Wednesday, November 15, 2006

HaHa Thisaway HaHa Thataway!

The striking photo of Bush's war cabinet in 2002 is the work of Annie Leibovitz.

All worldly pursuits have but the one unavoidable and inevitable end, which is sorrow: acquisitions end in dispersion; buildings, in destruction; meetings, in separation; births, in death. Knowing this, one should from the very first renounce acquisition and heaping-up, and building and meeting, and...set about realizing the Truth. Life is short, and the time of death is uncertain. So apply yourselves to meditation.


All of us are apprenticed to the same teacher---reality. It is as hard to get the children herded into the car pool and down the road to the bus as it is to chant sutras in the Buddha-hall on a cold morning. One is not better than the other; each can be quite boring; and they both have the virtuous quality of repetition. Repetition and its good results make the very activities of our life into the path.

---Gary Snyder

The rain has stopped, the clouds drifted away,
the weather is clear again.
If your heart is pure, then all things in your world are pure....
Then the moon and flowers will guide you along the way.


To the wisdom of these Buddhist poets let me add another piece of downhome advice: He who hesitates is lost. Addison said it I guess, and Oliver Wendell Holmes repeated it for American practicality...but I first heard it from a radio station engineer when I was a little boy. We were riding with my dad in the station van full of equipment up to Chautauqua, New York, for a network broadcast of the symphony. We were speeding toward the Erie railroad crossing just south of Ashville, and our driver could see a train was coming---but it was far enough away still that we could make it across. But our driver lifted his foot off the gas while he decided...and now it was too late. We sat there as the freight rolled by...and 'twas then the proverb got uttered. With all the drama of that moment, I've never forgotten the saying...and I'm thinking it today too.

It's the title of a Leadbelly song that graces this entry...and all this has to do with discussions stirring through the States on what we're going to see out of this new Congress. I'm dizzy with the possibilities...and really only want to point you thisaway and thataway as to what's up. But beware of hesitation!

I was surprised on Monday by a reply from Bob Sheak, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Sociology at OU, in which he laid out a laundry list of must-do items. I still was wondering What Now! but Bob urged we must begin pressure immediately. Certainly the anticipation is high, as newspapers give us articles on orientation the newly elected members are receiving in Washington right now. When have we ever learned or cared anything about that stuff? Here, with his permission, is what Bob had to say~~~

Hey Richard,

As always you've posted useful articles. However, the policy issues that are being discussed are rather timid in light of the major crises before us. Although I voted a straight-Democratic ticket, and I think the Democratic victories will have some positive effects over the next couple of years, I fear they may not be bold enough or they will lack the discipline to deal with many major problems. What they accomplish or try to accomplish may not be good enough. And, unlike in previous generations, some of the problems may not wait for minor reforms to enable us to avoid serious crises or catastrophes.

Over the next two years, they will stop the Bolton nomination and try to keep Bush from appointing ultra-conservative judges to the federal judiciary. They will advance legislation dealing with a minimum wage, stem cells, start some sort of discussion of the need for a new energy policy, try to fix some of the problems linked to the Medicare prescription law, somehow address the issues of the budget and trade deficits, and reign in the movement toward an imperial presidency. They will hold hearings on many of these issues and on Iraq-related questions. They will probably keep Bush from bombing or invading Iran. These are all worthy goals.

But some of the problems out there may not wait until 2008 or may not be addressed - or adequately addressed - and, even if a Democratic president is elected in 2008, may not even then be fully dealt with. Here are ten examples of big problems, interrelated in various ways, that concern me. One, they don't have a plan to reduce the budget deficit, and it represents a huge and immediate problem that may not wait until 2008. Two, they are currently steering clear of any commitment to raising taxes. Three, I don't see any clear Democratic plan to deal with Iraq. (And don't forget that the Democrats cannot count on Lieberman on this issue.) Four, the Democrats have not had much to say about reducing the military budget (there will be continuing pressures to increase it from the likes of McCain). Five, it's not at clear that they will adopt a nuclear weapons policy that reflects the spirit of the NPT and sets an example to the rest of the world. Six, they do not put forward a robust job creation policy, although something along these lines might come out of a discussion of the need for an energy policy based in part on renewables. Sherrod Brown's job creation policy is largely based on fixing our trade policy. Seven, it's not clear to me whether we can count on the Democrats to fix the election system, along the lines proposed, say, by The Nation's Vanden Heuvel ( ). Eight, we need some sort of one-payer based health care system that provides health care for everybody. The Democrats offer only incremental reforms. Nine, if Hillary Clinton is an example, the Democrats will do nothing meaningful to address the Israeli-Palestine conflict. Ten, It remains to be seen whether the Democrats can offer an energy policy that at once reduces carbon emissions, reduces our growing dependence on foreign oil, and provides a major boost to alternative energy and conservation.

Have a good week, Bob

As I wrote back to him, I would be content with just some rousing investigations about what this secretive administration has been up to all this time---and especially how much of our cash has been stuffed into greedy pockets. I realize how every second counts with some of these issues, but shouldn't we expose and discredit the opposition so thoroughly that 2008 will bring victory in the White House as well? Or would investigations just be hesitation? Yesterday TruthOut published the case for investigation~~~

Ten Reasons Congress Must Investigate Bush Administration Crimes
By Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith
t r u t h o u t Guest Contributor
Tuesday 14 November 2006

Few elections in history have provided so clear a mandate. As the New York Times put it, Democrats were "largely elected on the promise to act as a strong check on [Bush's] administration." (1) But the first response of the new Congressional leadership has been to proclaim a new era of civility and seek accommodation with the very people who need to be held accountable for war crimes and subversion of the Constitution.

Democratic strategists who argue for this kind of bipartisanship maintain that the American people want their political leaders to address the problems of the future, not pursue recriminations about the past. They therefore oppose the kind of penetrating investigation that a White House strategist told Time would lead to a "cataclysmic fight to the death" (2) if Democrats start issuing subpoenas. If such "peace at any price" Democrats prevail, the result will be a catastrophe, not only for the Democratic party but for American democracy.

Establishing accountability will require a thorough investigation of the actions of the Bush administration and, if they have included crimes or abuses, ensuring that these are properly addressed by Congress and the courts. The purpose of such action is not to play "gotcha" based on hearsay and newspaper clippings. Investigation, exposure, and even prosecution or select committee proceedings, should they become necessary, are primarily means for re-establishing the rule of law. But such investigations may be blocked by the Democratic leadership unless American citizens and progressive Democrats in particular demand them. Here are ten reasons why they should:

1. The US faces a Constitutional crisis that goes far beyond either partisan politics or isolated acts of wrongdoing. The Bush administration has tried to replace the Constitutional rule of law with the power of the executive branch to disregard both the laws established by the legislative branch and the judgments of the judicial branch. It has cloaked this power grab with a mantle of secrecy. Only by demonstrating the power of Congress to know what the executive branch does can even the possibility of Constitutional checks and balances be restored. The prerequisite for oversight is the right to know. Unless Congress successfully asserts that right, the Executive's usurpation of power will be permanent and unlimited.

2. The Democrats are in danger of walking into a death trap the Bush administration and the Republican leadership are setting for them. The Democrats won the election on ending the Iraq war and holding the president accountable. In the current courtship, they are being invited to come up onto the bridge of the Titanic and share responsibility for the catastrophe. If they do that, they will end up at the 2008 election with a disillusioned public (especially their own base) who give them equal blame for the war and its catastrophic consequences. As The Nation recently editorialized, "Democrats must not forget the voters' message. If they collaborate in allowing continued bloodletting in Iraq, they will pay the price themselves in future elections." (3)

3. Defending the Constitution by investigating breaches in the rule of law will allow Democrats to appeal to new bases of support among independents and others concerned about the rule of law. It provides a way of reaching out without selling out.

The potential for such a broad and powerful coalition is exemplified by a recent statement by the Constitution Project - which includes both liberals and conservatives like David Keene, Chair of the American Conservative Union - that hails the election result as "an opportunity to restore checks and balances." It says, "The president has asserted that he has virtually unrestrained authority and that Congress and the courts have none. Congress must exercise, and the president must respect, its constitutional obligation to legislate and conduct oversight on issues like NSA wiretapping, military commissions, the detention and treatment of 'enemy combatants,' habeas corpus, and the power to declare war." If the Republicans were able to win by running on the Bible, Democrats can do far better by running on the Constitution and restoring the rule of law.

4. Bush still holds most of the institutional cards on foreign policy, especially given his claims that the president can exercise authority without Congressional constraint. Short of an unlikely cutoff of funds, he can continue to conduct foreign policy and command the military as he chooses. Congress has few direct levers to impose Democratic proposals for new diplomatic initiatives or troop redeployments. It does not even have effective institutional means to stop further Bush administration adventures, such as an attack on Iran.

The key to establishing power over foreign and military policy is to so discredit the administration in the eyes of the public that neither Republican politicians nor the military, the intelligence agencies, the foreign policy establishment, or the corporate elite will allow it to continue on its catastrophic course. And that requires, not friendly negotiations with the White House to find a formula for bipartisan packaging of policy decisions Bush has already made, but a devastating exposure of the criminality, corruption, stupidity, and false premises of those who are making the decisions.

5. A Democratic Congress that fails to assert its prerogatives against the president will soon find itself losing the initiative in the face of the president's capacity to frame issues. While investigations are sometime portrayed as purely negative acts, by putting the administration on the defensive they may actually lay the groundwork for constructive Democratic proposals.

6. A majority of the American people and an overwhelming proportion of grass-roots Democrats want the president impeached. A mobilization for impeachment was kicked off last weekend with speeches by Elizabeth Holtzman, Cindy Sheehan, and others. Serious investigation of Bush administration malfeasance is probably the only way that Democratic leaders reluctant to pursue impeachment can avoid themselves becoming the target of this constituency. Indeed, impeachment advocates can be encouraged to direct some of their energy to supporting such investigations on the grounds that exposure of high crimes and misdemeanors might be the only way to put impeachment "on the table."

7. Exposing the truth about America's actions in the world over the past years, and holding those responsible for it accountable, is the prerequisite to setting relations with the world on a new, more constructive basis. As Philippe Sands, professor at University College London and a leading international human rights lawyer, puts it, "If the United States is to re-engage effectively with the rest of the world they have to resurrect accountability for their high officials."

8. The US government under the Bush administration has systematically and flagrantly violated national and international law. If the perpetrators of these crimes are given permanent impunity with the collusion of Congress, future law-breakers will assume that they can commit similar crimes with impunity. Whether or not Bush administration officials can be subject to criminal prosecution or impeachment, the exposure of their acts can subject them to the kind of public repudiation they deserve. That can begin setting us back on a track toward international law that restrains crimes by the leaders of all nations, however great or small. For as Antoine Bernard, executive director of the International Federation of Human Rights, has said, "The key to peace and democracy building world-wide is accountability for international crimes."

9. Hearings and investigations are crucial means to establishing institutional and cultural barriers to future crimes. At the close of the Vietnam war, the Church Committee established significant limits on executive authority, such as a strengthened Freedom of Information Act and a ban on assassination of foreign leaders. These were originally passed over the objection of then-presidential aide Dick Cheney, and he devoted his vice-presidency to dismantling them. Investigation of such executive abuses is the prerequisite for restoring public access to government information and developing new oversight mechanisms to enforce bans on torture, wiretapping, aggression, executive secrecy, and other illegal and unconstitutional executive activity.

10. Setting the public record straight about what has happened over the past six years is essential for re-establishing discourse based on reality that can be tested by evidence and argument, rather than on fantasy propagated by national leaders and amplified by their media sycophants. A respect for truth pursued through honest dialogue based on evidence and argument will be essential not only for beginning to heal the wounds created by Bush's illegal war of aggression, but for addressing problems like global warming that a fantasy-based public discourse has evaded.

52% of Americans believe that investigating the origins of the Iraq War is a high priority, and 58% want Congress to pursue contracting fraud in Iraq. (4) But that will not automatically translate into action by Congress. Convincing the Democratic leadership to support investigations will require sustained pressure from outside groups. This pressure needs to build early - before the new legislative session begins - so the leadership perceives efforts to squash committee action as politically hazardous.

Fortunately, progressive activists are elegantly positioned to mobilize such pressure. They were the troops on the ground for virtually every victorious Democrat. They can set up district meetings with members, organize phone banks for support calls, submit op-eds and letters to the editors, and organize town meetings on accountability. The time to start is now.


(1) Robin Toner, "A Loud Message for Bush," New York Times, November 8, 2006.

(2) Karen Tumulty and Mike Allen, "It's Lonely at the Top," Time Magazine, October 29, 2006. Available at: {link:,8816,1552033,00.html}.

(3) Posted 11/9/06.

(4) Marcus Marby, "Are the Faithful Losing Their Faith?" Newsweek, October 21, 2006. Available at:

Jeremy Brecher is a historian whose books include Strike!, Globalization From Below, and, co-edited with Brendan Smith and Jill Cutler, In the Name of Democracy: American War Crimes in Iraq and Beyond (Metropolitan/Holt). He has received five regional Emmy Awards for his documentary film work. He is a co-founder of more...

Brendan Smith is a legal analyst whose books include Globalization From Below and, with Brendan Smith and Jill Cutler, In the Name of Democracy: American War Crimes in Iraq and Beyond (Metropolitan). He is current co-director of Global Labor Strategies and UCLA Law School's Globalization and Labor Standards Project, and has worked previously for Congressman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and a broad range of unions and grass roots groups. His commentary has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, CBS, YahooNews and the Baltimore Sun. Contact him at

And William Rivers Pitt published his review of the new Company-In-Charge, the Carlyle Group---which of course is the old company~~~

The Carlyle White House
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t Columnist
Tuesday 14 November 2006

It was bad enough when the Carlyle Group bought Dunkin' Donuts last year, forcing millions of conscientious caffeine addicts to look elsewhere for their daily fix. Now, it appears Carlyle has added 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to its formidable portfolio of acquisitions.

The Carlyle Group achieved national attention in the early days of the Iraq occupation, especially after Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" exposed the firm's umbilical ties to the Bush family and the House of Saud. For the uninitiated, Carlyle is a privately-owned equity firm organized and run by former members of the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations.

Currently, Carlyle manages more than $44 billion in 42 different investment funds, which is an interesting fact in and of itself: Carlyle could lay claim to only a meager $12 billion in funds in December of 2001. Thanks to their ownership of United Defense Industries, a major military contractor that sells a whole galaxy of weapons systems to the Pentagon, Carlyle's profits skyrocketed after the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Some notable present and former employees of Carlyle include former president George H.W. Bush, who resigned in 2003; James Baker III, Bush Sr.'s secretary of state and king fixer; and George W. Bush, who served on Carlyle's board of directors until his run for the Texas governorship. One notable former client of Carlyle was the Saudi BinLaden Group, which sold its investment back to the firm a month after the September 11 attacks. Until the October 2001 sellout, Osama bin Laden himself had a financial interest in the same firm that employed the two presidents Bush.

How has Carlyle managed to acquire the White House? The newest edition of Newsweek begins to tell the tale in a story titled "The Rescue Squad": "Bush Senior has been relegated to watching all those political talk shows his son refuses to watch, wincing each time he hears his son's name being mocked or criticized. George H.W. Bush has been, in effect, sidelined by nepotism. He has repeatedly told close friends that he does not believe it is appropriate or wise to second-guess his son, or even offer advice beyond loving support. This time, however, was different. A source who declined to be identified discussing presidential confidences told NEWSWEEK that Bush 41 left 'fingerprints' on the Rumsfeld-Gates decision, though the father's exact role remains shrouded in speculation."

There is much more to this than Big George simply trying to shove Little George in a different direction, because Big George never travels alone. All of a sudden, two of the elder's main men - James Baker III and Robert Gates - are back in the saddle. Baker has spent the last weeks riding herd over the Iraq Study Group, a collection of old foreign policy hands tasked to come up with a solution to the Iraq debacle. Gates was a member of this group until he was tapped to replace Don Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. The Iraq Study Group is slated to produce some tablets of wisdom come December.

A third member of the Iraq Study Group, former congressman Lee Hamilton, is the rope that ties this curious historical package together. During the Reagan days, Hamilton was chairman of the committee investigating the Iran/Contra scandal that nearly submarined Reagan's presidency and haunted Bush Sr. until his defeat in 1992. In essence, Hamilton took Reagan's people at their word when they assured the chairman that neither Reagan nor Bush were "in the loop" regarding the arms-for-hostages deal.

History and investigation have proven this to be quite separate from the truth, and Hamilton later admitted he should not have bought what Reagan's people were selling. The fact remains, however, that Hamilton let these guys slip the noose during what was, at the time, an investigation into one of the most serious abrogations of Constitutional law in our history. It is worthwhile to note that the man who brought the most pressure upon Hamilton within Congress to be "bipartisan" and avoid a protracted investigation was then-Wyoming representative Dick Cheney.

One of the men spared prosecution in the Iran/Contra scandal, thanks in no small part to the gentility of Mr. Hamilton, was Robert Gates. Gates, then a senior official within the CIA, was widely believed to have been neck-deep in the plot. During the investigation into the scandal, Gates parroted Reagan and claimed not to remember when he knew what he knew about everything that was happening down in Ollie North's office. In 1991, he was nominated and eventually appointed to be the head of CIA by Bush Sr. During his confirmation hearings, according to the New York Times, it was revealed that "Mr. Gates [had] distorted intelligence reports so they would conform to the political beliefs of his superiors."

That sounds familiar.

Gates's nomination to the post of secretary of defense was field-generaled behind the scenes by James Baker III, who has suddenly taken on a muscular role within the Bush White House since the spectacular Republican wipeout during the midterm elections last Tuesday. Baker's return, along with the new prominence of Bush Sr., has been hailed in the mainstream press as a healthy step toward stability and sanity.

One is forced to wonder, however, which masters Mr. Baker is actually serving. Baker's Carlyle Group has profited wildly from the conflict in Iraq, which begs the question: will the bottom line, augmented by Carlyle's defense contracts, trump any attempts to establish a just and lasting peace? It must also be noted that Baker's law firm, Baker Botts, is currently serving as defense counsel for Saudi Arabia against a suit brought by the families of 9/11 victims. The connections between the Bush family and the Saudi royals has been discussed ad nauseam, and Mr. Baker is so closely entwined with the Bush clan that he might as well be a blood relative.

The weakening of George W. Bush, in short, has opened the door for an alumnus of the Iran/Contra scandal, Robert Gates, to gain control of the Pentagon - his nomination, as yet, has met with little Congressional resistance. This process was managed by James Baker, whose Carlyle Group made billions off the Iraq occupation and whose fealty to the American people has all too often taken a back seat to the needs and desires of the royal family of Saudi Arabia. These two, along with Hamilton, have been instrumental in crafting, by way of the Iraq Study Group, what by all accounts will soon be America's foreign policy lynchpin in Iraq and the Middle East as a whole.

Behind it all is George H.W. Bush, former employee of Carlyle, who has somehow managed to refashion his reputation into that of a grandfatherly, level-headed, steady hand, a foreign policy "realist" whose mere presence will soothe and calm the troubled waters we sail in. Unfortunately, his "realism" is a significant reason the United States finds itself in its current mess - until the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was a boon confederate of both the Reagan and Bush administrations in their fight against Iran - and the team of experts he has brought with him have done more to undermine the national security of the country than any other three people one could name.

The winner in all this, of course, is the Carlyle Group. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

At the same time my friend here in Athens, Michelle Ajamian, sent out an update that featured an issue in danger of being overlooked by Democrats, third parties and Independents alike: our crappy election system. It's another article from yesterday~~~

Fixing The 2008 Election
Tova Andrea Wang, Jonah H. Goldman, The Century Foundation, 11/14/2006

The mainstream media in its instant analysis has proclaimed the election system worked surprisingly well in 2006. While it is true that no single catastrophe of election administration grabbed headlines this year, it is quite dangerous to suggest that the problems voters encountered on Election Day were not serious. As over 25,000 callers from across the country to the 866-OUR-VOTE voter information and protection hotline confirm, these problems led to thousands of eligible Americans being denied the opportunity to cast a ballot.

There’s a sense that the book is already closed on the 2006 election. But despite the nation’s attention now turning to the seismic political shift in Washington, several House races remain undecided. In Ohio, two of the races hinge on thousands of provisional ballots that likely were cast by legitimate voters but because of misguided and confusing election rules, will be thrown out, clearly affecting who wins the race. In Florida, it is likely that a problems with electronic voting machines caused far more votes to be lost than the current margin of victory.

While the case should not be overstated, it is critical that as we immediately enter the 2008 presidential election cycle, we undertake a more honest assessment of what happened in this election so we can concentrate on ensuring real, meaningful reform before the next federal election cycle. Only if we understand the problems that voters reported in 2006 can we enact real solutions that will move us toward a more fair and accurate system of elections.

Identification Problems

Over the past two years, the country has engaged in a national debate about how voters should identify themselves at the polls. Advocates for election reform and voting rights have shown that current protections, such as signature matches and severe penalties, strike an effective balance between protecting the rights of eligible voters to participate in the process and preventing ineligible people from manipulating the system. Unfortunately, partisanship has trumped reason as the states and the Congress are now grappling with unconstitutional legislation which hypes the false specter of voter fraud as an excuse for disenfranchising countless eligible voters.

On November 7, 2006, the result of this exaggerated concern over voter fraud was two-fold. First, in states like Arizona where restrictive voter identification requirements were operable, eligible citizens were prevented from casting a ballot because they did not have the requisite documentation. Second, a combination of confusion and lack of training forced voters to provide identification that was not required by law, resulting in many voters being turned away at the polls. In over a dozen states across the country, the Election Protection Hotline received complaints of poll workers asking voters for identification that was not required by law, wrongly forcing voters to cast provisional ballots, and otherwise misinterpreting the voting rules to prevent eligible voters from casting a ballot.

In Ohio particularly, poll workers improperly implementing identification requirements could have significant ramifications as two House seats remain undecided. The winner of those seats may well be elected by a margin smaller than those eligible voters who were either turned away, or who wrongly were forced to vote a provisional ballot that will not count. The most public example of this misapplication of Ohio identification requirements is Rep. Steve Chabot, who was wrongly turned away at the polls because his Ohio driver’s license did not have a current address. Although he was able to come back to the polling place and eventually cast a ballot, many ordinary Ohioans do not have the time to make multiple trips to the polls. Missouri’s Secretary of State Robin Carnahan was also improperly asked for photo ID and reported that her office got numerous complaints of similar incidents throughout the day.

Congress and state legislatures must pay more attention to the problems created by our election system and less to partisan proposals designed to remove eligible voters from the process. In addition, confusion about identification problems will be solved through better poll worker training.

Voting Machines

Problems with the administration of the election that could have been avoided instead created obstacles to efficient voting that have become increasingly familiar to voters across the country. In multiple states there were reports of people waiting in line for hours on end because of machine failures, poll workers who didn’t know how to operate the machines, insufficient numbers of voting machines and general poor administration of election systems. In Tennessee for example, too few machines in one jurisdiction led to waiting times of five and a half hours. In Prince George’s County, Maryland, voters stood in line for hours as poll workers struggled with voting technology and new voter registration procedures.

In all of these places, many voters left without casting a ballot. This denial of voting rights disproportionately impacts working people, especially those who have work or family duties that prevent them from having enough time on Election Day to stand on long lines or make multiple trips to the polls. There must be statewide standards for sufficient and equal distribution of voting machines, improved and standardized training and testing of poll workers, and increased resources to ensure sufficient numbers of machines and professionals operating them in every jurisdiction.

Across the country voters noticed that electronic machines “flipped” their votes when the vote summary screen indicated that the machine registered a vote for the opponent of their desired candidate. Elsewhere, voters complained that, despite going through the steps required by the machine, their vote for certain races never registered. Problems caused by inadequate procedures for making the best decisions about voting machines will be solved by demanding accountable, accessible and transparent voting technology.

Deceptive Practices

Voters also encountered problems before they even arrived at their polling place. Voters complained of cynical and fraudulent activities of both campaigns and individuals. In Orange County, California, a congressional campaign sent 14,000 voters with Hispanic surnames a letter advising recipients that “if you’re an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that can result in incarceration,” or deportation. While illegal immigrants are barred from voting, legal immigrants who have become citizens are of course permitted to do so. In Virginia there were numerous reports of voters receiving calls telling them, falsely, that their polling place had changed, and telling them to go to the wrong precinct. Similar reports came in from New Mexico. In Colorado it was reported that Hispanics were getting phone calls telling them they were not registered and that they might be arrested if they voted. In heavily Democratic Maryland, materials were distributed statewide that suggested Republican candidates actually represented the Democratic Party, causing widespread confusion.

States and the federal government must do more to prevent and punish those who would commit this type of fraud. This means taking measures to directly criminalize such activity and requiring election administrators and elected officials to take proactive steps to ensure that voters are made aware of the deception and provided with the correct information immediately.

Voter Registration Problems

Voting rights advocates widely predicted that many voters would appear at the polling place to find their names not on the registration list. It was an easy prediction given the fact that many states were imposing unnecessarily high hurdles to registration. This included states requiring exact matches between voter registration information and information in existing state databases—despite the overwhelming evidence that much of that information is inaccurate because administration of both the registration rolls and other state databases is often inexact, frequently causing the names and other information in the databases to be incorrect. In other states, new registration requirements for proof of citizenship and rules virtually shutting down voter registration drives by civic organizations both reduced registration rates and made it more likely that voters would be left off the rolls.

On Election Day, voters from Georgia to California who were eligible to vote and submitted a timely voter registration form were turned away at the polls because their names did not show up on the registration lists. In some situations, these voters complained that they were not provided a provisional ballot.

These problems underscore the importance of fair and effective protocols for matching voter registration information and the elimination of rules requiring an “exact match”; the abolition of rules requiring proof of citizenship in order to register, when voters already must swear an oath under penalty of a felony that they are a citizen; and only reasonable rules governing third party voter registration drives, not rules that are meant to shut such worthy and essential services down.

Of course, Americans deserve better than what many thousands of them experienced on Election Day 2006. The infrastructure that supports our voting system should be strong and responsive to the will of the voters. Our democratic values demand that issues around election reform be considered outside of politics and the campaign cycle. In short, Congress and the states must move forward on meaningful reforms that strengthen citizen confidence in the system and expand access to all eligible Americans, as well as the resources necessary to make our democracy the model for the world.

Tova Andrea Wang is a Democracy Fellow at The Century Foundation. Jonah Goldman is the director of the National Campaign for Fair Elections. This article first appeared on

Much to think about in these next days...and much to do. Undoubtedly the advice of the Buddhist poets should be heeded too, at least a few minutes a day. And if it is your preferred tradition, a prayer wouldn't hurt either.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Now What!

Nowadays there is no one capable of being dumbfounded.

---Soen Nakagawa

The fire-fly
gives light
to its pursuer.


Wealth is the number of things one can do without.

---Feodor Dostoyevsky

Most of the post-election smoke cleared by this weekend here in the States---there still are some contests in contention or recount---and the weekend brought a wagonload of analysis, talking heads, menus of work to be done, and a lot of advice on all sides. With a month and a half before the Democrats move into Congress to take charge, Republicans are scurrying to cram through what they can of Bush's agenda. It won't be easy for them though...not as it's been these half dozen years. I found 3 articles this morning that might be of help and interest in the understanding of where this nation goes now. They follow this credit for Mr. Fish's devastating editorial cartoon.

Carl Hulse has a fine projection in this morning's New York Times on what we might expect from Congress through December~~~
The New York Times
November 13, 2006
For Post-Election Congress, Extensive To-Do List Is Awaiting Action

WASHINGTON, Nov. 12 — The Democrats won the midterm elections, but time has not run out on the Republican majority in Congress.

Despite devastating losses at the polls, Republicans will control the post-election session that opens Monday as lawmakers return to try to finish 10 overdue spending bills and other legislation that stalled because of pre-election gamesmanship.

Republican leaders have compiled an ambitious to-do list, hoping to dispose of energy legislation, a trade deal or two, a civilian nuclear treaty with India and other favored bills before turning over the keys to the House and Senate chambers to the Democrats in January.

Democrats have some measures they want completed as well, most notably the spending bills, to save them the added work next year.

President Bush, hoping to get the most out of the remaining days of a Republican majority, is pressing two contentious matters: legislation authorizing domestic wiretapping by the National Security Agency and the nomination of John R. Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations. And the Senate has scheduled confirmation hearings for Robert M. Gates to be the new secretary of defense to begin the week of Dec 4.

Members of both parties in Congress have all but written off the wiretapping legislation and the Bolton nomination, given the strong Democratic opposition and the impending power shift. It is also uncertain how hard Congressional Republicans will be willing to press Mr. Bush’s more divisive issues. Some have expressed anger at his decision to remove Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld the day after the election, contending that earlier action might have cut Republican losses.

“The only things that can get done in the lame duck are things that have the consent of both sides,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York. “You can bluster around all you want, but it is not going to happen. Anything controversial just by definition won’t get done.”

The White House still intends to seek approval of Mr. Bolton and the eavesdropping program, said Mr. Bush’s press secretary, Tony Snow, but it is not doing so to be “provocative” in the wake of the election.

“Those are goals: an effective U.N. ambassador, also an effective way of going after terrorists,” Mr. Snow said. “Those are both constructive and important goals, and we’ll see how the lame duck works through it.”

Besides tackling a legislative workload that may take Congress well into December, the parties will elect new leadership for the 110th Congress. House Democrats and Republicans will decide contested races for top positions.

Though they will not be sworn in until January, members elected last week will be on hand for the leadership battles and for freshman orientation, creating the potentially awkward situation of bumping into the lawmakers they defeated. It looms as a difficult period for the 6 Republican senators and more than 20 House members who will be casting their final votes in the last gasps of the 109th Congress.

“We lost some good friends on our side, and we are going to miss those folks,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is expected to be elected the new Republican leader this week. “It will be sad.”

Mr. McConnell said he thought that Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada and the incoming majority leader, laid out a reasonable agenda last week in a letter to Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader who is winding up his Senate career.

Mr. Reid urged Republicans to focus on the unfinished spending bills; a nuclear agreement with India; an offshore oil drilling bill; legislation to prepare for a potential flu pandemic and a biological attack; and a package of popular tax breaks.

“I think it is a good list, and if we can accomplish those things that would be a very productive lame duck,” Mr. McConnell said, “and I like his attitude about it.”

But the legislative agenda could shift quickly when lawmakers arrive with their own ideas of what should be on the table.

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, elected as an independent, said Sunday on “Meet the Press” on NBC that he wanted Congress to take up the lobbying and ethics changes that died before the election. Some Democrats want to push changes in Iraq policy, and Republicans also expect Democrats to try to make early moves on domestic elements of their agenda.

In the first test of the bipartisan spirit that followed the elections, the House on Monday is set to approve a trade deal with Vietnam that Mr. Bush would like to have in his pocket as he travels to Hanoi this week for a regional trade meeting. But senators in both parties have raised objections to the deal that the administration is trying to resolve, and the fate of the trade pact is uncertain.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

What many await are hearings into the activities of this most secretive of all American administrations. Nat Parry put together a laundry list for us at

Bush's Belated Accountability Moment
By Nat Parry
November 12, 2006

After securing a second term in November 2004, George W. Bush was asked by the Washington Post why no one in his administration had been held accountable for the problems facing U.S. troops in Iraq. Bush replied dismissively, “We had an accountability moment, and that’s called the 2004 elections.”

The President echoed that sentiment two weeks before this year's Nov. 7 balloting, rejecting the notion that the midterm elections could serve as a check on his administration. Accountability, Bush said, is “what the 2004 campaign was about.”

But it appears Bush may have spoken too soon. With the Democratic sweep of Congress, the White House finds itself confronting the likelihood of a more systematic and more rigorous form of accountability from congressional Democrats newly armed with subpoena powers.

Rep. John Conyers, who has been holding investigative hearings into administration wrongdoing from the Capitol basement because the Republican congressional leadership denied him a committee room, now stands poised to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Though handicapped in his earlier investigations, the Michigan Democrat unearthed and documented a staggering array of White House deceptions that led the United States into war, as well as evidence of other abuses such as torture, warrantless domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency, and erosion of civil liberties.

Constitution in Crisis

Conyers's 350-page report, “Constitution in Crisis,” deals with the so-called Downing Street Minutes, which revealed that the Bush administration was “fixing” the intelligence on weapons of mass destruction to justify a pre-ordained policy of war against Iraq.

The “single overriding characteristic running through all of the allegations of misconduct … has been the unwillingness of the Bush Administration to allow its actions to be subject to any form of meaningful outside review,” the report said.

“Not only were 122 Members of Congress unable to obtain any response to their questions posed regarding the Downing Street Minutes,” the report goes on, “but neither the House nor the Senate has ever engaged in any serious review of the facts surrounding the NSA domestic spying programs.”

That dynamic could change with the new make-up of Congress. Not only will Conyers be chairing the Judiciary Committee, but Henry Waxman, D-California, will be taking over the House Committee on Government Reform.

Complementing Conyers’s investigations into pre-war manipulations of intelligence have been Waxman’s investigations into administration favoritism toward Halliburton, which was formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney.

The Texas-based company has profited handsomely by securing no-bid contracts for everything from rebuilding in Iraq, to supplying U.S. troops with food, to repairing government facilities damaged by Hurricane Katrina, to building detention facilities in the U.S. [For more information on the latter, see’s “Bush’s Mysterious ‘New Programs.’”]

According to an analysis by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, these no-bid contracts have contributed to the value of Cheney’s Halliburton stock options rising by more than 3,000 percent. In 2005, Cheney’s stock options increased in value from $241,498 to over $8 million.

“It is unseemly,” noted Lautenberg, “for the Vice President to continue to benefit from this company at the same time his administration funnels billions of dollars to it.”

Another issue that could be explored by Waxman’s committee is the content of the Energy Task Force meetings during the early days of the Bush administration. Though ordered by a federal judge to release the task force records completely, the administration heavily redacted the 13,500 pages of documents.

Before turning the records over to the Natural Resources Defense Council as ordered by the judge, the administration removed extensive portions of information. “Some pages were empty,” said the NRDC. “Whole strings of correspondence were stripped to just a few words.”

Nevertheless, the records revealed that energy industry lobbyists played a pivotal role in developing the administration’s national energy strategy, and actually wrote much of it themselves.

“The administration sought the advice of polluting corporations early and often and then incorporated their recommendations into its policy, sometimes verbatim,” according to the NRDC.

Oil Fields

Though most attention on the Energy Task Force has focused on the perceived impropriety of oil companies dictating national energy policy, another concern is that the energy companies may have influenced the administration’s decision to invade Iraq.

In 2004, reporter Jane Mayer disclosed a National Security Council document dated Feb. 3, 2001. It instructed NSC officials to cooperate with Cheney’s Energy Task Force, explaining that the task force was “melding” two previously unrelated areas of policy: “the review of operational policies towards rogue states” and “actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields.”

Mayer’s discovery suggests that the Bush administration in its first days recognized the linkage between ousting the likes of Saddam Hussein and securing oil reserves for future U.S. consumption. In other words, the Cheney task force appears to have had a military component to “capture” oil fields in “rogue states.” [For details on Mayer’s document, see The New Yorker, Feb. 16, 2004.]

The NSC document reinforced allegations made by Bush’s first Treasury secretary, Paul O’Neill, who described a similar early linkage between invading Iraq and controlling its vast oil reserves.
In Ron Suskind’s The Price of Loyalty, O’Neill described the first NSC meeting at the White House only a few days into Bush’s presidency. An invasion of Iraq was already on the agenda, O’Neill said. There was even a map for a post-war occupation, marking out how Iraq’s oil fields would be carved up.

O’Neill said even at that early date, the goal of invading Iraq was clear. The message from Bush was “find a way to do this,” according to O’Neill, who was forced out of the administration in December 2002.

Combined with the Downing Street Minutes, O’Neill’s account provides substantial evidence that the Bush administration had decided early on to invade Iraq, and simply decided on weapons of mass destruction as the most convenient pretext for war.

Words of Caution

Another investigation-worthy topic about the run-up to war is how the Bush administration dismissed and rejected words of caution from knowledgeable sources inside and outside the U.S. government.

Although many Bush defenders now claim that no one could have foreseen what a disaster the war would turn out to be, there were those who urged caution before the invasion, including members of Bush’s own administration.

Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser under George H.W. Bush and chairman of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board under George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005, said a strike on Iraq “could unleash an Armageddon in the Middle East.”

Also, retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, who served as a Middle East envoy for George W. Bush, warned in October 2002 that by invading Iraq, “we are about to do something that will ignite a fuse in this region that we will rue the day we ever started.”

America’s closest ally in the invasion, the United Kingdom, also had strong reservations. Although publicly British officials supported Bush’s calls to forcibly “disarm” Iraq, behind the scenes, they worried that the war was poorly conceived, possibly illegal and potentially disastrous.

Internal government documents disclosed in 2005 by British journalist Michael Smith indicate that British officials foresaw a host of problems, including weak intelligence on Iraq, lack of public support for war and poor planning for the aftermath of military action.

The investigations by John Conyers and Henry Waxman – both armed with subpoena powers – could connect the dots linking Cheney's Energy Task Force, oil companies, Halliburton, pre-war deceptions and poor post-invasion planning.

The results of that investigation might shock the American people, adding to public pressure for impeachment.

Off the Table?

Though incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has declared impeachment of Bush and Cheney “off the table,” it's unclear what would happen if the White House chooses to stonewall congressional oversight or if investigations turn up damaging evidence of grave abuses of power.
Already, there are those such as former Nixon administration counsel John W. Dean who argue that Bush-Cheney’s crimes are worse than Richard Nixon’s and are grounds for impeachment.

There is also a fledgling grassroots movement for impeachment that could gather force in the coming months, emboldened by the Democratic victory. In Philadelphia, activists, lawyers and a former member of Congress held a forum this weekend to launch a new movement for impeaching Bush and Cheney.

Pelosi’s own constituents in San Francisco voted decisively on Election Day to endorse Bush and Cheney’s removal from office. Proposition J, which called for impeachment, passed with the 59 percent of the vote.

In his presidential news conference the day after the election, Bush was asked if he was “prepared to deal with the level of oversight and investigation that is possibly going to come from one chamber or two in Congress?”

Bush replied that the Democrats “are going to have to make up their mind about how they’re going to conduct their affairs.”

If it is left up to the likes of Conyers and Waxman, who seem to have already made up their minds, Bush might finally learn what an “accountability moment” really means.
Reference links are in the text at the original article.

Finally, we have a rejoinder to all these goings on from a neocon. Joshua Muravchik is an author and a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Educated at City College of New York and Georgetown, he's one of those interesting characters who abandoned the socialist left in the early '70s, and went way right. In this article, entitled "Operation Comeback" he sketches the strategy the neoconservative movement should attempt at this point---including the bombing of Iran before Bush's term is finished. This man's thinking on how to save the neocons is not to be ignored!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Phil Mattson Brings Us Jazz Choirs

In this photo from a rare LP are (l-r) Jason Smith, Michele Weir, Mary Schmid, Sara Jennison, Joe Finetti and John Paddock: The P.M. Singers (1984, corrections welcome) Posted by Picasa

Time is simply God's way of keeping everything from happening all at once.


No, no, you're not thinking, you're just being logical.

---Niels Bohr

The most important thing in music is what is not the notes.

---Pablo Casals

About 20 years ago I learned something was happening in a kind of music I like, but it wasn't until yesterday I found out what it was. You'd think in this day of instant communication I could have done better than that, and probably were I a musician I might have known more or sooner. Some of my most important lessons have dawned slowly I guess, and that's OK. It makes aging tolerable.

People who know me pretty well realize I've always liked singing groups...especially ones with close and intriguing harmonies. I've never been a singer though---except for a couple of unique occasions when I got talked into something. But a year ago my wife and a conductor ganged up on me and I've joined a choir. Look, I'm at the age when a guy should do everybody a favor and stop singing, but of course I seem to live a lot of life backwards and so suddenly I'm learning more about group vocalizing.

So on with the story: back 20 years I understood the vocal groups I liked (The Four Freshmen, The Hi-Lo's and even some Beach Boys) were pretty much past their prime and it was the end of an era. There was a group around called The Manhattan Transfer whose repertoire tried to cover everybody from The Pied Pipers (who had the breathtaking Jo Stafford singing lead---and Frank Sinatra sometimes adding a high baritone) to Lambert, Hendricks and Ross with some doo-wop in between, but clearly there wasn't much of an audience even for them...except when they made a disco hit out of the theme from Twilight Zone. But I ran across an LP in a cut-out bin by some people called Phil Mattson and the P.M. Singers that suddenly perked up my musical life

.The record was on a label called Doctor Jazz that just had tanked in 1986, despite the fascinating and skillful production of afficionado Bob Thiele. We jazz fans unfortunately are used to recording companies that start up and go down faster than it takes to get the records into a shop downtown. This item's title was Setting Standards, the 6 young people on the cover looked irresistibly fresh and healthy, and the selections included Body And Soul, a song written by Joni Mitchell, Richie Cole's New York Afternoon, and Thad Jones' lovely instrumental, A Child Is Born. For a couple bucks I had to find out what was going on.

The set turned out to be one of my favorites, especially the words someone had set to and the performance of A Child Is Born...which still is so moving tears come to my eyes. The piece is pretty much a capella, except for an occasional piano chord and tinkle...but the P.M. Singers' intonation is so perfect, it made my hair stand on end. The cover had almost no information about who these people were, but I assumed Phil Mattson must be one of them and I picked out a guy who seemed to be standing commandingly in the picture. There were no liner notes and all the credits said was Mattson had arranged the whole thing---except A Child Is Born, which had been done by somebody named Michele Weir. Their version of Body And Soul was the same Manhattan Transfer had on their Extensions album from 1979, and I assumed this one was just an OK cover.

Slow forward now to an email last month from my college buddy, Don Frese, over in Maryland. He writes he's just sprung a bundle for a 5 CD set that he knows I'd love so much he's ordered another one for me. Watch for a package from some place in California, he says, and let him know if it gets there. This guy's a collector too, so I'm lickin' my chops for a couple days. When it arrives, inside is a highly coveted collection of highlights from a 4 day festival in 1991 to honor the career of Stan Kenton. Practically everybody who'd ever been in a Kenton band and still could hold a horn---and some who couldn't---were there playing old and new or reminiscing with incredible stories of being on the road.

So of course, it's wonderful and I'll be forever grateful---but when Don wrote back he wanted to know what I thought of the vocal version of Intermission Riff. I hadn't gotten that far through it, so I went into Volume 4. Well, it was a choir of 13 singers who somehow managed, with the inevitable help of a trombone or 2, to capture the sound and spirit of how the Kenton band did it every night. I spotted the leader's name---and thank goodness my memory for some things still is hanging on. It was Michele Weir. I knew I had seen that name somewhere...and went right to that old LP.

Google to the rescue! In the meantime, it turns out Michele has blossomed into one of the most respected vocal arrangers anywhere. She has a solo album celebrating that impeccable intonation by carrying only acoustic guitar accompaniment. But most of her website seems to advertise and praise the gifts of this Mattson guy. Finding anything about him turns out to be a bit trickier. There's one site that carries about a dozen of his CDs, most on the label of The School For Music Vocations (do I sense a pun?) which must be connected to the Southwestern Community College, because that name's on there too, over in Creston, whichever corn field that might be! I ordered a shopping cart full, including a reissue of the Doctor Jazz because my LP is pretty worn out.

I Google on after Phil Mattson, and yesterday found a Phd thesis by Sheryl Lynn Monkelien for the University of Nebraska in 2001. It's a very formal 182 pages and costs $30 to I settle for a preview. The Influence Of Phil Mattson On Vocal Jazz Education In America: A Case Study. She says she ran across this guy when she got her first teaching job in a high school out on the prairie somewhere. Her assignment included the choral program, so she was going through the library assembled by her predecessor. The arrangements looked very strange to her and quite difficult. She was unfamiliar with any of this material, although apparently well prepared for her post. She went to the principal and made the comment that these charts didn't seem typical for a high school swing choir. The principal said, "That's because we don't have a swing choir. We have a jazz choir."

A JAZZ choir! What's that? She went back to the arrangements, noticed Mattson's name on some, and decided to look him up. Lo, he's giving seminars and intensives and stuff in Iowa, so she signs on for one. Another disciple is born.

Now look, I'm not a big fan of the word "guru," especially when it's used to describe anybody with a special knowledge for sale. But I have to admit guru seems to apply to Phil Mattson. First of all, he was not the good looking guy on the P.M. Singers LP. (Oh, Mattson's still good looking...but in a rather more weathered way.) In fact, apparently he wasn't among the singers at all. He's the keyboard player. He arranged Body And Soul for Manhatten Transfer, and it sounds like him playing there too. He also prepared the gorgeous I Remember Clifford on the Transfer's classic Vocalese album. Michele Weir was one of the P.M. Singers, which were nominated for 2 Grammies by the way during their brief existence, and is one of the beautiful people looking out of that cover art.

Phil Mattson has stayed afloat somehow during this trying era of arts privatization. (Don't worry, that's as political as I'm going to get in this.) Amazingly from out there in Iowa somewhere, somehow he's revolutionized choral singing...and mostly he's done it one kid at a time. He had a group that recorded before P.M. Singers that he called The Fanfairs. Of their 4 releases in the 70s on the Foothill label, one copy of A Tribute To Gene Puerling still exists at a rare record site. I'm fighting the temptation to spend the $25 for it. After the P.M. Singers, there doesn't seem to be another of his groups surfacing until 1995, when comes along VoicesIowa. They have a few releases available...and each one clearly has at least one moment of staggering ensemble brilliance. In 1999, he formed Vocalogy and recorded an album of The Sacred Choral Music Of Duke Ellington. Whether or not you knew there was any, I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in choirs, jazz or otherwise. Mr. Mattson likes to work with 6 singers I guess, and that's what he's got here. He plays a lot of piano on this disc...and Duke would have loved it! If you're interested in learning more or finding any of this stuff, get in touch.