Thursday, January 27, 2005

Just More Imperialist Rhetoric

January 27, 2005

Even sources as removed from the action as Japan noticed that Bush's inaugural speech last week was "shorn of all but the most glancing references to the dominant political issues of the day." Indeed, Bush barely said anything at all, but the speech was hardly fluff. An inaugural is a chance to set the tone for a presidency, and presidential speechwriter Michael Gerson's soaring oratory about bringing liberty to the rest of the world whether they like it or not is very indicative of the approach our foreign policy will take in the next four years.

The address itself was bland tripe, but the subtext was extremely radical if you take the time to translate the fuzzy rhetoric about "ending tyranny" and "spreading liberty." Apparently, America will no longer rest on its laurels waiting for the inherent evil of tyranny to manifest as an actual threat. Instead, knowing that these tyrannical countries will always be a danger to freedom and democracy, we will pro-actively blow the hell out of other countries before they can even think about actually crossing us.

Bush is basically declaring an intention to extend the first-punch policy set by our preemptive invasion of Iraq to cover the rest of what we determine to be "un-free" countries. WMDs are no longer a factor. When the "Danger, danger! It's Al Qaed-I mean Sadam! He has a nuke! 9/11! 9/11!" tactic failed in the wake of Saddam's utter lack of serious armament, Bush switched over to the "Well, they needed liberating anyway!" excuse. Now, he's quietly pulled the old switcheroo, and Americans are actually thinking, "Maybe we should just invade the hell out of Iran. I mean, they are jerks...." Does anyone else remember the days when America only blew up countries that at least spat on our shoes or something first?

Bush said, "From the perspective of a single day, including this day of dedication, the issues and questions before our country are many. From the viewpoint of centuries, the questions that come to us are narrowed and few: Did our generation advance the cause of freedom?" This ends-justify-the-means mentality is pervasive in this administration. Condie Rice said in her senate hearing, "I know enough about history to stand back and to recognize that you judge decisions not at the moment but in how it all adds up." I believe the sentiment being expressed by both the President and the soon-to-be Secretary of State was put most succinctly by Fidel Castro, who said, "History will absolve me."

This week's disturbing precedent! According to, Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich threw an "invitation only" press conference, excluding two Baltimore Sun writers who exposed, among other things, his plan to sell state forest area to politically connected land developers. This kind of press selection is unconscionable, and I sincerely hope the writers file suit. This is a violation of the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the press, and free press is a scarce enough resource as things stand these days.

See for a rehash of why Bush's privatization plan is garbage and for an InfoDump link to the President's inaugural address. Also, this semester I've got a talk show on KNWD 91.7 FM every Friday morning from 8:00 to 10:00. Call 357-KNWD to tell all of Natchitoches what you have to say or mail if you have comments you'd like to have read on the air

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Chertoff Indicative of More Legal Manipulations

January 20, 2005

The new head of the Department of Homeland Defense, a 51-year-old man named Michael Chertoff, is being promoted to the post from a two-year stint as a federal judge. A graduate of Harvard, he worked at Latham and Watkins, a Washington law firm, for a few years before becoming a federal prosecutor.

He made a name for himself as an attorney in 1986 when Rudy Giuliani put him in charge of the important prosecution of several New York crime families, and he went on to make a lot of friends in the Republican party as an ethics attorney during the scandal-mongering Gingrich years.

From 1994 to 1996, he serve as the government's lead counsel in the Whitewater trial, and in '94 Latham and Watkins took him on again (this time as partner) for several years until he left to pursue work in the Bush Justice Department in 2001.

Chertoff is a disturbing choice for head of the DoHD. The former head was Tom Ridge, a two-term governor of Pennsylvania who had proven himself a devoted and administratively skilled Bushie, but Chertoff comes from a background as a federal attorney.

In his position with the Justice Department, he often served as a judicial attack dog for Ashcroft, and in discussing the war on terror, he has made several rather ominous statements concerning the proper level of government access to Americans' computer files. Longtime friends say that he has very clear ideas about what is right and wrong, a characterization that jibes well with Bush's polarized moral rhetoric, and he has proven himself quite loyal to the administration.

He not only approved but later defended the detention of hundreds of Arab "material witnesses" in the wake of Sept. 11, absolutely none of whom turned out to have been involved. He has since ruled in favor of the ridiculous "security precautions" involved in the case against Zacarias Moussaoui. This includes a completely bogus ruling that the Court could not order the government to produce its star witness because he was outside the country, even though (get this) he was being held in an undisclosed location for reasons of "national security" by the federal government!

Chertoff has also used this interpretation of what constitutes "outside the country" to justify the detention of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners. For those of you playing the home game, Gauntanamo is a military base, definitively American soil.

The promotion of Condee Rice from security advisor to head of national diplomatic relations is discouraging in and of itself, but in concert with appointees like Chertoff and Alberto "Architect of Abu Ghraib" Gonzales, the new head of the Justice Department, Bush is demonstrating a clear shift in Republican focus. The legal eagles Bush is appointing to every possible position are a clear indication that he intends to reinterpret the law in his second term instead of just flagrantly violating it.

This week's trivia! The Russian phrase for which KGB stands translates roughly to "Committee for State Security," or alternately "Department of Homeland Defense." Other neat trivia, unpublished articles, and delicious primary source materials are available now at Write to if you have something to say.

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