Friday, December 29, 2006

100 U.S. soldier Killed in Iraq this month; Bush dawdles on 'new approach'

The Washington Post reports this morning that 100 American service men and women have been killed in Iraq during the month of December.

The President, meanwhile, continues to insist that he will not be rushed into changing course from his failed policies, regardless of what the people, the Congress, military leaders, military analysts and just about everyone except his wife, his dog, his Vice President, and John McCain believes he should do.

By my count, four Louisiana residents have been killed in Iraq since the release of the Iraq Study Group report earlier this month. It was that report that provided the political cover for Bush to change course, which he promptly refused to take. Instead of trying to extricate us from this catastrophic war, he's actually contemplating escalating the violence.

For a man who bull-rushed this country into the single greatest self-inflicted wound on our national security, global standing and our military based on trumped up intelligence cooked up in the office of his Vice President, Bush has chosen a particularly inopportune time to go all deliberate on us. Oh, what the hell! The war's only costing us a couple of billion dollars per week.

Too bad he didn't take as much time considering his policy options before he and Cheney got us into this mess.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Speaking Ill of the Dead: Ford's Real Legacy

It is with some frustration that I read the laudatory eulogies for ex-president Ford. Ford, we can all agree, was a nice man and a definite improvement over the criminal Richard Nixon. His niceness--and plain-spoken honesty--was a tonic the country needed after Nixon and Agnew.

But the idea that Ford's pardon of Nixon spared the country unnecessary pain and that the act of pardoning a president for any and all acts committed while in office was somehow noble goes beyond the usual stricture that we not speak ill of the dead and into a sort of eulogizing that ignores the real consequences of Ford's act.

Ford "spared" us all the necessity to look Nixon's peculiarly anti-American criminality in the face--and the opportunity to snuff it out forever. Nixon, we should recall, was a prime example of the "Imperial Presidency." Nixon believed that the President could legally do things that would be criminal if done by anyone else. In effect he endorsed the regal idea the the president embodied the state and that, literally, his word was law. He could not break the law because he was the law. As he famously told David Frost: "when the president does it, that means it is not illegal."

This is precisely the position that King George III took in repressing American aspirations prior to and during the revolutionary period. Nothing could be less American in its spirit. From the invasion of Cambodia, to the invasion of a critic's psychiatrist's office, to the burglary of the opposing political party, to suborning perjury when he was caught: any decision he made could be justified by his belief that the security of the country depended upon his politics and policies.

Following Watergate the country that hounded him out of office was in a mood to hang him high. They wanted to condemn what he'd done and make sure that no man thought himself above the law. The personal ugliness and bigotry of the man which has seeped out over the last 30 years in dribs and drabs would have been revealed in all its grotesquery at a time and in a circumstance which would have demanded its punishment and the institution of legal standards which would have made it clear that no man embodies the Republic--and that to think so is to court the country's contempt and condemnation.

That is what Ford "saved" us from doing. His blanket pardon of the man who made him President saved us from having the moment that would have destroyed the Imperial Presidency.

We got, instead, Ronald Reagan, whose convoluted Iran-Contra shenanigans wrecked our relations in the Middle East and have lead directly to the current mess in Iraq. That administration backed a scheme to fund illegal support of Contra death squads with income from secret sales of advanced weaponry to Iran. (The picture of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam took place at a moment when the US had abandoned Iran and was supporting and supplying Saddam in his war against Iran and his hostility to Syria.) Reagan initially lied about the affair and then admitted that the arms sales had taken place. Reagan's subsequent deification by the right wing of his party has suppressed any real examination of the still-secret details of this affair and had the effect of reawakening the idea that whatever the President did had to be OK.

Finally we have President Bush, who openly and nonchalantly claims Imperial status for his decisions. Apparently the president cannot commit an illegal act, simply because he is The President. (This is often called by proponents the "unitary executive" and was first suggested by Samuel Alito during the Reagan administration. Such a man Bush now conveniently makes a Justice...) During his presidency Bush has repeatedly made the claim that he only has to enforce the parts of laws he likes, that he can abrogate fundamental treaties like the Geneva Conventions at his whim, that he can torture folks at his pleasure and need not answer to anyone. The list of outrages is long. And it is not just Democrats who complain...the Cato Institute's condemnation of his violations of the Constitution is particularly stinging.

There was a moment in American history when we were primed to reassert a real Republic; one in which no man embodied the state and no one was allowed to consider themselves above the law.

Ford robbed us of that moment. No one, on the left or the right, not even when eulogizing the dead, should applaud that act.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Republican Slime Machine Starts Louisiana Franchise

The Baton Rouge Advocate reported on Tuesday that the national Republican Slime Machine has opened its Louisiana franchise with the stated goal of gaining GOP control of the Louisiana Legislature in the 2007 elections.

The group tips its hand by all but naming itself after Tom DeLay's disgraced operation. The operating moniker: "The Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority."

New Orleans developer cum post-Katrina land-grabber Joseph Canizaro is the head of the group, but it's clear that this is the Louisiana version of the national operation that was so successful in the earlier portion of this decade but which has fallen on harder times in 2006. Canizaro is a Bush Pioneer. So, too, is Boysie Bollinger (and he's got the fat contracts for work that didn't pan out on the Coast Guard fleet 'up-grade' to prove it!).

But, the piece that nails this down as a national power grab in Louisiana is the presence of Bob Perry of Texas as a maximum contributor to the new PAC. Perry, you may recall, is the money behind the group that 'swiftboated' John Kerry and in 2004 presidential race. His group's track record in 2006 was less successful, but no less slime-filled.

The group has, The Advocate reports, $600,000 of its goal of $2.5 million that it wants to have in-hand by the time qualifying rolls around in August. The objective is to get Republican majorities in the Louisiana House and Senate. There are 144 seats in the two chambers (39 in the Senate; 105 in the House). If they had a candidate in every race, the PAC could spend more than $17,000 per race. That might not seem like a lot of money but, in a district race, it would be huge.

The story, though, says they intend to be active in only about 37 or so races. Let's say 40 just for rounding purposes. That means they will have the ability to pour more than $60,000 into each of those races!

The group says it will play favorites among Republicans. Must have plenty of ex-Democrats in the group, no? ;-)

So, what does this mean?

Well, the past is no direct guide to the future but it can be instructive. Recall that Tom DeLay used his Texans for a Republican Majority as a money laundering conduit that enabled him to elect a Republican majority in the Texas Legislature. He then used that majority to re-apportion the Texas Congressional delegation in ways that created new Republican-majority districts. OK, well it worked in 2004 but came back to bite the party in Texas in 2006.

So, let's assume the GOP game plan goes as planned. The Republican majority in the Louisiana Legislature (working in concert with what they expect to be Republican Governor Bobby Jindal) would reapportion Louisiana's Congressional districts before the 2008 elections. No doubt they'd cite the recent Census Bureau estimate that the state lost five percent of its population in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. They'd target Charlie Melancon and Bill Jefferson's districts, shifting lines to make it more difficult for Democrats to get elected from those districts.

Republican control of the Legislature would also put that party in control of all reapportionment that followed the 2010 Census, including the Legislature (both houses), the Congressional districts, the Public Service Commission, the state Supreme Court, BESE districts and other state districts.

In short, this is an outside directed attempt to re-order Louisiana politics, capitalizing on the demographic shifts as a result of the storms, using techniques developed in Texas and on partnerships developed inside the corrupt national Republican establishment.

It should be noted that DeLay was forced to give up his seat in Congress as a result of the ethical and legal troubles his Texas power grab brought him. No doubt there will be similar hubris and over-reach in this endeavor.

Then, again, we see this one coming.

Break out the slicker suits, the Republicans have committed to taking Louisiana at all costs. It's going to get nasty.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Jindal's Ethics Issues

With Republican legislators going partisan in the Special Session, it's clear that the race for governor is now on.

Sure, Bobby Jindal is going through the motions of praying over whether he's going to run or not when, in all actuality, that decision was made the night he lost in 2003.

Jindal will bring something new to this election: a deep bag of connections to corrupt Republicans that extends over the network that he used to raise funds for his congressional races and that he pandered to while in Washington.

Jindal's campaign will explode the myth of Republican rectitude that has been the basis of the party's claim to the moral high ground (such as it exists) in Louisiana politics over the past 30 years. After all, Edwin Edwards was not a member of their party.

No, but Donald "Boysie" Bollinger is and recent stories about Bollinger Shipyards' role in the emerging scandal in the supposed upgrade of the Coast Guard fleet are going to seriously eat away at the state Republicans' phony righteousness.

Then, too, there will be Jindal's ties to Grover Norquist and his Americans for Tax Reform. Jindal has signed every pledge that Norquist has stuck in front of him at the same time that Norquist and his various organizations were acting in partnership with and as fronts for money laundering schemes developed by disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. I'd be interested in learning more about the ties between Jindal and Ralph Reed. If ever there were two opportunists whose ambitions and egos would have driven paths to cross, those are two.

Then, too, there will be the actual record of Jindal as a public official. I am particularly interested in the boy wonder's role as head of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals in the first Foster term. There was at least one serious public health issue that was swept under the rug during Jindal's tenure that later came back to haunt residents in the Baton Rouge area. Will the media stick to repeating the fawning myths of this guy, or will they actually look at his record with a critical eye on what he really did?

Jindal has gotten a free ride from the media and the political establishment. It is going to be different this time around.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Vichy Suaves

Thank you to the Baton Rouge Advocate for their illuminating coverage of the so-called "No Party Party" for Republican Parish President Joey Durel which was hosted by Glenn Armentor, a member of the Lafayette Democratic Parish Executive Committee.

Thanks to the reporting by The Advocate, we learned that other members of the Democratic Parish Executive Committee attended the event and, we can only presume, gave money to Durel's re-election bid.

The Advocate also provided a picture of Durel with former Democratic State Party Chairman Mike Skinner.

Joining Armentor and Skinner as members in good standing of the soon-to-be infamous Vichy Democrats were PEC members Jeff Moss and Ken Bouillion.

Now before the Republicans and Democratic apologists go all apoplectic about 'bipartisanship', let's be clear about what the issue is here: It is about leaders of the Democratic Party breaking party rules to raise funds for and endorse a Republican. It is not about Democrats backing Republicans (and it's certainly not about Republicans backing Democrats because, as we know, that just isn't done here).

Face it. There is no bi-partisanship here in Lafayette. There is a strong and visible streak of Democratic surrender, of which Armentor's party is just the latest and most visible example.

And, while Mike Skinner holds no current rank in the party, his legacy is firmly established. No Democratic Party chairman (and possibly no Republican Party chairman) has done more to advance the Republican Party in the 7th District than has Mike Skinner.

Look back to the 2004 election when Skinner, then serving as state party chairman, allowed or condoned the use of the state party's mailing permit to distribute a flier that promoted the candidacy of Sen. Willie Mount over that of Sen. Donald Cravins in the 7th District Congressional race. Adding insult to injury, funds raised by independent Louisiana Democrats for the Kerry campaign were used by the state party to distribute this flier.

The resuling bitterness and recriminations allowed Charles Boustany to get elected to Congress in 2004. That same election, David Vitter became the first Republican since Reconstruction to be elected to the U.S. Senate from Louisiana.

Mike Skinner, you did a heck of job!

So, it is appropriate that Skinner's picture grace the web story on this event since it is his indifference to the fate of the Democratic Party in this region which set the stage not only for the rise of a certain class of Republicans, it also paved the way for more anti-party behavior on the part of other Democratic 'leaders' (and that is a phrase I use loosely these days), the kind of which was on exhibit on West Bayou Parkway last night.

If any member of the Republican Parish Executive Committee would have the temerity to endorse a Democrat for office, he/she would be ridden out of town on a rail by the same Republicans who are embracing the betrayal of the Democratic party and their oaths by Armento, Moss and Bouillion. As I said, Mike Skinner is in a class by himself.

When we erect the Vichy Democrats Hall of Shame (coming soon to another site), we'll be sure to reserve a special place for Mr. Skinner.

Meanwhile, I would hope that other members of the Lafayette Democratic Executive Committee and other Lafayette Democrats will press for censure of the committee members who took part in last night's tawdry display of opportunism.

With Democrat 'leaders' like this, who needs Republicans?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Well. Well. Well.

In a sudden (but belated) spasm of sanity, a majority of the Lafayette Parish Consolidated Government Council appears to have reached an agreement on a proposal to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., involving Willow Street.

The Daily Advertiser had this story on Thursday.

The Advocate had this one.

This is a small but necessary step on the part of the white majority on the Council to recognize the legitimate needs of the African American community in Lafayette as expressed by their elected leaders. A lot more work needs to be done merely to repair the damage to the community inflicted over the course of this 15-month long battle.

Congratulations to all participating parties for allowing the greater good of the community to prevail on this matter.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Challenge to Durel

The Baton Rouge Advocate reports that Lafayette Democratic Parish Executive Committee member Glenn Armentor is being praised by Joey Durel for having the courage to host a fund-raiser for Durel at his home.

The paper carries effusive testimony by the two to the wonders of the particularly phony sort of bi-partisanship that thrives in Lafayette; that is, Democrats shove aside their party to embrace some popular Republican. Republicans, meanwhile, not only refuse to endorse any Democrats, are quick to criticize as wildly partisan anyone who dares point out the sham truce. This being Acadiana and all, does the name Vichy Dems work in this case? Think "Casablanca."

Here's a challenge to Durel: If party has nothing to do with governing Lafayette, if it is really all just about the good of the city and all that, give up your membership in the Republican Party now and run for re-election without a party label.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Secrecy and Our Republic

Geoffrey R. Stone is the author of a great book, Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism. From time to time, a piece by him is posted at Huffington Post Blog.

Here's an extended excerpt from a Huffington Post Blog entry today. It focuses on why government secrecy works against the interests of us citizens. In the course of a few paragraphs, Stone and his co-author William P. Marshall provide a civics lesson for those wondering what role is there for us ordinary citizens in the processes of government.
As citizens of a self-governing nation, we are charged with the responsibility to understand, monitor, and evaluate the policy judgments of our elected representatives. We elect a president and members of Congress to make decisions on our behalf. But they are answerable to "We the People." This means not only that "We the People" get to vote every two, four, or six years, but also that we have a right to know what our representatives are up to. We delegate to them a certain degree of authority, but they are accountable to us.

It is understandable that those in power are reluctant to share information. Why would anyone in authority want to enable others to second-guess them? Why would they want their mistakes exposed? Those in power always believe they should have carte blanch to make the decisions they think best, without interference. "Trust us" is a perfectly logical demand from the perspective of those who hold the reins of power.

But in a self-governing society, when those in authority say "trust us," we are in peril. The American constitutional system is premised on distrust of those to whom we delegate authority. Separation of powers, checks and balances, staggered terms of office, a bicameral legislature, judges with life tenure, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press are all premised on distrust of those in authority who say "trust us."

Excessive government secrecy is the enemy of democracy. Secrecy cripples public debate. Citizens cannot understand, monitor, and evaluate public policies if they are kept in the dark about the actions of their elected representatives. Secrecy is the ultimate form of censorship because the People do not even know they are being censored.

Excessive secrecy is also the enemy of competence. We make better decisions when we consider more rather than fewer perspectives. We make better decisions when we openly debate the alternatives. We make better decisions when we know we have to justify our judgments and know we will be held accountable for our mistakes. Secrecy undermines all these values.

Excessive secrecy has been a consistent theme of the Bush administration. It refused to disclose the names of those it detained after September 11. It has adopted a crabbed interpretation of the Freedom of Information Act, rendering millions of pages of government documents unavailable to the American people. It closed deportation proceedings from public scrutiny. It has redacted vast quantities of "sensitive" information from thousands of government websites. It secretly authorized the National Security Agency to engage in electronic surveillance of American citizens. It secretly established prisons in Eastern Europe and secretly authorized rendition and torture. It secretly authorized the indefinite detention of American citizens. It has concealed the cost of its policies in "special appropriations" bills, threatened public employees and newspapers with criminal prosecution for revealing its secrets, and deliberately masked its motives, its policies, and its failures from We the People.

Some measure of secrecy is, of course, essential to the effective functioning of government, especially in wartime. But the Bush administration's obsessive secrecy has constrained meaningful oversight by Congress, the press, and the public. It has directly and arrogantly undermined the vitality of democratic governance and it has predictably led to incompetent decisionmaking. One cannot escape the inference that the cloak of secrecy imposed by the Bush administration has less to do with the necessities of the "war on terrorism" than with its desire to insulate executive action from public scrutiny. Such an approach to governance weakens our democratic institutions and renders our nation less secure.

The responsibility for all this rests first and foremost with the president, but it rests also with Congress, the press, and the American people, who failed to meet their responsibility not to fall victim to the plea of "Trust Us." If history is a guide to the future, this will not be the last time a president attempts to hide critical information from the American people. We will best serve our government and our nation if we remember our mistakes of the present.
The most significant local issue that demonstrates the pernicious nature of secrecy in government is the ULL Horse Farm controversy, where officials at ULL fought desperately to conceal their dealings involving public dollars and property from the press and the public.

Secrecy is the enemy of our form of government. The more secrecy there is, the more likely it is that those insisting on the secrecy are working against the interests of ordinary citizens. It's true in Bush's war. It's true in the Horse Farm deals.

Only citizens, though, can insist on ripping back the curtain and letting the sunshine of public scrutiny heal the damage such secrecy inflicts on our institutions and our processes.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Policy of Deceit. What if Bush Won't Change?

The New York Times editorial today points out the the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group (ISG) report quietly points out that the Bush Administration has been deceiving the country about nature and cost of the war. The paper says the group is trying to help a disfunctional president and administration. I say, the ISG is pointing to ways that the Bush Administration has been lying to us all along, from the supposed reasons for going to war to how it's going and what it's costing us.

We can quibble about the implications of those lies, but here's how The NY Times sees them:
We were particularly drawn to Recommendations 46, 72 and 78. Under separate headings dealing with the military, the federal budget and the nation’s intelligence agencies, they share one basic idea: Government officials should not lie to the public or each other, especially in matters of war.

One should not need a blue ribbon commission to know that. But the fact that it had to be said, and so often, in the report goes a long way toward explaining how Mr. Bush got the country into the Iraq mess and why it is proving so hard to dig out of it.

Consider Recommendation 46, which calls on the new secretary of defense to create “an environment in which the senior military feel free to offer independent advice” to civilian leaders, including the president. That is their sworn duty. But the back story is the Pentagon’s prewar refusal to listen to the former Army chief of staff (and who knows how many other generals) who warned that it would take several hundred thousand troops to stabilize a post-invasion Iraq. The good news is that the new secretary of defense, Robert Gates, acknowledged as much in his confirmation hearings. The bad news is that Mr. Bush has not.

Recommendation 72 says that “costs for the war in Iraq should be included in the president’s annual budget request.” The report warns that the White House’s habit of using emergency funding for the war has eroded both “budget discipline” and Congressional oversight. And just in case you were worrying that you hadn’t been paying sufficient attention to the war’s price tag, the report says the White House presents its requests in such a “confusing manner” that only detailed analyses by budget experts can answer “what should be a simple question: How much money is the president requesting for the war in Iraq?”

And finally, Recommendation 78 calls on the Pentagon and the intelligence community to “institute immediate changes” in how they collect data on violence in Iraq “to provide a more accurate picture of events on the ground.” The report says that officials have used a standard for recording attacks (it notes that “a murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted”) that systematically underreports Iraq’s mayhem. It cites one day this past July when the government recorded 93 “attacks or significant acts of violence,” while the Iraq Study Group’s own analysis “brought to light 1,100 acts of violence.”

Sprinkled among the recommendations, the report also has some homespun advice on how Mr. Bush might fix America’s foreign relations. It suggests that the nature of diplomacy is to engage with adversaries as well as friends. And it warns that the United States does Israel “no favors” by refusing to try to broker peace in the Middle East, adding that it is “an axiom that when the political process breaks down there will be violence on the ground.”

It is mind-boggling that this commission felt compelled to deliver Governing 101 lessons to the president of the United States. But that fits with the implicit message of the entire exercise — a rebuke of the ideologically blinkered way Mr. Bush operates. The report shows that there have always been plenty of alternatives to Mr. Bush’s stubborn insistence on staying the course, and that if he were just willing to make an effort, it would be possible to forge a bipartisan consensus on the toughest issues.

It’s tragic that Mr. Bush could not figure that out for himself. It is far past time for him to heed this new advice.
The question we (Congress, citizens and the military) are going to have to grapple with is this: What is going to be when he ignores the advice?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Delusions of King George

The second Louisiana soldier to die in Iraq this week is from Thibodaux.

The death comes two days after the release of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group Report which, although heavily critical of the way the war has been run (and not run), basically gives cover to the administration to stay in Iraq for two more years.

Tom Friedman of the New York Times, a war supporter, said in his Friday column the choice is really "10 months or 10 years."
As I’ve written before, our real choices in Iraq are 10 months or 10 years. Either we commit the resources to entirely rebuild the place over a decade, for which there is little support, or we tell everyone that we will be out within 10 months, or sooner, and we’ll deal with the consequences from afar. We need to start the timer — today, now.
Based on his public statements since the Baker-Hamilton report was released, the President is still locked away in his 'victory' fantasy land. There will be no change in policy forthcoming from this administration. This means that full implications of the "grave and deteriorating" conditions in Iraq, as described by the 10 people on the Baker-Hamilton panel (all supporters of the war) will be unveiled before our eyes.

But, as proof of the power of words, the criticisms included in the Baker-Hamilton report apparently were enough to embolden one Republican senator to part company with the Bush administration on Iraq. Today, Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith stood on the floor of the U.S. Senate and said:
That is a lesson we are learning again. I am afraid, rather than leveling with the American people and saying this was going to be a decade-long conflict because of the angst and hatred that exists in that part of the world, that we tried to win it with too few troops in too fast a time. Lest anyone thinks I believe we have failed militarily, please understand I believe when President Bush stood in front of "mission accomplished'' on an aircraft carrier that , in purely military terms, the mission was accomplished in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But winning a battle, winning a war, is different than winning a peace.

We were not prepared to win the peace by clearing, holding, and building. You don't do that fast and you don't do it with too few troops. I believe now that we must either determine to do that , or we must redeploy in a way that allows us to continue to prosecute the larger war on terror. It will not be pretty. We will pay a price in world opinion. But I, for one, am tired of paying the price of 10 or more of our troops dying a day. So let's cut and run, or cut and walk, or let us fight the war on terror more intelligently than we have, because we have fought this war in a very lamentable way.
You can read the speech here (and there's a link to video).

So, Bush might not be moved, but Baker-Hamilton appears to have given some Republicans the political cover they needed to abandon Bush's failed policies in Iraq.

On the floor of the Senate on Wednesday, Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa railed against the refusal of the FDA and the Justice Department to comply with subpoenas issued by Senate committees. He warned Democrats that talking about oversight is one thing, but if the executive branch refuses to acknowledge things like Congressional oversight of its conduct, there is a serious problem. Yes, it's called a Constitutional crisis.

I believe Democrats will try to assert Congresses oversight duties and rights. I also believe that the Bush administration will stonewall those attempts. The war in Iraq will be but one instance over which these fights will occur.

Ultimately, based on Bush's obstinancy and a monarchical view of government that can be found nowhere in the founding documents of this country, impeachment will the only course remaining for those trying to restore Constitutional balance.

In the meantime, Bush will continue trying to press on with this war as if he's King. More Americans will be killed and wounded in pursuit of a war that the country does not believe in and does not believe will succeed.

More than 30 years ago, the question about the Vietnam War was who would be the last person to die for that mistake. The question now is: who will be the last American to die for the delusions of George W. Bush?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Citizen Padillo's Torture on U.S. Soil

Every President of the United States takes the following oath upon being sworn into office:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
The man in this still frame capture from a video obtained by the New York Times is Jose Padillo, a U.S. citizen who was at one time charged with terrorism. The Bush administration dropped those charges when it appeared they were going to lose a court ruling that would have overruled their claim that, as Commander in Chief, Bush could unilaterally declare any citizen an enemy combatant and take away their constitutional rights.

Padillo is still being held, now on federal charges, but in a state of sensory deprivation. You can read more about it here.

A few years ago, a photo like this from the Soviet Union or some Communist state would have provoked howls of protests from human rights groups and from conservatives alike. But, this is America and we don't torture.

Right, and we're winning in Iraq, too.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Race, Party, Community, Durel and Leadership

This is a long post, but there is no way to break it up, since the ideas are all intertwined. The points are: the link between party and race is incontrovertible; Joey Durel's failure to provide leadership on the King street issue is inexorably tied to the fact that he is a Republican; economic progress in Lafayette is dependent upon racial tolerance; therefore, the kind of racially-insensitive Republican leadership exhibited by Durel and the Council are particularly unsuited to the job of advancing Lafayette's economic prospects in the 21st Century.

First, Party Politics in the South is ALL about Race.

A few days ago, in this post, my friend Tony Fazzio wrote:
Too often we forget that race is a matter of parity not party.
That statement is accurate only if one is willing to ignore the history of the rise of the Republican Party in the South. That rise began with Lyndon Johnson's signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Republican Party has ridden white racial anger and resentment since then.

Nationally, that has manifested itself in the so-called "Southern Strategy" in which the Republicans learned to speak in code to white Southerners. It was no coincidence that Ronald Reagan's first campaign event in the 1980 election campaign was the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Mississippi, within miles of where three civil rights workers were killed and buried by white racists in the mid 1960s.

In our state, Republicans took up the rebel yell of "states' rights" with the rest of their southern political brethren. And, while Dave Treen hid his prejudice behind a veneer of country club Republicanism, Mike Foster paid David Duke a hefty fee for voter lists (and, some say, to stay out of the 1995 governor's race). Upon taking office, one of Foster's most significant early acts was to eliminate affirmative action. There's that signal to the good ole boys that Big Mike was one of them.

While Republicans were out of power nationally, they could claim the mantel of conservatism; you know: 'small gov'ment, balanced budgets, low taxes.' To hear them talk, you would have thought that Republicans believed that government should be a lean, mean, fighting machine. Then, they came to power. As the past few years have shown, Republicans in Congress were neither for smaller government, nor balanced budgets. When George W. Bush became president, the Republican-controlled Congress gave up its constitutional responsibility to provide oversight on the actions of the executive branch, and allowed Bush to make unprecedented grabs of unchecked power. So, let's see: under Republicans, government grew, as did its power, deficits exploded, Congress nearly allowed a re-ordering of the Constitution without so much as a whimper, and corruption has become rampant on a scale never seen before.

And, still, we see local Republicans claiming to be conservative.

I think they're talking in code. What they're really saying is they are anti-black.

There's some voting analysis to back this up. In his book, Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South, author Thomas F. Schaller says that Republicans are successful in the South because they have mastered the art of appealing to Southern racists.

Some of his case is based on voting research contained in a paper entitled: "Old Times There Are Not Forgotten: Race and Partisan Realignment in the Contemporary South." The paper is by Nicholas Valentino and David Sears. The heart of the work is summarized in this paragraph from an article in The New Republic:
Running regressions on a massive data set of ideological opinions, Sears and Valentino demonstrate with precision that, for example, a white Southern man who calls himself a "conservative," controlling for racial attitudes, is no less likely to chance a vote for a Democratic presidential candidate than a Northerner who calls himself a conservative. Likewise, a pro-life or hawkish Southern white man is no less likely--again controlling for racial attitudes--than a pro-life or hawkish Northerner to vote for the Democrat. But, on the other hand, when the relevant identifier is anti-black answers to survey questions (such as whether one agrees "If blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites," or choosing whether blacks are "lazy" or "hardworking"), an untoward result jumps out: white Southerners are twice as likely than white Northerners to refuse to vote for the Democratic presidential candidate. Schaller's writes: "Despite the best efforts of Republican spinmeisters ... the partisan impact of racial attitudes in the South is stronger today than in the past."
So, it is racism that created the basis for the Republican Party in the South, and it is racism that enables the party to hold onto its white base in the South despite the fact that the party has proven conclusively that it is not conservative by any standard by which it had set for itself.

Durel's Failure to Lead

Which brings me back to the matter of Joey Durel's silence in the face of the Martin Luther King street renaming controversy. First, I believe Durel received absolutely no pressure from his Republican base to get involved, defuse or otherwise provide leadership on this issue. Why? See above.

Instead, Durel allowed members of the parish's legislative branch to embarrass themselves and the parish by turning the issue into a display of pettiness and, yes, racism that has no place in a community that aspires to call itself progressive.

What has resulted is a series of decisions by the white majority on the Parish Council to defund projects in districts 3 and 4, which just happen to be the districts of the council members who have been pushing for the renaming of Willow Street after Dr. King.

Now, Tony Fazzio (and, aparently, Glenn Armentor) don't fault Durel on this. How can they not? I think it's got a lot to do with their failure to understand leadership and its responsibilities.

Yes, there was a deafening silence from many whom most consider leaders in the white community on the King Street renaming issue. But, the difference is that Joey Durel is the elected chief executive of this parish. That is, he is the leader of the public sector in this parish. As such, his actions and words speak to and for all of us, whether he wants them to or not; it's the nature of the job and, some might say, one of the burdens of leadership.

The fact that Durel did not intervene, did not try to prevent the dispute from becoming a controversy; nor from escalating from a controversy to a travesty, and not from escalating from a travesty to an embarrassment, undermines what he claims to be his broader agenda. It also is testimony to the fact that he never viewed this issue beyond anything but a political issue. His Republican base didn't think the escalations mattered, because they don't care about the issue, don't care for Chris Williams and Louis Benjamin, and, ultimately, Durel's supporters, in the famous words Kanye West's said about George Bush, don't care about black people. His silence on the King Street matter says Durel and his Republican backers don't believe the African American community matters to the future of the community.

The Economic Impact of Racial Intolerance.

Or, the price we pay for Durel's lack of leadership on race and Why it matters.

It matters because, as economist and author Richard Florida wrote in his book Rise of the Creative Class, the communities that will prosper in this century are those that have what he calls "the three T's: technology, talent, and tolerance."

Durel has postured himself as a leader trying to turn Lafayette into a progressive community that can attract the creative class that Florida profiled in his book.

So, let's look at the standards based on the Three T's. We've got technology (the fiber project, when it gets built will cement that piece, though we have many other assets along those lines). We've got talent (we've got UL Lafayette, the community college, the technical college and other talent-grooming assets in Acadiana). But, as the street renaming controversy has demonstrated, we've got a hell of a lot of work to do on the tolerance piece. More importantly, Durel is not working to make it better.

Not Up to the Challenges at Hand.

Lafayette is competing in a global economy. Many of the communities that we compete against are bigger and have equally good mixes of technology and talent (although maybe in different proportions). But, to think that we can compete successfully against these communities while declaring up front that we are going to ignore 25 percent of our population and, in fact, we're going to compete without them, is the equivalent of the Knight in Monty Python's Holy Grail who, after having both legs and an arm cut off said, "it's only a flesh wound!"

"Visionary" is a cheap title in this town (some people have it on business cards). I don't think Joey Durel comes close to qualifying as a visionary — even at the cheapened level to which it has fallen in Lafayette.

His brand of leadership (the kind that will not challenge the biases of his backers) will not take take Lafayette to new, higher levels of community and economic success. In order to go there, we will have to use all of the talents and technology that we can muster. That means we can't afford to shut out or leave out any segment of our community in this competition. The challenges are too great and the competition is too fierce to think otherwise.

The white members of the council don't get it. Durel's Republican base doesn't get it. So far, Durel hasn't given any indication that he gets it either.

Considering the stakes for the community and its future, in my view, this disqualifies Durel as a suitable leader for Lafayette at this juncture in its development. It is about race. It is about party. And it is about the ability of this community to respond to the challenges it faces.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Fighting on in LA-04

While some Lafayette Democrats seek out ways to rollover to local Republicans, a Shreveport Democrat is waging a spirited, if lonely, fight to overturn the recent re-election of Republican Jim McCrery to the congressional seat from Louisiana's Fourth District.

Patti Cox was one of two Democrats who challenged McCrery in the November 7 election. Artis Cash was the other. Mr. Cash got the endorsement of the state party when Ms. Cash didn't attend the state party endorsement convention shortly before the election.

McCrery was re-elected with about 57 percent of the vote. Cash took about 17 percent of the vote; Cox 13. A second Republican took the rest of the vote.

Cox has filed suit in state court in Shreveport seeking to have McCrery disqualified based on the fact that he does not live in Louisiana and provided false information to the Louisiana Secretary of State when he (or members of his staff) filed qualifying papers. She is also seeking to have the next two top vote getters (she and Mr. Cash) inserted into the December 9 runoff election.

McCrery responded by seeking a transfer of the case to federal court. Patti believes this is an attempt to stall on the case until it is too late to get the remedy she seeks: a run-off with McCrery not on the ballot.

The case has been transferred to federal court but Patti is also seeking to have the case returned to state court.

After the election, when it became clear that Democrats had won control of the U.S. House of Representatives, there was speculation in media in Shreveport that McCrery might not take his seat in the House. He was in line to become chairman of the Ways & Means Committee had Republicans retained their majority status in the House. McCrery has been rumored to have been offered several lucrative lobbying positions (at least one being with a firm where former Democratic Senator John Breaux works).

The nub of Cox's suit is that McCrery does not have a residence in Louisiana and, so, cannot be elected to Congress from Louisiana.

Here is the case made against McCrery in the original state court filing which Patti provided me after I called her about the case.

1. Defendant, who sold his residence at 10815 Longfellow Trace, Shreveport, LA 71106, located in Southern Trace Subdivision of Shreveport, LA, on June 3, 2004, was not an inhabitant of Louisiana (Exhibit A), when elected for Congress for Louisiana's 4th Congressional District on November 7, 2006, as required by R.S. 18:1275 B and U.S.C.A. Const. Art 1ß2. Cl.2 (Exhibit B). Defendant admitted to not living in the area the night of the election on TV. The guard at the entrance of Southern Trace said Defendant has not lived in Southern Trace for a year and a half.

2. Defendant deceptively listed P.O. Box 52956, Shreveport, LA 71135, and 10855 Longfellow Trace, Shreveport, LA 71106 (Exhibit C), as his residence when filing to run for Congress on August 9, 2006, with the Louisiana Secretary of State on a sworn statement before a notary. The 10855 Longfellow Trace information was given by the Secretary of State's Office, 8549 United Plaza Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70804 (225-922- 0900), and the Registrar of Voters Office, 525 Marshall Street, Shreveport, LA (318-226- 6891).

3. Qualifications of Members of Congress make being an inhabitant of that state in which he shall be chosen a condition at the time of the election. Qualifications are defined and fixed in the U.S. Constitution and are unalterable by the legislature. Exclusion can only be exercised when a Member-elect fails to meet a qualification expressly prescribed in the Constitution.
As is par for the course, Patti has undertaken this case on her own, with no help from the party on any level, thus far. In a phone conversation on Tuesday, Patti indicated that there has been some attempted contact from the Democratic National Committee, but nothing has materialized thus far.

Patti Cox's campaign website declared her to be a candidate for the seat in Louisiana's "Fighting Fourth." She's helping Democrats in the district live up to that title. How refreshing that is!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Lafayette Democrat Surrenders

If anyone wants to know what's wrong with the Democratic Party in Lafayette, look no further than this article in the Baton Rouge Advocate.

Glenn Armentor is a member of the parish Democratic Executive Committee but is hosting a fund-raising party for Republican Joey Durel. Glenn Armentor is a great attorney, a great guy and, generally, a good Democrat (he supported my campaign for Congress and I'm grateful for that support).

But, he should resign his position on the parish Democratic Executive Committee because of this public display of support for Durel.

This is the kind of lemming-like behavior that has come to characterize the leadership of the party here.

Joey Durel is a decent mayor; but he's no visionary. The fiber to the home project was on the table when he took office. Durel and his legal team have managed to botch that project to the extent that, 18 months after the referendum on the it, all we have to show for it are legal bills.

Durel also failed to show leadership on the single most troubling issue in Lafayette (and the one that most hobbles our effort to emerge as a progressive city): race. His silence on the issue of renaming a major street after Dr. Martin Luther King contributed significantly to allowing this issue to become a political abscess that causes a low-grade fever to plague our community. His failure to lead on that issue was every bit as bad as his leadership in selling the fiber project was good.

Durel also went through the motions of suggesting taxes for new roads here, but didn't make any effort to get the taxes passed. If he didn't believe they were needed, why propose them? If he felt they were needed, why didn't he work for them?

Yet, there is a leader of the local party gushing about Durel as if he's the local incarnation of Harry Truman.

Armentor has fallen into the Republican trap that exists in Lafayette. Democrats are asked to "vote for the person, not the party" but can Armentor or any other Democrat point to a single example of where Lafayette Republicans have taken a similar approach in any race?

If Glenn Armentor wants to back Joey Durel's re-election, that's his right as a citizen. But, he should not do it while sitting as a member of the parish Democratic Executive Committee. The responsibilities of that position include building the party. By publicly supporting Durel, Armentor is working against the interests of the party.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Leaving Iraq

An Op-ed piece from today's Washington Post begins:
There will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq. These terms do not reflect the reality of what is going to happen there. The future of Iraq was always going to be determined by the Iraqis -- not the Americans.

Iraq is not a prize to be won or lost. It is part of the ongoing global struggle against instability, brutality, intolerance, extremism and terrorism. There will be no military victory or military solution for Iraq. Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger made this point last weekend.

The time for more U.S. troops in Iraq has passed. We do not have more troops to send and, even if we did, they would not bring a resolution to Iraq. Militaries are built to fight and win wars, not bind together failing nations. We are once again learning a very hard lesson in foreign affairs: America cannot impose a democracy on any nation -- regardless of our noble purpose.

We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam. Honorable intentions are not policies and plans. Iraq belongs to the 25 million Iraqis who live there. They will decide their fate and form of government.
The author, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, goes on to add:
The United States must begin planning for a phased troop withdrawal from Iraq. The cost of combat in Iraq in terms of American lives, dollars and world standing has been devastating. We've already spent more than $300 billion there to prosecute an almost four-year-old war and are still spending $8 billion per month. The United States has spent more than $500 billion on our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And our effort in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate, partly because we took our focus off the real terrorist threat, which was there, and not in Iraq.

We are destroying our force structure, which took 30 years to build. We've been funding this war dishonestly, mainly through supplemental appropriations, which minimizes responsible congressional oversight and allows the administration to duck tough questions in defending its policies. Congress has abdicated its oversight responsibility in the past four years.

It is not too late. The United States can still extricate itself honorably from an impending disaster in Iraq. The Baker-Hamilton commission gives the president a new opportunity to form a bipartisan consensus to get out of Iraq. If the president fails to build a bipartisan foundation for an exit strategy, America will pay a high price for this blunder -- one that we will have difficulty recovering from in the years ahead.

To squander this moment would be to squander future possibilities for the Middle East and the world. That is what is at stake over the next few months.
Senator Hagel, a Vietnam combat veteran, has consistently been willing to state publicly what many others in Washington will only say in private: Iraq has been a disaster for this country.

What Senator Hagel refers to as "leaving Iraq with honor" is really trying to find a way to allow the Bush administration to save face when it does come around to withdrawing from Iraq. It will be interesting to see if the coming withdrawal will be one of our choosing, or one events force on us as supply lines are cut off and our overstretched military has to fight its way out of that country (this is viewed as a real possibility by some military leaders who have been watching developments there).

Meanwhile, unless and until the President can find the moral and ethical strength he has yet to display at any point in his life (in the form of admitting a mistake), more American military service men and women will die for nothing more than his ego. This war of his choosing was a mistake that has turned into a military, foreign policy and moral debacle for our country.

Eventually, I'm sure, Charles Boustany will take a public position on the war, too. When that day comes, the position will be one guaranteed not to offend his Republican patrons. As of today, 64 Louisianians have died in this war. How many more will have to die before Charles Boustany finds the courage of his convictions?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Billy Tauzin: Defending the Indefensible

The New York Times has an article today about how the pharmaceutical industry is reacting to the results of the November 7 election.

They're scared.

But, their lead lobbyist is former Louisiana Congressman Billy Tauzin and Tauzin is out there hustling to justify his $2.5 million annual salary by trying to block passage of legislation which would allow the federal government to rein in the pharmaceutical gravy train that is also known as the Medicare Prescription Drug Program (or Medicare Part D). Failing that, Tauzin wants President Bush to veto any such legislation that makes its way out of the Democratic-controlled Congress next year.

The Times provides this summation of the situation:
Hoping to prevent Congress from letting the government negotiate lower drug prices for millions of older Americans on Medicare, the pharmaceutical companies have been recruiting Democratic lobbyists, lining up allies in the Bush administration and Congress, and renewing ties with organizations of patients who depend on brand-name drugs.

Many drug company lobbyists concede that the House is likely to pass a bill intended to drive down drug prices, but they are determined to block such legislation in the Senate. If that strategy fails, they are counting on President Bush to veto any bill that passes. With 49 Republicans in the Senate next year, the industry is confident that it can round up the 34 votes normally needed to uphold a veto.

While that showdown is a long way off, the drug companies are not wasting time. They began developing strategy last week at a meeting of the board of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Billy Tauzin, president of that group, a lobbying organization for brand-name drug companies, recently urged Representative Edolphus Towns, Democrat of New York, to seek a position as chairman of a powerful House subcommittee, said Karen Johnson, a spokeswoman for Mr. Towns. The subcommittee has authority over Medicare and the Food and Drug Administration.
Ah, yes! Hurled out of control of Congress by an electorate that had grown tired of the corruption and the favoritism shown special interest groups over the needs of citizens, one of the richest special interest groups in the country is gearing up to protect their plunder.

Tauzin, is must be noted, got his job in exchange for writing in the provision that prevents the federal government from negotiating over the price of drugs covered by the Medicare Part D program. That wasn't corruption; that was the K Street Project in operation. Note, too, that former Tauzin spokesman Ken Johnson is now a vice president of PHARMA. Guess it was a package deal offered by a grateful industry?

Tauzin, ever the hypocrite, says he's only defending the interests of beneficiaries, many of whom are happy with the program. Well, no doubt they are happy, but they would be a damned site happier if the costs of the drugs were lower, particularly once they cross-over into the 'doughnut' part of the program where all drug expenses come out of the pockets of seniors.

As a read of the article indicates, the outcome is far from certain, owing in no small measure to the influence (read that "campaign dollars") the pharmaceutical industry packs in Washington.

The real test for Democrats on this effort to reform Medicare Part D will really come down to whether they are serious about ethics reform or not. If the pharmaceutical industry (and people like Billy Tauzin) can prevail in fighting off this reform, then it will be a clear signal of the need for radical surgery on lobbying and campaign finance reform. It will also indicate that the new Democratic Congress might well have a short stay in the majority.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Unfit to Lead

The Republican leadership of the 109th Congress has moved to take permanent right to the title of "The Do Nothing Congress."

According to the Associated Press:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans vacating the Capitol are dumping a big spring cleaning job on Democrats moving in. GOP leaders have opted to leave behind almost a half-trillion-dollar clutter of unfinished spending bills,

There's also no guarantee that Republicans will pass a multibillion-dollar measure to prevent a cut in fees to doctors treating Medicare patients.

The bulging workload that a Republican-led Congress was supposed to complete this year but is instead punting to 2007 promises to consume time and energy that Democrats had hoped to devote to their own agenda upon taking control of Congress in January for the first time in a dozen years.

The decision to drop so much unfinished work in Democrats' laps demonstrates both division within Republicans ranks and the difficulty in resolving so many knotty questions in so short a time. GOP leaders promised their House and Senate members the December lame duck session would last no more than two weeks, or until Dec. 16 at the latest.

Now, with the agenda shrinking, a session that will be the last for 45 retiring or defeated House members and senators should be wrapped up by Dec. 8.
Now, this is the same group that spent fewer than 100 days in session during this election year, setting something of a record on that.

The hypocrisy of these folks would be astounding if only it weren't their standard operating procedure!

These are the people who changed the Welfare Reform law to no allow education count towards work requirements while at the same time refused to increase the minimum wage for over a decade (until they tried to link an increase to yet another tax cut for the rich).

There used to be a saying that "there's no free lunch in America." Maybe not, but the closest thing to it is to be a Republican member of Congress where you just have to allow lobbyists to write legislation and get the occasional earmark in order to live the plush life in Washington.

This is but the latest evidence that Republicans are unfit to lead.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Blue Mondays - Guilbeau and Fazzio Election Recap

Tonight we bring you the election recap show with Tommy Guilbeau and Anthony Fazzio. First up, the SPANKING Joey Durel got on the "Durel Sales Tax Increase" and then we go into the new US Congressional Make up.

For Part Two of the show - Click Here

Friday, November 10, 2006

None Dare Call it Torture

Just before the election, the Bush administration went to court to fight the release of any details about the, uh, coercive techniques the CIA (and probably private contractors) have been using on alleged terror suspects.

I refer to them as alleged because the entire process of determining the guilt or innocence of these people is beyond the reach of the courts. In fact, in testimony before the Congress during the summer, a spokesman for the Justice Department admitted that the standard the Bush administration wants to apply to so-called "foreign combatants" is not a standard of justice this country would find acceptable if applied to captured U.S. military.

A story in Friday's Washington Post makes clear just how far outside the norms of convention the Bush administration has pushed the CIA, contractors and military interrogators.

The story details the ordeal of an Islamic cleric kidnapped from the streets of Milan with the complicity (if not the overt help of Italian intelligence officials) in 2003. The kidnapping itself remains the focus of an Italian investigation, with more than 20 U.S. CIA agents subpoenaed for questioning.
MILAN, Nov. 9 -- In an account smuggled out of prison, a radical Muslim cleric has detailed how he was kidnapped by the CIA from this northern Italian city and flown to Cairo, where he was tortured for months with electric shocks and shackled to an iron rack known as "the Bride."
The document has been submitted as evidence to defense attorneys representing 25 CIA officers, a U.S. Air Force officer and nine Italian agents who have been charged with organizing the kidnapping of Nasr, an Egyptian national, in February 2003.

A copy of the document, handwritten in Arabic, was obtained by The Washington Post. Undated, it reads like a homemade legal affidavit, outlining how Nasr was seized as he was walking to a mosque in Milan, stuffed into a van and rushed to Egypt in a covert operation involving spies from three countries.

"I didn't understand anything about what was going on," Nasr wrote. "They began to punch me in the stomach and all over my body. They wrapped my entire head and face with wide tape, and cut holes over my nose and face so I could breathe."

Upon his arrival in Egypt hours later, he said, he was taken into a room by an Egyptian security official who told him that "two pashas" wanted to speak with him.

"Only one spoke, an Egyptian," he recalled. "And all he said was, 'Do you want to collaborate with us?' " Nasr said the other "pasha" appeared to be an American. His captors offered a deal: They would allow him to return to Italy if he agreed to become an informant. Nasr said he refused. As a result, he said, he was interrogated and physically abused for the next 14 months in two Cairo prisons.

Italian prosecutors charge that the CIA and the Italian military intelligence agency known as Sismi collaborated to kidnap Nasr, who was known for preaching radical sermons in Milan and railing against U.S. policies in Afghanistan and the Middle East. According to prosecutors, the abduction thwarted a separate Italian police investigation into Nasr's activities and jeopardized a surveillance operation concerning other radicals in Milan.

Court papers allege that the kidnapping was orchestrated by the CIA's station chief in Rome and involved at least two dozen CIA operatives, most of whom arrived in Italy months before to lay the groundwork. Italian judges have issued arrest warrants for the CIA officers and have pledged to try them in absentia if necessary.

Although the case has caused a furor in Italy, the U.S. government has neither confirmed nor denied playing a role in Nasr's disappearance. Egyptian officials have also remained silent. A CIA spokesman declined to comment for this story.

Nasr's wife and his lawyer in Cairo have said the cleric is still imprisoned in Egypt, although he has been released under house arrest for brief periods. It is unclear how Italian prosecutors received a copy of his letter. Investigators said handwriting experts have verified that Nasr was the author.

Prosecutors in Milan are also investigating allegations that Italian spies offered to give Nasr $2.5 million if he would sign papers saying he had left Italy voluntarily and was not kidnapped, according to Italian news reports.
Then this:
In his letter, Nasr described how his health had badly deteriorated. He had lost hearing in one ear from repeated beatings, he said, and his formerly pitch-black hair had turned all white. He said he was kept in a cell with no toilet and no lights, where "roaches and rats walked across my body."

He also gave a graphic account of Egyptian interrogation practices, including how he would be strapped to an iron rack nicknamed "the Bride" and zapped with electric stun guns.

On other occasions, he wrote, he was tied to a wet mattress on the floor. While one interrogator sat on a wooden chair perched on the prisoner's shoulders, another interrogator would flip a switch, sending jolts of electricity into the mattress coils.
About the only thing in worse shape than the U.S. military (which is pinned down in Iraq) is the reputation of this country in the world.

Ronald Reagan's image of America as "the shining city on a hill" has been replaced by the image of a hooded, manacled man standing on a box in Abu Grahib Prison. That second image may be becoming outdated. It seems that a person being beaten by 'rent-a-torturer' goons from places like Egypt at the behest of American kidnappers is likely the emerging current image the Bush administration has created for our country.

The human carnage of the war and occupation of Iraq (as gut-wrenching as they are) pale in comparison to the damage done to this country's ability to act as a standard bearer for human decency and the rule of law.

Bush and Cheney have done a heck of a job on this score.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day Video

Here is an Election Day Video WORTH watching! Click PLAY Below!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ken Mehlman

If you guys watched my show I went into detail and included part of the interview with Ken Mehlman - head of the RNC - trying to defend the racial and smutty ad he paid for against Harrold Ford in Tennessee. Well this young group of folks, put together their own response. Check it out, you will love it.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Blue Mondays - Sen. Mary Landrieu

This week we are joined by U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu. The Senator stops in to breif us on her Offshore Revenue Sharing bill, and makes the case as to why the senate bill needs to be the one passed.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Blue Mondays - Rep. Charlie Melancon

Congressman Melancon joins us for the entire hour this week on Blue Mondays.

Here is Part ONE:

Here is Part Two:

Support Congressman Melancon by visiting his website

Friday, October 13, 2006


Greetings Everyone,

Just wanted to let you know - Congressman Charlie Melancon will join me for the entire hour on Monday Night at 9pm on AOC Channel 15. Blue Mondays is where you can catch up on News, Politics and happenings from the PROGRESSIVE PERSPECTIVE.

Hope you will join us, if you don't have Cox Cable in Acadiana - don't worry - we will post the show here at 9pm on Monday night so you can watch it as folks are on COX.


Monday, October 09, 2006

This Week's Blue Mondays News

Blue Monday NEWs - 10/9/2006

Here is this week's news report. We take an indepth look into the Foley scandal and its ties to Louisiana via Congressman Alexander (read more about that below in Anthony's post) and we also look into Bob Woodward's new book 'State of Denial'. Let us know what you think!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Mark Foley Sex Scandal, Rahm Emanuel on ABC's This Week

Mark Foley Sex Scandal, Rahm Emanuel on ABC's

This is an outstanding interview where Rahm Emanuel handles this incredibly well. He nails Putnam on the entire CONTRACT WITH AMERICA and how they have broken it. "6 years in control and all you guys have is Fear..." Great interview and it is good to see democrats fighting back and not backing down.
Torture is Best at Bedtime

This is quite good, and while it is entertaining to watch, MAN - it packs a punch in it's message

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Blue Mondays - NEWS ONLY (click here for full program)

This week's Blue Monday News. To see the entire program click the link above or visit

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Are We Really So Fearful? -

This column appears in Sunday's Washington Post. It is so powerful and moving that I'm posting it in its entirety here.

Mike Stagg
Democratic Candidate for Congress
Louisiana's Seventh District

• • • • •

Are We Really So Fearful?
By Ariel Dorfman
Sunday, September 24, 2006; B01


It still haunts me, the first time -- it was in Chile, in October of 1973 -- that I met someone who had been tortured. To save my life, I had sought refuge in the Argentine Embassy some weeks after the coup that had toppled the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende, a government for which I had worked. And then, suddenly, one afternoon, there he was. A large-boned man, gaunt and yet strangely flabby, with eyes like a child, eyes that could not stop blinking and a body that could not stop shivering.

That is what stays with me -- that he was cold under the balmy afternoon sun of Santiago de Chile, trembling as though he would never be warm again, as though the electric current was still coursing through him. Still possessed, somehow still inhabited by his captors, still imprisoned in that cell in the National Stadium, his hands disobeying the orders from his brain to quell the shuddering, his body unable to forget what had been done to it just as, nearly 33 years later, I, too, cannot banish that devastated life from my memory.

It was his image, in fact, that swirled up from the past as I pondered the current political debate in the United States about the practicality of torture. Something in me must have needed to resurrect that victim, force my fellow citizens here to spend a few minutes with the eternal iciness that had settled into that man's heart and flesh, and demand that they take a good hard look at him before anyone dare maintain that, to save lives, it might be necessary to inflict unbearable pain on a fellow human being. Perhaps the optimist in me hoped that this damaged Argentine man could, all these decades later, help shatter the perverse innocence of contemporary Americans, just as he had burst the bubble of ignorance protecting the young Chilean I used to be, someone who back then had encountered torture mainly through books and movies and newspaper reports.

That is not, however, the only lesson that today's ruthless world can learn from that distant man condemned to shiver forever.

All those years ago, that torture victim kept moving his lips, trying to articulate an explanation, muttering the same words over and over. "It was a mistake," he repeated, and in the next few days I pieced together his sad and foolish tale. He was an Argentine revolutionary who had fled his homeland and, as soon as he had crossed the mountains into Chile, had begun to boast about what he would do to the military there if it staged a coup, about his expertise with arms of every sort, about his colossal stash of weapons. Bluster and braggadocio -- and every word of it false.

But how could he convince those men who were beating him, hooking his penis to electric wires and waterboarding him? How could he prove to them that he had been lying, prancing in front of his Chilean comrades, just trying to impress the ladies with his fraudulent insurgent persona?

Of course, he couldn't. He confessed to anything and everything they wanted to drag from his hoarse, howling throat; he invented accomplices and addresses and culprits; and then, when it became apparent that all this was imaginary, he was subjected to further ordeals.

There was no escape.

That is the hideous predicament of the torture victim. It was always the same story, what I discovered in the ensuing years, as I became an unwilling expert on all manner of torments and degradations, my life and my writing overflowing with grief from every continent. Each of those mutilated spines and fractured lives -- Chinese, Guatemalan, Egyptian, Indonesian, Iranian, Uzbek, need I go on? -- all of them, men and women alike, surrendered the same story of essential asymmetry, where one man has all the power in the world and the other has nothing but pain, where one man can decree death at the flick of a wrist and the other can only pray that the wrist will be flicked soon.

It is a story that our species has listened to with mounting revulsion, a horror that has led almost every nation to sign treaties over the past decades declaring these abominations as crimes against humanity, transgressions interdicted all across the earth. That is the wisdom, national and international, that has taken us thousands of years of tribulation and shame to achieve. That is the wisdom we are being asked to throw away when we formulate the question -- Does torture work? -- when we allow ourselves to ask whether we can afford to outlaw torture if we want to defeat terrorism.

I will leave others to claim that torture, in fact, does not work, that confessions obtained under duress -- such as that extracted from the heaving body of that poor Argentine braggart in some Santiago cesspool in 1973 -- are useless. Or to contend that the United States had better not do that to anyone in our custody lest someday another nation or entity or group decides to treat our prisoners the same way.

I find these arguments -- and there are many more -- to be irrefutable. But I cannot bring myself to use them, for fear of honoring the debate by participating in it.

Can't the United States see that when we allow someone to be tortured by our agents, it is not only the victim and the perpetrator who are corrupted, not only the "intelligence" that is contaminated, but also everyone who looked away and said they did not know, everyone who consented tacitly to that outrage so they could sleep a little safer at night, all the citizens who did not march in the streets by the millions to demand the resignation of whoever suggested, even whispered, that torture is inevitable in our day and age, that we must embrace its darkness?

Are we so morally sick, so deaf and dumb and blind, that we do not understand this? Are we so fearful, so in love with our own security and steeped in our own pain, that we are really willing to let people be tortured in the name of America? Have we so lost our bearings that we do not realize that each of us could be that hapless Argentine who sat under the Santiago sun, so possessed by the evil done to him that he could not stop shivering?

Ariel Dorfman, a Chilean American writer and professor at Duke University, is author of "Death and the Maiden."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Republican Business Model: Caring for Cronies

I've been thinking about the Republican business model as it applies to governing at the federal level. There are some prime examples where the emergence of that model becomes clear: Iraq, Medicare prescription drug program, FEMA/disaster recovery, energy policy and other areas of focus of this administration.

Corruption is definitely a core piece of the business model.

However, the model itself looks to me to be something like this: identify an issue/challenge/policy; propose/pretend to address it; initiate action, the prime efficiency of which is to enrich your cronies and patrons.

In Iraq, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was flooded with cronies, had great power, but the real money was made by the contractors. That continues in Iraq today long after the CPA has disappeared.

The Medicare prescription drug program gets prescription drugs to seniors, but the primary beneficiaries are the insurance companies selling plans and the pharmaceutical industry selling the drugs at taxpayer expense at rates they solely determine (remember, the government can't negotiate on prices).

FEMA's response to both Katrina and Rita (remember Rita? One-year anniversary coming up this weekend) was more of the same. The prime beneficiaries were the Halliburtons of the world who got no bid contracts to handle aspects of the cleanup/recovery. While residents across the northern Gulf of Mexico, individuals, families, communities and businesses continue to struggle to recover, the contractors have been rewarded with another round of no-bid contracts from FEMA.

Energy policy is explicitly corrupt. Bush/Cheney energy policies have resulted in record high prices and record profits for oil companies. In their eyes (and the eyes of the energy companies) the policy is a smashing success.

The use of a business model template is useful because it helps anticipate how emerging policy initiatives of the administration will actually turn out. Apply this business model to Bush's renewed vow to privatize Social Security and it becomes apparent that the fate of retirees will be substantially less secure, but the financial services companies will make a killing.

The Republican-controlled Congress gave it's approval to this approach (at least indirectly) through its failure to provide any meaningful oversight to any of the administration's policies and programs during the nearly six years it has been in power.

This was cross-posted as a comment at TPM Café:

And at Bloggin for Mike:

Friday, September 08, 2006

Courage of the JAGs: a defining moment?

National Public Radio had the best coverage of the day on the House Armed Services Committee testimony by the Judge Advocate Generals of the four branches of the U.S. armed forces today.

Hearing it on All Things Considered as I drove across the Atchafalaya Basin bridge on I-10 this afternoon was an amazing experience. I believe something fundamentally changed today with this testimony.

The press today was in absolute awe of Bush/Rove/Cheney's ability to change the agenda from Iraq/Rumsfeld to the squeeze play his team was attempting to put on Democrats with his new plea for congressional approval of his illegal military tribunals for captured alleged terrorists.

That focus on the game, rather than the facts came to a grinding halt today with the testimony of the JAGs.

Steven Bradbury, the assistant attorney general who testified before the Senate panel for the Bush administration, assured lawmakers that this time, the White House got it right.

"These military commission procedures would provide for fundamentally fair trials," Bradbury said. But he also pointed out one provision that is unheard of in courts of law, that "classified evidence may be considered by the commission outside the presence of the accused."

In explaining the policy, Bradbury said that, "In the midst of the current conflict, we cannot share with captured terrorists the highly sensitive intelligence relevant to some military commission prosecutions."

For Gen. James Walker, staff judge advocate of the U.S. Marine Corps, that provision is a major problem.

"I'm not aware of any situation in the world where there is a system of jurisprudence that is recognized by civilized people," he said, "where an individual can be tried without -- and convicted without -- seeing the evidence against him. And I don't think that the United States needs to become the first in that scenario."

The judge advocate generals of the Army, Navy and Air Force who also testified all agreed with Walker. Some also objected to the commissions' admissibility of evidence obtained under coercion that falls short of torture.

The Bush tribunals would not as "a system of jurisprudence that is recognized by civilized people."

Has anymore powerful indictment of the policy of any U.S. administration ever been delivered in Congress by anyone serving on active duty in the military?

In an exchange included in the airing of the segment on ATC but not in the story carried on the site, under questioning from a North Carolina Democrat, Assistant AG Bradbury admitted that the U.S. would not recognize as legitimate the very standards he was defending if captured U.S. servicemen and women were subjected to them at the hands of their captors.

The political desperation of the Bush administration has compelled it to seek rushed Congressional approval of its methods. The reforms are defined as being outside the norms of legitimate jurisprudence. What does that say about the practices that the CIA and the military have been engaged in prior to this rush for cover?

The military has stood up to the administration in a public way that has not happened before. We are in new territory here. The old plays no longer appear to be working.

Mike Stagg
Democratic Candidate for Congress
Lousiana's Seventh District

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Occupation of Iraq

The United States should begin withdrawing troops from Iraq now.

The Bush administration led this country into this war based on a series of lies and slanted intelligence. It has violated treaties, American law and the international law in approving torture, kidnapping and other tactics that have cost this nation its moral standing in the world and, in so doing, diminished our capacity to lead. It has brought the Army to near ruin and hampered our ability to respond to other emerging challenges, including those within our own country.

The administration’s refusal to plan for the aftermath of the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime and its emphasis on awarding lucrative no-bid contracts to companies of its cronies have resulted an occupation that has allowed conditions in Iraq to deteriorate to the point of civil war.

This war of choice has cost the lives of more than 2,600 American service men and women and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians; it has wounded nearly 20,000 of our soldiers and made hundreds of thousands of Iraqis homeless.

It has inflamed passions in the Middle East.

It has made Iraq the leading terrorist training ground in the world.

It has made Iran the leading power in the region.

It has driven up the price of oil.

It has undermined the security and stability of Israel.

It has sucked our treasury dry.

There is nothing in the record of the Bush administration or the rubber stamp Republican majorities in the House and Senate that provide any reason to believe that they are capable of rescuing our interests from Iraq by prolonging our involvement there.

Republicans say “stay the course.” I ask, “What course?” Where is there any sign of a coherent strategy in Iraq? Our soldiers are on extended duty in Iraq. There have been too few of them there from the start for us to have a chance to stabilize the country. And they are now caught in the middle of a civil war. The Army is at the point of breaking.

The Bush administration and the Congress have been in denial for too long. There are no good choices left to us in Iraq now.

We must extricate our army from Iraq while there is still time to do so and while there is still the possibility that a full-fledged civil war can be averted.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Bush's FEMA Stiffs Boustany, Seventh District

It was only two years ago that then-candidate Charles Boustany was telling the people of the Seventh District that one of the chief reasons they should elect him was his close ties to the Bush Administration. There was the now mysteriously absent picture of Boustany with the President in the White House in what amounted to a drive-by photo-op.

As the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding. And, today there was yet another piece of evidence that Charles Boustany is little more than a warm seat and a reliable vote for the administration (and the House GOP leaders who help fund his campaign).

Boustany told reporters that FEMA has ignored his appeal of their decision not to include the storm-damaged parishes in his district in the extension of federal support for cleanup work.

Charles Boustany says he wants another term in Congress. And, why not? The pay is good. He's not doing much of any work and his PAC masters are keeping his campaign coffers flush.

The fact that FEMA and the Bush administration have repeatedly failed his constituents in the wake of Hurricane Rita is, apparently, just one of those unfortunate things. But, Boustany is anxiously looking forward to his next opportunity to cuts taxes for the wealthy and impose further burdens on the middle class.

Yep, Charlie's done a heck of a job!

LeftBlog: Republicans hold minimum wage hostage for the ‘Paris Hilton estate tax cut’

Greetings, all.

Senator David Vitter and Congressman Charles Boustany are completely out of touch with Louisiana and nothing illustrates this more than their recent votes with regard to the push for repeal of the Paris Hilton “estate tax” via the Estate Tax and Extension of Tax Relief Act of 2006 (H.R.5970).

They would rather help less than 100 multi-millionaires a year than to help the hundred thousand plus of working poor of this state.

In my opinion, this last round of votes on this issue takes their distain for the working poor of this country to new heights. Since Boustany is proudly on the record at a town hall meeting here in Lafayette where he stated “I won’t support an increase in minimum wage…” , it is obvious that he didn’t vote YES for this bill for the minimum wage increase – instead he voted to repeal the tax cuts to the Paris Hiltons of the country.

Let’s make this clear. The Estate Tax has been modified in the past few years which addresses inflation and also exempts in most cases family businesses and farms. Make no mistake this administration and these Republicans would rather protect the assets of Paris Hilton than those of the working poor. The facts are clear; in 2004 only 91 deaths in Louisiana resulted in estates being taxed.

Louisiana is now ranked 50th in the country for PER CAPITA INCOME; that is we are the lowest paid workers of the country. And our republican representation KILLS the minimum wage increase to protect the ultra rich by attaching the poison pill of repeal/reducing the estate tax.

More Hypocrisy – You can look at this one of two ways, in my view... Read the Full Column

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Lake Charles Union on Front Line of War Against the Middle Class

Last Saturday, I attended a rally at the Lake Charles Civic Center for members of International Machinists Union Local 470 who had been on strike against PPG for 64 days and made a small personal contribution to their strike fund. The rally represented an opportunity for me to tell those workers how their fight is bigger than they are.

Workers across the country in all sectors of the economy are losing ground to inflation despite the fact that we have an allegedly booming economy. The facts are that job growth during the Bush/Cheney years has been slower than during the Clinton years and wages have failed to keep up with even the so-called core inflation which, by the way, doesn't include food or fuel. I don't know about you, but everyone I know eats and uses fuel either to drive, cook or cool.

The constantly rising cost of healthcare is putting pressure on employers and employees, with those companies that do provide health coverage requiring employees to pay increasingly larger shares of their healthcare coverage costs. Then there is the matter of pensions. Employers have been cutting back on benefits to pensioners as the cost pressure of healthcare and the demands of investors to constantly increase profits combine to force employers to squeeze employees.

Those who argued for globalization and free trade claimed that the benefits resulting from that trade offset the losses in, say, manufacturing jobs that occurred here as a result. But, the loss of manufacturing jobs was only the beginning. Today, increasing numbers of so-called white collar jobs are being shipped overseas.

One of the primary proponents of free trade during the Clinton Administration, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin has even come around to admitting that the cost of globalization to middle class Americans has been higher than he anticipated. Rubin wrote recently:
"Prosperity has neither trickled down nor rippled outward. Between 1973 and 2003, real GDP per capita in the United States increased 73 percent, while real median hourly compensation rose only 13 percent."
Income inequality in Louisiana ranks 16th in the nation, according to one study.

This widening inequality gap comes during a time of record corporate profits, in the wake of a series of massive tax cuts for the very wealthy (which will only widen the gap), and unrelenting pressure at the gas pump and in the bills arriving in the mail.

So, I went to Lake Charles to support those union members and to let them know that they are fighting for a lot more people than just their 900 or so fellow union members at their plant. If you want to see whose side Charles Boustany is standing on, check out the list of PAC contributors to his past and current campaigns. Who interests do you think he's looking out for?

No doubt the operators of other plants in the Lake Charles are watching the outcome of this strike at PPG to see if the company can break this union and take away the pay and benefits that workers there have used to build good lives for themselves and their families.

Investor Warren Buffett has been quoted as saying that there is class warfare in the United States "and our side is winning!"

A forthcoming book argues that the "demand side" programs of the New Deal which promoted equality, opportunity, economic security, and upward mobility helped strengthen the nation's bonds to democracy which had been tested during the Great Depression. This widening gap of inequality, then, threatens not just our economic well-being, but ultimately our political order. Look no further than Latin America for lessons about what happens to political stability when the middle class is not growing or stable.

Under the current Republican administration and the current Republican Congress, the economic policy emphasis has been to comfort the comfortable and (at best) ignore the afflicted. We continue to follow that path at great peril to our republic.

So, there is a bigger fight underway in Lake Charles than just that strike, the significance of which extends far beyond that community. I went to the Machinists' rally to stand with them and with the other members of the middle and working class who are running faster every day just trying to keep from falling behind.

The bargaining teams were supposed to return to the negotiating table on Wednesday. PPG has tweaked their offer. The Lake Charles American Press reports that union members they talked with are "cool to the offer."

Again, it's a company with record sales and profits trying to squeeze more concessions out of their employees. Meanwhile, Republicans are still trying to find ways to shovel more tax breaks to the Paris Hiltons of the world.