Saturday :: Jan 14, 2006

"It was the country of the good."

by pessimist

'George' seems to be the 'in' name for kings lately:

The Prince of Wales has discussed rejecting the title Charles III when he becomes king to avoid unhappy associations with some of the bloodiest periods in the British monarchy's history. Prince Charles's favourite alternative name is George VII, in honour of his grandfather [WWII's George VI] -- one of the best-loved monarchs of the past century.

This report was later officially denied, but that isn't important right now. (He is still apparently thinking it all over and may yet so decide.)

What is important? Historically, as our nation was being born, it faced the prospect of crowning its own King George:

ALI H. ASLAN, Zaman Online

[George] Washington, the commander-in-chief of the war of independence the US colonies fought against the British kingdom, rejected the request by a group of rebellious officers who had asked him to be their king and to rule them after the victory and thus prevented the republic from being deprived of democracy. In the end, he abandoned the presidential seat he occupied for eight years on his own freewill, with no hesitation whatsoever, and saved the US from starting in the form of a military-dominant regime.

It was not in vain that the New York Times used the expression 'Imperial Presidency' in describing the Bush-Cheney White House, an expression previously used for the Nixon administration. George W. Bush, like Nixon, thinks he is authorized to have American citizens eavesdropped during the war process, without any warrant from the court.

George Washington had done the right thing by rejecting being a “king” and had chosen not to force constitutional balances during his presidency. As for Nixon, however, he even lost the presidential seat because he wanted to sit on the throne of the king. I wonder what Bush’s choice would be.

I think this opinion defines that answer:

Nat Parry,

The U.S. Supreme Court nomination of Samuel Alito may represent a point of no return not only on the issue of abortion and other longtime conservative political targets but on the checks and balances that have been the cornerstone of American democracy.

Many Americans are shocked at how far the country has already traveled down this path – and are searching for ways to change direction. The Alito confirmation process may represent one of the last opportunities to do so.

What remains to be seen, however, is whether senators will actually take the action necessary to halt America’s drift toward presidential authoritarianism.

That, for all intents and purposes, might as well mean the exercise of power by a king - George I, formerly Clown Prince Weedwacker of Crawford.

Are there no Minutemen remaining in America????

The assembly call is being sounded to rally the Minutemen:

Better to put up a fight as they did in 1776 than to act like pawns getting crushed by a totalitarian steamroller.

Both the Democrats and Republicans know what an Alito confirmation would mean. Another step in the consolidation of a one-party, secretive, snooping, self-profiteering, religious fundamentalist, form of population control. Call it fascism, call it totalinariasm, call it an oligarchy, call it whatever "ism" you want; they are all the same in this respect. They are not democracy.

They didn't learn when the election was stolen in 2000 -- and appear to have learned little since. Either the Democrats are going to try and save our Constitution, our democracy and the gift of the American Revolution, or they might as well just leave their seats in Congress and go home.

Why pretend there is two-party rule, when the Democrats just keep counting out the inches of rope to hang themselves -- and our Constitution?

Taking the role of Thomas Paine, this columnist still believes in the Will of the People to counter the rise of the Royal edict:

Robert Parry,

Democrats were incapable of making an issue out of Alito’s embrace of the “unitary executive,” a concept so radical that it effectively eliminates the checks and balances that the Founding Fathers devised to protect against an out-of-control President.

Bush even gave the Democrats a news hook to make the peculiar phrase “unitary executive” a household word. Bush cited his “unitary” powers just days earlier in signaling that he would use his commander-in-chief authority to override the provisions of Sen. John McCain’s anti-torture amendment passed in December 2005.

The Democrats must have realized that the mainstream media would focus on the most trivial aspects of the hearings – as well as on the windiness of the senators’ long-prefaced questions. The only hope to change those dynamics would have been to present a strong alternative narrative.

That alternative narrative could have been how the Right has spent three decades steadily building its infrastructure and clout to consolidate ideological control around an Imperial Presidency held tightly in Republican hands and endorsed by a restructured Supreme Court.

Democrats also might have trimmed down their flabby speechifying and instead posed pointed question after pointed question to Alito, eventually making his refusal to answer questions the central issue of the hearings, not their own bloviating.

Americans would have been shocked by Alito’s refusal to stand decisively on the side of a traditional democratic Republic and against an autocratic regime. It also might have dawned on millions of Americans what’s at stake in this debate.

For those who require it, here's a clue:

The Democrats Need To Make George W. Bush the Issue - Not Alito - Buzzflash

George W. Bush needs to be prevented altogether, by any and all means necessary, from making any further appointments to the bench. The only way the Democrats are going to accomplish this, is to not only be willing to filibuster this nomination, but to walk out and shut down the government should the Republicans attempt to change the Senate rules to take the right away.

The public needs to understand that the filibuster is all that stands between themselves, and George Bush forever legalizing his own dictatorship through the shredding of the Constitution. If the Democrats can do this, they will win. But it requires real leadership, and we've seen so little of it from the Democrats in the last 5 years, I am not optimistic.

Senate Democrats need to realize that, although such a move has the potential to enrage the Republican base in this country, they have nothing to lose in doing so; no current supporter of Bush in the Republican base is going to go their way anyway. The Democrats instead should focus on the political calculus of a walk-out within the context of an ongoing melt-down of the GOP on every front.

So take a clue Dems: Filibuster, and furthermore, promise to filibuster any nominee Bush puts forward on grounds that his crimes in office preclude any further exercise of executive power to effect laws. Make the GOP lay its "Nuclear option" on the table over exactly that principle. If they vote to enact it, then you must walk out.

Everything that's happened leads either to that moment of courage, or is a final nail in the coffin of our democracy and civil liberties. Do not allow America to die with yet another whimper: Stop Bush now.

There are other calls for the filibuster:

TPM Cafe

Why on Earth shouldn't Democrats filibuster? It's good policy - we might even be able to keep him off the court - and it's good politics too.

Harry Reid warned Bush against nominating Alito by name only days before the announcement. Either Reid becomes a paper tiger to the detriment of all Democrats, or we back up his warning. Leadership politics is the highest stakes stuff there is. If you make public threats, you better back them up.

# How does it hurt Democrats in '06 if they filibuster and and the GOP successfully nukes the rules to put Alito on the court? Feelings of GOP overreach are an engine of Democratic surge this fall.

# How does it hurt Democrats in '06 if they filibuster and and the GOP fails to line up 50 to ram Altio through by destroying the Senate rules? It shows the nation that the Democratic position against Alito is the bipartisan centrist position.

# Even if Ben Nelson and Byrd are given passes, there are still 43 votes against cloture. Force the Republicans to break Senate rules with all the bright lights focussed on them. Alito is not a particularly sympathetic figure. Let them overreach to put an extremist on the court. If we stand united, this cuts our way.

If George Bush wants to put reasonably sane right wingers like John Roberts on the court, that's his right. He won the election. But he has no right to ram through extremists on party line votes. Just say no. Just stay united.

There isn't much hope that will happen, however:

Blue Mass. Group

Maybe Alito really is a reasonable person who isn't going to rock the boat. And maybe he isn't. Unfortunately, the lame questioning he underwent today isn't going to help us answer that question. Maybe tomorrow will be better, but I doubt it. And so I stick by my prediction: no filibuster, and Alito will be confirmed, though by a relatively narrow vote.

This columnist offers an alternative strategy to using the filibuster while still achieving the intended result:

E.J. Dionne, Jr., Syndicated Columnist

The standard dodge is that nominees can't answer questions bearing on cases they may later have to decide. But Democrats Feinstein, Richard Durbin and Charles Schumer all noted that Alito was perfectly happy to speak expansively on some questions he will face, notably reapportionment.

It turns out that, especially when their party controls the process, Supreme Court nominees can avoid answering any question they don't want to answer. Conservative appointees who might well overrule Roe can't quite say so if they are to get the votes they need from Republican senators who support abortion rights and want to protect themselves with pro-choice voters.

Democrats seem to be wary of mounting a filibuster. What they should insist upon, to use a euphemism Alito might appreciate, is an extended debate in which his evasions will be made perfectly clear to the public.

If moderate senators want to vote for a justice highly likely to move the Supreme Court to the right, they can.

But their electorates should know that's exactly what they're doing.

This approach isn't causing much alarm in conservative circles, however:

William F. Buckley, National Review

What is likely to happen next week is a great deal of oratory expressing the dissatisfaction of Democratic senators with the nomination of Samuel Alito. But even as it will be a party vote on the judiciary committee, it will very possibly be a party vote on the floor. You begin by counting what one might call the John Birch wing of the Democratic Party. These are folk who see military-industrial complex members under their beds, scheming against minorities and civil rights.

What disappoints those who like to think of themselves as celebrants of democracy is the tribal tendency to take shelter in voting with the majority. There are certainly 25 Democratic senators who, if they submitted to a polygraph test, would confess that they believed Samuel Alito qualified to serve on the Supreme Court. But they seek the protective company of their fellow Democrats, and so, while talking about the need to do one's duty, will fail to do so in respect of this nomination.

I'm not so sure about Buckley's assertion, but can we be sure that the Democrats don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows?

Joan Vennochi, Boston Globe:

The Democrats, with their packaged outrage and long-winded questioning of Alito, look like sore losers before they lose. His interrogators often sound arrogant and sanctimonious. That doesn't mean questions from Democrats about abortion or the limits on executive power are meritless. But, particularly on Tuesday, they were posed so poorly and loquaciously that Alito won, or at least, never lost a round. The wind from senators is meaningless if, at the end, we have no better idea which winds Alito will stand against as a Supreme Court justice.

We do, however, have a pretty good idea of what Alito will stand FOR:

Paul Heise, Lebanon Daily News

George Bush promised someone in the mold of justices Scalia and Thomas, and with Alito, Bush found him. The administration that searches without warrants, advocates torture and sees no limit on the power of the presidency found its man. Alito and his originalism fit every measure of the extremist who would rubber-stamp this royal presidency. Scalia was rejected for chief justice for a reason: His extremist views would have been rejected by the American people.
If you want the option for a state religion, a property requirement to vote, and laws dictating a married couple’s procreation activity, then approve Alito.

This writer extends the list of things Alito will stand for in more personal terms:

Thomas J. Bico, The Moderate Independent

It's called a two-shouldered bigot, and Alito, like so many conservatives, is one of them. [W]hen it gets down to reality - after they have checked back over their right shoulder, then checked back over their left shoulder to make sure no one is around (the two-shouldered bigot check) - they openly admit that they think black people are inferior, as are women, and make racist jokes and comments.

Back in the 1980's, it was ok to be openly bigoted in conservative circles to a greater extent than it is now. Reagan followed a "southern strategy" for a reason. And so bigots like Alito were proud to be a part of racist, sexist groups like the one he joined and Princeton and bragged about it to get ahead politically. [Alito] wanted to be associated with the groups mission, and the only reason not to own up to it would be if that sentiment has not changed. He can not own up to the past and admit youthful indiscretions because he does not want to disown that part of his past, because it is still who and how he is.

As we all know, once he does the standard two-shoulder check of the two-shouldered bigot, he will have a good laugh about how ridiculous a confirmation process that simply allows you to lie evasively is, and be glad of the fact his racist self will get to preside over the nation's most powerful court.

I don't think 'preside' is the correct term for Alito as Roberts is the Chief, but I think we get the idea.

Certainly, this man get it:

Robert Parry,

Alito has argued that a powerful executive is what the Founding Fathers always intended. Chief Justice John Roberts, Bush’s other appointee to the Supreme Court, has been a longtime supporter of broad presidential powers. Another “unitary executive” vote is likely to come from Justice Antonin Scalia, who is considered the court’s most scholarly right-wing member. 'Justice' Clarence Thomas would appear to be a reliable fourth vote, having cited the theory of the “unitary executive” in arguing in 2004 that the Supreme Court had no right to intervene in granting legal protections to detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
So, how far the court’s right wing can go in implementing its concept of the “unitary executive” may depend on how Justice Anthony Kennedy votes.
Kennedy, who drafted the opinion in the Bush v. Gore case that handed the White House to George W. Bush, is considered a less ideological conservative than Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito. But it is unclear whether Kennedy has the strength of will to resist the rip tide that is pulling the U.S. Supreme Court toward a historic surrender of political power to the “unitary executive.”

Over at the True Conservative website, they share the basic concerns of progressives about Alito and the Court - but have some additional concerns of their own:

Anthony Gregory,

In America an infection is spreading that poses to sprout into the total state. Warrantless military surveillance and torture – these are not lightweight issues. Nor is the notion that the president apparently considers himself above all Constitutional and statutory limits on his power. The topic of unchecked executive power should be of import to all Americans and the entire world.
I am frankly glad that a senator is talking about them, even if it is a bit unfortunate that it is Kennedy who is doing the talking:
"The record shows time and again that you have been overly deferential to executive power, whether exercised by the president, the attorney general or law enforcement officials. And your record shows that, even over the strong objections of other federal judges – other federal judges – you bend over backward to find even the most aggressive exercise of executive power reasonable.

“But perhaps most disturbing is the almost total disregard in your record for the impact of these abuses of powers on the rights and liberties of individual citizens.”

[G]rave abuses of civil liberty should be discussed in every presidential cycle and on every day in between. This is the stuff that strikes at the heart of American freedom, threatening finally to push our country over into the pre-Magna Carta days of Divine Rule by the Sovereign.

How sad it is that we have come to the point that we have to rely on Ted Kennedy to be the voice of reason on some of the most fundamental issues of the day. How frightening it is to be agreeing with Ted Kennedy and disagreeing with nearly the entire rightwing on these issues, all while most of the talking heads ignore them nearly completely.

Could it be that the Democrats were being ignored due to their poor performance? This pundit thinks so:

Barry Gadbois, Desert Dispatch

This is the age of the deepening divide between the politicos with the power and the rest of us. The more time that passes the more I have a growing sense that everyone on Capitol Hill is basically playing for the same team anyway.

In the end the Democrats will do their bizarre dance about "privacy protection," which is their code word for abortion. For the record, I believe that abortion should remain legal even if I don't like it. It simply is not the government's business. For the Democrats though, it is the sacred cow. Judge Alito could favor the death penalty for shoplifters and the dumping of nuclear waste in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge; as long he favored protecting abortion most of the Congressional Democrats would probably see his other positions as compromises.

Advice and consent, it seems to me, was put in place to insure that the president did not appoint a lunatic to the Supreme Court. [Alito']s ability to interpret precedent and make judgments free of the burden of his own feelings is critical; and judging by the panel questioning him it is a rare quality in Washington these days.

This center-right pundit tends to agree that the Democrats made fools of themselves:

Steve Horowitz,

The Alito confirmation hearings reach a low exceeded only by those of Clarence Thomas. The bluster, the posturing, the showboating, the Constitution-waving, the tedious repetition, the tit-for-tat pettiness, the failure to listen, the charts, the bickering over the competence of the Congressional mail service -- all numb the mind and shame the nation. It's all a disgusting, dismaying disgrace -- as Woody Allen once said, a travesty of a mockery of a sham.

There was a point at which [the Democrats] could reasonably have raised their issues, compelled Alito to address them, scolded him for being -- as he's often been -- evasive, and then, having shown some spine and accomplished all they could hope to, suck it up for the inevitable confirmation. But no. Instead they've brought up the same "concerns" day after day for four days now, because of how "troubled" and "puzzled" they are.

This newspaper takes a 'pox on both houses' stance:

Lebanon Daily News editorial

[I]n the current polarized climate, neither the president nor the senators are content with an apolitical court; they want a court that is dependably “conservative” or “liberal” with regard to the issue of the day, with the result that, when it comes to appointing justices, they will settle for nothing less than a like-minded ideologue.

That is unfortunate — perhaps tragic. The senators, by insisting on an ideologue, politicize a process that the framers put into their hands precisely so that would not happen.

This newspaper thinks that the power of the process is in the wrong hands:

Bennington Banner editorial

The whole scene was one big dog and pony show, a wretched example of our elected officials in action, with each side playing the role that they have been conditioned and taught to play for the last few hundred years.

It's during these Senate hearings that we can end up feeling like we're out of touch with the system. A good way to counteract that is to get in touch with your legislators, telling them how you want things to be. After all, it's our Supreme Court, our Constitution, our country. The decisions - even the ones as big as choosing the next Supreme Court justice - ultimately rest with us, the people.

We, The People, Speak!


Alito might derail Bush impeachment

It appears that the pseudo patriotic and jingoistic fire that gathered support for the Bush regime is dying out. A Congress that just may not be afraid to walk the regime down the path of impeachment may emerge from the 2006 elections.

The monkey wrench could be Samuel Alito. The regime was anointed in 2000, and with people in high places, some aspect of an impeachment process could very well be found unconstitutional.

This is the time to end the one party rule.

Michael Bonanno
Contra Costa County, CA

Ethics? K Street Doan' NEED No Stinkin' Ethics!

JRD Re: The Democrats Vs. the Abramoff Congress

Europe watches in amazement at the twisting and the contortions of the present administration; the lies and innuendos, the undercover assaults and stonewalling of the current administration are Big News. It would seem that by now the nation, as a whole, would be realizing that this has all been a fraud and a hand job by the administration.

The 109th Congress, the "Abramoff Congress," has surrendered to K Street as the fifth Estate. It seems that the ethics of K Street are now the congressional norm. [Lord] Acton was right. Don't forget that!

He's referring to Acton's famous dictum: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Some of those most likely to be affected by the abuse of power by corrupted politicians are shouting to be heard, as these next two posts indicate:

The Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles yesterday urged the Senate to reject the nomination of Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“After a detailed and thorough examination of his writings, the organization advised the Senate Judiciary Chair that Judge Alito’s record strongly suggests that he is not committed to maintaining the progress made on civil rights, women’s rights, and individual liberties, as WLALA demands of any federal court nominee, especially those nominated to the United States Supreme Court,” WLALA President Dominique Shelton said in a statement.

The organization said its Federal Judicial Nominations Committee had extensively reviewed Alito’s opinions and other writings and found that the nominee “has not demonstrated either an open mind to decision-making or a demonstrated commitment to maintaining progress made on civil rights, especially women’s rights, two qualities essential in a Supreme Court justice.”

It's good for the Republican Party! Is it not also good for you?

Phyllis Snyder, The Jewish News Weekly of Northern California

When a Supreme Court nominee decides that the First Amendment permits the majority religion to impose its beliefs and symbols on the rest of us in the public square — it’s not good for the Jews.

When he reveals his lifelong ambition to overturn the landmark 1973 case Roe v. Wade, preventing a woman from following her conscience and religious beliefs when exercising her legal right to choose abortion — it’s not good for the Jews.

And when he consistently rules against victims of employment discrimination, narrowing civil rights protections — that too isn’t good for the Jews.

So, what is “good for the Jews?”

It’s a Supreme Court committed to upholding the rights and liberties enumerated in the Bill of Rights, to upholding the letter and spirit of pluralism and to upholding basic values of inclusion and fairness. The protections we seek as members of a minority religious group cannot exist in a vacuum, but only in the context of a larger society in which everyone’s rights and liberties are protected.

Alito has a record of conservatism that is far to the right of our national consensus. He’s the candidate President Bush promised us when he said in 2000 that he would appoint justices like Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia.
[T]he National Council of Jewish Women urges all Jews and Jewish organizations to join with us in the fight to defeat Alito’s nomination to a lifetime seat on the highest court in the land.

Despite all of the bad news concerning the weak week's work by the Democrats, the confirmation is still not a done deal. But, there are signs that the opposition is already collapsing:

Democrats May Delay Alito Nomination Vote

All ten GOP Judiciary Committee members have already announced their support for Alito, [and] Judiciary chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., predicted that all eight of the committee Democrats would vote against Alito, whenever the vote is held. Most — if not all — of the Senate's 55 Republicans are expected to line up behind Alito.

The 44 Senate Democrats have been mostly silent about their intentions, although committee senators like Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Charles Schumer of New York have indicated they will oppose Alito's confirmation.

Democrats' chances of stopping Alito seem to get slimmer each day. The only way they can block his nomination is through a filibuster, and they would need Republican help to keep Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., from banning the tactic.

But five of the seven Republican members of the "Gang of 14" — centrist senators who defused a Senate showdown over judicial filibusters last year by saying 'extraordinary circumstances' would be needed — already have said they will not help Democrats if they attempt to filibuster Alito's confirmation.
Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, both Judiciary Committee members, made that commitment before the confirmation began, and Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, agreed Thursday that a filibuster would not be justified. On Friday, two other GOP "Gang" members jumped in. Sen. Susan Collins "does not see a justification for and would not support a filibuster," spokeswoman Jen Burita said. Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., "has said he has not seen any extraordinary circumstances," spokesman Stephen Hourahan said. The last two — GOP Sens. John McCain of Arizona and John Warner of Virginia — have not commented, but one of the Democratic members of the "Gang" has.
"So far I have seen nothing during my interview with the nominee, the background materials that have been produced or through the committee process that I would consider a disqualifying issue against Judge Alito," said Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb.
Democrats confirmed Friday that they will make a last-ditch attempt to slow Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito's momentum by delaying the first vote on his candidacy. Democrats say they won't be ready Tuesday to vote on his nomination, since Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has called on party members to hold off making a decision until after a Wednesday meeting.

The federal government is closed Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

One columnist thinks that Harry should give 'em hell for as long as necessary:

CRAGG HINES, Houston Chronicle

Yes, there are a lot of questions that Alito should be asked - and senators should be prepared to hold the nomination for a long time if they do not get acceptable answers.

But I doubt that the Democrats can hold out. The Wrighty Whirl - LIE - zer is already hard at work, and the new spines the Dems seems to have been trying out aren't impressing the other side.

Leave it to the objective observation of a foreigner to put the issue in clear light:

United States has problems with democracy

The world doesn't seem to notice a serious weakening of democracy in the country which used to be its pioneer. It doesn't see that America has been habitually exploiting, for its own purposes, the language of freedom and equality since the times of Alexis-Charles-Henri Clerel de Tocqueville.

The U.S. Department of Defense has received the right to keep a close eye on American citizens in the U.S. equaling that of the police, the Prosecutor's Office and other law-enforcement bodies, which are traditional in democratic societies. A huge mechanism of accumulating reports on "unclear activities" code-named TALON, is being set up outside the CIA. Apparently, the military is to play the leading role.

At one time there existed serious restrictions on the collection of information concerning U.S. citizens by the military, a principle which had justified itself in the U.S. and other democratic countries. Prominent French political scientist Emmanuel Todd made this discouraging conclusion about the recent trends in U.S. domestic political life:

"...God is not saving America these days. It sees evil all around, but this happens because things in the country itself are taking a bad turn.

"This degradation compels us to realize what we are losing: America of 1950-1965, a land of massive democracy, freedom of self-expression, expansion of social rights, defense of human rights.

"It was the country of the good."

But under the circumstances, many restrictions, which have become major international principles, are in the way of the current White House team.
Leaders of the "Axis of the Good" have not proved to be so angelic. It is crystal clear that from the very beginning the republican administration has laid claims to a monopoly of some "legitimate" violence on a global scale. The U.S. is slowly but steadily crawling into the ranks of the few disreputable countries, mostly with military regimes, where police functions are steadily eroding their democratic foundations.

And Alito's job is to help cement these changes into place.

I opened with a Revolutionary footnote, so I will end with one, dedicated to the Democratic Senators (listening, Ben Nelson?)who are letting their nation down:

“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.” - Samuel Adams, speech at the Philadelphia State House, August 1st, 1776.

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