Filibuster Derails Supreme Court Appointment
Let the truth set you free:
October 1, 1968
In June 1968, Chief Justice Earl Warren informed President Lyndon Johnson that he planned to retire from the Supreme Court. Concern that Richard Nixon might win the presidency later that year and get to choose his successor dictated Warren's timing.
In the final months of his presidency, Johnson shared Warren's concerns about Nixon and welcomed the opportunity to add his third appointee to the Court. To replace Warren, he nominated Associate Justice Abe Fortas, his longtime confidant. Anticipating Senate concerns about the prospective chief justice's liberal opinions, Johnson simultaneously declared his intention to fill the vacancy created by Fortas' elevation with Appeals Court Judge Homer Thornberry. The president believed that Thornberry, a Texan, would mollify skeptical southern senators.
A seasoned Senate vote-counter, Johnson concluded that despite filibuster warnings he just barely had the support to confirm Fortas. The president took encouragement from indications that his former Senate mentor, Richard Russell, and Republican Minority Leader Everett Dirksen would support Fortas, whose legal brilliance both men respected.
The president soon lost Russell's support, however, because of administration delays in nominating the senator's candidate to a Georgia federal judgeship. Johnson urged Senate leaders to waste no time in convening Fortas' confirmation hearings. Responding to staff assurances of Dirksen's continued support, Johnson told an aide, "Just take my word for it. I know [Dirksen]. I know the Senate. If they get this thing drug out very long, we're going to get beat. Dirksen will leave us."
Fortas became the first sitting associate justice, nominated for chief justice, to testify at his own confirmation hearing. Those hearings reinforced what some senators already knew about the nominee. As a sitting justice, he regularly attended White House staff meetings; he briefed the president on secret Court deliberations; and, on behalf of the president, he pressured senators who opposed the war in Vietnam. When the Judiciary Committee revealed that Fortas received a privately funded stipend, equivalent to 40 percent of his Court salary, to teach an American University summer course, Dirksen and others withdrew their support. Although the committee recommended confirmation, floor consideration sparked the first filibuster in Senate history on a Supreme Court nomination.
On October 1, 1968, the Senate failed to invoke cloture. Johnson then withdrew the nomination, privately observing that if he had another term, "the Fortas appointment would have been different."
Could You Be A Democrat?
by Mary Schumacher
Although Democrats have been taking a beating at election time, polls keep indicating broad public support for Democratic ideas and ideals, and dissatisfaction with the direction and aims of Bush and his party. There seem to be a lot of people out there who, for one reason or another, don't know they're Democrats. If you have any of these people among your friends and acquaintances, you might want to pass along this statement of Democratic beliefs and values to help them realize who they really are:
Democrats believe in self government -- based in the widest possible participation of all citizens from all walks of life, as opposed to government controlled mostly or exclusively by elite and powerful, but limited, interests.
Democrats believe that government must be useful and responsive. They disdain empty grandiosity and dishonest pomp -- a staged landing on an aircraft carrier or a fake townhall, for instance -- designed to glorify officials and promote awe of government authority rather than respect for democracy and democratic power.
Democrats abhor (and will rebel against) government that is narrow, self-interested and authoritarian (the kind of government today's Republicans, or at least the limited, powerful interests who now control the party, seek).
Democrats believe that democratic government is the best tool ever devised to bring the diverse people, interests and resources of a complex society together to effectively solve common, society-wide problems or to achieve important society-wide goals.
Democrats don't "believe" in "big" government, but they do understand that solutions to big problems, or the achievement of big goals -– protecting the elderly, meeting our moral obligations to the vulnerable, disabled and ill, protecting natural resources, defending our homeland, exploring space, recovering from economic or natural disaster, finding solutions to our energy and other kinds of crisis, etc. -- require big resources that often can be most efficiently, or only, marshaled and distributed through government actions in which the people broadly participate and that they broadly support. Democrats believe in government big enough -- but no bigger than necessary -- to accomplish the job at hand.
Democrats believe the people have the right to, and, in the cause of protecting their liberty m
Bush Lies, America Cries
By Mark Morford
The San Francisco Chronicle
This just in: Global terrorism rates are higher than any time since 1985. Thanks, Dubya!
Oh my God I feel so much safer. Don't you? I mean, don't you feel so much more secure in your all-American gun-totin' oil-happy lifestyle now that we have wasted upward of $300 billion worth of your child's future education budget, along with 1,600 disposable young American lives and over 20,000 innocent Iraqi lives and about 10,000 severed American limbs and untold wads of our spiritual and moral currency, all to protect America from terrorism that is, by every account, only getting worse? Nastier? More nebulous? More anti-American?
Here's something funny, in a rip-your-patriotic-heart-out-and-spit-on-it sort of way: Just last week, BushCo's State Department decided to kill the publication of an annual report on international terrorism. Why? Well, because the government's top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985. Isn't that hilarious? Isn't that heartwarming? Your tax dollars at work, sweetheart.
Lest you forget, this is what they do. They trim. They edit. They censor. BushCo kills what they do not like and fudges negative data where they see fit and completely rewrites whatever the hell they want, and that includes bogus WMD reports and CIA investigations and dire environmental studies and scientific proofs about everything from evolution to abortion and pollution and clean air, right along with miserable unemployment data and all manner of research pointing up the ill health of the nation, the spirit, the world.
In other words, if BushCo doesn't like what comes out of their own hobbled agencies and their own funded studies, they do what any good dictatorship does: They annihilate it. Now that's good gummint!
Let's be clear: The obliteration of the National Counterterrorism Center report merely goes to prove what so many of us already know - that BushCo's brutish and borderline traitorous actions since they leveraged 9/11 to blatantly screw the nation have done exactly nothing to stem the tide of terrorism - and, in fact, have, by most every measure, apparently increased the threat of terrorism. In other words, the world is a more dangerous place because of George W. Bush. Is that clear enough?
Let's put it another way: Under Bush, in the past five years, the US has made zero new friends. But we have made a huge number of new and increasingly venomous enemies. And no, they don't hate us because of our malls, Dubya. They don't hate us because of our freedoms. They don't hate us because of our low-cut jeans and our moronic 8 mpg Ford Expeditions or our corrupt Diebold voting system that snuck you into office.
They hate us, George, because of our policies. Anti-Muslim. Pro-Israel. Oil-uber-alles. Anti-UN Anti-Kyoto. Anti-planet. Pro-war. Pro-insularity. Pseudo-swagger. Bogus staged "town hall" meetings stocked with prescreened monosyllabic Bush sycophants. Ego. Empire.
But here's the truly sad part, the hideous and depressing and soul-shredding part about all those young kids in the US military right now, all those mostly undereducated, lower-middle-class kids, most of whom aren't even old enough to buy beer and many of whom have barely had sex and many who got sucked into the military vortex in an honest attempt to help pay for a college education so they could go out and not find a decent job in this miserable economy. The sad part is all those kids in the military who've been trained/brainwashed to believe they are serving in Iraq to protect America's freedom, to protect us from, well, something dark, and sinister, and deadly. When in fact, they're not. Not even close.
The truth is, we were never under threat from Iraq. There were never any WMDs, and Bush knew it. Our military is protecting nothing so much as our access to future stores of petroleum, nothing so much as helping set up a giant police station in Iraq to ensure surrounding nations don't get all uppity about just who controls the rights to those oil fields.
So let's get honest and just ask it outright: Is this a worthy use of the massive bloated machine that is the US military? Of the largest and most advanced fighting force in the world? To protect the flow of oil to the most gluttonous and wasteful and least accountable developed nation on the planet? Is this worth so many young American lives?
You already know the answer. Ask any oil exec. Any government economist. Any BushCo war hawk or auto manufacturer or the leaders of any major manufacturing industry. Ask the president himself. They all say the same thing: You're goddamn right it is.
Here, then, is the warped, convoluted irony: We went to war under the lie of a Saddam-fueled terrorism threat that never existed. We are at war, instead, to protect our oil and to establish regional control, an act that, in turn, has destabilized the Middle East even further and is actually inciting much of the very terrorism we were ostensibly there to battle in the first place, thus producing a level of anti-US hatred not even a (still alive and apparently very chipper) Osama bin Laden could have wet dreamed. Isn't democracy fun?
We are not "spreading democracy" by invading Iraq. We are not giving a gift of a more peaceable Iraq to a grateful world. That is merely insidious Republican PR spin. Right now, the US military is, in short, protecting your right to a $3 gallon of gas, which will soon be $4 and then maybe $5 and $6 as we are running out of the stuff faster than anyone thought and the fight for that which remains will only turn uglier and more violent and so I have to ask again, do you feel safer?
Because if you say yes, you are, quite simply, lying. Or delusional. Or you have had your brain edited by BushCo. Or those are some mighty powerful drugs you are obviously taking and you might wish to consider switching to aspirin and wine and Fleshbot.com.
They say that violence is the last refuge of a desperate nation. And violence under the guise of secrecy and outright lie such as BushCo has foisted upon the nation is the last refuge of a nation of thugs. Yes, I'm looking at you, Rummy. I'm looking at you, Cheney. I'm not looking at you, Karl Rove, because looking at you makes my colon clench and looking at you makes birds die and looking at you makes small children feel hopeless and lost, like the world is full of black venomous hate and bilious condescension that is aimed squarely at their heads, like a gun.
It's true. We are living in a nation run by over-privileged alcoholic frat boys and power-mad thugs. This much we know. This much we need to be reminded of, over and over again, until we finally wake up.
Ah, but there is good news. There is always good news. The good news is, they are now confiscating all cigarette lighters at the airport. In the name of safety. In the name of homeland security. In the name of America, apple pie, babies, puppies, Jesus and guns. Lighters are now forbidden on all air travel. I mean, thank God. I feel safer already.
FBI Declares Bin Laden US Citizen?
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that fights government corruption, announced today that it has obtained documents through the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) in which the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) has invoked privacy right protections on behalf of al Qaeda terror leader Osama bin Laden. In a September 24, 2003 declassified “Secret” FBI report obtained by Judicial Watch, the FBI invoked Exemption 6 under FOIA law on behalf of bin Laden, which permits the government to withhold all information about U.S. persons in “personnel and medical files and similar files” when the disclosure of such information “would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” (5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(6) (2000))
Before invoking privacy protections for Osama bin Laden under Exemption 6, the FBI should have conducted a balancing “test” of the public's right to disclosure against the individual's right to privacy. Many of the references in the redacted documents cite publicly available news articles from sources such as The Washington Post and Associated Press. Based on its analysis of the news stories cited in the FBI report, Judicial Watch was able to determine that bin Laden’s name was redacted from the document, including newspaper headlines in the footnoted citations.
“It is dumbfounding that the United States government has placed a higher priority on the supposed privacy rights of Osama bin Laden than the public’s right to know what happened in the days following the September 11 terrorist attacks,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It is difficult for me to imagine a greater insult to the American people, especially those whose loved ones were murdered by bin Laden on that day.”
The redacted documents were obtained by Judicial Watch under the provisions of the FOIA and through ongoing litigation (Judicial Watch v. Department of Homeland Security & Federal Bureau of Investigation, No. 04-1643 (RWR)). Among the documents was a declassified “Secret” FBI report, dated September 24, 2003, entitled: “Response to October 2003 Vanity Fair Article (Re: [Redacted] Family Departures After 9/11/2001).” Judicial Watch filed its original FOIA request on October 7, 2003. The full text of the report and related documents are available on the Internet by clicking here
(Adobe Acrobat Reader required).
What I Didn't See in Iraq
by Jim McGovern
Representative, Third Congressional District, Massachusetts.
Trust me when I tell you things are so much better in Iraq," said one US military official to me on my recent visit to that war-ravaged country. I didn't know whether to scream or pull the remaining two strands of hair out of my head. I was in Iraq as part of a delegation of eight members of Congress, led by House minority leader Nancy Pelosi. Everything we have been told about Iraq by the Bush Administration has either been an outright lie or overwhelmingly false. There were no weapons of mass destruction; we have not been greeted as liberators; and the cost in terms of blood and treasure has outpaced even their worst-case scenarios. Trust is something I cannot give to this Administration.
If things in Iraq are so much better, why are we not decreasing the number of US forces there? Why is the insurgency showing no signs of waning? Why are we being told that in a few months the Administration will again ask Congress for billions of dollars more to fight the war? Why, according to the World Food Program, is hunger among the Iraqi people getting worse? It's time for some candor, but candor is hard to come by in Iraq
We were in Iraq for one day--for security reasons, it is US policy that Congressional delegations are not allowed to spend the night. We spent most of our time in the heavily fortified Green Zone, which serves as coalition headquarters. It's the most heavily guarded encampment I've ever seen--and it still gets attacked. I even had armed guards accompany me to the bathroom. The briefings we received from US military and diplomatic officials were, to say the least, unsatisfying. The Nixonian approach that our military and diplomatic leaders have adopted in dealing with visiting members of Congress is aimed more at saving face than at engaging in an honest dialogue. At first, our briefers wanted to get away with slick slide presentations, but we insisted on asking real questions and attempting to get real answers
During one such briefing, Lieut. Gen. David Petraeus, tasked with overseeing training of Iraqi security forces, informed us that 147,000 Iraqis had been trained. That sounded good to me. Perhaps we could start reducing the number of American forces, I suggested. But upon further questioning, General Petraeus conceded that less than one-fourth of the 147,000 were actually "combat capable." Why didn't he say that to begin with? I asked--respectfully--our military and diplomatic officials what the gap was between the Iraqis we have trained and the number we needed to train in order to draw down the number of US troops. I could not get a straight answer.
During the morning of our visit, US military officials crowed about a recent operation in which Iraqi security forces had killed eighty-five insurgents. By the afternoon, when more reports came in, it was unclear how many insurgents had actually been killed and whether the Iraqi security forces had exaggerated their own actions.
I asked both General Petraeus and our embassy about US plans to build military bases in Iraq, which in my view would indicate a prolonged US presence. I was told--emphatically--that there are no plans to construct military bases. Yet Congress recently passed a huge supplemental wartime appropriations bill that includes, at the request of the Bush Administration, $500 million for military base construction. In Iraq.
Shortly before we traveled to Iraq we visited Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who lamented the mistakes the United States has made post-invasion, including the total dissolution of all the Iraqi security forces. He said, "The army you disbanded is now the army you're fighting." But I couldn't get a single US official to acknowledge any mistakes. The standard line remains, "We're moving in the right direction."
It's hard to believe that after a two-year occupation the average Iraqi isn't getting tired of the overwhelming US presence. We met with several Iraqi women leaders, including members of the National Assembly, who told us that there was more electricity available in Iraq before the invasion than afterward. It's also certain that the insurgency uses our presence as an organizing tool to recruit members and weapons. While we can all be encouraged by the turnout in the recent Iraqi elections, it is impossible for the Iraqi people to truly determine their own fate in a climate where there is no security.
And while US officials point to a declining number of coalition casualties, there is still an unacceptably high level of violence in Iraq. One military leader told us they can tell that things are changing for the better because when US helicopters fly over certain areas of Iraq, Iraqis wave. Well, I took a helicopter ride (it's too dangerous to drive) from the Baghdad airport to the Green Zone wearing an armored vest and sandwiched between two heavily armed American soldiers who were pointing their guns down at the ground. I suggested to the military leader that perhaps he was confusing a wave with a plea not to shoot.
Our young men and women in uniform are performing their difficult duties extraordinarily well. Indeed, the only honest and direct responses I got from any American in Iraq were from the soldiers. They told me they had been instructed by their superiors not to share any complaints with visitors.
What worries me almost as much as our misguided policy in Iraq is that so many of my colleagues and so many citizens have become resigned to the fact that the war will go on. Congress is not being inundated with letters and phone calls and faxes and e-mails and street protests demanding an end to our presence in Iraq. President Bush's re-election seems to have taken much of the energy out of the antiwar movement. My recent visit to Iraq only strengthened my belief that this war is wrong. And only renewed, passionate dissent by the American people can end it.
The Gates of Hell are Open in Iraq
by Jawad al-Khalisi
Ayatollah Jawad al-Khalisi is secretary general of the Iraqi National Foundation Congress, an alliance of secular and religious organisations covering all religious and ethnic groups in Iraq .
The US-British occupation of Iraq is poisoning all political processes in my country and across the Middle East. The elections held under the control of the occupying forces in January were neither free nor fair. Instead of being a step towards solving Iraq's problems, they have been used to prolong foreign rule over the Iraqi people.
Only when the occupiers withdraw from the country can Iraq take the first secure steps towards peace and stability. Once a strict timetable for withdrawal is set, Iraq's political forces could freely agree and set in motion a process of genuinely free and fair democratic elections, a permanent constitution, and a programme that meets the demands of all the Iraqi people. The occupying powers are now following a policy of divide and rule, encouraging sectarian and ethnic divisions and imposing them on all the institutions they have created.
Incidents such as the recent kidnapping of an Italian journalist, released only to be received by a hail of bullets from the US liberators, have fuelled widespread suspicions in Iraq as to who is in fact responsible for many of the terrorist acts - kidnappings, assassinations, and indiscriminate bombing and killing -that are engulfing the whole of Iraq. These have coincided with a cover-up of significant military operations being conducted against the occupation forces across the country.
Not one of the terrorist crimes has been solved and not a single perpetrator put on trial. After each major terrorist crime, the arrest of perpetrators is proclaimed, using names and personalities spread by the US-controlled media. This media effort - which also seeks to bury the news of the destruction of entire towns, brutal night raids, kidnappings, curfews, and the detention and torture of thousands of prisoners - is overseen by the information department of the US forces, who earned the US defence secretary's special thanks during his visit to Iraq.
These crimes are a taste of the hell created by the US project in the Middle East. And now this hell is beginning to be visited on Lebanon, opening the prospect of endless wars of unimaginable consequences.
Syria is now withdrawing its forces from Lebanon and laying the responsibility of what happens next squarely on the other side. But what will happen next? Will the Lebanese resistance (led by Hizbullah) be disarmed? And if it refuses to surrender its weapons, how will it be disarmed? Will it be by landing new occupation forces in the country?
This was tried in the early 80s and led to the defeat of the US and the Israeli occupation of Lebanon. This could occur again, but on a wider scale across the whole region, which can no longer tolerate this endless US pressure, regarded by the peoples of the area as the implementation of Israeli demands.
Efforts must be directed at resolving the problems of the Palestinian people, who Israel refuses to allow to return to their lands, despite UN resolutions and all precepts of right and justice. The Palestinian problem cannot be resolved with exhibitionist gatherings such as Tony Blair's recent London conference. The big powers - particularly Britain, which helped create the problem in the first place - have a moral responsibility to resolve it.
In the same way, the Iraq crisis cannot be resolved by patching up a detested occupation with fraudulent elections and sectarian and ethnic caucuses supported by the occupiers. The only solution is the immediate withdrawal of occupation forces - or as a minimum, a strict internationally guaranteed timetable for withdrawal. Talk about freedom and democracy is seen as an endlessly repeated sham by our peoples because these words are being uttered by the very powers that have stood behind the corrupt dictatorial regimes. The US today is still the ally and backer of many such tyrannical regimes in our region and elsewhere.
We do not believe that the aggressive US stance towards Syria and Iran is intended to uphold freedom and democracy either, but to get rid of states that are refusing to go along with US and Israeli plans for the region. Today, Syria is being held to account in Lebanon because it is refusing to back the occupation of Iraq, and Iran is facing threats over its nuclear programme because the US is worried about its role in relation to Iraq and its rejection of the status quo in Palestine.
Public opinion in the occupying countries, such as the US and Britain, needs to understand that the continuation of this unjust and dangerous situation will create the conditions for a new and more general uprising which threatens truly to open the gates of hell in the region and firstname.lastname@example.org
By Chris Floyd
Today we take up the case of Murat Kurnaz, one of the thousands of innocent captives held illegally in the belly of the new American beast: U.S. President George W. Bush's deadly global gulag, where homicide and torture are quite literally the order of the day.Kurnaz, a German national of Turkish descent, was grabbed from a bus of Muslim missionaries in Pakistan in October 2001, when Bush was getting his first taste of unbridled blood-and-iron power.
Although Kurnaz was far from the battlefield in Afghanistan, he was of course guilty of being one of those swarthy Koraniacs, so he was shoved through the beast's guts before ending up in the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, The Washington Post reported.There he languished for more than two years until he was hauled before one of Bush's "military tribunals" last fall. The khaki kangaroo court duly ruled that Kurnaz was a heinous terrorist who should be locked up forever -- despite the fact that both U.S. military intelligence and German police had cleared him of any connection whatsoever to terrorist activity anywhere in the world. Completely ignoring almost 100 pages of exculpatory evidence offered by these experts, the kangaroos relied instead on a brief, uncorroborated memo submitted by an unidentified Bush official just before the proceedings began.
The last-minute Bush memo -- clearly intended to keep Kurnaz in chains without charges, without counsel, without appeal, for the rest of his life -- "fails to provide significant details to support its conclusory allegations, does not reveal the sources for its information and is contradicted by other evidence in the record," said a federal judge who examined the case. In other words, it was just lies and unfounded assertions -- the same scam the Bushists used to "justify" their war crime in Iraq.The judge ruled that Kurnaz's imprisonment, indeed, Bush's whole kangaroo pen, was illegal and unconstitutional. To which Bush -- a staunch defender of law, liberty and civilization -- answered: Who cares?
So Kurnaz, 23, remains in captivity: year after year of hellish limbo, his youth sacrificed to the caprice of the prissy autocrat in the White House. Meanwhile, Bush is appealing all of the pending judicial challenges to his arbitrary power, while ignoring or skirting any ruling that goes against him. As we first reported here in November 2001, he continues to assert his right to capture, imprison or even assassinate anyone on earth he designates a "terrorist," without any judicial review or congressional oversight of his decision.The Washington Post -- normally a willing handmaiden of Bush's abuses of power, marshalling "bipartisan consensus" behind his blood-soaked foreign policy and much of his morally deranged domestic agenda -- seemed uncharacteristically troubled by the Kurnaz case. Perhaps the tyranny was a touch too blatant for the paper's well-wadded consensus-seekers. They brought in an expert on military law to "suggest" that the tribunals might be -- gasp! -- "a sham," where "the merest scintilla of evidence against someone would carry the day for the government, even if there's a mountain of evidence on the other side." Another lawyer wondered why the U.S. government would ever imprison a man it knew was innocent.
Poor lambs. Now that the American Republic has been well and truly lost -- seized by a band of extremist goons after decades of slow rot from corporate and militarist corruption -- a few Establishment worthies are bestirring themselves to express some mild perplexity at the hideous reality that has arisen outside their comfortable cocoons. But their questions come too late. The reality is already entrenched.Each day brings new revelations of torture, murder and government whitewash in Bush's gulag. At least 108 prisoners have died in Bush's captivity so far; dozens of these have been listed as homicides, CBS reported. But last week, the Pentagon declined to prosecute 17 soldiers for brutal murders of prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq, despite the recommendation of Army prosecutors. Army investigators also released 1,200 pages of new evidence last week detailing widespread "systematic and intentional" abuse of prisoners throughout Iraq, especially in Mosul; again, the Pentagon declined to prosecute. A trial of low-ranking scapegoats who, under orders, "pulpified" an Afghan prisoner's leg in a fatal beating revealed that such "compliance blows" were taught by the Pentagon as an "accepted way" of dealing with prisoners, Knight-Ridder reported.
Let's pause here to praise these military prosecutors. Many of them are doing outstanding work in a thankless and dangerous mission: investigating their fellow soldiers for crimes committed in a lawless system established by their own superiors. The Bush Regime has not yet been able to remove all of these honorable soldiers from the ranks, so fragments of the truth are still getting out. But be assured: The Regime is relentlessly bringing forward cadres of mindless zealots to replace them -- and everyone else in government. Another term or two of Bushist Party rule, and there won't be an officer, judge or civil servant left with any loyalty to the old Constitutional Republic.
As for the cocooners' anxious questions -- "Why imprison the innocent? Why the sham tribunals? What's with all this torture stuff?" -- there is a simple answer. Bush's gulag has little to do with "fighting terrorism"; it is itself an instrument of terror -- state terror -- designed to strike "pre-emptive" fear into the hearts of anyone, at home or abroad, who might oppose the Regime's crusade to make the world safe for klepto-plutocracy. Such a system actually requires innocent victims and lawlessness, in order to underscore its arbitrary nature -- an essential element of terror. For Bush, Murat Kurnaz is a more important prisoner than a genuine criminal like Osama bin Laden.