles the Republicans are in. Even with Republican congressmen going to jail for corruption, and "sex scandals" erupting all round them - to say nothing of the disastrous Iraq war, a $236bn surplus- turned deficit of the same size, and countless other disasters - there was not the decisive Democratic takeover of the Senate that we could reasonably have expected.

Expect the Democrats now, as we look forward to 2008, to form a circular firing squad in characteristic Democratic fashion as battle commences (yes, yet again) for the party's soul. Will the right-wing Democratic Leadership Council and its "Third Way" favoured candidate, 53-year-old former senator John Edwards, win out? Or the muscular, unapologetic aggression of the party chairman, Dr Howard Dean? Or the politics of triangulating pragmatism, as exemplified by Senator Hillary Clinton?

I had a peculiar sense of déjà vu as the results came in throughout Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Pollsters and the media had been so terrified that misleading exit polls would be published that journalists given access to them were literally placed in quarantine, deprived of their precious laptops, mobile phones and Blackberries, until 5pm eastern time; almost immediately after they were released from captivity, sensational rumours of Democratic landslides began to spread like wildfire round Washington.

Bizarrely, the results of CNN and ABC exit polls - that six out of ten voters disapproved of Bush and that the Democrats would comfortably pick up the House and possibly the Senate, too - were soon known in detail by the DC chattering classes, but not a word was breathed to CNN or ABC viewers themselves. Even the BBC was not immune to the paranoia: a strict edict went out from on high that its reporters could accept results and projections from ABC or the Associated Press, but not if they came from other mainstream US news organisations such as CBS or NBC or CNN (don't ask me why).

For me, the saddest and most emblematic result of the night was the defeat in Tennessee of the 36-year-old black Democratic congressman Harold Ford - who had been hoping to leap from the House to the Senate by taking the Republican seat of my friend Dr Bill Frist, who is resigning to concentrate on his doomed bid for the presidential nomination in 2008. I'm sure Ford's defeat will be put down to racism - the Republicans certainly put out some disgusting stuff - but it was more complicated than that.

What saddened me most was the way Ford (whom I know personally) sold his soul during the campaign: he moved so far to the right, boasting of his opposition to gay marriage, his devotion to guns, and how he was "conservative, the best choice", that he became barely recognisable as a Democrat. He lost his way, morphing into a slick young-man-in-a-hurry for whom expediency outweighed principle; his early lead in the polls withered away in favour of his more likeable but oafish Republican opponent, a 54-year-old former mayor of Chattanooga named Bob Corker.

I say that his was an "emblematic" defeat be cause Ford exemplified Democratic pussyfooting and the lack of political self-confidence and chutzpah that has so dogged successive Democrat presidential candidates such as Al Gore and John Kerry. Whatever the headlines say, we should not forget that the Democrats did not really win these 2006 mid term elections; it is far more telling to say the Republicans lost them, and did so because of George W Bush, Iraq, uncertainty over the economy, healthcare, social security, petrol prices, immigration, and so on.

I outlined here a couple of weeks ago how, assuming that the Democrats regained the House, 66-year-old Nancy Pelosi would become House Speaker and thus second in line to the US presidency after Dick Cheney. Now, I suspect, the media will revel in depicting her as a flaky, former hippie lefty from California - but she will have the power to subpoena possibly explosive documents concerning dodgy Bush-Cheney policies, call witnesses to testify under oath about their past adventures, and so on. Nineteen House chairs now fall to the Democrats, and seven of them will go to people over 70 - not an image the Democrats will want to promote.

Post offered

As I write, it looks as though the Senate will end up with 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans and two independents whom we can expect to vote with the Democrats - one an eccentric 65-year-old from Vermont named Bernie Sanders who describes himself as a socialist, and the other Joe Lieberman. That suddenly makes Lieberman, 64, enormously powerful - so what is the betting that Bush and Rove will cook up a plot whereby he is offered a post in their administration that he cannot refuse? Maybe even replacing Rummy, who will be stricken with a sudden illness? If Lieberman can be neutralised in this way, the Senate will revert to a 50:50 balance - and so the casting vote will then be in the safe hands of the beloved sharpshooter Cheney.

I was asked on BBC radio a couple of days ago whether Democratic victories would temper Bush's recklessness. I replied that I could answer that only if I could peer into the strange mind of a 60-year-old recovering alcoholic named George W Bush.

Rumours persist here (and I have heard them repeated at a very senior level in the UK, too) that Bush has actually resumed drinking; I throw this into the mix not to sensationalise, but because I have now heard the rumour repeated at a sufficiently high level that I believe we must face the possibility that it might be true.

Bush was huddled inside the White House eating beef and ice cream on election night with Rove, my friend Josh Bolten, and four other trusted aides who will stick with him to the end. He was not drinking on this occasion, I'm assured - but, more than ever, my depiction of an unstable man living out his final days in office inside his bunker seem no longer to be fanciful. Hemmed in by Democratic foes wherever he looks, determined to be remembered in history as an unwaveringly strong leader, and increasingly detached from reality: now that suddenly becomes a very frightening vision indeed.

Still Waiting for Bipartisanship

Still Waiting for Bipartisanship
The New York Times | Editorial

Friday 17 November 2006

The voters sent a clear message last week that they do not want the far right of the Republican Party calling the shots in Washington. But President Bush has ignored the message, resubmitting a group of archconservative, underqualified judicial nominees that Senate Democrats have already said are unacceptable. With the Democrats about to take control of the Senate, it is highly unlikely that these men will be confirmed. But the renominations suggest that when it comes to filling judgeships, Mr. Bush is still not looking for either excellence or common ground.

The four most controversial nominees that President Bush resubmitted are ideological in the extreme. William Myers III, a longtime lobbyist for mining and timber interests, would no doubt use his position on the San Francisco-based United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to gut environmental laws. William Haynes II, who helped develop the administration's torture and "enemy combatant" policies as the top lawyer for the Pentagon, could be counted on to undermine both civil liberties and reasonable limits on executive power.

Terrence Boyle, a district court judge in North Carolina and a former aide to Senator Jesse Helms, has a long record of insensitivity to victims of race and disability discrimination. He would be able to pull the law in the wrong direction in these areas if he became an appeals court judge. Michael Wallace, a former lawyer for Senator Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi, has a bad civil rights record, including arguing in favor of letting Bob Jones University, which discriminated on the basis of race, keep its tax-exempt status.

Beyond their ideology, these nominees embody values that the American people rejected in the midterm elections. The voters were angry about the influence of lobbyists and special interests. But Mr. Myers would bring that influence onto a powerful appeals court. The voters were upset about the incompetence this administration has shown on everything from Iraq to Hurricane Katrina. But Mr. Wallace is the very rare appeals court nominee to receive a unanimous "not qualified" rating from the American Bar Association.

A fifth appeals court nominee, Peter Keisler, is likely to face stiff opposition for well-founded procedural reasons. When President Clinton tried to fill this seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Republican senators blocked him, saying the court needed only 10 judges. Since then, the court's caseload has decreased. It is unlikely that Democratic senators will allow the Republicans to fill the seat now.

President Bush's decision to resubmit these names could be a final sop to his far-right base. Perhaps, once this slate fails one more time, he will make more reasonable choices. Mr. Bush may have no other choice, if he wants to get any nominees confirmed in the next two years. Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, has said that "the days of hard-right judges" are over, and when Democrats take over in the Senate, he will be in a position to see that they are.

Iraq is a 'disaster' admits Blair

Iraq is a 'disaster' admits Blair
By TIM SHIPMAN Last updated at 12:14pm on 18th November 2006

Blair's most frank admission yet over the war in Iraq came during an interview on the new Al Jazeera English television channel with Sir David Frost
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Tony Blair admitted that British intervention in Iraq has been a disaster last night - sending shockwaves through Westminster.

In his frankest admission about the war to date, Mr Blair admitted that Western forces have been powerless to stop the descent into violence.

The Prime Minister stopped short of accepting the blame for plunging Iraq to the brink of civil war - blaming instead the insurgent uprising that has killed 125 British troops.

But his admission in an interview with the Arab new channel Al Jazeera will be seen as an historic climbdown for Mr Blair, who has always fought to put a positive gloss on often disastrous events.

Challenged by veteran interviewer Sir David Frost that the Western invasion of Iraq has "so far been pretty much of a disaster", Mr Blair said: "It has."

His words were last night seen as an olive branch to other states in the Middle East and his critics at home.

But critics will be angered that Mr Blair still refused to take the blame for the failed planning for the aftermath of the war, which has seen rival Sunni and Shia Muslim militias take control of the streets.

The Prime Minister went on: "You see what I say to people is why is it difficult in Iraq? It's not difficult because of some accident in planning, it's difficult because there's a deliberate strategy - al Qaeda with Sunni insurgents on one hand, Iranian-backed elements with Shia militias on the other - to create a situation in which the will of the majority for peace is displaced by the will of the minority for war."

Despite the violence engulfing Baghdad and British-controlled Basra, Mr Blair insisted that British troops were not ready to pull out.

"We are not walking away from Iraq," he said. "We will stay for as long as the government needs us to stay.

"And the reason for that is that what is happening in Iraq, as in Afghanistan, as elsewhere in parts of the Middle East, is a struggle between the decent majority of people, who want to live in peace together, and those who have an extreme and perverted and warped view of Islam, who want to create war.

"In those circumstances, our task has got to be to stand up for the moderates and the democrats against the extremists and the sectarians. They are testing our will at the moment, and our will has not to be found wanting."

In a chilling warning to those who want Britain to cut and run from the foreign adventures that have characterised Mr Blair's premiership he warned that Britain would be involved in the Middle East on a "generational" basis, though he stressed he did not expect British troops to remain in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan for a generation.

He said long-term diplomatic, economic and political efforts would be required to support and empower the forces of moderate Islam in the region against extremists with a "warped and perverted" version of the religion.

The Prime Minister used his interview to again offer a partnership with Iraq's neighbours Iran and Syria but warned that they are not yet doing enough to warrant a friendly relationship.

Asked whether his stance amounted to "appeasement", Mr Blair responded: "It is completely absurd to say that - on the contrary."

He added: "Let me make one thing absolutely clear, I do not intend any message other than absolute strength in relation to Iran. If, for example, Iran wants a different relationship with the USA or EU, with the West, then it has got to make sure it is abiding by its international obligations in respect to this nuclear weapons issue; it has got to stop supporting terrorism in the region; and it has got to reach out and help resolve the problems of the region, rather than be part of the problem in the region."

His message to Iran was: "If you reject the way forward that we are setting out, if instead of helping the region you support terrorism, you act in breach of your international obligations, then it is our part to stand up to you. On the other hand, if it is the case that you want to be part of a constructive solution in the Middle East, the door is open to you."

Mr Blair's frank admission comes a month after Britain's top general said that British troops should pull out of Iraq "soon" because their presence a "exacerbates the security problems".

Sir Richard Dannatt, the Chief of the General Staff, told the Daily Mail that Mr Blair's desire to forge a "liberal democracy" in Iraq was a "naive" failure and commented: "Whatever consent we may have had in the first place" from the Iraqi people "has largely turned to intolerance."

A series of reports have exposed the disatrous consequences of the Iraq war.

In addition to the British death toll of 125, nearly 5,000 British injured servicemen have been evacuated from the war zone. Some 2,865 Americans have been killed and more than 21,000 injured.

A report by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore last month claimed that 654,965 Iraqis have died over the last three years, with 200,000 deaths directly attribuatble to coalition forces.

Friday, November 17, 2006

McCain: Bush Admin Breaks Laws to Hide Global Warming Data

McCain: Bush Admin Breaks Laws to Hide Global Warming Data
By Justin Rood - November 17, 2006, 1:35 PM

"They're simply not complying with the law. It's incredible."

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) raised eyebrows yesterday with that comment regarding the Bush administration, made before a crowd of several hundred at a Washington, D.C. event.

At issue is a report on climate change that Congress requires every ten years. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is responsible for producing the document, last filed a report in 2000. A new report -- the first to be filed by the Bush administration -- was due in November 2004, but to date the agency has not done so.

"When you get to that degree of obfuscation, then you get a little depressed," McCain said, according to several attendees. McCain's comments were also reported by the trade daily Environment and Energy.

McCain has rapped the administration before over the long-overdue report.

At a June 2005 hearing, McCain grilled Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, Bush's appointed chief of NOAA, over a GAO report chastising his agency for failing to deliver their findings on time.

"Basically, they say you're not complying with the law," McCain told Lautenbacher.

"Yes, sir," the NOAA chief responded.

"Are you complying with the law?" McCain asked.

"I believe that we are complying with the law, yes sir," Lautenbacher replied.

"You know," McCain said a few moments later, "you are really one of the more astonishing witnesses that I have [faced] -- in the 19 years I've been a member of this [Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation] Committee."

Lautenberger explained that his staff was working on "pieces" of the report, and conceded the November 2004 deadline had been a "difficult requirement to meet."

McCain isn't alone in wanting the study. On Tuesday, a trio of environmental groups announced they are suing NOAA to release the document.

Sarasota, FL, junks e-voting machines

November 15, 2006
Sarasota, FL, junks e-voting machines

Things went so swimmingly on election day in Sarasota County, FL, that the county will abandon touch-screen voting in 2008 and return to paper ballots, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

The e-voting machines may have lost some 18,000 votes in a hotly contested congressional race. That was the number of cast ballots that didn't include to a vote in the House election. Since Democrat Christine Jennings is losing by only 400 votes, even a small percentage of the missing votes could change the outcome.

But the disputed election is not the main reason Sarasota is scrapping the new system, Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent said Tuesday. Dent said she is simply listening to voters and following a charter amendment Nov. 7 in which they demanded "verified paper ballots."

For that reason, she said, the county would switch to optical-scan machines. Unlike the paperless touch-screen system in place now, the optical-scan system allows voters to mark paper ballots with pencil or pen as if they were taking a multiple-choice test. After filling in their choices, voters then feed the ballots into a machine.

A planned audit of the contested election will be delayed until the candidates can bring their own experts to the county to monitor the investigation. Meanwhile, the machine recount shifted things very slightly, giving Republicn Buchanan one more vote and taking three away from Jennings. A manual recount starts on Thursday.

The choice to junk the machines comes from an amendment voters passed on Nov. 7 that imposes strict guidelines on the election system — making it virtually impossible, Dent said, to retain touch-screen machines under the new technical and legal restrictions. That's because Florida, unlike other states, has not approved touch-screen machines that leave a verifiable paper trail.

"I would have preferred not to implement a new system, but the voters have made their choice," said Dent, who estimated the optical-scan operation would cost about $3.6 million.

Dick Meyer - Good Riddance To The Gingrichites

Good Riddance To The Gingrichites
WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2006(CBS) This commentary was written by's Dick Meyer.

This is a story I should have written 12 years ago when the "Contract with America" Republicans captured the House in 1994. I apologize.

Really, it's just a simple thesis: The men who ran the Republican Party in the House of Representatives for the past 12 years were a group of weirdos. Together, they comprised one of the oddest legislative power cliques in our history. And for 12 years, the media didn't call a duck a duck, because that's not something we're supposed to do.

I'm not talking about the policies of the Contract for America crowd, but the character. I'm confident that 99 percent of the population — if they could see these politicians up close, if they watched their speeches and looked at their biographies — would agree, no matter what their politics or predilections.

I'm confident that if historians ever spend the time on it, they'll confirm my thesis. Same with forensic psychiatrists. I have discussed this with scores of politicians, staffers, consultants and reporters since 1994 and have found few dissenters.

Politicians in this country get a bad rap. For the most part, they are like any high-achieving group in America, with roughly the same distribution of pathologies and virtues. But the leaders of the GOP House didn't fit the personality profile of American politicians, and they didn't deviate in a good way. It was the Chess Club on steroids.

The iconic figures of this era were Newt Gingrich, Richard Armey and Tom Delay. They were zealous advocates of free markets, low taxes and the pursuit of wealth; they were hawks and often bellicose; they were brutal critics of big government.

Yet none of these guys had success in capitalism. None made any real money before coming to Congress. None of them spent a day in uniform. And they all spent the bulk of their adult careers getting paychecks from the big government they claimed to despise. Two resigned in disgrace.

Having these guys in charge of a radical conservative agenda was like, well, putting Mark Foley in charge of the Missing and Exploited Children Caucus. Indeed, Foley was elected in the Class of '94 and is not an inappropriate symbol of their regime.

More than the others, Newton Leroy Gingrich lived out a very special hypocrisy. In addition to the above biographical dissonance, Gingrich was one of the most sharp-tongued, articulate and persuasive attack dogs in modern politics. His favorite target was the supposed immorality and corruption of the Democratic Party. With soaring rhetoric, he condemned his opponents as anti-American and dangerous to our country's family values — "grotesque" was a favorite word.

Yet this was a man who was divorced twice — the first time when his wife was hospitalized for cancer treatment, the second time after an affair was revealed.

Gingrich made his bones in the party by relentlessly attacking Democratic corruption, yet he was hounded from office because of a series of serious ethics questions. He posed as a reformer of the House, yet championed a series of deforms that made the legislative process more closed, more conducive to hiding special interest favors and less a forum for genuine debate.

And he did it all with epic sanctimony.

These squirrelly guys attracted and promoted to power similarly odd colleagues: birds of a feather, you know, stick together. Bill Clinton of Monica Lewinsky fame had no more zealous and moralistic critic than Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana, who ran a then-powerful committee. In the course of his crusade, Burton was forced to admit he had actually fathered a child in an extramarital affair.

The man who led the House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearings with equal, if saner, bloodlust was Rep. Henry Hyde. In the midst of this, Hyde was forced to admit to a five-year affair.

When Gingrich stepped down, Republicans turned to a master Louisiana pork-barreller, Robert Livingston. That lasted a day or so, until Livingston (you guessed it) admitted to having extramarital affairs.

Livingston was succeeded by Dennis Hastert, perhaps the most, well, conventional of the GOP leaders of his era. Still, Hastert was a hawk with no military service and a defender of the rich with no money or experience in business.

In this year's election cycle, House Republicans were justly vilified for their subservience to the corruptions of Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay's entire K Street project. While extreme, there have been many other periods of extreme corruption in Congress.

What marked this Republican cadre was not their corruption, but the chips on their shoulders.

It was a localized condition. It didn't spread to the Senate. The Republican leaders there — again, suspend your ideology and just look at biography — were pretty typical American politicians.

Bob Dole, Trent Lott and Bill Frist were not acting out in office. They were not ideologues and did not use the rhetoric of the righteous. The colleagues that wielded the most power — like McCain, Simpson, Lugar, Specter, Stevens, Warner — have had long runs of service in several arenas relatively free of public and private embarrassment and hypocrisy — and even some substantial accomplishments pre-Senate.

History reveals that great leaders and intellectuals often appear in clusters, inspiring and motivating each other to extraordinary achievement. American historians have focused on this in recent books looking at the "founding brothers," Lincoln's "team of rivals," the 19th-century pragmatist philosophers called "the metaphysical club," Roosevelt's New Dealers and Kennedy's "best and the brightest."

The opposite is also true.

What's next for the House is of course uncertain, but an undistinguished chapter has come to a close. Good riddance.

Dick Meyer is the editorial director of, based in Washington.

Justice Recalls Treats Laced With Poison

Justice Recalls Treats Laced With Poison

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 — A discussion of recent threats to judges’ safety, at a bar association conference in suburban Dallas last week, became startlingly specific when Sandra Day O’Connor, the retired Supreme Court justice, recounted that each justice had received in the mail “a wonderful package of home-baked cookies” that contained “enough poison to kill the entire membership of the court.”

Justice O’Connor’s remarks were reported on Thursday in The Star-Telegram in Fort Worth.

Although the episode was not publicly disclosed when it occurred in April 2005, it had a public, although little-noticed, denouement last month when the sender of the poisoned cookies was sentenced in federal court here to 15 years in prison.

The sender, Barbara Joan March of Bridgeport, Conn., pleaded guilty to 14 counts of “mailing injurious articles.” The 14 recipients included the nine justices; the chiefs of staff of the Army, Navy, and Air Force; and the director and deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The packages, containing either candy or baked goods, were laced with rat poison.

All mail received at the Supreme Court is screened, and the tainted packages never reached the justices, said Kathleen Arberg, the court’s public information officer. The danger posed by the packages was immediately apparent. Each contained a typewritten letter stating either, “I am going to kill you,” or, “We are going to kill you,” and adding, “This is poisoned.”

The letters carried various return addresses of people who had earlier connections with Ms. March, including seven who attended college with her. The F.B.I. determined that Ms. March wrote and sent the letters, typing a number of them on a typewriter at a public library near her home.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Billmon - Comrade Webb

Comrade Webb
by Billmon

When I came to Washington in the early 1980s, Jim Webb was best known as a vociferous spokesman for the movement to scrap the design for the Vietnam War Memorial -- or, as he and his fellow protestors called it, "the wall of shame." He was the prototypical Angry Vietnam Vet, convinced that the hippies and the campus radicals had stabbed him and his band of brothers in the back while they were fighting in jungle, then spit on them when they returned home.

He was, in other words, a died-in-the-wool reactionary -- the thinking man's Ollie North. Webb once famously refused to shake John Kerry's hand because of Kerry's role in publicizing alleged U.S. war crimes in Vietnam. Some of his fellow anti-memorial activists later went on to run the Swift boat campaign against Kerry in the 2004 election.

If you'd told me twenty years ago that John Kerry would eventually run for president, I would have expected Webb to be in there Swiftboating with the best of them. Originally a conservative Democrat in the mold of his first political patron, long-time Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Sonny Montgomery of Mississippi, made his bones with the conservative movement by crossing party lines to support Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential election -- supposedly because of his rage over Jimmy Carter's amnesty for Vietnam era draft evaders.

Webb was rewarded, eventually, by being named an assistant secretary of defense and then Secretary of the Navy in Reagan's Pentagon, where he became a fanatical advocate of a 500 600-ship Navy -- a defense contracting boondoggle so egregious even the Reagan Administration eventually abandoned it. When Webb quit, in a huff, I assumed he would end up pulling a seven-figure salary as a defense lobbyist and spend the rest of his days helping shovel pork down various congressional gullets and tending the shrine of St. Ronnie.

But instead, nearly two decades later, Webb's now the newly elected Senator from my native state (a stronghold of the Confederacy and the national "right-to-work" movement) who's lined up shoulder to shoulder with Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi and is writing op eds for the Wall Street Journal explicitly calling for what the Republican chattering classes sneeringly condemn as "class warfare":

America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes.

Incestuous corporate boards regularly approve compensation packages for chief executives and others that are out of logic's range. As this newspaper has reported, the average CEO of a sizeable corporation makes more than $10 million a year, while the minimum wage for workers amounts to about $10,000 a year, and has not been raised in nearly a decade. When I graduated from college in the 1960s, the average CEO made 20 times what the average worker made. Today, that CEO makes 400 times as much.

In the age of globalization and outsourcing, and with a vast underground labor pool from illegal immigration, the average American worker is seeing a different life and a troubling future. Trickle-down economics didn't happen.

That's beautiful stuff. Paul Wellstone could have written it. So could Bernie Sanders, although Bernie actually might find it a little too radical for his tastes. But the last person -- well, almost the last person -- on earth I would expect to emerge as a tribune of good old-fashioned New Deal populism (or, dare I say it, democratic socialism) is fightin' Jim Webb, Ronald Reagan's favorite Marine.

Not only that, but Webb's now against the war -- just like us unreconstructed '60s (or, in my case, '70s) radicals. I just hope he doesn't mind being tarred as a stabber of backs or a spitter on the troops by the modern-day equivalents of the old Jim Webb. It kind of goes with the territory.

If this is the new Democratic "conservatism" the Washington punditburo keeps bleating about, then all I can say is three cheers for conservatism. But Webb's op ed definitely left me with a profound case of political vertigo. My sense of direction (this way is left; that way is right) is getting pretty scrambled. Former Reagan cabinet officers now sound like Abby Hoffman. Connecticut Senators who started out trying to impeach Richard Nixon now sound like John Mitchell. Where's it going to end?

I don't know. But if Jim Webb and I are now on the roughly same side on the big issues of the day -- the war, globalization, corporate power, economic fairness, social justice -- it tells you something has fundamentally changed in American politics. It may not be a realignment (a political system this polluted and decrepit may not be capable of such a thing) but when Senators from Virginia start talking like Walter Reuther, it sure the hell isn't business as usual.

Evil Knows Best

Senator James Webb - Class Struggle

Class Struggle
American workers have a chance to be heard.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes.

Incestuous corporate boards regularly approve compensation packages for chief executives and others that are out of logic's range. As this newspaper has reported, the average CEO of a sizeable corporation makes more than $10 million a year, while the minimum wage for workers amounts to about $10,000 a year, and has not been raised in nearly a decade. When I graduated from college in the 1960s, the average CEO made 20 times what the average worker made. Today, that CEO makes 400 times as much.

In the age of globalization and outsourcing, and with a vast underground labor pool from illegal immigration, the average American worker is seeing a different life and a troubling future. Trickle-down economics didn't happen. Despite the vaunted all-time highs of the stock market, wages and salaries are at all-time lows as a percentage of the national wealth. At the same time, medical costs have risen 73% in the last six years alone. Half of that increase comes from wage-earners' pockets rather than from insurance, and 47 million Americans have no medical insurance at all.

Manufacturing jobs are disappearing. Many earned pension programs have collapsed in the wake of corporate "reorganization." And workers' ability to negotiate their futures has been eviscerated by the twin threats of modern corporate America: If they complain too loudly, their jobs might either be outsourced overseas or given to illegal immigrants.

This ever-widening divide is too often ignored or downplayed by its beneficiaries. A sense of entitlement has set in among elites, bordering on hubris. When I raised this issue with corporate leaders during the recent political campaign, I was met repeatedly with denials, and, from some, an overt lack of concern for those who are falling behind. A troubling arrogance is in the air among the nation's most fortunate. Some shrug off large-scale economic and social dislocations as the inevitable byproducts of the "rough road of capitalism." Others claim that it's the fault of the worker or the public education system, that the average American is simply not up to the international challenge, that our education system fails us, or that our workers have become spoiled by old notions of corporate paternalism.

Still others have gone so far as to argue that these divisions are the natural results of a competitive society. Furthermore, an unspoken insinuation seems to be inundating our national debate: Certain immigrant groups have the "right genetics" and thus are natural entrants to the "overclass," while others, as well as those who come from stock that has been here for 200 years and have not made it to the top, simply don't possess the necessary attributes.

Most Americans reject such notions. But the true challenge is for everyone to understand that the current economic divisions in society are harmful to our future. It should be the first order of business for the new Congress to begin addressing these divisions, and to work to bring true fairness back to economic life. Workers already understand this, as they see stagnant wages and disappearing jobs.

America's elites need to understand this reality in terms of their own self-interest. A recent survey in the Economist warned that globalization was affecting the U.S. differently than other "First World" nations, and that white-collar jobs were in as much danger as the blue-collar positions which have thus far been ravaged by outsourcing and illegal immigration. That survey then warned that "unless a solution is found to sluggish real wages and rising inequality, there is a serious risk of a protectionist backlash" in America that would take us away from what they view to be the "biggest economic stimulus in world history."

More troubling is this: If it remains unchecked, this bifurcation of opportunities and advantages along class lines has the potential to bring a period of political unrest. Up to now, most American workers have simply been worried about their job prospects. Once they understand that there are (and were) clear alternatives to the policies that have dislocated careers and altered futures, they will demand more accountability from the leaders who have failed to protect their interests. The "Wal-Marting" of cheap consumer products brought in from places like China, and the easy money from low-interest home mortgage refinancing, have softened the blows in recent years. But the balance point is tipping in both cases, away from the consumer and away from our national interest.

The politics of the Karl Rove era were designed to distract and divide the very people who would ordinarily be rebelling against the deterioration of their way of life. Working Americans have been repeatedly seduced at the polls by emotional issues such as the predictable mantra of "God, guns, gays, abortion and the flag" while their way of life shifted ineluctably beneath their feet. But this election cycle showed an electorate that intends to hold government leaders accountable for allowing every American a fair opportunity to succeed.

With this new Congress, and heading into an important presidential election in 2008, American workers have a chance to be heard in ways that have eluded them for more than a decade. Nothing is more important for the health of our society than to grant them the validity of their concerns. And our government leaders have no greater duty than to confront the growing unfairness in this age of globalization.

Mr. Webb is the Democratic senator-elect from Virginia.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

New York Times - Document shows Bush guided CIA on detention

Document shows Bush guided CIA on detention
By David Johnston
The New York Times

The Central Intelligence Agency has acknowledged for the first time the existence of two classified documents, including one signed by President George W. Bush, that have guided the agency's interrogation and detention of terror suspects.

The CIA disclosed the existence of the documents in a letter Friday sent from the agency's associate general counsel, John McPherson, to lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union.

The contents of the documents were not revealed, but one document, as described by the ACLU, is "a directive signed by President Bush granting the CIA the authority to set up detention facilities outside the United States and outlining interrogation methods that may be used against detainees."

The second document, according to the group is a Justice Department legal analysis "specifying interrogation methods that the CIA may use against top Al Qaeda members."

ACLU lawyers said they would now press for public disclosure of the contents of the documents.

"We intend to press for release of both of these documents," said Jameel Jaffer, a lawyer for the group said in a statement.

"If President Bush and the Justice Department authorized the CIA to torture prisoners, the public has a right to know."

A spokesman for the CIA declined to discuss the matter.

The documents had been sought by the ACLU in a lawsuit filed in a New York federal court under the Freedom of Information Act. The suit has previously resulted in the disclosure of thousands of documents from agencies like the Pentagon, the FBI and the Justice Department.

In the past, CIA lawyers have sought to avoid any discussion of whether the agency had documents related to its interrogation and detention practices. The agency has said that national security would be jeopardized in the CIA was compelled to disclose in any way its involvement in interrogations, the ACLU said.

In the CIA letter, McPherson confirmed the documents but declined to divulge their contents, on the ground that divulging them would damage security and violate attorney-client privilege.

Glenn Greenwald - Uncle Sam, keep out

Uncle Sam, keep out
What Democrats can learn from the failure of the gay marriage ban in Arizona.

By Glenn Greenwald

Nov. 15, 2006 | Prior to the 2006 midterm election, the closest thing to a sure bet in politics was a statewide referendum to ban same-sex marriages. Twenty states had considered such ballot measures, and 20 states had approved them, all by wide margins. The gay marriage bans were passed with an average of 71 percent approval. The lowest level of support was in Oregon in 2004, where "only" 57 percent voted for the marriage ban.

That unblemished record of success has come to an end. Arizona became the first state to reject such a referendum this month, by a 51-49 margin. In South Dakota, where voters rejected a draconian proposal to outlaw all abortions, the same-sex marriage ban passed, but with only 52 percent of the vote. And even in Colorado, home to James Dobson and a slew of socially conservative and anti-gay groups, only 56 percent of voters approved the same-sex marriage ban. What accounts for this substantial softening of support for these referendums?

It would be a mistake to interpret this trend as a sign of increasing support for gay marriage itself. While support for civil unions has been steadily increasing and is now found among a solid majority of Americans, opposition to gay marriage is still widespread. Arizona already had a statutory ban on same-sex marriages and there is little support for repealing it.

But the defeated Arizona referendum, like the one in South Dakota, would have not only reinforced that gay marriage ban, but would have also barred the recognition by state and local governments of any type of civil unions. As a result, the campaigns to defeat the referendum in both states focused not on the desirability of gay marriage, but rather on the unwarranted limitations imposed by the referendum on the ability of citizens -- gay and straight -- to secure equal benefits for their chosen relationships.

Put another way, the successful campaign to defeat the Arizona referendum was based on a generalized libertarian aversion to governmental intrusion into the private sphere, rather than support for gay marriage per se. And therein lies the most significant lesson to be drawn from the weakening support for these referendums in 2006 -- namely, the rejection by Western states of the activist social conservative agenda that has fueled the Republican Party's dominance of the South.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that evangelical social conservatism as a political doctrine sharply conflicts with the libertarian political ethos of the Mountain West. In South Dakota, for example, only 17 of 66 counties voted against the gay marriage ban, but 11 of those counties were west of the Missouri River, where the Great Plains begin to become Badlands and the Midwest turns into the West. "As you move west, voters tend to be less evangelical and more libertarian," said Jon Schaff, who teaches at Northern State University in South Dakota. "They're saying they simply want government to leave them alone."

Down in Arizona, the social conservatives who backed that state's marriage ban had a similar experience. Cathi Herrod, spokeswoman for Arizona Proposition 107, told the Baptist Press: "We're a Western state with a more libertarian bent. It's gotten harder to pass a marriage amendment."

Rove-ian visions of Republican electoral dominance depend upon solid Republican support throughout the Mountain West. Arizona, Colorado and South Dakota all delivered their electoral votes for George Bush in both 2000 and 2004, and four out of six senators from those states are now Republican. But the GOP's increasing reliance on Southern-style social conservatism, and its accompanying abandonment of any libertarian pretenses, has led some Democratic strategists to see that region as fertile ground for substantial Democratic gains.

The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, ignited a controversy earlier this year when it invited the founder of the liberal blog Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas, to enter into a dialogue concerning a liberal-libertarian alliance. Cato has become increasingly disenchanted with a Republican Party that it has come to view as hostile to libertarian beliefs, while Moulitsas has made Democratic gains in the Mountain West something of a personal crusade.

Moulitsas, for example, routinely touts Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana as a national figure to be emulated. Moulitsas was also one of the earliest and more fervent supporters of Jon Tester's Senate campaign in the same state, a campaign that succeeded despite, or because of, Tester's overt call for repeal of the Patriot Act on the grounds that it permitted unwarranted privacy invasions by the government.

In an article written for Cato, Moulitsas described the "excitement at the growing ranks of Western Democrats who aren't just transforming the politics of the Mountain states, but will hopefully lead to the reformation of the Democratic Party and a new embrace of the politics of personal liberty." Citing the Schiavo controversy, stem-cell disputes and general sexual moralizing, he attributed growing libertarian discomfort with Republicans to the fact that "we are seeing a government aggressively seeking to meddle in people's bedrooms, doctor's offices, and churches." In a follow-up article, Moulitsas argued for the "formulation for a new breed of Democrat that is finding success in the Mountain West."

Given the region's deep-red Republican history, there is understandable skepticism about just how Democratic the interior West might be. But last week's election results demonstrate that the GOP faces a towering problem nationally. The activist social conservative agenda demanded by its Southern evangelical base is precisely what alienates voters in the rest of the country, particularly those with an aversion to federal government intervention in their lives. Such opposition to expansive government intrusion into people's lives was once the very source of Republican support in the Mountain West.

During the 1990s, the Waco and Ruby Ridge controversies, along with disputes over federal government control of public land, became symbols of pro-Republican, libertarian sentiments throughout that region. The ethos of that time was captured by Newt Gingrich's declaration on "Meet the Press" that "Westerners have a 'genuine fear' of the federal government that Easterners and city dwellers should try to understand." And Rep. Helen Chenoweth, R-Idaho, said that citizens "have a reason to be afraid of their government."

But Republican opposition to expansive government power seemed to disappear as soon as Republicans consolidated their control over the federal government. As a daunting symbol of excessive federal power, Janet Reno's Waco and Ruby Ridge assaults have been replaced by an emergency congressional session to control Terry Schiavo's end-of-life decisions, as well by a seemingly endless array of Republican efforts to regulate the private and intimate lives of Americans.

In this regard, the outcome of the 2006 midterm elections is a cause for real alarm among Republicans. In a Weekly Standard article this week titled "Pathetic Republicans," the Hoover Institution's Tod Linberg warns that "the de-Republicanization of these regions [the two coasts and upper Midwest] is about complete, and the problem has spread to the high plains, the Midwest, and the non-coastal West." Lindberg attributes this problem to the GOP's excessive commitment "to largely symbolic politics of the social issues, conservative identity politics, and the culture wars," issues that are "overwhelmingly popular in the South" but not anywhere else.

All of these trends give Democrats more ammunition with which to turn the GOP into a regional party, the party of the South. University of Maryland, Baltimore County, professor Thomas F. Schaller argues in his new book, "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Do Without the South" that "Democrats should forget about recapturing the South in the near term and begin building a national majority that ends, not begins, with restoring their lost southern glory."

As Schaller pointed out in Salon Tuesday, "the South is the most religious and evangelized region of the country, making it the most fertile ground for a socially conservative message." Schaller contends in "Whistling Past Dixie" that the majority political and cultural views in the South are so distinct from the rest of the country that "the Democrats' near-term goal should be to isolate the Republicans as a regional party that owns most of the South, but little else."

No political party can be everything to everyone. As Republicans are forced to rely more and more on their base of white Southern evangelicals, they will be increasingly viewed as the party of intrusive governmental control.

In the process, the Democrats have the chance to become the party that stands for the right of adults to make decisions about their own lives free of moralistic governmental interference and regulation. Those who cast their votes based principally on such libertarian sentiments -- driven by the belief that the government should, to the greatest extent possible, stay out of their lives -- will view the Democratic Party as the far more attractive choice. The decreased support for same-sex marriage bans in the West, as well as the 2006 midterm results generally, make clear just what a potent opportunity this is for Democrats.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Rumsfeld in "Deep Denial" over Iraq

"Rumsfeld: We can only lose the war in America," not Iraq. Former Rumsfeld friend and Defense Policy Board member Ken Adelman tells the New Yorker that Rumsfeld has been in "deep denial -- deep deep denial" about Iraq from the beginning.

... Within the confines of the policy board, Adelman became blunt about his disenchantment with the Pentagon’s management of the war. At the board’s meeting this summer, Adelman said, he argued that the American military needed a new strategy.

“I suggested that we were losing the war,” Adelman said. “What was astonishing to me was the number of Iraqi professional people who were leaving the country. People were voting with their feet, and I said that it looked like we needed a Plan B. I said, ‘What’s the alternative? Because what we’re doing now is just losing.’ ”

Adelman said that Rumsfeld didn’t take to the message well. “He was in deep denial—deep, deep denial. And then he did a strange thing. He did fifteen or twenty minutes of posing questions to himself, and then answering them. He made the statement that we can only lose the war in America, that we can’t lose it in Iraq. And I tried to interrupt this interrogatory soliloquy to say, ‘Yes, we are actually losing the war in Iraq.’ He got upset and cut me off. He said, ‘Excuse me,’ and went right on with it.”

While Rumsfeld may have been the only one to articulate it as such, one might observe that the administration has for years seemed to treat Iraq largely as a domestic framing opportunity/problem.

Also worth reading, Andrew Bacevich writing earlier this week in the LA Times on score settling.

Poputonian - Squeeze Play

Squeeze Play

by poputonian

Thinking a little more about the politics of economics, I'm reminded again of historian David Hackett Fischer's book The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History, in which he noted a 16th century period when rising prices and economic inequality took a heavy toll on society. The book was published in 1996, before everything changed. Doesn't this description sound familiar?

These many responses to rising prices — social, demographic, economic, monetary, fiscal — interacted in combinations of increasing power. For example, the price-revolution caused falling real wages and rising returns to capital, which caused the growth of inequality, which increased the political power of the rich, which led to regressive taxation, which reduced government revenues, which encouraged currency debasements, which drove prices higher.

I understand that we aren't in a period of rampant inflation, but we might be soon. At the same time, we have seen the increased political power of the rich, a move toward more regressive taxation, and reduced government revenues.

Weep as you read Fischer’s fascinating conclusion, and notice the inescapable parallels to what we see today, particulalry about aggregate demand and the cost of fuel [all emphasis mine]:

This inquiry began with a problem of historical description about price movements in the modern world. Its primary purpose was to describe the main lines of change through the past eight hundred years. The central finding may be summarized in a sentence. We found evidence of four price-revolutions since the twelfth century: four very long waves of rising prices, punctuated by long periods of comparative price-equilibrium. This is not a cyclical pattern. Price revolutions have no fixed and regular periodicity. Some were as short as eighty years; others as long as 180 years. They differed in duration, velocity, magnitude, and momentum.

At the same time, these long movements shared several properties in common. All had a common wave-structure, and started in much the same way. The first stage was one of silent beginnings and slow advances. Prices rose slowly in a period of prolonged prosperity. Magnitudes of increase remained within the range of previous fluctuations. At first the long wave appeared to be merely another short-run event. Only later did it emerge as a new secular tendency.

The novelty of the new trend consisted not only in the fact of inflation but also in its form. The pattern of price-relatives was specially revealing. Food and fuel led the upward movement. Manufactured goods and services lagged behind. These patterns indicated that the prime mover was excess aggregate demand, generated by an acceleration of population growth, or by rising living standards, or both.

These trends were the product of individual choices. Men and women deliberately chose to marry early. They freely decided to have more children, because material conditions were improving and the world seemed a better place to raise a family. People demanded and at first received a higher standard of living, because there was an expanding market for their labor. The first stage of every price-revolution was marked by material progress, cultural confidence, and optimism for the future.

The second stage was very different. It began when prices broke through the boundaries of the previous equilibrium. This tended to happen when other events intervened--commonly wars of ambition that arose from the hubris of the preceding period. Examples included the rivalry between emperors and popes in the thirteenth century; the state-building conflicts of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries; the dynastic and imperial struggles of the mid-eighteenth century; and the world wars of the twentieth century. These events sent prices surging up and down again, in a pattern that was both a symptom and a cause of instability. The consequences included political disorder, social disruption, and a growing mood of cultural anxiety.

The third stage began when people discovered the fact of price- inflation as a long-term trend, and began to think of it as an inexorable condition. They responded to this discovery by making choices that drove prices still higher. Governments and individuals expanded the supply of money and increased the velocity of its circulation. In each successive wave, price-inflation became more elaborately institutionalized.

A fourth stage began as this new institutionalized inflation took hold. Prices went higher, and became highly unstable. They began to surge and decline in movements of increasing volatility. Severe price shocks were felt in commodity movements. The money supply was alternately expanded and contracted. Financial markets became unstable. Government spending grew faster than revenue, and public debt increased at a rapid rate. In every price-revolution, the strongest nation-states suffered severely from fiscal stresses: Spain in the sixteenth century, France in the eighteenth century , and the United States in the twentieth century.

Other imbalances were even more dangerous. Wages, which had at first kept up with prices, now lagged behind. Returns to labor declined while returns to land and capital increased. The rich grew richer. People of middling estates lost ground. The poor suffered terribly. Inequalities of wealth and income increased. So also did hunger, homelessness, crime, violence, drink, drugs, and family disruption.

These material events had cultural consequences. In literature and the arts, the penultimate stage of every price-revolution was an era of dark visions and restless dreams. This was a time of lost faith in institutions. It was also a period of desperate search for spiritual values. Sects and cults, often very angry and irrational, multiplied rapidly. Intellectuals turned furiously against their environing societies. Young people, uncertain of both the future and the past, gave way to alienation and cultural anomie.

Finally, the great wave crested and broke with shattering force, in a cultural crisis that included demographic contraction, economic collapse, political revolution, international war and social violence. These events relieved the pressures that had set the price-revolution in motion. The first result was a rapid fall of prices, rents and interest. This short but very sharp deflation was followed by an era of equilibrium that persisted for seventy or eighty years. Long-term inflation ceased. Prices stabilized, then declined further, and stabilized once more. Real wages began to rise, but returns to capital and land fell.

The recovery of equilibrium had important social consequences. At first, inequalities continued to grow, as a lag effect of the preceding price revolution. But as the new dynamics took hold, inequality began to diminish. Times were better for laborers, artisans, and ordinary people. Landowners were hard pressed, but economic conditions improved for most people. Families grew stronger. Crime rates fell. Consumption of drugs and drink diminished. Foreign wars became less frequent and less violent, but internal wars of unification became more common and more successful.

Each period of equilibrium had a distinct cultural character. All were marked in their later stages by the emergence of ideas of order and harmony such as appeared in the Renaissance of the twelfth century, the Italian Renaissance of the quattrocento, the Enlightenment of the early eighteenth century, and the Victorian era.

After many years of equilibrium and comparative peace, population began to grow more rapidly. Standards of living improved. Prices, rents and interest started to rise again. As aggregate demand mounted, a new wave began. The next price-revolution was not precisely the same, but it was similar in many ways. As Mark Twain observed, history does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.