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What exactly was behind Obama’s purge of delegates in California?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.  Yesterday MyDD reported that the Obama campaign had wiped over nine hundred delegates in California from its list of chosen representatives for the national convention in August.  Ostensibly, this was done to ensure only Obama loyalists would represent the senator from Illinois at the Democratic National Convention.  No big deal, right?  After all, Hillary Clinton’s campaign did a similar purge.

The problem is this: while Clinton trimmed only fifty or so delegates, down from an initial 950, Obama wiped roughly half of 1,700.  Furthermore, whereas Clinton appears to have carefully screened the delegates to be excluded, Obama’s purge list appeared random — activists with solid credentials and who worked tirelessly to campaign for their candidate were eliminated, while those who did little or nothing got to stay on the list to go to Denver.

But here’s where things get more ominous.  As MyDD points out, Obama campaigner Marcy Winograd — a woman with more than a few political credentials to her own name — seems to think the main targets were anti-war progressives.

By dusk on Wednesday, the California Obama campaign had purged almost all progressive anti-war activists from its delegate candidate lists. Names of candidates, people who had filed to run to represent Obama at the August Democratic Party National Convention, disappeared, not one by one, but hundreds at a time, from the Party web site listing the eligibles. The list of Obama delegate hopefuls in one northern California congressional district went from a robust 100 to an anemic 23, while in southern California, the list in Congressman Waxman’s district almost slipped out of sight, plunging from a high of 91 candidates to 17. Gone were strong women with independent political bases.

And the Huffington Post’s Nathaniel Bach wrote:

After completing the application process and finding my name on the official list of registered candidates, I received an email from the California Democratic Party today (Wednesday) at 4:48 p.m. informing me that the final approved lists of delegate candidates had been posted and that I should check the website. (I assume the same email went out to all the delegate candidates.) I clicked over to the website and found that, lo and behold, what had been a list of 90 candidates had been eviscerated down to only 17, and that my name was gone. I immediately checked the Obama candidate list for the 33rd District, where a friend and fellow Obama die-hard was also running for a delegate spot. His name was gone, too, and a list that formerly contained 83 names was down to a mere 20.

The ostensible rationale for the cutting of delegate candidates is to prevent “Trojan horse” delegates from making their way to the Convention floor and then switching allegiances. The vetting and removal of delegate candidates is expressly allowed by party rules. But could the 30th District really have had 73 such turncoats, and was I really one of them? I was a Precinct Captain for the Obama campaign for the California primary; I’ve donated several hundred dollars to Senator Obama’s campaign (the first politician I’ve ever supported financially); and I’ve boosted the campaign in numerous posts on this website…

It’s hard not to be cynical. Remaining on the list of approved candidates is the slate of candidates (longtime campaign volunteers) that the Obama campaign has officially endorsed, as well as several names recognizable from local politics. These delegate candidates aren’t to be faulted for being longtime political activists, but the cynic in me wonders why those names remained while the “nobodies” on the list disappeared. The Obama campaign owes those of us who were cut a fuller explanation of the decision process.

MyDD’s ‘campskunk’ clearly believes that this is not accidental, that the Obama campaign wants “people who will go to the convention and vote for Obama, no matter what.  It’s not about the issues, it’s about the candidate.  If these delegates have strong dedication to particular causes they might be persuadable, so none of those types are allowed.”

But the purge of California delegates, and the fear that anti-war activists among those sent to represent Obama in Denver come August might defect, may run even deeper than anyone suspects.  According to the New York Sun, Obama’s phony anti-occupation position stands a good chance of being exposed for the sham it is.

A key adviser to Senator Obama’s campaign is recommending in a confidential paper that America keep between 60,000 and 80,000 troops in Iraq as of late 2010, a plan at odds with the public pledge of the Illinois senator to withdraw combat forces from Iraq within 16 months of taking office.

The paper, obtained by The New York Sun, was written by Colin Kahl for the center-left Center for a New American Security*. In “Stay on Success: A Policy of Conditional Engagement,” Mr. Kahl writes that through negotiations with the Iraqi government “the U.S. should aim to transition to a sustainable over-watch posture (of perhaps 60,000-80,000 forces) by the end of 2010 (although the specific timelines should be the byproduct of negotiations and conditions on the ground).”

Mr. Kahl is the day-to-day coordinator of the Obama campaign’s working group on Iraq. A shorter and less detailed version of this paper appeared on the center’s Web site as a policy brief.

If this is true, if Obama plans to back off from any and all public pledges to withdraw from the quagmire in Iraq by the end of his first term (assuming he gets a first term), then this cynical lack of faith in his own supporters exposes a far more serious crisis.  The senator from Illinois, in spite of his alleged initial opposition to the invasion of Iraq, really does support the policy of American imperialism.  And if he’s worried enough about his true position becoming widely known that it has driven him to purge half his California delegates — thus making the prospect of a brokered convention likelier, what does that say about the worth assigned to the anti-war movement by the Democratic Party?  Not much, apparently.

Fortunately, this latest outrage by the Obama campaign has a somewhat happy ending; all of the delegates purged from California’s bloc seem to have been reinstated.  But if Obama thought these devoted supporters might have harbored plans to defect to Hillary Clinton’s camp, he may have pushed his fear one step closer to realization.

Obama had better pull his head out of his posterior.

According to MSNBC, McCain has erased Obama’s ten point lead over him.  If the senator from Illinois doesn’t start running like a Democrat, and stop acting like a fucking Republican, he’s going to find himself making one hell of a concession speech come November.  And that shall be bad in far more ways than one.

If Obama really wanted to win this thing, he could have distinguished himself by running to the left of Hillary Clinton — not to the right of her.  His failure to seal the deal, combined with his Republican-style attacks (not that Mrs. Clinton is innocent of following suit) and condescending dismissals of the challenges faced by minorities, indicates that he is fully prepared to blow it come November.  Consider this: Recent polls show that Ralph Nader may actually get up to five percent of the vote in November, and that a sizable number of Clinton supporters are likely to vote for McCain — twenty-eight percent, in fact.

That is how things stand at this point.  Can you imagine what shall happen if a bruised and battered Obama comes out of the Democratic National Convention, having alienated upwards of 33% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, and with the media attacking him at every turn having smelled blood in the water?  Imagine that pathetic creature going up against McCain.  We cannot allow overconfidence to cost us this time.  There really is far too much at stake.


News of the New Depression is slowly spreading.

If you’re at all familiar with Michael Fox (the columnist, not the actor), and you’re trying to decide if the current economic crisis is a recession or a full blown depression, he certainly makes it hard to be optimistic.  Back in November, Mr. Fox reported that the New Depression had already begun.  In February, he reported that it had entered Phase Two, and that it had gone global.

On small, pyhhric victory. But still a thousand battles left to fight.

It seems that Wal-Mart was finally shamed into dropping its suit against the Shanks.  (Thanks to tinyfirefly for pointing this out in last night’s entry.)  But let’s not make any mistake: this wouldn’t have gone as far as it did had the corporate media reported on this months ago, as it should have.  And Wal-Mart is unlikely to reimburse the Shanks for the money they had to shell our for lawyers’ fees and court costs.

To recap: Debbie Shank, a Wal-Mart employee, was involved in a car accident with a trucker, and came out of it a cripple with the memory capacity of a fish.  Her son, Jeremy, was killed in Iraq last year.  But because his mother cannot hold a memory, she forgets soon after hearing the news.  So each time she is reminded of Jeremy’s death, it’s not a reminder at all; she is literally, from her brain-damaged perspective, hearing about her son’s death for the first time, every time, until the day she dies.  Debbie Shank cannot mourn her son, cannot move on from the loss, because of the injuries to her brain.

Wal-Mart, however, was not content to leave well enough alone.  Because of a clause in its insurance contract with employees, the company claims it is legally entitled to settlement money stemming from the Shank family’s lawsuit against the trucking company, whose driver was partly to blame for the accident that crippled Debbie.  So it took the Shanks to court, won, and subsequent appeals have been denied by the Bush-stacked court system.  According to the MSNBC article:

Shank, 52, lost much of her memory and ability to communicate or walk in a crash between her minivan and a tractor trailer in May 2000. Her family sued the trucking company and won $700,000. Court records show that after attorney’s fees and costs, the remaining $417,477 from the settlement went into a trust to care for Shank.

The fund now has about $270,000, the family said.

Shanks’ health insurance was through Wal-Mart, where she worked nights stocking shelves. After the Shanks won their lawsuit, Wal-Mart sued the Shank family to recover medical costs totaling about $470,000.

Wal-Mart won its case and subsequent appeals by the Shanks that went as far as the Supreme Court, which closed legal avenues this month by declining to hear the case.

During the case, the Shanks also lost one of their three sons when Jeremy, 18, was killed in Iraq last year while serving in the Army.

Finally, with little thanks to a lazy mainstream media that didn’t see this as a worthy news story until recently, Wal-Mart caved in and did what it was supposed to do.  But don’t expect this to be over; the Shanks have been screwed out of money that was supposed to go toward Debbie’s long term care.  Now that money has been whittled away, and the family isn’t going to get it back.

What’s more, Wal-Mart is still screwing over its other employees, both current and former.  In one of the latest insults, the company is refusing to rehire a veteran, as per the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act of 1994.  Air Force airman Sean Thornton, who was discharged from the service, was supposed to get his old cashier job back at Wal-Mart, returned from duty to find his former employer has decided it doesn’t have to obey the law.  And why should it?  Federal lawsuit from the Department of Justice or no, the company is fully aware that thanks to Congress and the Bush regime, the courts have been stacked with judges whose sole purpose is to uphold anything and everything corporations deign to get away with.

Here are some sources listing the abuses by Wal-Mart, travesties the government (under conservative misrule, including during the Clinton administration) has allowed to go unpunished.…


But hope is not dead.  As the Shank case reveals, the company can be shamed into doing what it is supposed to do, which is to treat its employees fairly.  Public pressure must continue to be mounted, on Wal-Mart and on local, state, and federal legislatures.  After news of the company’s refusal to rehire Airman Thornton was reported, its stocks fell significantly.  So public pressure and media coverage work.  But legislatures (and executives) must be made to act as well.  Anti-trust legislation must be restored, passed, and enforced.  Abuses of employee rights must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and judges who violate the spirit (if not the letter) of the law by upholding abuses removed from the bench.

This can be done, and with your vigilance, it shall be.

This will make benefit glorious nation of Kazakhstan, yes?

Imagine suffering the attention span and memory capacity of a goldfish.  Imagine that each and every time you hear the news of your son’s death in Iraq, it really is news to you, because you can’t hold onto a memory.  Imagine that your former employers are suing you, because it decided that the settlement your family’s lawyers won from the company that insured the driver of the truck that caused the accident which deprived you of your ability to hold a train of thought more than a minute, really belongs to them, and they are hellbent on getting it no matter how long it takes and no matter how much of what little cash your family has left is eaten up trying to fight this travesty.  Imagine that the Bush-stacked courts have decided that Wal-Mart is always right, and that whatever Wal-Mart wants, it shall get no matter what.

Imagine all this, and then imagine that you are a veteran returning from active service, only to find that your employer won’t give you your job back as prescribed by law.  Yes, Wal-Mart again, its executives laughing their asses off because they know from experience that the DoJ doesn’t do this sort of shit without a plan to make sure that the courts uphold the ability of corporations to shit all over our nation’s veterans — and their mothers.

And the worst part of all this is, this isn’t an April Fool’s day prank.  It’s the sort of bullshit that goes on every single day in this country, and there’s nothing funny about it.

How German “intelligence” helped Bush regime fabricate the case for war in Iraq.

One of the reasons the Bush-Cheney regime was able to lie so effectively to the American public in selling its case for invading Iraq was the appearance of legitimacy that came from foreign intelligence agencies.  Five years after the invasion and occupation of Iraq by the United States of America (with a coalition of coerced and bribed allies that eventually fell apart as the occupation went sour), the truth of how German intelligence officials helped fabricate the case for war is being told — but not in America.

Der Spiegel reporters Erich Follath, John Goetz, Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark tell at last the story of how a drunken Iraqi defector sold made-up bullshit to German authorities.

If you’re looking to hide out from the rest of the world, the grayish white residential block in this southern German city would be a good place to be. Six families live here, most of them with children, and the building blends inconspicuously into the dull suburban skyline. A green toy tractor is parked out front, the bicycles have baby trailers, one of them complete with an American flag fluttering in the breeze. On a mailbox hanging outside the building’s entrance, the name Rafed has been scrawled in pale green handwriting — difficult to read, but decipherable from up close.

There are many the world over who would love a chance to chat with the man whose mail lands in this post box. The US Congress is desperately interested in him, and the White House once even expressed an interest in trotting him out on primetime television. A book has been written about him and Hollywood is currently working on a motion picture documenting his life.

The man’s codename is “Curveball.” And in an earlier life, he played a crucial role in the geo-politics at the beginning of this decade: He was the man who provided vital “evidence” that ultimately contributed to the invasion of Iraq by the United States and its allies. But that role has since turned into his greatest problem: Everything he claimed to know about Iraq’s weapons program, all the proof he presented, was fabricated. His lifeline, though, has yet to be cut: Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), remains loyal to their source. They keep him under cover and protect him from uncomfortable questions — here in southern Germany.

The rest of the article is far too long to reproduce here in its entirety here, but I have done so on my discussion forum.  Or you can read the article at the link above.  At any rate, the truth of how four thousand American soldiers and roughly one million Iraqis (and counting) had their lives needlessly sacrificed on an alter of greed and imperial ambition must be told.  This is only one of many tiers in the construct of lies that led to war.  Others, including former CIA European station chief Tyler Drumheller and investigative journalists David Corn and Michael Isikoff, have described parts of the ‘Curveball’ story.  All these sources and more are worth reading, if for no other reason than to track the myriad deceptions used to sell the invasion.

Hate-filled propaganda video should fade into obscurity, where it belongs.

Der Spiegel reports.

It is little more than a makeshift collage, but it contains a horror show of images meant to distort Islam. Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders has launched his long-awaited video screed criticizing the Koran. Criticism is mounting.

And rightly so.  The video, a highly offensive sack of bile, opens with a passage from the Quran (the Muslim bible) immediately followed by footage of the September 11, 2001 attacks on America.  The exercise in deception and outright anti-Muslim bigotry deteriorates from there.

The film begins with an image that every Muslim in the world and many others are likely to recognize immediately: the controversial caricature of Mohammed wearing a bomb as a turban. The publication of this and similar drawings in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005 triggered unrest in the Arab world.

The cartoonist who drew the caricature, Kurt Westergaard, himself the target of planned attacks recently, promptly protested against its use in the Wilders video. “The drawing was created in a certain context,” Westergaard said, adding that Wilders could “simply not use it. This is not a question of free speech, but of copyrights.” Westergaard told the paper that he wants the Danish association of journalists to take action against the copyright violation.

Wilders has animated the bomb fuse on Mohammad’s head, allowing it to burn up. Then the image is faded out and followed by a sura from the Koran calling Muslims to fight the infidels. The airplanes that crashed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 appear through the lettering, followed by images of people jumping from the burning towers, screaming desperately.

The film continues in this suggestive mode: with images of the Madrid train bombings, of imams calling for global dominance, with a video showing the beheading of a Western hostage and with statistics on the rapidly growing number of Muslims living in the Netherlands.

The anti-Islam video was eventually pulled from, after the site was flooded with criticism ranging from mere declarations of offense to what the administrators describe as threats.  Given their willingness to post Wilders’ propaganda, their claims of being threatened are debatable.

The level of support gained from right-wing extremists, however, may be more appalling than the propaganda film itself.  (One troll posted a link at my own discussion forum, hoping to offend as many viewers as possible before I shut him down.)

Der Spiegel was not kind in its own assessment of the propaganda film:

Fitna seems like an anticlimax. It goes no further than making suggestive comments: the suggestion that the Koran is the source of all the violence in the world; the suggestion that Islam is a threat to everyone’s freedom, like Hitler and Stalin. But in Fitna, the Koran is not destroyed and the bomb in the prophet’s turban, drawn by the Danish cartoonist, doesn’t quite explode.

Has Wilders been successful in giving an example of his political and artistic skills with Fitna? Certainly not when it comes to his artistic capacity. Wilders doesn’t have enough creative talent and is sloppy in his approach.

This might still prove a problem and he will probably have to explain himself before the courts. For example he used material from the Danish cartoonist without asking permission and wrongly said a photograph of a rapper was the murderer of film-maker Theo van Gogh. And he has dragged others along with him – proof of a stunning lack of responsibility. The Dutch public prosecution department is also looking into whether Fitna incites hatred in the legal sense.

According to the review, Wilders’ goal may have had less to do with proving anything than in trying to gain attention by way of censorship — creating a backlash of criticism he hopes to manipulate so as to “prove” a point about the supposed intolerance of his critics.

Both left and right-wing politicians have dismissed the film as old hat. They saw ‘nothing new’ in the footage. But such comments show a misunderstanding of Wilders’ political goal. He doesn’t want to bring new insights or promote dialogue. Fitna is just a weapon in his propaganda war. His politics stand or fall with the concept of the ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’. In this sense Wilders hasn’t done himself or the citizens of the Netherlands a service. And that too must be said in public.

If this vile display of bigotry fails to garner the critical backlash Wilders hopes it will, that is a victory for decent folk everywhere.

No solutions to the economic crisis in this presidential race.

In a recent EENR entry I posted about Paul Krugman’s blog entry regarding the real reason regulators have failed to reign in the excesses of Wall Street.  Essentially, the failure was deliberate — an effort to systematically remove any and all regulation.  I guess causing one Great Depression wasn’t enough to wake up the laissez-faire assholes into realizing that the days of unrestricted greed should have remained dead and buried; they’ve been working like hell to create another while making their money, and they appear to have succeeded.

But I digress.  In today’s New York Times column, Professor Krugman expands upon this failure to reign in Wall Street by bringing the discussion to the presidential election.

Things I’d like to see, Part 2: Kucinich as U.S. Senator

You may or may not remember him, or even heard of the man, but former Ohio senator Howard Metzenbaum passed away last week at the age of ninety. reports of his eighteen-year tenure as the United States senator from Ohio:

During 18 years on Capitol Hill, from 1977 to 1995, Metzenbaum came to be known as “Senator No” and “Headline Howard” for his abilities to block legislation and get publicity for himself.

He was a cantankerous firebrand who didn’t need a microphone to hold a full auditorium spellbound while dropping rhetorical bombs on big oil companies, the insurance industry, savings and loans, and the National Rifle Association, to name just a few favorite targets.

Unabashedly liberal, the former labor lawyer and union lobbyist considered himself a champion of workers and was a driving force behind the law requiring 60-day notice of plant closings.

When other liberals shied away from that label, Metzenbaum embraced it, winning re-election in 1988 from Ohio voters who chose Republicans for governor and president, and by wider margins than either George Voinovich or George H.W. Bush.

And the New York Times reports:

Mr. Metzenbaum’s success in passing social legislation on issues like workers rights and adoption policy, in blocking pork-barrel excess and tax loopholes, and in inventing new ways to use the filibuster – long the tool of Southern segregationists – were unquestioned.

Finally, the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes:

He once filibustered for two weeks against a bill to lift price controls on natural gas. When debate was cut off, Metzenbaum, who was to prove himself a master of Senate rules, invented a new stalling tactic. He introduced hundreds of amendments and called for a time-consuming roll call vote on each one.

Metzenbaum built a reputation as a Horatio at the bridge. He was credited with saving taxpayers millions of dollars by standing in the way of “Christmas tree bills,” adorned with costly favors for a given state or corporation. Metzenbaum was often at the forefront of Democratic opposition to Reagan administration cabinet and Supreme Court nominees.

This is precisely the sort of leadership we so desperately need in the U.S. Senate.  Since Metzenbaum and former senator John Glenn retired, we’ve been saddled with corrupt Republicans who are beholden not to their constituents, but corporations and the rigid GOP system of discipline that keeps any member from breaking ranks without incurring harsh consequences.  To be sure, in 2006 we were able to oust Mike DeWine from office in favor of Democrat Sherrod Brown.  But even Brown has not exactly been a leader in the Senate.

So why not make a concerted effort to convince Dennis Kucinich, currently representing Ohio’s 10th Congressional District, to run against incumbent George Voinovich in 2010?  Can you imagine the brand of leadership he would bring?  I can, and the more I think about it, the more I like the idea.

There is, to be sure, great risk for Kucinich in making such a run; this year he faced a surprisingly stiff primary battle, mostly from moneyed opponents who think he shouldn’t be running for any higher political office.  And considering how vicious an opponent Voinovich — who ran a nasty campaign for mayor against him in 1979 — is, the battle would most certainly be a tough one.  But I think it’s worth consideration.

Things I’d Like To See, Part 1: Krugman As Federal Reserve Chairman

Leave it to Paul Krugman to tell the hard truth about what needs to be done in this financial crisis.

[T]he important thing is to bail out the system, not the people who got us into this mess. That means cleaning out the shareholders in failed institutions, making bondholders take a haircut, and canceling the stock options of executives who got rich playing heads I win, tails you lose.

Not that the Fed shall listen, mind you; Ben Bernanke, like Alan Greenspan before him, cares about the laissez-faire swindlers who caused the latest financial meltdown.  Factoring in the taxpayers only counts for bailing out the criminals, not bailing out the system the crooks abused in order to flush the economy down the toilet.

Krugman goes on to caution:

According to late reports on Sunday, JPMorgan Chase will buy Bear [Stearns] for a pittance. That’s an O.K. resolution for this case – but not a model for the much bigger bailout to come. Looking ahead, we probably need something similar to the Resolution Trust Corporation, which took over bankrupt savings and loan institutions and sold off their assets to reimburse taxpayers. And we need it quickly: things are falling apart as you read this.

He’s right, of course.  Bailing out Bear Stearns might be the smart thing to do as an individual case; for better or worse, that bank is large enough that its failure could — as Krugman suggests — hasten the market panic that would make the Depression we now suffer (the one contributor Michael Fox wrote had begun back in November)  official.  But if it’s used simply as a model for bailing out the rest of the Wall Street rip-off artists, then we taxpayers shall have been forced yet again to foot the bill for the irresponsibility of Wall Street.  It’s like a mugging victim being told by a jury that the thug who robbed him wasted the cash on booze and women, so now the victim has to reimburse the thief.

If the Democratic nominee somehow manages to survive the general election in November and become president, he (or she) could do a lot worse than to ask for Bernanke’s resignation as Fed chairman, and offer the job to Professor Krugman.

House denies telecomms immunity.

The U.S. House of Representatives today refused to grant telecommunications companies retroactive immunity for assisting dictator George W. Bush in his illegal spying.

I interrupt this report for a brief rant: I really wish Reuters and other news agencies would cease using the word ‘defy’ and its derivatives when reporting about stories such as this.  Congress is the legislative body, and the branches of government are supposed to be co-equal.  Congress cannot, according to the Constitution, defy the executive branch because it is not subservient to it.

I now return to the story at hand.

But the 213-197 vote was far short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a promised veto by Bush. He has demanded that any telecommunication company that participated in his warrantless domestic spying program secretly begun after the September 11 attacks receive retroactive immunity.

As MSNBC reports, ‘Because of the promised veto, “this vote has no impact at all,” said Republican Whip Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri.’

Republicans falsely accused Democrats of endangering national security by refusing to grant immunity.  But their arguments are based on deception; since the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — passed in 1978 and updated in 1994 — set up a secret court that doles out ninety-nine percent of all warrants applied for, there is no legal block to using the power of the federal government to spy on alleged terrorist communications.  It is also unlikely that terrorists would be foolish enough to use telephone and Internet services to pass on information.

Bush’s illegal spying on American citizens is motivated, like Richard Nixon’s administration, to keep tabs on political enemies and to monitor dissent.  If telecommunications companies face prosecution for their role in helping him break the law, they may be more likely to cooperate with investigators to go after members of the White House who ordered the illegal wiretaps.  Bush wants to provide immunity in order to take away any incentive for that cooperation, because testimony and evidence is likely to directly implicate him in lawbreaking.

Cross-posted from EENR

FISA battle rages on amid distractions.

Crossed-posted at EENR.

While the corporate punditry is distracted by the flap over Geraldine Ferraro’s comments about Barack Obama and the sex scandal plaguing soon-to-be-former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, the battle over FISA continues as U.S. dictator George W. Bush threatens to veto a House bill over the issue of retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies that helped him break the law.  According to Reuters:

Bush is seeking immunity for telecommunications companies that participated in his warrantless domestic spying program after the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001 and are now facing lawsuits.

The House legislation, scheduled for a vote later on Thursday, would allow phone companies to present their defense behind closed doors in federal court, with the judge given access to confidential government documents about eavesdropping begun after the September 11 attacks.

But the shrub is not satisfied with even this charade, instead selfishly insisting that telecommunications companies be granted full immunity from all lawsuits in addition to immunity from prosecution.  He also demands that all immunity be retroactive, so that he and his co-conspirators may avoid prosecution for past violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

FISA was originally passed by Congress in 1978, following the revelations of illegal spying by president Richard Nixon during his tenure earlier in the decade.  The thirty-seventh president had resigned in 1974 ahead of impeachment proceedings for having violated the law and the Constitution.  FISA was designed to limit the scope of executive power to eavesdrop on American citizens.

The shrub has claimed unchecked power to spy on Americans in the name of fighting terrorists, but has consistently failed to provide any substantive evidence to show that his violations of FISA have actually prevented terrorist attacks on the U.S.  FISA requires that the federal government obtain warrants from a special court in order to conduct surveillance on foreign nationals.  The FISA court, which grants 99% of all warrants applied for, was amended in 1994 so the federal government may spy for up to seventy-two hours before having to apply for a warrant.

But even this proved insufficient for the shrub’s demands.  An exposé by the New York Times in December of 2005 revealed some of the extent of Bush’s lawbreaking.  Last year, Congress — by then under Democratic Party rule yet still caving in to the shrub’s demands — passed the unlawful “Protect” America Act, which violates the Fourth Amendment right against illegal searches and seizures by the government.  The act expired in early February, but all illegal surveillance ordered in that six-month period is still able to be carried out with no hope of prosecution against abuses.

Last month, Senate capitulation leader Harry Reid succeeded in passing a bill that grants the retroactive immunity demanded by Bush.  It has since been tied up in the House of Representatives, but immunity is likely to pass that body in some form despite public efforts to pressure Congress not to allow any such amnesty.

Amnesty for telecommunications companies means that in any official investigation, persons involved would have no incentive to cooperate with authorities or turn over evidence.  This means that, in the highly unlikely event Congress upholds its Constitutional duty to impeach Bush for high crimes, those in a position to provide testimony or evidence have no reason to cooperate.

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