Monday, September 18, 2006

Bureaucrats Get Emails: "Constitution Day"

All Department of Commerce employees received this email on Friday, September 15:


In December 2004, the President established September 17 of each year as a day in which we take time to celebrate the framing of our Constitution. On September 17, 1787, the U.S. Constitution was signed and the course of our Nation's history was changed. This year, our celebration will occur on Monday, September 18, 2006.

When delegates of the Constitution Convention met behind closed doors during a hot Philadelphia summer, their goal was to establish a new form of government that ensured justice and protection of all citizens from internal strife and outside attack. The framers wanted to create a national government that was effective, but that did not infringe upon the rights of the individual or the states. After heated debate, on September 17, 1787, 39 signers ensured the successful future of our country.

History has proven that our Founding Fathers were successful. Our Constitution remains the oldest written national constitution still in effect. Unlike most national constitutions that define the rights of the people, our Constitution is a document in which "We the People" define the role and limits of the government. The powers not expressly given to the Federal Government are reserved for the people and the states.

Our 219 year-old Constitution continues to work well today, even though many signers had some doubt. While more than 11,000 amendments to the document have been proposed by Congress over the last two centuries, only 33 amendments have gone to the states to be ratified. To date, our Constitution has been amended only 27 times. And the first ten of these amendments became known as our "Bill of Rights." We continue to benefit from the far-seeing wisdom of the Bill of Rights, the separation of powers, the access to our courts, our right to criticize, and our right to freely practice our religious beliefs.

With the recent marking of the tragedies that occurred on September 11, 2001 – this is a perfect time for us to stop and celebrate the precious freedoms that this document and this country provide all of us. To celebrate Constitution Day within the Department of Commerce, a broadcast e-mail will identify additional informational sources available to you regarding the history of our Constitution. Please take a moment of your time to review this information, become more familiar with this important document, and share this information with your co-workers, friends and family.

As Federal employees, we should set an example by being among the most knowledgeable individuals on the history of our Constitution. We should appreciate the role the Constitution has played in our history, providing us with the freedoms of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Through political change, social transformation, and economic challenge, this document is a reminder of the power of ideas, and how "We the People" can make a huge difference.

Bolding mine.

I agree with this email wholeheartedly. The importance of the Constitutional guarantees of our rights is more important than ever in the wake of the attacks on that clear blue Tuesday five years ago.

This Administration would further erode the Fourth Amendment's "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects" with its attendant requirement that "no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Not being satisfied with the FISA law that gives it the authority to wait until after the wiretapping has been done before obtaining the warrant, it has defended what it regards as its authority to abandon warrants entirely. It seeks laws that would give it "program warrants" to authorize such surveillance for an entire program at once, with no 'particular description' of what it is looking for, and where.

It has long since abandoned any pretense of honoring the Sixth Amendment's protection of the right to a speedy trial, and has done its best to hide trials of suspected terrorists from public view, to deny the defendants access to the evidence against them, and so forth.

And we know how this Administration feels about cruel and unusual punishment.

And rather than defending the idea that "unlike most national constitutions that define the rights of the people, our Constitution is a document in which 'We the People' define the role and limits of the government," this Administration clearly believes that the Executive Branch can do pretty much what it wants, running roughshod over even the specifically enumerated rights of the people.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Ho Hum, Redux

"Another terrorism speech by the president is sort of like reruns of Seinfeld. It's on every night and we've memorized most of the lines."
---Congressional Quarterly's Craig Crawford on Countdown
(h/t DailyKos' Bill in Portland Maine)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Lieberman's Blog: "Help, help, I'm being repressed! Come see the violence inherent in the system!!

We're talking serious whining, crybabying, and pre-emptive victim-card playing here.

And the blog's only five posts old.

The highlight is their commentary on this letter by Lamont's communications director. They say its writer is clearly "blinded by her angry partisanship." Here's the letter:
Dear Senator Lieberman,

We were pleased to learn you are interested in a debate. Ned has long been willing to engage in an in-person discussion of the issues, and in fact we have been accepting invitations since August 9.

Live exchanges between the candidates are crucial to the Democratic process. In addition to traditional debates between the two major parties, we believe minor parties, such as Connecticut for Lieberman, should participate as well, and we will fight for your inclusion.

Please urge Sherry Brown to contact Tom Swan, our Campaign Manager, at (203) 634-6601 to ensure that you, and other minor party candidates, can be part of the debate.


Liz Dupont Diehl
Communications Director

Can't you just feel the anger? I tell ya, if they think this is "angry," these guys should check into a room where there are no loud noises, and nobody ever raises their voice. Because they aren't ready for everyday life, let alone the rough-and-tumble of politics.

Of course, their real goal is to make people think Lamont's a practitioner of the politics of anger and polarization. Politically speaking, Lamont comes across as a James Stewart-type innocent, a genuine Mr. Nice Guy, and as far as I can tell, he doesn't do attack ads. It's going to be a hard stunt to pull.

In addition, in the very first post on the blog, Dan Gerstein, Lieberman's campaign chief, says this:
we are going to use our free speech to point out any of the blatant lies or crude insults the Lamonsters post [in this blog] to call attention to the kind of negative, destructive politics that Ned and his followers like to practice.

Don't you just love it? They're playing the victim card over purely hypothetical attacks - potential attacks that couldn't have even happened yet at the time of that post, and might never happen. But they're calling these nonexistent attacks "blatant lies," "crude insults," and "negative, destructive politics."

That's our Joe: the voice of civility.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

So, when are we going to invade Pakistan?

As everyone knows, Bush has repeatedly said things like:
I made it clear that if you harbor a terrorist, you're just as guilty as the terrorist, and you're an enemy of the United States, and you will be held to account. The Taliban didn't take our word seriously. And thanks to a fantastic United States military, along with allies, we removed the Taliban.
Now we find out:
Osama bin Laden, America's most wanted man, will not face capture in Pakistan if he agrees to lead a "peaceful life," Pakistani officials tell ABC News.

The surprising announcement comes as Pakistani army officials announced they were pulling their troops out of the North Waziristan region as part of a "peace deal" with the Taliban.

If he is in Pakistan, bin Laden "would not be taken into custody," Major General Shaukat Sultan Khan told ABC News in a telephone interview, "as long as one is being like a peaceful citizen."

Bin Laden is believed to be hiding somewhere in the tribal areas of Pakistan, near the Afghanistan border, but U.S. officials say his precise location is unknown.

In addition to the pullout of Pakistani troops, the "peace agreement" between Pakistan and the Taliban also provides for the Pakistani army to return captured Taliban weapons and prisoners.

"What this means is that the Taliban and al Qaeda leadership have effectively carved out a sanctuary inside Pakistan," said ABC News consultant Richard Clarke, the former White House counter-terrorism director.

The agreement was signed on the same day President Bush said the United States was working with its allies "to deny terrorists the enclaves they seek to establish in ungoverned areas across the world."

Actually, the U.S. government has known for quite some time that Pakistan was less than enthusiastic about bringing bin Laden to justice. It's been reported in the press, usually buried on page A17 if it appears in an American paper. But this is the truth of it: Osama bin Laden, the killer of 3000 Americans, is comfortably hiding in Pakistan, and as long as he doesn't cause any trouble in Pakistan, he is completely safe. Bush isn't going to demand to Pakistan that they let our troops in to capture Osama, and he isn't going to apply any sanctions to them because they've cozied up to bin Laden and the Taliban.

But Bush is the one who's tough on terror...

Monday, September 04, 2006

A Modest Labor Day Agenda

As you'll notice, my list is, in good part, about time rather than money, unions, or any of that. There's two reasons for that: first, most workers are either parents of children, or have aging parents to look after. This is a pro-family thing: if a worker's time is a free resource for the employer, the employer will eat up all the time it can get, and leave the worker with little left over for raising his/her children, looking after infirm relatives, or simply living his/her own life.

Second, if a worker's overtime hours aren't a free resource, then an employer will likely have to hire more workers, rather than paying overtime to its existing workers, which tightens the labor market and helps put upward pressure on worker compensation.

And finally, it's a good thing for the worker to simply have the free time. So ending the availability of overtime in particular as a free resource for employers does positive things for workers in three ways, rather than just one.

Anyhow, here's the list:

  1. Increase the minimum wage to at least $7/hour.
  2. Make time and a half for overtime mandatory for everyone under, say, $50,000, and for persons with base salary up to 3 times that amount, pay them for overtime at the $50K rate.
  3. Put some teeth into enforcement of OT laws. There's a hell of a lot of anecdotal evidence that more and more employers are putting pressure on employees to work OT 'off the clock.' This has to end.
  4. Make ten days of annual leave and five days of sick leave a year a legal minimum, and forbid employers from penalizing workers for using those days of leave.
  5. Union organizing via card check.
  6. Single-payer universal health care. When employees are afraid to leave a job because they might lose their health benefits, it really weakens an employee's bargaining leverage. Then notice that this isn't happening to one or two workers here and there, but all across our economy.

Long Hours: Not Exactly a Paradox

From this morning's WaPo:

For years, economists have taught their students a simple maxim: As employers hunt for workers, they want to get the best talent at the lowest price.

According to this theory, whether employees want to work long hours or short hours, employers have an incentive to accommodate them, because asking people to do something they don't want to do raises the price of labor -- workers demand more compensation.

On this Labor Day, consider a paradox: Millions of Americans say they feel overworked and stressed out. Many say they want to work fewer hours and find a better balance between responsibilities at home and work. Given that people have been saying this for quite a while, employers should have figured out by now that they can save money by being more flexible in workplace arrangements.

Decidedly, however, this has not happened. The number of people who work more than 50 hours a week has steadily grown in recent decades -- in concert with complaints about long hours.

This is a paradox how?? Workers can only demand more compensation to the extent that they're bargaining from a position of strength, and over the past three decades, that has been an increasingly rare situation.

And let's look at what sort of worker the writer is talking about:
In a growing number of professions, especially those that involve thinking and social skills, managers and owners find it difficult to measure the day-to-day performance of employees.
For partners at big law firms, the simplest way to track the performance of junior lawyers is to see who bills the most hours above and beyond what is officially required, leading to what Case Western Reserve University economist James B. Rebitzer calls an "arms race" of hours.
In other words, we're discussing salaried professionals, a classification that sounds better than the reality. While it includes the junior lawyer striving for partner at a major law firm, it also encompasses most of the cubicle-dwellers who are, for all practical purposes, the line workers of the knowledge economy. They're 'professionals' exempt from the protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act, and they make decent but hardly dazzling salaries, but their overtime hours are a free resource.

Let me say that again: their overtime hours are a free resource.

This means an employer has no incentive to minimize his use of those hours, and every reason to use as many of them as he can get away with. An hour of overtime, for such workers, costs the company nothing in the way of pay, benefits, or anything else - unless we're going to cost the slight increase in the electric bill for having lights on and computers running later into the evening.

Sure, asking employees to work 50-60 hours a week instead of 40 probably raises the total cost of that labor by some minuscule amount - but the employer gets a big extra chunk of extra labor in return.

How, exactly, is this a bad deal for the employer? How, exactly, is this a paradox?

It's a paradox only if one ignores the fact that for those employing these workers, their overtime is a free resource.

The WaPo article never mentions or even hints at this fact.

How clueless can they get??

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Wasn't Zarqawi's Death Supposed To Make a Difference?

As my grandfather used to say, another perfectly good theory ruined by the facts.

ETA: Now they're making a big deal over the capture of the supposed #2 man in AQ in Iraq. Zarqawi-lite, anyone?

Needless to say, his capture will make even less of an impact than Zarqawi's death. Assuming it's possible to make less of an impact than 'none whatsoever.'

Bush and Iraq: Truly and Completely Delusional

Yesterday, in his Saturday radio address, Bush said:
A vital part of our strategy to defeat the terrorists is to help establish a democratic Iraq, which will be a beacon of liberty in the region and an ally in the global war on terror.
It's hard to understate the complete absurdity and preposterousness of the notion that we can enable Iraq to become "a beacon of liberty" anywhere. Puh-leeze.

He went on:
The terrorists understand the threat a democratic Iraq poses to their cause
None. Zip. Nada. To constitute a threat, a prospective event has to be possible.
Our commanders and diplomats on the ground believe that Iraq has not descended into a civil war.
That's just definitions and semantics. The reality is that Sunnis are attacking Shi'ites and vice versa - and in the south, different Shi'ite groups are fighting each other. Call it what you will. How about 'uncivil war'?
They report that only a small number of Iraqis are engaged in sectarian violence, while the overwhelming majority want peace and a normal life in a unified country.
And when Saddam ruled Iraq, only a small number of Iraqis wanted a Saddamite dictatorship. Yet he killed a lot of people. And over the past few months, far more Iraqis have been killed in this uncivil war than Saddam killed in a typical year.

This has come about after we'd already occupied the country for three years. Under our occupation, the situation in Iraq has gotten steadily worse. A year ago, we were still trying to subdue the Sunni Triangle, albeit with little hope of success. Now we're trying to prevent Baghdad itself from descending into chaos.
Working side-by-side with Iraqi forces, we recently launched a major new campaign to end the security crisis in Baghdad. This operation is still in its early stages, yet the initial results are encouraging.
Early stages?? This operation began on June 14, nearly twelve weeks ago. There's a limit to how long U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces can overconcentrate on Baghdad, even if it were working.
The people of Baghdad are seeing their security forces in the streets, dealing a blow to criminals and terrorists. According to one military report, a Sunni man in a diverse Baghdad neighborhood said this about the Shia soldiers on patrol: "Their image has changed. Now you feel they are there to protect you."
Here's what Riverbend has to say about it:
Residents of Baghdad are systematically being pushed out of the city. Some families are waking up to find a Klashnikov bullet and a letter in an envelope with the words “Leave your area or else.” The culprits behind these attacks and threats are Sadr’s followers- Mahdi Army. It’s general knowledge, although no one dares say it out loud. In the last month we’ve had two different families staying with us in our house, after having to leave their neighborhoods due to death threats and attacks. It’s not just Sunnis- it’s Shia, Arabs, Kurds- most of the middle-class areas are being targeted by militias.

Other areas are being overrun by armed Islamists. The Americans have absolutely no control in these areas. Or maybe they simply don’t want to control the areas because when there’s a clash between Sadr’s militia and another militia in a residential neighborhood, they surround the area and watch things happen.

Since the beginning of July, the men in our area have been patrolling the streets. Some of them patrol the rooftops and others sit quietly by the homemade road blocks we have on the major roads leading into the area. You cannot in any way rely on Americans or the government. You can only hope your family and friends will remain alive- not safe, not secure- just alive. That’s good enough.
Pardon me if I take Riverbend's word over Bush's. She's there, for one thing, and for another, she's been writing about the war from her perspective since it began. She's been writing the truth. Bush wouldn't know the truth if it walked up to him and punched him in the nose.

Back to Bush's words:
If we give up the fight in the streets of Baghdad, we will face the terrorists in the streets of our own cities.
There are certainly a small number of foreign terrorists in Iraq. But the bulk of the fighting is between Iraqi and Iraqi. If we leave, the Sunni insurgency won't follow us home, like a stray cat; it will continue to fight the Shi'ites for dominance in Iraq. Nor will Moqtada al-Sadr's thugs come to America; they'll be too busy alternately combatting the Sunnis and their Shi'ite rivals.

For Bush, it's all about us; for the violent factions in Iraq, it is all about Iraq. Iraqis will be the ones to pay the price if we leave, but they're already paying the price. I'm sympathetic to the argument that we can't just suddenly pull out because things will quickly get worse, but if pulling out means that what would happen in 2008 or 2009 if we stay, will happen in 2007 instead, you'll have to excuse me if I find that less than compelling.

If there's really something we can do to arrest the bleeding, we should do it, but I don't see that anyone has any brilliant ideas as to what that might be. And Bush isn't interested in them anyway, because it would admit that 'victory' is out of reach. And victory, astonishingly enough, is what he's after:
The security of the civilized world depends on victory in the war on terror, and that depends on victory in Iraq, so America will not leave until victory is achieved.
Anyone who thinks we will achieve anything remotely resembling 'victory' in Iraq is either on some powerful drugs, or is an incredible mixture of dumb and delusional.

Yet this was no offhand remark. He said the exact same thing two days earlier to the American Legion:
The security of the civilized world depends on victory in the war on terror, and that depends on victory in Iraq. So the United States of America will not leave until victory is achieved.
The night before that (August 30), in Utah:
We will stay the course, we will help this young Iraqi democracy succeed, and victory in Iraq will be a major ideological triumph in the struggle of the 21st century.
And it isn't just Bush. Vice President Cheney, to the VFW on August 28:
We have only two options in Iraq -- victory or defeat.
When it comes to our own troop levels, the President will listen to the recommendations of commanders on the ground. And he'll make the call based on what is needed for victory...
They obviously are saying we will emerge victorious from Iraq. Over what? Over whom? How? It hasn't been just about the Sunni insurgency in quite some time now - the Shi'ites are fighting among themselves, and the Kurds are still trying to cleanse Kirkuk. There are at least four sides to this uncivil war at the moment. How does one win 'victory' in such a multidimensional underground conflict? We don't even know where to start. Or if we do, we've certainly done a great job of showing it.

I don't know whether we can do anything to stop the bleeding in Iraq. But I do know that we won't win a 'victory' there. That's not rocket science; even Bush should be able to get his few brain cells around that.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Fifth anniversary of 9/11 coming up (yawn)

It's not that I don't take terrorism seriously. And what al-Qaeda did to us on 9/11 was absolutely horrible.

But in BushWorld, every day is 9/11 Day. And when every day is 9/11 Day, and you're not allowed to forget about it for an instant no matter what day it is, then the actual anniversary of 9/11 is just another day.

I've said elsewhere that the Bushies strike me as a crew of people frantically pushing the same buttons over and over again, hoping they'll work this time like they used to work: terror! gay marriage! WMDs! 9/11! Except that they've pushed all the buttons until the connections got worn out, and now they don't work anymore. But they keep on pushing the buttons, thinking they might just work one more time.

They've pushed the 9/11 button so often, there's no button left, just a hole in the control panel where the button used to be. So when they try to push the button again a week from Monday, it won't work, just the same as on all the other days.

So, have we brought bin Laden to justice yet?

Just wondering. After all, it's been nearly five years since he killed nearly 3000 Americans. We ought to take a crime like that seriously, and pursue the perpetrator to the ends of the earth.

Where in the world is Osama bin Laden? And why isn't the answer, "in lifetime solitary confinement in a supermax prison"?

Salt Lake City Mayor: Bush a "dishonest, war-mongering, human-rights violating president"

A crowd of thousands cheered Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson for calling President Bush a "dishonest, war-mongering, human-rights violating president" whose time in office would "rank as the worst presidency our nation has ever had to endure."
The group - including children and elderly and some hailing from throughout Utah - then marched to the federal building Wednesday to deliver a copy of a symbolic indictment against the president and Congress for abuse of power and failure to uphold the U.S. Constitution.
With their signs labeling Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld the "axis of evil," calling the Iraq war a "mission of lies" or comparing the invasion of Iraq after Sept. 11, 2001, to invading Mexico after Pearl Harbor, the estimated 1,500 to 4,000 protesters hoped their demonstration at the Salt Lake City-County Building sent a message about the reddest state in the country.
When the mayor of Salt Lake City is willing to speak words like that in public - and a crowd of thousands of Utahns cheers him when he says it - there is no reason why any Democrat, anywhere, should be the least bit timid or cautious in their criticisms of Bush. It's time to let him have it with everything we've got. This man has wrecked practically everything he's touched - Iraq, Katrina, the War on Terror, our nation's economic foundations, our middle class' security - and everybody knows it, except of course for the D.C. pundit class.

Stick a fork in him, he's done.

Now Bush and his crew are desperately trying to play the terror card one more time, but it's like a man pushing over and over again on a button that got pushed once too often and no longer works.

It's time for the Dems to say it loud, though probably not with this exact word: Bush is a total fuckup, and the Republicans they're running against supported Bush in practically everything he did. It's time to vote them out, so that a Democratic Congress can prevent Bush from doing this country any more harm.

ETA: Video of Rocky Anderson's speech here, if you'd like to watch it. (Probably not a permanent link, though.) Prepared text of speech here, courtesy of Anderson.