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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Mark Levin, NRO: "bloody great wanker"

MARK LEVIN, Genius [--Law&Poltics blog]
__________

Mark Levin, NRO:

"Congress and the Court are systematically stripping the presidency of war-making powers. Congress demands that the president get court approval before intercepting enemy communications (we call that intelligence gathering) and the Court demands that the president get statutory support from Congress before he can use military tribunals to try terrorists.

"And yet, neither Congress nor the Supreme Court have any explicit constitutional authority to make these decisions."



United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8:


The Congress shall have power . . .

To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;

To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;

To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;


// posted by publius @ 6/30/2006 12:43:00 AM

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One Party Country - book excerpt

EXCERPT:
...One night a few months after President George W. Bush and the Republican Party declared a euphoric victory in the 2004 elections, the new chairman of the GOP drove to the Washington suburb of Largo, Maryland, for his first public speech as party leader. He could have picked any venue for this appearance, and it was not happenstance that on this February night he chose a Black History Month celebration in predominantly black Prince George's County. As recently as the 1970s, PG County, as it's called, had been mostly white and rural, a backwater still marked by the attitudes and customs of the Old South. By the turn of the century, however, it had turned overwhelmingly black, and was home to a large and upwardly ambitious black middle class. Fresh, well-groomed subdivisions had sprung up, more than a few with their own McMansions and stylish shopping plazas. Moreover, one of the county's residents, Michael Steele, had been elected the Republican lieutenant governor of Maryland, making him the highest-ranking elected African American Republican in the country and a favorite to win election to the U.S. Senate in 2006.

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CONTINUED...


All of this was what attracted Chairman Ken Mehlman that night. It was also what led him to talk about President Bush's ideas to help workers invest their money and get rich. One aspect of the Bush plan, letting people put a portion of their social security taxes into investment accounts, would prove a hard sell to Congress and the broader public. But Mehlman had his reasons for focusing on it before this audience, which was predominantly Democratic but eager to hear a new pitch.

"These accounts are the key to the American dream," he said. "If you can't save money, if you can't build wealth, if you're living paycheck to paycheck, for the first time ever you are going to have a nest egg." The audience burst into applause. "Give us a chance," Mehlman said, standing on stage with Steele, "and we'll give you a choice."

A few days later, the equally new chairman of the Democratic National Committee, former Vermont governor Howard Dean, also gave a speech. Appearing in a downtown Washington hotel before an audience that included many African Americans, the head of the Democratic Party all but jeered at the idea of a Republican Party official trying to draw in blacks. "You think the Republican National Committee could get this many people of color in a single room?" he asked. "Only if they had the hotel staff in here." The Democrats responded with laughter and applause.

Considered objectively, it was hard to see what the Democrats had to laugh about. Tears might have been more appropriate. Only a few months before, on Election Day 2004, a seven-percentage point rise in black support for Bush in Ohio had created the cushion he needed to carry that pivotal state and secure reelection. Bush had gained ground among black voters in other states as well—due in part to the work of his so-called faith-based initiative that directed millions of dollars to African American church groups and to appeals like the one delivered by Mehlman during that 2005 speech in Maryland.

Bush had also improved his showing among Latinos, Jews, young people, and blue-collar workers. The Democrats had increased their overall turnout in 2004, but Republicans had increased their turnout by much more. Even in Florida, where Al Gore four years earlier had come within 537 votes and a split decision in the Supreme Court of winning the White House, Republicans stretched their margin to a relative landslide, winning the state by more than 300,000 votes.

How could this have happened? Was it just a fluke? After all, by the spring of 2006, Republicans seemed to be teetering on the precipice. American troops were stuck in a military quagmire in Iraq years after an invasion sold to the public with arguments that ultimately proved false. Government officials bungled the response to a hurricane so devastating it wiped out an entire city. Icons of the ruling Republican Party, such as ousted GOP strongman Tom DeLay, faced criminal investigation, perhaps even jail. Poll ratings plummeted. And, in a perfect metaphor for the GOP's troubles, the vice president, who was once the rock of stability and unflappable competence in the Bush White House, accidentally shot a hunting companion in the face.

Things looked so grim for Republicans that a 1994-style political revolution seemed like a real possibility—this time returning long-suffering Democrats to power in a city dominated for more than a decade by conservatives. Suddenly, Howard Dean's confidence that his party could maintain its old coalitions and build a dominant majority for the future didn't seem so far-fetched. Democrats might well benefit from Republican woes in the immediate future, perhaps taking one or both Houses of Congress in 2006.

But as this book explains, such immediate success will not erase the years of accrued deficiencies that pushed Democrats into backbench marginalization. Instead, Democrats at the start of a new century face steep odds that could well prevent them from turning potential short-term gains into a political revolution that would restore their status as the country's leading political party.

The Republican drive for long-term dominance in national politics was never designed to rest on the short-term fortunes of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, or Tom DeLay alone. Rather, the conservative vision reached back more than forty years. It had arisen from the ruins of Senator Barry Goldwater's crushing defeat at the hands of President Lyndon B. Johnson. And in the years that followed Goldwater's loss, conservatives had built a political comeback on foundations so fundamental and strong that many believed no short-term success by Democrats could crack them.

The Republican Party of the early twenty-first century may perform poorly in individual elections, but it remains firmly in the lead when it comes to the science and strategy of attaining power—and keeping it. That advantage has been constructed painstakingly over decades and then, using taxpayer dollars and unprecedented politicization of government bureaucracies, strengthened dramatically under the presidency of George W. Bush.

The GOP controls every part of every element of the federal government, from the White House and the executive branch through the Senate and the House of Representatives. Seven of the nine Supreme Court justices were appointed by Republican presidents, and the court is trending increasingly conservative. A majority of governors are Republicans as well, including in the country's four biggest states of California, Texas, Florida, and New York. Conservatives can no longer credibly claim the news media are liberal. As the traditional television networks lose ground to cable, the dependably conservative Fox News routinely tops the cable ratings. And the Democrats have no one to match the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Matt Drudge, and other conservative commentators and bloggers who define the issues of the day.

While the numbers of voters who label themselves Democrats and Republicans have remained roughly equal, the results of national elections have told a different story. Since 1994, when Republicans took over the House and the Senate, their control of Congress has rarely been seriously challenged. And by the time George W. Bush's second term ends on January 20, 2009, Republicans will have occupied the White House for twenty of the past twenty-eight years.

So pervasive and durable is the Republicans' strength, it is time to ask: is the United States becoming a one-party country? Will Democrats slip into the status of a permanent, carping minority? Will conservatives achieve their dream of building a lasting majority?

The fortress that has put Republicans within reach of long-term dominance is not made of smoke and mirrors. It is real, built with shrewd design, mountains of money, and decades of hard work and self-discipline. The most important but least understood tenet of the GOP strategy is that its success was never predicated on a utopian notion of converting millions of voters to conservatism in some giant feat of political evangelism. Rather, it rested on structural changes and application of proven techniques that, taken together, subtly tilted the political playing field in their favor. In tangible present-day terms, this means not attempting to win the majority of, say, black voters. Instead, it means wooing enough conservative blacks, like the crowd that applauded Mehlman, to sap Democratic strength and build the conservative majority.

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Posters at right-wing board threaten to kill Times editors, reporters

RAW STORY
Published: Monday June 26, 2006

Posters at the right-wing Free Republic message board today were roused into a fury of indignation by a news story about the New York Times' revelations of the administration's illegal programs of warrantless surveillance. Posted by an individual calling himself or herself "pissant," the story quoted Vice-President Cheney as saying:

"The New York Times has now twice -- two separate occasions -- disclosed programs; both times they had been asked not to publish those stories by senior administration officials. They went ahead anyway. The leaks to The New York Times and the publishing of those leaks is very damaging."


The thread which followed this provocative statement was almost entirely devoted to imagining ever-more-extreme ways to get back at the Times for what the posters widely considered to be an act of treason. Their recommended responses started out with the relatively mild and legal:

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"Sic the AG on the NYT!!!!!"

"Can we have a class action lawsuit against the Slimes [sic] for endangering American lives?"

However, they soon became increasingly vindictive:

"Whoever it is, needs to spend the rest of his pathetic life in the slammer."

"Indictments, arrests and imprisonments are very much in order here. Not to put too fine a point on it, but just how much treason is our president prepared to tolerate?"

The thread quickly took on the quality of a lynch mob, with posters attempting to outdo one another in their level of imaginary violence:

"I can only hope I get to see the video of Sulzberger's beheading! :)"

"If the government won't act, perhaps some private citizens will."

"Tar, feathers? You are the very definition of the term 'restraint'. I was thinking more along the lines of the Muslim solution."

"String em up, right next to Murtha's sad carcass."

"They need to hang for this, but it's not PC for me to type this in RESPONSE to their treason."

The inevitable climax of this rhetoric of hatred was a post declaring the Times to be THE ENEMY, followed by additional responses in which they were described as fair game for private vengeance:

"The Slimes [sic] and its puppets in the MSM ARE THE ENEMY. They simply hate America as it is. They want a socialist-homosexual utopia. Thus, they are simply aiding and abetting their faithful followers abroad and here. They are giving intel to their friends of gee-had. They are the enemy. Problem is, many Americans simply do not know or care."

"Any retired snipers out there?"

"They are, without a doubt our enemy. We need to treat them as such."

"I think it will be dangerous for a Slimes [sic] reporter to step foot out of Manhattan."

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Spiderman-3 ...still a long way off

Kickin' Blues Brother

Steven Seagal, Between Projects: Major Motion Picture And Major Mojo

By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 27, 2006; C01

ATLANTIC CITY

Steven Seagal is surrounded, and somebody's flashing a gun. Uh-oh .

Bring on the carnage and the mayhem and, just maybe, one of those epic post-brawl soliloquies in which the rock-'em, sock-'em action hero preaches about the environment as the bloodied bad guys limp away!

Okay, maybe not. Wrong scene, wrong script, wrong medium.

It's just past midnight at the House of Blues' Harlem Ballroom, and Seagal has been backed into a corner by the good guys: About a hundred autograph-seeking fans, one of whom has peeled back his shirtsleeve to flex his gun of a biceps in the hopes that the ponytailed martial-arts master, movie star and, of late, Muddy Waters wannabe will sign the arm with a Sharpie.
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Seagal manages a smirk, then scribbles his name on the guy's skin. Next!

"I watch your movies every day," another fan says. Seagal nods, then signs the man's ticket stub.

Slumping behind a folding table, the 55-year-old actor appears exhausted and a bit irritable -- perhaps because he slept only an hour the night before, then spent half the day stuck in traffic en route from a gig in Hagerstown before getting onstage to lead his touring band through nearly two hours of high-octane blues. He pounds the table with his left hand, which is roughly the size of a bear paw. He exhales. He looks at his watch. The line keeps moving.

"Your movies inspired me to go into martial arts," says another fan. Seagal nods again and signs again, this time writing his name on the cover of an "Under Siege" DVD.

"Is there going to be an 'Under Siege 3'?" ("I hope so," Seagal says softly. Scribbles on an 8-by-10 photo.)

"You're awesome! When's your next movie going to be in theaters?" ("Probably next year." T-shirt. Keep moving, please.)

"Steven, I love your music ."

Suddenly, Seagal looks up. His posture has changed. So has his disposition. "You enjoyed the show?" he says, smiling.

"That was impressive," the fan says. "You can really play, man. Keep on doing it."

"Thank you, brother!" Seagal says as he signs a copy of his new blues CD, "Mojo Priest." He shakes the man's hand, thanks him again, then expresses his elation over the whole evening, saying: " LawdhaveMERCY !"

If you really want to get Steven Seagal going, tell him he's no Russell Crowe -- or, for that matter, Don Johnson, Kevin Bacon or Keanu Reeves.

Don't worry; your solar plexus will remain intact.

"I've been playing music since I was a boy," Seagal says. "I'm a musician, man. This is what I do. I got a little bit of pride about the blues. I'm not like these actors who can't play."

This, of course, is what we've come to the House of Blues to discern.

Just as many musicians apparently want to be actors, many actors want to be musicians. And most of them can't play the part credibly.

But Seagal is out to prove he's no dilettante -- that as a singer, songwriter and guitarist he is serious about the craft, and that he knows his way around a fret board and a 12-bar blues. In short, that he's not Bruce Willis.

Last month, Seagal released "Mojo Priest," which features both blues classics ("Hoochie Coochie Man," "Dust My Broom") as well as his own compositions, including "Talk to My [Rear End]." The songs are performed by Seagal along with a lineup that includes blues luminaries Ruth Brown, Bo Diddley, James Cotton, Pinetop Perkins, Bob Margolin, Robert Lockwood Jr. and Hubert Sumlin.

Big City Blues magazine, which put Seagal on the cover of its current issue, called his guitar work "exceptional" and Seagal himself "a natural -- a very talented musician." Amazon.com's review is less effusive, calling the CD a "well-intentioned star vehicle" but cautioning that "neither Seagal's whispery/raspy vocals or hotshot guitar solos are particularly memorable . . . Lovers of deep blues won't find much of interest here."

"Mojo Priest" is Seagal's second album, after last year's "Songs From the Crystal Cave," with its reggae dancehall and Indian instrumental flourishes. That CD, which features Stevie Wonder and members of Bob Marley's Wailers, was never released stateside, though Seagal says it's better than "Mojo Priest."

Seagal the bluesman is now trying to gain converts in concert on a month-long U.S. tour that stops tonight at the Birchmere. Fronting an eight-piece band, Thunderbox, whose shifting lineup includes guitarist Bernard Allison, son of the late great Luther Allison, Seagal is performing nightly in front of crowds comprising movie fans, martial-arts nuts and skeptical musicians and blues fans.

And he seems to be winning them over. Even the members of Aretha Franklin's band who sneaked in a side door after their concert in an adjacent theater roared their approval at the end of Seagal's set. (Earlier, Seagal had introduced Franklin on the House of Blues main stage at her camp's behest.)

"Every single place we've played, we've burned the house down," Seagal says in that same smoldering low murmur of a voice that starred, along with his high-flying feet and hard-chopping hands, in such late-'80s and early-'90s action-flick hits as "Above the Law," "Hard to Kill," "Out for Justice" and "Marked for Death." (His more recent output has been less successful, save for 2001's "Exit Wounds," in which he was featured opposite the rapper DMX.)

"People are surprised because they just know Steven as an actor," says Miles Copeland, the music-biz veteran who shepherded the Police to international stardom and is now managing Seagal's music career. "But I'm telling you, the guy can play an instrument and he's actually really good at it. That separates him from almost all of the actors who want to make a music career. And he's serious about it.

"I told him he'd have to play these grungy clubs and some real [dives] where real blues musicians would play, and he said: 'Let's do it!' He's focused on making it as a musician. He's paying his dues, just like everybody else."

Truth be told, however, Seagal isn't exactly suffering for his art: When he has to fly to a gig, he travels by chartered jet, and he also stays in expensive hotel suites, Copeland says.

"The spending isn't in line because on one end, he's a superstar, and on the other end, he's trying to establish himself. So he's playing these dinky little places. But you can't get the guy to fly economy and stay in a one-star hotel. He's just not going to do it. So we're in the presidential suite in every hotel and we're playing a 300-seat club! Let's put it this way: He's not making any money on this tour. But we have to prove to people that he can tour and that he can play."

He has already convinced blues veterans like Hubert Sumlin, a revered guitarist who played on some of Howlin' Wolf's great 1960s Chess Records sides -- including "Wang Dang Doodle," "Shake for Me" and "300 Pounds of Joy."

"Man, I couldn't believe it until I heard it," Sumlin says in a phone interview. "But he's for real, man. People are going to see that he got it. . . . I told him, just brush up on your singing. That's all. But the guy got it. Man, I'm 74 years old, and I've been out here a long time. I done heard everybody I wanted to hear. And I'm sure he can play."

Margolin, a guitarist and singer who played in Muddy Waters's band, says in an e-mail from a tour stop in Switzerland that he hasn't heard "Mojo Priest" yet. But Seagal acquitted himself in the recording sessions, Margolin writes: "From what little I heard, he sounded good."

Seagal assesses his playing -- a fingerpicking style that seems to owe a lot to both Albert Collins and Albert King -- this way:

"I'll say I'm an average guitar player, and some people like the way I play. Let's put it this way: I've played with the best of the best and made a lot of people happy. So I must be doing something right."

Seagal has apparently been befriending blues musicians for years -- dating, he says, back to his childhood in Michigan, where he claims to have learned in the laps of great but unknown Mississippi Delta bluesmen who'd moved north to work in the steel mills. Whether this is true is unclear; a 1990 People magazine story quoted Seagal's mother as saying the family moved to Southern California when he was 5.

Could it be another bit of myth-building? In 1988, when his edgy-man-of-mystery public image was being perfected at the outset of his career, Seagal suggested to the Los Angeles Times that he'd previously worked for the government as a spook -- a claim that was refuted in various published expos?s. (The actor eventually told Larry King on CNN: "I am publicly denying having ever worked for the CIA.") Over the years, there have been questions, too, about the details of Seagal's martial-arts training and teaching in Japan and so forth.

Whatever. As an adult, Seagal has collected bluesmen friends and teachers almost as obsessively as he's collected guitars and guns, and he casually peppers conversation with references to his relationships with some of the greats. As in: "I remember talking to B.B. King once" and "my boy Taj Mahal" and "Bo Diddley is a dear friend of mine." (In the Big City Blues piece, Diddley says of Seagal, "I think I've found me a new good buddy.")

Seagal even says Sumlin "is like a father to me." And, in fact, Sumlin will be just that in "Prince of Pistols," a movie scheduled to begin shooting next month in New Orleans, with Sumlin, who is black, playing the father of Seagal, who is white but seems to have picked up the patois of an old black man from the South.

"Hubert has said some things to me that can make you cry; he's like a holy man to me," says the famously spiritual Seagal, a student of Zen and Tibetan Buddhist philosophies who was once, controversially, proclaimed to be the reincarnation of a revered Buddhist lama. "If you saw Hubert in India or Tibet, you'd walk up and do prostrations."

They didn't fall prostrate in Atlantic City when Seagal took the stage. But at least he got an ovation in his latest incarnation, prompting Seagal to shout, " That's what I'm talkin' 'bout."
© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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Why Signing Statements Matter

By DAVE LINDORFF

Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself." -- Mark Twain

Over the course of the past year, it has been discovered that President Bush, during his five years in office, has cancelled all or part of 750 laws of Congress, quietly and with the stroke of a pen. These so-called "signing statements" have been used to invalidate laws passed by Congress to do everything from require government reporting on the uses of the Patriot Act's invasive provisions to banning torture and establishing a special investigator for corruption in Iraq.
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The Senate Judiciary Committee headed by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) is finally holding hearings into this issue, but don't expect much from a that can't even get worked up over the White House's failure to send over key people to testify.

Tony Snow, the president's smarmy flak, says all those "signing statements" are simply a way for Bush to "express reservations about the constitutionality" of those laws.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), one of the president's yes-men in Congress, says, "The president is entitled to express his opinion. It's the courts that determine what the law is. I don't know why the issue of presidents issuing signing statements is controversial at all."

Well John, here's the reason: The Constitution.

Remember that hoary document? It's the one you and the rest of your mealy-mouthed, high-living, coiffed and chauffeured colleagues in Congress swore to uphold when you took office and started collecting your salaries as representatives of the People.

Let's take a look at that yellowed parchment.

Regarding the powers of the president, Article II says:

The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.

It goes on to define that power, saying:

The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States; he may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices, and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.

He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law: but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments.

The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.

Notice, Tony and John, that there is nothing in there about "signing statements" or about "expressing reservations" about laws passed by Congress.

Now let's look at what the Constitution says about Congress and its powers. In Article I it says:

All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

The key word there is "all," which kind of precludes the president diddling around with a law afterwards with some "signing statement."

Article I makes its point clearer, adding that Congress has the power:

To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.

That really doesn't leave a lot of room for presidential interpretation, does it?

So why do we care, John?

Well, let's for a moment pretend that we all think that Bush is just a swimmingly competent president, that he is beloved and respected by 99 percent of the public, and that he has an unerring sense of what is right. No seriously. Stop laughing. It's just for the sake of argumentGot your breath back?

Okay, so suppose we then let this towering paragon of erudition and virtue go ahead and second-guess the Congress, and just ex out whatever laws or provisions of laws that he deems unwise.

Well, it won't stop there. Although the self-involved, self-aggrandizing members of Congress may only care about who's greasing their palms tomorrow, in a little more than two years, there's going to be another president and another Congress.

If this president is allowed to get away with undermining Congress' constitutional power in this egregious manner, the next president, whether it's Bill Frist, the Newt, Hillary Clinton or Al Gore, will take office with Bush's definition of presidential power as his or her starting point.

Is that what you guys want?

Why not just scrap the Constitution, then? Why waste all that valuable space in the Library of Congress exhibiting a document that has ceased to have any meaning?

For that matter, why are we bothering to elect you guys? You-and here I mean the Republicans and most of the Democrats in the House and Senate--are daily proving that you view your own jobs as essentially meaningless.

If you can't see or admit how this president is undermining the whole concept of separation of powers, and establishing himself, and the presidency, as a dictatorship in all but name, if you won't stand up in defense of your own institution and the Constitution you were sworn to uphold, you should all be fired, and the Congress abolished as a massive waste of taxpayer money.

Fortunately, we have an alternative, which is also laid out in the Constitution. That is election and impeachment.

If you and your current colleagues won't call the president to account over these subversive "signing statements," we the People are going to have to oust a bunch of you this November. Then we'll have to hold the feet of those who are left to the fire, and demand impeachment hearings to declare this president a perpetrator of High Crimes against the Constitution.

Dave Lindorff is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled "This Can't be Happening!" is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff's new book, "The Case for Impeachment",
co-authored by Barbara Olshansky, is due out May 1.

He can be reached at: dlindorff@yahoo.com

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'Environmental Insanity' to Drink Bottled Water When It Tastes As Good from the Tap

by Cahal Milmo

Campaigners have attacked Britain's £2bn thirst for bottled water as "environmental insanity" after a report showed that tap water in the UK is among the safest and purest in the world.

More than two billion litres of bottled water fly off shop shelves every year and sales are growing at nearly 9 per cent a year - one of the highest growth areas in retail. At an average of 95p per litre, it costs as much as petrol, while the average cost of tap water in the UK is £1 per 1,0000 litres.

Consumption of these products now doubles every five years in Britain and represent 16 per cent of all soft drinks sold in the UK, with Britons on average consuming 37 litres of bottled water a year. Worldwide it is estimated that 154 billion litres of bottled water, generating revenues of £58bn, are now consumed each year - an increase of 57 per cent over five years.

Environmentalists seized on the annual figures from the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) showing that tap water met stringent quality standards in 99.96 per cent of cases in 2005 - up 0.02 per cent on 2004.

Green groups said that the statistics served to highlight the damaging ecological impact of bottled water. The energy cost of producing a billion plastic bottles from by-products of crude oil, transporting the water over hundreds or thousands of miles and then disposing of the containers in landfill sites or incinerators made bottled water one of Britain's most wasteful luxuries, they said.

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Vicky Hird, senior food campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: "People are being sold an incredibly seductive image with bottled water - that it is the key to health and well being. But what is not recognised is the huge cost in wasted resources that bottled water represents compared to the very high-quality water that is sitting in our taps at an fraction of the price to the planet and to our wallets.''

The DWI, a publicly funded agency in charge of monitoring water quality, said in its annual report that it was satisfied that water companies, under fire in parts of the country for abysmal leakage rates at a time of drought, were meeting targets to improve water quality. The 0.04 per cent of water that did not meet all testing criteria was still deemed safe to drink but presented localised problems with iron, nickel and lead levels.

Richard Ehrlich, the wine writer, said yesterday that he had always favoured tap water over bottled water. After carrying out a blind taste test of tap water versus Evian and Volvic, he praised his winning glass of Thames Water as "so pure and neutral it was almost sweet". Urging consumers to follow his lead, he added: "Do you really think that bottled water is purer than the tap water provided by your local water company? Chances are that it is not. The water coming out of your unloved kitchen tap is just as pure, if not purer."

Britain imports about 25 per cent of its bottled water, the vast majority from France. The industry insists that the global figure for imported water is less than 5 per cent. But it amounts to an additional environmental burden caused by a profligate "throwaway" society at a time of global warming, according to campaigners.

One recent study calculated that the bottled water industry in the UK generated annually about 33,200 tons of carbon dioxide emissions through transport - equivalent to the annual energy consumption of 6,000 homes. According to industry figures, Britons consume about 1.5 billion litres of water each year from bottles made out of polyethylene terephthalate or PET - a plastic made out of crude oil extracts.

Despite a reduction of 30 per cent in the amount of PET that goes into each bottle, only about 10 per cent of the bottles are recycled. Most go to landfill, where they take 450 years to break down.

The Earth Policy Institute, a Washington-based think-tank, said the situation in Britain was being replicated across the developed world with bottled water being transported across borders to reach consumers. Janet Larsen, its director of research, said: "Transporting water around the globe involves burning massive quantities of fossil fuels and thus emitting greenhouse gases and other pollutants into the atmosphere. This contrasts starkly with tap water, which is distributed through an energy efficient infrastructure."

While Britons drinkan average of 37 litres per person a year, the UK lags far behind the world's most profligate bottled water consumers. The French drink 141 litres, the Mexicans 169 litres and the Italians have the highest per capita consumption at 184 litres.

Representatives of the industry insisted yesterday that consumers and manufacturers were paying the extra cost of bottled water through its elevated cost. A spokesman for the British Soft Drinks Association said: "Bottled water is a matter of consumer choice - it offers convenience, a choice of taste and composition and the fact that it is unprocessed.

"There are environmental considerations. Recycling is an issue that encompasses manufacturers, consumers and local authorities but those factors are already included in the cost that people are paying for bottled water."

Taking the taste test

Scott Woods 51 Psychotherapist from Islington, London

VOLVIC: Quite nice, not too sharp.

TAP: There's nothing in the taste telling me it's tap.

EVIAN: That's tap.

"In London we are one of the few cities where people actually have to buy water when they are out. We should be putting water dispensers everywhere, especially on the Tube."

Aride Cillia 36 Mother and housewife from Islington, London

EVIAN: That's tap water. It tastes flat and lifeless.

TAP: I think that's Volvic.

VOLVIC: Ah, that's quite similar to the last one.

"I do drink tap water at home but when I'm out I'll buy bottled. I've no concerns about tap water health-wise. Maybe people started using bottled water because they got the idea it's safer but I don't think that's true in this country."

Jason Boon 35 Flower-seller from Regent's Park, London

VOLVIC: Very soft, that's the tap water.

TAP: Could be Volvic, it tastes rougher than the last one.

EVIAN: Ah, that's really smooth, that's Evian definitely.

"I buy bottled water all the time. I believe the advertising that they have minerals and are somehow good for me. Now that I've done this test and couldn't tell the difference, I think I should stop buying the bottled water!"

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Whole Foods CEO Mackey Endorses Cato Book – No More Corporate Crime Prosecutions

by Russell Mokhiber


Most people who shop at Whole Foods are liberal yuppies.

They have enough money to spend $9 on a pound of cherries.

They believe that shopping for groceries at Whole Foods instead of Safeway or Food Lion or Giant or Wal-Mart is the politically correct thing to do.

They probably believe that the President and CEO of Whole Foods is a liberal like themselves.

They of course would be wrong.

John Mackey is instead a libertarian with right-wing tendencies.

Mackey says that Milton Friedman is his hero.

He’s a devotee of Ayn Rand.

He’s opposed to national health insurance.

He’s a union buster.

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And he has recently endorsed a book published by the libertarian Cato Institute whose author concludes that no corporation should ever be prosecuted for crimes – no matter the corporation, no matter the crime.

The book – Trapped: When Acting Ethically is Against the Law – is written by Georgetown University Professor John Hasnas.

“John Hasnas shows that new laws and regulations too often force CEOs to choose between acting legally and acting ethically,” Mackey says in a blurb on the back cover.

Unlike most books on white collar crime, which tend to rehash bland academic theories or cut corporate crimes of years past and paste them with dogmatic rants, Trapped is actually a compelling read with an original idea sprinkled here and there.

Hasnas’ big idea is that the whole system of prosecuting corporate crime is undermining the liberal principles built into traditional criminal law and designed to protect individuals against the power of the state.

The result is that corporations are forced to turn on their own employees to save their own corporate hide.

Hasnas is a hard line libertarian. He worked for a time as lawyer for the politically aggressive, right-wing, and privately-held Koch Industries – one of the nation’s largest oil companies.

And instead of concluding that we should fix the criminal justice system so that corporations and federal prosecutors can no longer gang up on individual employees – he concludes in his book that corporations should never be criminally prosecuted – ever.

No matter the crime.

No matter the corporation.

Hasnas wants to do away with corporate criminal liability.

If there is a crime committed by someone within the corporation, criminally prosecute the individual, he says.

But a corporation can’t commit a crime and should not be criminally prosecuted.

Ever.

We wanted to know: does Whole Foods’ CEO Mackey agree – corporations should never be criminally prosecuted?

No matter the crime?

No matter the corporation?

Does the libertarian John Mackey support the big business funded Cato Institute and its right wing ideology with cash – or just with quotes?

Whole Foods spokesperson Kate Lowery did not return numerous calls and e-mails seeking comment.

Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter.

For a complete transcript of the Interview with John Hasnas, see 20 Corporate Crime Reporter 27(12), July 5, 2006, print edition only.

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Three Nuclear Ironies

A nuclear first strike to forestall a nuclear Iran can only end with nuclear second strikes here.
by Tad Daley

An earlier version of this essay appears in the July/August 2006 issue of Tikkun magazine.

"With supreme irony," said historian James Harvey Robinson of the First World War, "the war to 'make the world safe for democracy' ended by leaving democracy more unsafe..." With comparable irony, a nuclear war to make the world safe from nuclear peril could end by leaving America more exposed to nuclear annihilation than at any time since the dawn of the atomic age.

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A Nuclear Attack on Iran?

In the April 17th, 2006 issue of The New Yorker magazine, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh revealed that to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons perhaps 5-10 years from now, Pentagon planners were preparing not just military strikes on that country, but nuclear strikes. Some analysts, according to Hersh, insist that only our own tactical nuclear warheads can guarantee the elimination of Tehran's nascent nuclear capability.

President Bush had the opportunity to disavow Hersh's stunning charge on April 18th, when a reporter asked him directly if his administration was planning a nuclear strike on Iran. His reply? "All options are on the table." Six weeks later, when Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice announced that Washington was willing to negotiate directly with Tehran if it suspended enrichment and reprocessing, she was asked whether this meant that any plans to attack Iran had been shelved. Mr. Bush, she replied, "was not going to take any of his options off the table."

Death penalty opponents often display an unanswerable bumper sticker: Why do we kill people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong? Similarly, one might ask in this context: How can we contemplate nuking people who might nuke people to show that nuking people is wrong? The United States is apparently considering the use of nuclear weapons to keep another state from obtaining nuclear weapons. A Western state appears prepared to employ the nuclear weapon to stop a Muslim state from even seeking the nuclear weapon.

Witness the full depth of the irony here. It's an irony so towering, so obvious, and so unsubtle, that -- if it happens -- likely not a single member of the world's Islamic community will fail to take notice.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: Their Obligations and Ours

Perhaps because the Bush Administration displays such unconcealed disdain for international law, few since the Hersh story broke have mentioned that a U.S. nuclear strike on Iran would explicitly violate the regime of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The grand bargain of the NPT, of course, is that the 183 non-nuclear signatories agreed never to produce or acquire nuclear weapons, in exchange for a promise from the 5 nuclear signatories eventually to get rid of theirs.

But the NPT regime also contains a number of other, smaller mutual pledges. When the treaty was originally negotiated in the 1960s, the non-nuclear states demanded -- in return for their promise to remain non-nuclear -- that the nuclear states promise never to attack them or threaten them with nuclear weapons. This, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and former U.S. arms control official Ambassador Thomas Graham have observed, "could be the most reasonable request in the history of international relations."

The nuclear states refused, prostrating themselves before the altar of "military flexibility." But 25 years later, at the NPT review conference in 1995, they finally declared their willingness to adhere to such a promise (with a slight caveat regarding retaliation against non-nuclear states aiding and abetting an attack by a nuclear state). Why? Because they were forced to do so in order to indefinitely extend the life of the treaty, which was set that year to expire.

So three years ago, the United States defied the United Nations, to show Saddam Hussein that he could not get away with defying the United Nations. Now, the Bush Administration is apparently prepared to breach the NPT, to show Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that he cannot get away with breaching the NPT.

Count that as nuclear irony number two.

Nuclear Doctrines and Nuclear Consequences

To those who have been paying attention to the Bush Administration's pronouncements on nuclear policy since 2001, Hersh's revelations come as little surprise. During its first term, the Bush Administration codified a new nuclear doctrine that identified several specific scenarios where the United States would consciously choose to initiate nuclear war. The 2002 "Nuclear Posture Review," almost wholly unnoticed by the peace and progressive communities, put forth explicit plans for launching nuclear attacks against non-nuclear nations. It even named seven states -- including Iran -- as possible targets of a U.S. nuclear first-strike.

Moreover, the Administration intends to both retain and improve the U.S. nuclear arsenal for decades to come. It envisions a new ICBM -- our long-range, land-based nuclear missiles that can incinerate an entire city, anywhere in the world, within the hour -- coming on line in 2020. It foresees deploying both new nuclear submarines and new submarine-launched ballistic missiles -- with identical capabilities -- in 2030. It plans to unveil a new intercontinental strategic bomber in 2040. Oh -- and freshly designed nuclear warheads for all of them. Just in time for the centennial of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

To the rest of the world this is all sanctimonious and self-righteous. Around the world, in barracks, bazaars, and boulangeries, angry young men repeatedly ask, "Why can the United States have thousands of nuclear weapons, but our countries can't have even one?" Some, it must seem to them, both anoint themselves as able to be trusted with nuclear weapons, and arrogate to themselves the task of assessing whether others meet their tests. President Bush has often let slip this conceit of cultural superiority. "We owe it to our children," he said in August 2002, "to free the world from weapons of mass destruction in the hands of those who hate freedom."

So who will decide? Who will render subjective, ad hoc verdicts on whether certain leaders or certain peoples do not love freedom quite enough to be permitted the nuclear prize? Who will serve as prosecutor, judge, jury, and enforcer?

Why the Freedom Lovers, of course, in whose hands nuclear weapons already reside.

In response to the Hersh revelations, Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) conducted a study of the medical consequences of a nuclear first strike on Iran. PSR has a long history of such analyses after its groundbreaking research published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1961. Using unclassified software developed by the U.S. Department of Defense, PSR concluded that a U.S. nuclear attack on the Iranian facilities at Isfahan and Natanz would kill 2.6 million people within 48 hours. Soon thereafter, 10.5 million more would be exposed to catastrophic radioactive fallout in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. Much of that fallout could make vast areas uninhabitable for decades to come.

If the U.S. actually does roll out a few atomic bombs in the skies over Iran, there will be no turning back for any of us. The taboo that has prevailed since Hiroshima and Nagasaki will prevail no more. The distinction between conventional and nuclear war will forever be lost. The inhibition that has kept everyone from stepping over the nuclear precipice will disappear in a single flash. Once someone throws open the nuclear Pandora's box that has been so precariously held shut since 8/9/45, it will never be shut again.

New Kinds of Terrorists and New Kinds of Terror

If the United States does cross the nuclear Rubicon, who will be next? Probably not Iran itself, because it doesn't have any nuclear weapons yet. Probably not any other state, for that matter, because of the logic of nuclear deterrence.

But that logic doesn't apply to the non-state nuclear terrorist, who so many of us have so feared since 9/11. When a loosely affiliated global terror network does not actually control any dirt, deterrence becomes essentially meaningless, because there is no place or thing to threaten to retaliate against. How effective were America's thousands of bristling nuclear warheads when they came up against 19 determined young men, armed only with box cutters, on 09/11/01? What are we going to do, dispatch a nuclear cruise missile through the window of Mohammed Atta's bachelor apartment in Coral Springs, Florida?

Osama bin Laden, in his highly publicized statement in January of this year, claimed that his minions were already "preparing operations" inside the United States. If one actively tried to conjure a motive for our enemies to take the next step to nuclear terror, it would be hard to come up with something better than a nuclear first-strike -- on a Muslim country, no less -- to perpetuate the nuclear double standard.

The greatest effect of such a first-strike might be on those young Muslim men, both inside and outside Iran, who are essentially still on the fence. Who are still contemplating whether to buy themselves a one-way ticket down the dead end road to jihadi martyrdom. Who have not dedicated their lives, yet, to getting their hands on one of the 30,000 atomic bombs floating around the planet, using it to slaughter all the inhabitants of a major U.S. city, and perhaps causing a panicked American nation -- wondering which city might be next -- to utterly unravel.

Nothing could do more to provoke a nuclear terror attack on the United States than the use of nuclear weapons by the United States. Some of the military officers now planning the Iran campaign undoubtedly realize this, which must be why some of them, according to Hersh, are considering resigning over the nuclear option. If the United States pursues that option, it would arguably be striking the finest, purest Faustian bargain in all of human history.

We are the ones who created these weapons in the past. We are the ones contemplating the use of these weapons in the present. We are the ones who vaingloriously insist that we -- but not others -- must perpetually possess these weapons into the future.

And now, we are the ones who may soon feel the wrath of these weapons brought down upon ourselves. We are the ones who may be the authors of our own annihilation. We are the ones, perhaps, who will be devoured by our own creation.

In the end, that could turn out to be the greatest irony of all.

Tad Daley is Peace and Disarmament Fellow in the Los Angeles office of Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Nobel Laureate anti-nuclear organization. Email to: tad@daleyplanet.org.

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The Coming Ballot Meltdown

by Andrew Gumbel

Anyone wondering where America's next electoral meltdown will take place--and it can only be a matter of time--might do well to turn back to the scene of the last one. Ohio was, of course, ground zero of the 2004 presidential election, and now it's the battleground of one of the most hotly contested governor's races in the country. The Republican candidate this November is none other than Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio's Secretary of State, a man vilified by voting rights activists for a string of baffling and, to all appearances, nakedly partisan rulings in the 2004 presidential race, when he also doubled as co-chair of George Bush's state re-election campaign. Now he's at it again--issuing draconian guidelines on voter registration that carry the threat of felony prosecutions against grassroots get-out-the-vote groups, especially in Democratic-leaning urban areas, for even the slightest procedural irregularity. Despite denials from Blackwell's office of any malicious political intent, the guidelines have had an immediate chilling effect on groups like the activist community organization ACORN, which has suspended registration efforts pending urgent consultations with its lawyers. Several leading Democrats have urged Blackwell to step aside from all election-supervising responsibilities, a proposal his staff has greeted with near-derision.

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It would be bad enough if Blackwell were acting merely to benefit his party, as he did in 2004. But in this case he's taking advantage of his office to act on behalf of his own ambitions. Unless something changes between now and November, he will remain in charge of counting the votes--his own and everyone else's. In a pivotal election in a pivotal state, this is far from reassuring. As Peg Rosenfield, an elections specialist with the League of Women Voters of Ohio who spent twelve years working in the secretary of state's office in the pre-Blackwell era, put it, "If you think '04 was a mess, just wait. I anticipate a debacle."

Blackwell and his Democratic challenger, Ted Strickland, are locked in a tough fight over the succession to Bob Taft, the scandal-tainted, widely reviled incumbent governor, whose approval ratings are lower even than Dick Cheney's. Early polls have put Strickland modestly ahead, but Blackwell has several built-in advantages, particularly his ability to lean on an entrenched Republican establishment and tap into its broad fundraising powers. Blackwell has largely escaped the stench of corruption dragging down the rest of the state party, thanks to his reputation as a maverick and a lone operator. As a social conservative, he appeals to much the same exurban demographic that turned out for George W. Bush to express their disapproval of abortion rights and gay marriage. And, as an African-American, he is bound to peel away at least a percentage of the urban black vote that Strickland might otherwise regard as his for the taking. So it's not inconceivable, as the nation awakes on November 8, that the Ohio governor's race will be too close to call. And if that happens, all hell will break loose.

"If we have a recount, I see no way anyone is going to have any faith in it. It's a poisonous atmosphere," Rosenfield said. Never, she added, has she seen the elections process subject to as much politicization as now. Previous secretaries of state, conscious of their status as partisan elected officials, would have gone out of their way to keep their names off election-related directives that risked being interpreted as attempts to help one party over the other. Blackwell, by contrast, has if anything gone out of his way to be identified with his office's most controversial rules. (In 2004 he happily put his name on a now-notorious directive that late voter-registration applications--the kind encouraged by Democratic grassroots groups--be submitted on specially weighted, unwaxed paper, which disqualified applications printed in Ohio newspapers. He also made it unusually hard for voters casting provisional ballots--again, more likely to be Democrats--to have their votes accepted and counted.)

On top of that, Rosenfield added, Blackwell's office has shown a wanton disregard for the needs of Ohio's eighty-eight counties as they make the Congressionally mandated transition from punch-card and lever machines to new-generation electronic voting systems. Rather than answer technical questions posed by the counties--which is how Rosenfield spent much of her time when she worked for the secretary of state's office in the 1980s--Blackwell's staff has a habit of referring county boards of elections to other local officials not remotely qualified to help.

The technicalities of the voting process were already a huge problem in 2004, when everything from the updating of voter registration lists to the number of voting machines made available in each precinct to the opening hours of polling stations was subject to undue political influence and rank bureaucratic incompetence, prompting an avalanche of complaints. (Blackwell's office rejected every last one of them.) That election, though, was held predominantly with the old machinery, which may have lost an unacceptable number of honestly cast votes but at least had the virtue of familiarity. Now the advent of e-voting has opened up a whole new world of pain for election officials and their woefully undertrained precinct volunteers. The first big test of the new machines, in the May primary election, resulted in a multiplicity of problems, especially in Cuyahoga County in and around Cleveland, where poll workers lost seventy memory cards recording the votes from electronic touch-screen terminals (the votes had to be retrieved through back-up data systems inside the terminals) and more than 15,000 paper absentee ballots had to be counted by hand, delaying the results by six days, because of a system failure in the automated tabulation system. And that was on a turnout rate of only 23 percent.

"Our turnout in the fall is bound to be over 50 percent," Rosenfield said. "That'll include a lot of less sophisticated voters struggling with new machines and new rules. The poll workers still won't be trained well enough. The boards won't know how to get the equipment ready.... The secretary of state's office isn't providing resources to the counties--no money to attend training sessions, no expertise to answer questions or provide technical support.... We've made this so complex, I'm not sure we're capable of administering it."

The story of Ohio's adoption of new voting technology and the mess it is creating is in many ways typical of the overhasty and shockingly underregulated rush across the country to comply with the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA). But Ohio has also followed its own peculiar trajectory, teaching us above all how difficult it is to prevent the elemental viciousness of two-party politics from compromising the integrity and safety of our voting systems.

Back in 2003 Ohio was admirably skeptical about the lure of computer voting--even though the parent company of Diebold Election Systems was based in Ohio and its chief executive, Wally O'Dell, was a prominent campaign contributor to the state and national Republican Party. O'Dell notoriously wrote a fundraising letter in August 2003 declaring himself "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year." If this was some dark hint that Diebold intended to collude with the Republicans in stealing the 2004 election--something that, in retrospect, seems a lot more doubtful than many voting rights activists feared at the time--Ohio's Republican establishment was not especially inclined to play ball. The source code for Diebold's AccuVote-TS touch-screen system had been left lying around on an open Internet site and was scrutinized by a team of top-flight computer scientists from Rice and Johns Hopkins universities, who found it to be riddled with security flaws and basic programming errors. Ken Blackwell decided to order a comprehensive technical review of all touch-screen voting systems and subsequently decided to postpone a major statewide buy of electronic machines until after the 2004 election. The Republican-dominated state legislature, meanwhile, proved remarkably receptive to arguments in favor of fitting the touch screens with a voter-verified paper audit trail so their results could be independently verified in a close or contested election. A state law mandating a paper trail was passed in early 2004.

That cautious, consensus-oriented approach evaporated, however, in the heat of the 2004 campaign season. A state planning committee on HAVA implementation that had met several times was never invited to convene again, despite a barrage of new questions raised across the country about the integrity of electronic touch-screen and tabulation systems being sold by Diebold and its principal rivals, Election Systems and Software (ES&S) and Sequoia. Right after the 2004 election, Governor Taft signed a law increasing the limit on campaign contributions by individuals or political action committees from $2,500 to $10,000--a move widely seen as benefiting Republicans more than Democrats. Around the same time, Blackwell compounded the conflict-of-interest issue by buying himself just under $10,000 of Diebold stock. (He later sold, at a loss, after his shareholding became public.) For several months last year and stretching into this, the Republican state legislature expended its energies on mandating an ID requirement at polling stations. At best this was an unnecessary solution to a nonexistent problem, since there was no evidence of significant ballot fraud at the individual voter level; at worst it was another baldly partisan maneuver, because the 12 percent of the adult population without driver's licenses, the most readily available form of government ID, tend to be poor, elderly or both, and thus likely to lean Democrat.

The law that finally enshrined the voter-ID requirement, House Bill 3, contained another couple of nasty surprises: a big jump in the cost of petitioning for a manual recount, from $100 per precinct to $500 per precinct, and the lifting of a previous requirement that counties use the independent paper trail to conduct random audits of their touch-screen machinery after every election. In other words, Ohio--like many other states--has now become a recount-hostile environment with greatly diminished accountability all around. Since paperless electronic system votes are almost impossible to verify without recourse to the paper trail, this is a truly chilling development.

What the Republicans have created is, in effect, a system where they have multiple tools to deter their opponents from casting ballots in the first place--through the voter-ID requirement, the strict rules on provisional balloting and so on--and then making the vote count itself so opaque as to be beyond redress. The lack of transparency is a matter of bureaucratic convenience as well as political conniving: County boards of elections are generally delighted to be able to spend state and federal dollars on shiny new computer systems that do all the tricky work of vote tabulation by themselves, that don't entail large paper orders or long-term ballot storage requirements and that obviate the pain, inconvenience and extra cost of conducting recounts. Under the HAVA rules counties have the option of purchasing much cheaper, manually recountable paper-based systems, tabulated by optical scanners. Many Ohio counties have shied away from this alternative, however, because they think it is trickier to operate and requires more intensive poll-worker training. HAVA also requires at least one terminal per precinct for the use of disabled voters, which basically means a touch-screen machine. Rather than buy two separate systems, many counties prefer to go with just one.

If counties think that touch screens are somehow the easier option, though, they're kidding themselves. Poll workers may find it easy to show voters how to use the machines when they're working, but if anything goes wrong workers are likely to be several orders of magnitude more clueless about fixing the problem. Computerized systems also entail huge hidden costs, from maintenance to security (even when the terminals are in storage) to software upgrades. Several Ohio counties have been appalled at the budget overruns they are already facing, and there is a naïveté all around, from Congress on down, about the kind of commitment these machines entail. "If the federal government thinks it can give onetime-only grants, it is wrong," said Dan Tokaji, an election law specialist at Ohio State University's Moritz Law School, who is a cautious supporter of electronic systems, at least in principle. "There needs to be ongoing federal attention." Based on the government's behavior so far--its failure to fund HAVA fully or to meet its own deadline, its failure to establish a federal regulatory body with any teeth, its failure to streamline rules on any aspect of conducting elections, leaving everything up to states and counties--nobody should hold their breath.

Another reason to regard Ohio as a bellwether of the nation's electoral health is the fact that its political complexion is changing fast--perhaps faster than any other state's. For twelve years the Republicans have had the run of the place, a length of tenure more or less guaranteed to spawn corruption, regardless of the party in power. The ethical violations, insalubrious associations and compromised integrity of Governor Taft, Representative Bob Ney and others have received widespread attention in the national press. Perhaps less well understood is that, historically speaking, there is no climate more susceptible to electoral malfeasance than one where a single party is in power and in a position to manipulate the rules to its advantage. If a race is also close and the stakes are high, as they were in 2004, then dirty electioneering is more or less a given.

Granted, there are those who have insisted since election day that John Kerry was robbed of Ohio's twenty Electoral College votes, and with them the presidency. That argument, though, is almost certainly a stretch, since Bush's official margin of victory of 120,000-odd votes is just too big to be explained away with any confidence. Certainly, most seasoned election observers in Ohio, as well as veterans of the earnest but disorganized Kerry field campaign, tend to dismiss it. (A 30,000 vote margin, given the multiplicity of the reported problems, might have been a very different story.) The problem, in the end, with many of the stolen-election theories is not that they are wrong to assume that Ohio is corrupt; it is that they have misunderstood the nature of that corruption. Many--including Robert Kennedy Jr. writing in the June 1 Rolling Stone--imagine Ken Blackwell as the mastermind of some coordinated Republican Party conspiracy to re-elect Bush, in which the counties fell magically in line with his or the party's directives. The reality, though, is that Blackwell's influence only went so far, and the counties--partly because of the lack of support from the secretary of state's office--acted largely on their own. The county boards of elections were, in turn, stuffed with political appointees from both parties who engaged in struggles of varying degrees of intensity. (The stereotypical image of boards of elections, which may not be that far from the truth, is one where the Democrats are sweet, well-meaning old ladies, and the Republicans are razor-sharp lawyers.) The autonomy and complexity of the counties cannot be overstressed. As Catherine Turcer, legislative director of the anticorruption group Ohio Citizen Action, put it sardonically: "Every county has its own party structure, so you can launder money eighty-eight ways."

In Cuyahoga County--which has been an election management nightmare for decades--one of the two Republican members of the board of elections is Bob Bennett, who also happens to be the state party chair. In Lucas County, in and around Toledo, the chair of the board of elections until early 2005 was Bernadette Noe, the head of the county Republican Party and the wife of Tom Noe, the man who invested $50 million of the state workers' comp fund in a rare coin fund with which he was affiliated, and lost $13 million of it. Noe has also pleaded guilty to laundering $45,000 in Bush re-election funds. Bernadette Noe, meanwhile, behaved so egregiously in the November 2004 election that Blackwell's office launched a rare investigation. It charged her with a panoply of offenses involving Republican Party volunteers under her direction who, before the election, were caught tampering with voter confirmation postcards and, on election night itself, tried to barge into the vote-counting area without authorization. Bernadette Noe was forced to resign shortly afterward, one more in a succession of prominent Ohio Republicans to be disgraced, indicted or hounded from office.

The echo of so many recent scandals makes this a fascinating, pivotal moment in Ohio politics. The Republicans risk losing just about every statewide office this November, from the governorship to Mike DeWine's Senate seat. Some reform-minded members of both parties have seen this moment of transition as a unique opportunity to try to talk their colleagues into thinking beyond short-term party interest and considering some key voting rights issues from a more broadly public point of view. The biggest push has been toward redistricting reform: taking the process of drawing legislative and Congressional boundaries out of the hands of the politicians and handing it to a more independent, or at least bipartisan, panel so elections can become more competitive and more reflective of public opinion. Sadly, the vicious logic of the two-party system has made the prospects for such reform well-nigh impossible.

A year ago it was the Democrats, on the thin end of a 60-to-39 party balance in the Ohio house, who were pushing for a fairer way of carving up districts. Then it was the turn of a citizens' group called Reform Ohio Now, which made the redistricting question the centerpiece of a quartet of campaign-related initiatives it sponsored on last November's ballot. Those initiatives went down in flames, largely because of a concerted effort by Republicans to depict them as partisan Democratic maneuvers in disguise. Most recently it has been a handful of Republicans, notably House Speaker Jon Husted and State Representative Kevin DeWine (Mike's second cousin), who have been pushing their own version of redistricting reform. They argue that they are acting from only the noblest motives. (As DeWine told me, "If you're going to make changes, you do it when you don't know who the players might be.")

The Democrats, however, smell a rat. They reckon they will be able to win a majority of the seats on the state apportionment board--which includes the governor, the secretary of state and the state auditor--ahead of the next round of redistricting, in 2011, and suspect the initiative to be a Republican attempt to salvage something before the tables are turned against them. The Republican proposal was voted down at the end of May, and now appears to be dead. In the end, partisan rancor is prevailing over any kind of rationality. Ed Jerse, campaign manager of the Reform Ohio Now initiatives and a former Democratic state legislator, summarized the prevailing mood among Ohio Democrats this way: "You stuck it to us for twelve years and now that you are about to lose, you invite us into the room and want to be buddy-buddy? Screw that."

The losers in this whole process are, of course, the voters. Where they don't have reason to fear out-and-out political interference in the electoral vote, they can expect incompetence and chaos. Toledo, for example, may have rid itself of Bernadette Noe, but it still had a major meltdown in last November's off-season elections, which it subsequently blamed on the incompetence, lousy software and missed deadlines of its vendor, Diebold. Across the country, alarm bells have been sounded about major security flaws in electronic voting software--one such, in Diebold's TSX system, was described by Pennsylvania's leading voting-machine inspector as "the most severe security flaw ever discovered"--but Ohio appears blissfully unaware of them because of the inattention, bordering on negligence, of its secretary of state's office. Peg Rosenfield, for one, sees things as worse now than at any time in her memory. "It's not that anyone will be out to steal the election necessarily," she remarked. "They don't need to--we can screw it up all by ourselves."

Andrew Gumbel is the author of "Steal This Vote: Dirty Elections and the Rotten History of Democracy in America" (Nation Books) and a US correspondent for The Independent of London.

© 2006 The Nation

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Man charged after videotaping police

By Andrew Wolfe - Telegraph Staff

NASHUA A city man is charged with violating state wiretap laws by recording a detective on his home security camera, while the detective was investigating the mans sons.

Michael Gannon, 49, of 26 Morgan St., was arrested Tuesday night, after he brought a video to the police station to try to file a complaint against Detective Andrew Karlis, according to Gannons wife, Janet Gannon, and police reports filed in Nashua District Court.

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CONTINUED...

Police instead arrested Gannon, charging him with two felony counts of violating state eavesdropping and wiretap law by using an electronic device to record Karlis without the detectives consent.

The Gannons son, Shawn Gannon, 18, is charged with resisting detention and disorderly conduct, and his wife also was cited for disorderly conduct, she said.

Janet Gannon said the family plans to hire a lawyer, and expects to sue the police department.The couples 15-year-old son also was arrested, charged as a juvenile in an unrelated robbery case, according to police reports and Janet Gannon.

The Gannons installed a video and audio recording system at their home, a four-unit building at 22-28 Morgan St., to monitor the front door and parking areas, family members told police. They installed the cameras about two years ago, buying the system at Wal-Mart, Janet Gannon told the police, according to reports filed in court. The Gannons have owned the property, which is assessed at $382,700, for the past three years, city records show.

Janet Gannon spoke with The Telegraph by phone Wednesday afternoon, before going to bail out her husband. She said they installed the system in response to crime in the neighborhood, and at their house.

Weve had two break-ins. One guy came right up our stairs and started beating on my husband, and we called the cops, she said. Another time, after someone broke into a camper on their property, Janet Gannon said an officer suggested they were too rich for the neighborhood, and should move.

The security cameras record sound and audio directly to a videocassette recorder inside the house, and the Gannons posted warnings about the system, Janet Gannon said.On Tuesday night, Michael Gannon brought a videocassette to the police department, and asked to speak with someone in public relations, his wife said and police reported.

Gannon wanted to lodge a complaint against Karlis, who had come to the familys house while investigating their sons, Janet Gannon said. She said Karlis showed up late at night, was rude, and refused to leave when they asked him.

He was just very smart-mouthed. He put his foot in the door, and my husband said, Excuse me, I did not invite you in, please leave, and he wouldnt, Janet Gannon said. We did not invite him in, we asked him to leave, and he wouldnt.

After the police arrested the Gannons sons, Janet Gannon said, they secured the house, and told her and her sister-in-law they had to stay out of it from around 8:45 p.m. Tuesday until about 4 a.m. Wednesday.

Police said they were waiting to get a warrant to search the house, Janet Gannon said.

They were waiting for a warrant to seize the cameras and the tapes in my house . . . because they said having these cameras was against the law. Theyre security cameras, she said, adding, They said they could do that. They could seize my apartment.

Karlis went to the Gannons home at about 11:30 p.m. Friday night and again at about 7 p.m. Tuesday, police reported. Karlis was investigating the Gannons 15-year-old son in connection with a June 21 mugging outside Margaritas restaurant, for which two other teens already have been charged, according to police reports. The boy also is charged with possessing a handgun stolen three years ago in Vermont, and resisting detention, police said.

The boy wasnt home when Karlis went there, and the Gannons were uncooperative regarding his whereabouts, police reported.

The Gannons felt police were harassing the family, Janet Gannon said.

There were six cops in my yard, the first time police came, she said. My husband was very upset. How many cops does it take to talk to a 15-year-old.

Karlis didnt know about the security camera until his second visit, when Michael Gannon told him to smile for the camera, police reported.

Janet Gannon said her husband explicitly warned officers of the camera, later adding smile, as a joke.

I heard him say it, she said. He said, Gentlemen, theres a camera right there.

According to police, however, Janet Gannon told officers she didnt remember her husband warning police about the security camera.

Police reported that Gannon has a history of being verbally abusive toward police, and that after his arrest, he remarked that the officers were a bunch of corrupt (expletives).
2003, Telegraph Publishing Company, Nashua, New Hampshire

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The Neocon Battle for Media

By Robert Parry
June 29, 2006

Since the 1980s, when the neoconservatives burst onto the Washington scene, they have always understood the power that comes from controlling the flow of information that passes from the U.S. government to the news media and then to the American people.

This transmission of information through Washington was to these savvy neoconservatives what a key railroad junction was to Civil War generals, a strategic switching point to be captured and exploited.

Just as the rapid movement of troops and supplies by rail was crucial to those old-time generals, the dissemination of favored facts and sometimes disinformation via the media was vital to these neocon “information warriors” who saw their conflict as a “war of ideas” with fronts, both foreign and domestic.
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This imperative to dominate information also underscores the recent spate of over-the-top attacks against the New York Times for publishing stories about the Bush administration’s secret monitoring of phone calls and financial transactions. That spying – done without court orders and with minimal oversight – was ostensibly aimed at terror suspects but mostly produced thousands of false leads against innocent Americans.

The Right’s denunciations of the Times – rising to demands that the newspaper’s editors be prosecuted for espionage and even treason – represent a fierce counterattack that seeks to reclaim what the neocons in the Bush administration had come to view as a valued part of their propaganda infrastructure, the major U.S. news organizations.

For years, the Times’ news pages had been the neocons’ preferred conduit for fictitious stories about Iraq’s nuclear weapons program as well as for criticism of Al Gore and other political challengers. During the war fever of 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice loved to cite supportive stories in the Times, made even more convincing because the Times editorial page opposed the Iraq invasion.

Resistance

However, following the humiliating discovery in 2003-2004 of how the nation’s “newspaper of record” had been deceived about Iraq’s WMD, Times news editors began to resist the administration’s propaganda themes and even rebuff some White House demands for silence on terrorism-related stories.

Though the Times editors in fall 2004 did bend to White House pressure and withheld the story about the administration’s warrantless wiretapping of some American phone calls, the newspaper finally published the article more than a year later, in December 2005.

On June 23, 2006, the Times again defied the administration in publishing a story about the administration’s secret monitoring of nearly $6 trillion in bank transactions handled by a Belgian-based clearinghouse known as Swift for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications.

After the story ran, President George W. Bush and other administration officials denounced the Times for allegedly hindering the “war on terror” by alerting al-Qaeda to U.S. capabilities (even though the administration itself had often boasted of its success in tracking international money transfers). Meanwhile, civil libertarians cited the story in raising alarms over what appeared to be the administration’s expansion of long-term Big Brother surveillance programs.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana, asked Treasury Secretary-designate Henry Paulson whether the financial monitoring might violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches.

“I think you’ll agree that we could fight terrorism properly and adequately without having a police state in America,” Baucus said. [NYT, June 28, 2006]

But some Republican members of Congress and right-wing pundits demanded investigations with the goal of bringing criminal charges against the Times or throwing some Times journalists into prison if they refuse to identify the newspaper’s sources. Some cable news shows suggested that the Times had committed “treason.”

“Even by modern standards of media-bashing, the volume of vitriol being heaped upon the editors on Manhattan’s West 43rd Street is remarkable,” observed Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz. “New York Rep. Peter King continues to call for the Times – which, he told Fox News, has an ‘arrogant, elitist, left-wing agenda’ – to be prosecuted for violating the 1917 Espionage Act.” [Washington Post, June 28, 2006]

After using the New York Times for years as a favorite propaganda vehicle, the administration may now be making the newspaper and its editors an example of what happens to journalists who stop toeing the line.

‘Perception Management’

This battle over the U.S. news media – and similar assaults on the objectivity of CIA analysts – have been crucial fronts for years in the Right’s struggle to shape the American people’s view of the world, a concept known as “perception management.” [For more on this topic, see Robert Parry’s Lost History or Secrecy & Privilege.]

This fight over controlling perceptions also has intensified in recent weeks as the Republican Party has sharpened its plans for winning the congressional elections in November, victories that would advance political strategist Karl Rove’s goal of creating a de facto one-party state in America.

But central to that ambition of consolidating Republican power is controlling the public’s perception of Bush’s “war on terror,” both his positive image as America’s defender and the negative vision of Democrats and journalists as weaklings who would endanger the nation.

Selective release of information has been crucial in burnishing Bush’s hero image.

In the new book, The One Percent Doctrine, author Ron Suskind describes some previously unreported deceptions that boosted Bush’s standing with the public.

For instance, the capture of al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah was hyped into a major victory over terrorism though U.S. intelligence knew that Zubaydah was really a mentally disturbed gofer whose main job was to arrange travel for al-Qaeda family members.

“In the wide, diffuse ‘war on terror,’ so much of it occurring in the shadows – with no transparency and only perfunctory oversight – the administration could say anything it wanted to say,” Suskind wrote. “That was a blazing insight of this period. The administration could create whatever reality was convenient.”

So, on April 9, 2002, when Bush wanted to tout some successes in a speech to Republican contributors, the President elevated Zubaydah from a minor fixer into a key al-Qaeda mastermind.

“The other day we hauled in a guy named Abu Zubaydah,” Bush said. “He’s one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States. He’s not plotting and planning anymore. He’s where he belongs.”

Bush later instructed CIA director George Tenet not to contradict that version of reality, Suskind reported. “I said he was important,” Bush told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. “You’re not going to let me lose face on this, are you?”

Media Tolerance

Not that the major U.S. news media was doing much to penetrate the cloak of heroism that had been draped around Bush’s shoulders.

Though Bush’s claims about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction collapsed after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, the U.S. press corps still gave Bush wide latitude in his handling and depiction of the “war on terror” – until fall 2005.

The New York Times had that article on the warrantless wiretapping ready before Election 2004 but bowed to Bush’s demands that the story be spiked. In November 2005, however, the Washington Post defied the White House and published a detailed article about the CIA’s secret prisons where terrorism suspects reportedly were tortured.

Then, in December 2005, the Times revived and published its wiretapping story, which was followed by other disclosures, including a USA Today article about the administration’s monitoring of American phone records.

On June 23, 2006, the Times then broke the story of the secret financial monitoring, followed by similar stories in the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times.

The moment was ripe for Bush and his right-wing allies to hit back, both to rally their base for the fall elections and to nip any journalistic independence in the bud.

(Even administration officials could offer only lame explanations about the supposed damage caused to the “war on terror” from the surveillance disclosures. The officials said the articles may have filled in some details for al-Qaeda though the group was already well aware of U.S. capabilities to spy on its phone calls and financial transactions.)

The absence of any clear damage from the Times article, however, didn’t lessen the intensity of the counterattack against the Times editors. Bush’s advisers saw an opening for portraying Bush as the common-sense battler against terrorism hampered by pointy-headed intellectuals who put privacy rights over the safety of Americans.

Bush’s supporters made the strong emotional argument that the primary responsibility of the government was to protect its citizens, while Bush’s critics had to present a more nuanced case about the constitutional rights of Americans and the responsibilities of journalists to keep the public informed.

The Times tried to make that case in an editorial that concluded:

“The United States will soon be marking the fifth anniversary of the war on terror. The country is in this for the long haul, and the fight has to be coupled with a commitment to individual liberties that define America’s side in the battle. …

“The free press has a central place in the Constitution because it can provide information the public needs to make things right again. Even if it runs the risk of being labeled unpatriotic.” [NYT, June 28, 2006]

Cheers & Silence

Not surprisingly, the administration’s assault on the New York Times drew hearty cheers from the conservative punditry but – somewhat surprisingly – the attacks elicited little comment or objection from the liberal blogosphere. That’s probably because many Bush critics blame the Times and other leading newspapers for their long failure to stand up to the White House.

But the larger significance of the Times bashing is that it marks the opening of a decisive phase in the Bush administration’s long campaign to lock in a revised version of the American constitutional system, in effect putting Bush’s national security judgments beyond question and outside any meaningful oversight.

The Republicans are now looking toward November with increasing hope that the elections will consolidate GOP control of Congress and thus put Bush in position to stack the U.S. Supreme Court with right-wing jurists before the end of his second term. The court would then almost certainly endorse Bush’s claims to broad authoritarian powers.

In essence, Bush has asserted that for the duration of the indefinite “war on terror,” he or another President can assert the “plenary” – or unlimited – powers of commander in chief and thus negate all other powers granted to Congress, the courts or the people. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “End of Unalienable Rights.”]

The fate of the American Republic could not be more clearly at stake. But the forces that share a common cause in trying to protect the traditional concepts of constitutional checks and balances and the inalienable rights of citizens are scattered and disorganized.

Meanwhile, Bush’s neoconservative administration is tightening its grip on what information the American people get to see and hear.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'

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Media & others finally recognizing the President's seizure of law-breaking powers

by Glenn Greenwald - unclaimed territory
There is no question that the President's radical theories of law-breaking and executive power are now, finally, being unambiguously discussed and even debated by the Congress and the national media (beyond The Boston Globe's Charlie Savage). Due in large part to the Judiciary Committee hearings held by Sen. Arlen Specter regarding the President's practice of issuing "signing statements" proclaiming his right to break various laws, the type of discussion which we ought to have had long ago -- about whether we want to change the type of government we have in order to vest unlimited executive power in President Bush (and then subsequent presidents) -- is finally starting to emerge. Even conventional wisdom-spouting Jeff Greenfield on CNN reported:

The "Boston Globe" counts more than 750 instances where the president has reserved the right to ignore any statute that conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution. Critics, including the libertarian Cato Institute, accused the president of a, quote, "push for power unchecked by either the courts or Congress."

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This is not an issue Democrats should fear. Quite the contrary, as polls show an increasing dislike and distrust of one-party Republican rule. Americans generally believe in balanced and restrained power and dislike unchecked rulers and extremism. If this administration believes in anything, it is unchecked power and extremism, and virtually every major issue of controversy -- from the administration's systematic, unprecedented attacks on a free press to its claimed right to violate the law -- illustrates the excesses and dangers which inevitably arise when one political faction can exercise power without meaningful restraints.

The Bush administration and its Congressional allies have clearly fallen victim to the hubris that comes from operating without limits, and Americans know this and are clearly disturbed by it. They want limits on one-party rule, and a Democratic takeover of one or both houses of Congress is, Democrats can and should argue, the only way to restore checks and balances to our government. The Supreme Court's decision today in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld -- which held that (a) courts retain the right to rule on the legality of military tribunals at Guantanamo; (b) the President exceeded his authority in the creation of those tribunals; and (c) the rules of the tribunals violate both military justice law and the Geneva Convention -- should serve to further highlight how extremist and lawless this administration has become (more on this very significant decision later, once I have had a chance to read it).

With the media slowly awakening to these issues, some Senators seem to recognize just how profound a threat this administration has become. Here is Sen. Patrick Leahy at the Judiciary Committee hearing, stating the case as clearly as it should be:

"We are at a pivotal moment in our Nation's history, where Americans are faced with a President who makes sweeping claims for almost unchecked Executive power. . . .

"[T]ime and again, this President has stood before the American people, signed laws enacted by their representatives in Congress, while all along crossing his fingers behind his back."

Former Reagan Justice Department official and life-long conservative Bruce Fein said this:

"Presidential signing statements are extra-constitutional and riddled with mischief. . . I would further recommend that Congress enact a statute seeking to confer Article III standing on the House and Senate collectively to sue the President over signing statements that nullify their handiwork, at least in circumstances where there is no other plausible plaintiff who would enjoy standing. . . . . If all other avenues have proved unavailing, Congress should contemplate impeachment. . . . "

And as Savage reports, there is now widespread discussion that Congress could sue the President over the signing statements, seeking a judicial declaration that the President does not have the right under our system of government to break the law. Unlike at other hearings, the low-level Bush lawyer sent to defend the "signing statements" received little support from the Senators on the Judicary Committee: "Throughout the hearing, Boardman received little friendly questioning from the dais beyond that of Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas . . ."

Senate Democrats recognized the significance of the hearings -- which forced a much more widespread public discussion of these issues than we have previously had, by far, and which even forced the White House to try to defend the President's practice of declaring his power to break the law:

The Democrats repeatedly praised Specter, as a Republican, for holding the hearing. The ranking Democrat, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, said that the administration and its defenders were showing "utter contempt" for the concerns of Congress about Bush's expansive theory about his own constitutional powers.

Despite the uneven attendance, the hearing served to focus greater attention on the administration's legal claims. At the White House, Press Secretary Tony Snow denied that Bush was using signing statements as backdoor way to "win" on issues after failing to persuade Congress to write legislation to his liking.

Snow also insisted that the president was merely fixing "relatively minor" constitutional flaws that Congress had "unwittingly" included in bills during the lawmaking process.

As I have said countless times, the more open and public discussion of these issues, the better. Americans know instinctively that we do not have a system of Government where the President can sign a Congressionally enacted law and then claim the right-- and exercise the right -- to break the law. The President's assertion of these powers reflects an arrogance of power and a pretense to monarchical entitlements which Americans simply dislike.

Having said that, it is the case, I believe, that there is an undue emphasis on the significance of signing statements. By themselves, signing statements have no legal or constitutional significance. The issuance of signing statements changes nothing. They do not create presidential powers nor do they confer rights of any kind. They are really nothing more than declarations of presidential belief, documents which state how the President understands a particular law.

In that regard, I believe these signing statements actually perform a critically important service. They bring out into the open the theories of monarchical power which this administration has adopted. By expressly stating in the signing statements that he has the right to violate these law, the President is explicitly acknowledging that he has seized these powers. The signing statement itself is not the instrument by which he has seized those powers, but is merely a reflection -- an overt acknowledgment -- of the fact that the President has, in fact, seized those powers. It is the powers themselves, and not the statements in which they are asserted, that are so significant.

But there is no doubt that public debate over the President's extremist theories is, finally, intensifying, and that is a development that should be celebrated by anyone who believes that we ought to adhere to our constitutional traditions. The President has been able to claim unlimited powers only because most Americans have been unaware that he has done so. Defending these theories out in the open is not something this administration wants to do -- why would it? -- and now that the press is beginning to understand what is truly at stake, the opportunity exists to force them to do so.

posted by Glenn Greenwald | 10:06 AM

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