Wednesday, January 04, 2006

"The soul of our country needs to be awakend"

Mike and I had an extremely difficult time selecting items from today's Democracy Now! headlines because there were so many to choose from.

We decided, finally, on two and that we could use one of C.I.'s entries to cover the a bit more than we usually do. Remember to visit Mikey Likes It! to get his perspective.

Top Republican Lobbyist Pleads Guilty To Fraud, Bribery (Democracy Now!):
In Washington Tuesday, the prominent Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to three felony counts. He admitted to defrauding at least four Native Americans tribes of tens of millions of dollars, bribing government officials and evading taxes.
_ Abramoff has reportedly agreed to testify against several members of Congress who received favors or donations from him or his clients.
_ The Wall Street Journal reports his testimony could implicate as many as 60 lawmakers.

Amy Goodman devoted the hour to exploring the details of this story and Mike and I both felt we should try to pull a point from the hour that we felt shouldn't be overlooked.

"Native American Tribes Attempt to Recover After Being Defrauded of Tens of Millions by Abramoff" (Democracy Now!):
AMY GOODMAN: Arturo Senclair and Ben Nighthorse Campbell, in 2002 alone, records show three Indian tribes donated $1.1 million to the Capital Athletic Foundation. That's Abramoff's foundation. But now Newsweek has learned investigators probing Abramoff's finances have found some of the money meant for inner city kids went, instead, to fight the Palestinian intifada. More than $140,000 of foundation funds were actually sent to the Israeli West Bank where they were used by a Jewish settler to mobilize against the Palestinian uprising. Among the expenditures, purchases of camouflage suits, sniper scopes, night vision binoculars, a thermal imager and other material described in foundation records as security equipment. The F.B.I. sources tell Newsweek it's now examining these payments as part of a larger investigation to determine if Abramoff defrauded his Indian tribe clients.
BEN NIGHTHORSE CAMPBELL: Well, he probably did. But, you know, there are already laws on the books that allow tribes to recover some of their losses. And, as I understand it, the Tiguas have already filed a lawsuit to try to recover some of the money that they gave him. I understand also, though, that he's now saying he's broke, that he did something with it, gave it away or some darn thing. So, who knows, they may never recover their losses, but they're certainly going to come out of this whole experience a heck of a lot wiser and be a lot more careful on the people that they ask to carry their voice to Washington.

There are so many angles to this story. You really should check out Democracy Now! broadcast on this.

"NYT: 'Agency First Acted on Its Own to Broaden Spying, Files Show' (Eric Lichtblau & Scott Shane)" (The Common Ills):
How did the NSA have the power to make the changes? According to administration spokespeople an executive order ( Executive Order 12333) Reagan signed allowed for it to happen. I know all presidents rely on those executive orders and think they override the Constitution, but they don't. At best, it's "an order" by its very nature, it's not a law. No president can declare a law. Congress is the law making body.
But that's today's spin from the White House: "Reagan signed an executive order and that gave us permission!" (Did Yoo discover that order at the time or did someone, Yoo?, think of it as the illegal activity continued to hound Bully Boy?)
[. . .]
But this administration has been filled with people (Colin Powell, for instance) who saw the Bully Boy as the nation. No president is the nation. The people are the nation and when the presidency turns against the people, it has turned against the nation.

The NSA spying began in 2001, according to today's reports. Nancy Pelosi objected in real time. Bully Boy didn't authorize it with his own executive order until 2002. C.I. and I were discussing this and here's a question we had, if Reagan's executive order gave "permission" (which we don't accept because the Constitution is the supreme law of the land), then why did Bully Boy need to sign his own executive order?

Justice Dept. Seeks Dismissal of Gitmo Cases (Democracy Now!):
In other news, the Justice Department has filed a request to dismiss more than 180 cases brought by Guantanamo Bay detainees to challenge their detentions. The detainees lost their right to habeus corpus in a Senate amendment attached to anti-torture legislation passed last month. Detainees are now only able to plead their case before an appeals court once they have gone through a military court process.

C.I. posted the following this morning:

Like Elaine, by the way, I think it's past time for a new term. "Detainee" doesn't really convey several years of imprisonment. I'm not sure that "inmates" is the proper term, and not sure that it isn't, but "detainee" makes it sound as though you've been stopped as you went through customs and forced to declare an item or two.

The terminology is something we have both been discussing and words do have meanings. "Detainee" gives a very ugly reality a pleasant sounding name. The fact that so many continue to be unconcerned may have something to do with the term. It provides you with a false impression. "They're just detainees, it's a temporary status."

Early on, we were led to believe that this was for information which may have allowed some people to have a false sense of security. "We're just getting information." The implication being that as soon as we had the information, certainly not a process that would take years, they'd be set free or stand trial (before a military tribunal, according to Bully Boy from the beginning). The "detention" has no end unless pressure comes from other countries. Those released who were British citizens aren't criminals. Now maybe some are or maybe we're just seeing the Bully Boy paint himself into a corner. It's considered known, and reported in The New Yorker, that many people in Afghanistan profitted by turning mentally challenged individuals. They were paid for the people they turned over. So anyone with a grudge could work out that grudge at the expense of someone else. If Gitmo was filled with guilty people, it seems like they would have been tried already. That hasn't happened and the administration and some JAG lawyers have been at war over the procedures.

We need to think about this because Bully Boy's not thinking about it.

"Peace Quotes" (Peace Center):
The soul of our country needs to be awakened . . .When leaders act contrary to conscience, we must act contrary to leaders.
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