Thursday, January 05, 2006

Feeling Any Safer?

Sidney Blumenthal has done what may be his best piece since joining (the scribe hasn’t read them all) on the Bush administration’s circumvention of Congressional oversight and it’s calculated, systematic, and ultimately successful grab for power at the expense of our rights to be free of government harassment and prying, and to know what the hell our tax dollars are being spent on.

Remember, as Bush persistently (and incorrectly) asserts when talking about the nation’s tax base, “It’s your money!”

(It’s really ours.)

Blumenthal, you may or may not remember, was something of a minor player in the impeachment proceedings back in 1998. The “House Managers” prosecuting Clinton, and their backers, saw Sidney as kind of hired, intellectual pen, a left-wing gunslinger who did the President’s dirty work.

Like Clinton, he escaped the whole mess by the hair on his chinny-chin-chin and then wrote a book about it all called “The Clinton Wars,” the proceeds from which permit him the little hobby of writing off the top of his head for Salon.

Here’s the link to the piece which is entitled, “Bush’s war on professionals.” You’ll have to watch a brief advertisement for a movie called “Country Boys” before getting the site pass that will access the piece for you.

Click here and see what happens:

Blumenthal uses the recent press divulgence of the fact the (p)resident authorized, for himself, the wiretapping/eavesdropping of American citizens without asking Congress, which he’s supposed to do.

The revelation, the writer states, shed light on a vast new national security apparatus, “a national security state of torture, ghost detainees, secret prisons, rendition and domestic eavesdropping.”

By the way (and this is the scribe talking) all of these things have been proven, and documented, are the subject of outrage in Europe and other continents, but barely warrant cocktail conversation here, where people don’t think they need rights, because they have credit cards instead.

“The arguments used to rationalize this system,” Blumenthal continues, “insist that the president as commander in chief is entitled to arbitrary and unaccountable rule.”

He says that Rep. Duncan Hunter (Calif.) and Sen. Pat Roberts (Kan.) have done yeomen’s work in both chambers on the administration’s behalf, fending off oversight and attacking representatives and senators who, in asking questions, are merely doing there job.

“This,” notes Blumenthal, “is the sort of congressional involvement, at White House direction, that the White House believes fulfills the congressional mandate.”

Which are naught but acute and accurate attacks, stuff you can get right here at highwayscribery most weekdays when we’re not running bulletins on dead soldiers or chapters in the upcoming, soon-to-be-released “The Sidewalk Smokers Club” novel.

What’s interesting and insightful about his piece is Blumenthal’s insidey, government wonky discussion of an obscurity called the “signing statement,” which, in shorthand, the author suggests Bush uses to essentially rewrite the law he’s just been sent by Congress to suit his own needs.

“During his first term, [p]resident Bush issued an unprecedented 108 statements upon signing bills of legislation that expressed his own version of their content. He has countermanded the legislative history, which legally establishes that he considered stepped on his power in national security matters. In effect, Bush engages in presidential nullification of any law he sees fit. He then acts as if his gesture supersedes whatever Congress has done.

“Political scientist Phillip Cooper, of Portland State University in Oregon, described this innovative grasp of power in a recent article in the ‘Presidential Studies Quarterly.’ Bush, he wrote, ‘has very effectively expanded the scope and character of the signing statement not only to address specific provisions of legislation that the White House wishes to nullify, but also in an effort to significantly reposition and strengthen the powers of the presidency relative to Congress.’ Moreover, these coups de main [anybody knows what that is, please inform the scribe by post] not only have overwhelmed the other institutions of government but have taken place almost without notice. This tour de force [this guy likes French] has been carried out in such a systemic and careful fashion that few in Congress, the media, or the scholarly community are aware that anything has happened at all.”

No argument, in principle, there although the scribe would observe that in his labors as a real journalist covering workplace issues and the environment, the administration’s tack has seemed to be breaking laws and daring anybody to sue, whereby the taxpayers’ money (It’s your money!) Is then used to finance a defense of the consciously illegal effort.

Sometimes that happens, which is good, but always expensive to public advocacy groups who must do the suing, sometimes it doesn’t, which is costly to all of us.

Remember the big, new amendment to the recently passed defense bill that prohibits the use of torture by U.S. personnel? Well Bush, who supposedly had to eat John McCain’s humble pie on this issue, changed it up with his signing statement so that, as Blumenthal writes, “the president, in the name of national security, claiming to protect the country from terrorism, under war powers granted to him by himself, would follow the law to the extent that he decided he could.”

Anyway, there’s lots more, especially how all of this new “equipment” is being used to silence people like Blumenthal (or even the scribe), or the “professionals” in executive agencies the title alludes to. There’s also inside gossip about how this parade of violent right-wing ghouls relates to one another (which isn’t very Christian), so go ahead and read it.

And tell ‘em the highway scribe sent ya.

(Or maybe not.)


On this date in 1932, Ghandi began his fast to win voting rights for untouchables in India. Thirty-three years later, the Berkeley Free Speech Movement held its first rally at, well, Berkeley.

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