United States News Digest
Rehnquist Defends Court System Against the Neo-cons
Chief Justice William Rehnquist, in his annual end-of-the-year report, defended the Federal court system against those in Congress who would gag judges who they complain are engaged in "judicial activism." Rehnquist noted that complaints of judicial activism have risen sharply in recent years, but that "criticism of judges and judicial decisions is as old as our republic, an outgrowth, to some extent of the tensions built into our three branch system of government. To a significant degree, those tensions are healthy in maintaining a balance of power in our government." He noted that Federal judges were criticized 50 years ago "for their unpopular, some might say activist, decisions in desegregation cases, but those actions are now an admired chapter in our national history." He warned that the relationship between Congress and the Federal courts has been exacerbated by criticism and the suggestion that judges be impeached "who issue decisions regarded by some as out of the mainstream." He concluded: "let us hope that the Supreme Court and all of our courts will continue to command sufficient public respect to enable them to survive basic attacks on the judicial independence that has made our court system a model for much of the world."
While the media have focused on such issues as same-sex marriage and the ban on using the expression "one nation under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, sources familiar with Rehnquist's surprising criticism of the radical right in Congress and in the Executive Branch, say it is much more linked to the Bush-Cheney efforts to eradicate the power of the Supreme Court over the imperial Presidency. They cite as examples the White House claims of exemption from international codes of law, such as the Geneva Conventions, the labelling of some American citizens as "enemy combatants" to exclude them from the jurisdiction of the courts, etc. The issue, these sources say, is that the judicial branch of government is under such direct and vile attack from the Bush-Cheney-DeLay gang, that not even a scoundrel like Rehnquist can sit back and allow the judiciary, including the Supreme Court, to be relegated to the role of dishrag for a White House-gone-mad. Don't look for good guys in this fight; rather is one more sign that the Bush-Cheney Administration is even creating fractures in the right-wing coalition, by its drive for an outright coup d'etat against the Constitution.
Facing GOP Split, DeLay's Manic Marauders Compromise
The new 2005 U.S. Congress convened Tuesday, Jan. 4. In the current session, the Republican leadership will try to seat George W. Bush for a second term and pass the Social Security privatization scheme as a fascist foot-in-the-door.
House of Representatives Majority Leader Tom DeLay's minions had been pushing to begin the year with brazen changes in ethics rules, to protect DeLay and give a green light to past and contemplated criminality. The major proposed changes were:
1) to eliminate the Republican Party's internal rule that a party leader be removed from his/her position if indictedthree DeLay henchmen have so far been indicted in an investigation of Republican fundraising in Texas, and Majority Leader DeLay himself could be next;
2) to cancel a House rule requiring Congressmen to conduct themselves "at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House";
3) to require a majority vote of the ethics committee before any complaint about ethical violations could be investigated. The rule in effect since 1997, has been that any member's complaint would be automatically investigated. Since the ethics committee consists of equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats, the new rule would allow the Republicans, if unified, to block any probe. By the time the session opened, a threatened revolt by saner Republicans compelled the DeLay camp to give up the first two of these proposals, while salvaging the third. The DeLay forces recognized that a block of moderate Republicans, joined with the Democrats, could transfer overall political control to an anti-fascist majority.
Rep. Joel Hefley (R-Colo), chairman of the ethics committee last year, threatened to lead Republicans voting against the changes, until the party leaders agreed Jan. 3 to forget about the "stay-in-office-if-indicted" and "standard of conduct" changes.
Illinois Republican Congressman Ray LaHood said many in his party had been ready to act against their leaders' proposals and vote with Democrats, until the Republican leaders "came to their senses."
Former Top Official Criticizes Goss's CIA Purge
Purging the CIA is cutting off our nose to spite our face, said former top CIA official Havilland Smith, in a Jan. 4 Washington Post op-ed. Smith's career included postings in Europe and the Middle East, and a stint as head of the CIA's counterterror staff. His column concludes:
"Once a year, all CIA station chiefs write a message to the director of central intelligence giving their analysis of how things are going in the country to which they are assigned. These analyses are straightforward and normally show extraordinary understanding of local realities. They contain the kind of candor that, if it were to get unvarnished to a Bush White House or to the media (as the most recent one from Baghdad recently did), would likely infuriate the administration. After all, this is the president who will not acknowledge any shortcomings in either his policy or its outcome in Iraq.
"Given his dogged adherence to the righteousness of that policy, it makes sense that the president would be angry with the clandestine service. It seems quite possible that the service is being punished for having been right, or at least unsupportive of administration policy. The agency's statutory responsibility is to speak the truth, whether the truth supports the president's plans or not. It would appear that this concept is not shared by this administration.
"Porter Goss and his troops from the Hill are wreaking havoc on the best current line of defense we have against terrorism. However angry this administration is with the clandestine service, whose officers run human intelligence operations, those operations are the last, best hope we have to keep up with the terrorist problem. Purging the CIA at this unfortunate moment, when we need to be dealing with real issues of terrorism, is cutting off our nose to spite our face."
But what Smith fails to understand, is what Lyndon LaRouche has pointed out: that the CIA is not really being taken down merely in order to satisfy Bush's taste for revenge, but in order to build up another CIA under Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (and also Douglas Feith, Steven Cambone, and Lt. Gen. "Jerry" Boykin) in the Pentagon; sort of an SS presaged by the hunter-killer squads of Task Force 121.
Iraq War Forces Changes in Pentagon Budget Plans
The demands of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which look more like many wars of the 20th Century, rather than the futuristic wars of the 21st Century touted by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, are causing the Pentagon to rearrange its budget priorities, the Washington Post reported Jan. 5. A budget document bearing Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz's signature, and leaked to the press over the New Year's Day weekend, takes $30 billion out of a planned $89-billion buildup over six years. The plan cuts $55 billion out of such programs as a new fighter plane, a stealth destroyer, and missile defense, mostly from the Navy and Air Force, and adds $25 billion to the Army, for such mundane things as tank treads and armor.
Army Reserve Is Rapidly Becoming a 'Broken' Force
Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, the chief of the Army Reserve, warned, in a bluntly worded memo on Dec. 20, that because of the stress placed on the Army Reserve by the war in Iraq, the Reserve "is rapidly degenerating into a 'broken' force." In the eight-page memo, Helmly details the efforts he has made to reorganize Army Reserve personnel policy in order to more effectively manage the demands placed on the service. In nearly every case, Helmly has been rebuffed by the higher-level management in the Army. Measures he has asked for include, among others, assigning individual ready-reserve soldiers to Army Reserve units, and calling to active duty, members of the reserve who aren't meeting their contractual obligations as a prelude to discharge. These non-participants number 16,400.
Helmly also warned that using financial rewards to "incentive" soldiers for remobilization in the all-volunteer force, may lead to a "point at which we confuse 'volunteer to become an American solider' with 'mercenary.' "
Helmly included in the memo, a chart showing that, out of the 200,366 members of the Army Reserve, 41,730 are currently mobilized; 43,606 have been previously mobilized; 32,952 are non-deployable (for training, medical, or other reasons); and another 18,582 are in other types of deployment status, leaving 63,496 available for mobilization who haven't yet been deployed. He warned, in the conclusion of his cover letter, that failure to change present policies, which include the requirement that reserve forces leave their equipment in theater for other units to use, limitations on training, and the failure to respond to requests for change policies, "are eroding daily our ability to reconstitute into an effective operational force."
In an interview with the Baltimore Sun Jan. 5, Helmly could not explain why his requests were being denied, but suggested that in some cases, political pressure was being brought to bear.
The public response to Helmly's memo has generally been in agreement with it. Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), in a statement issued Jan. 5, called Helmly's memo "disturbing." "By consistently underestimating the number of troops necessary for the successful occupation of Iraq, the administration has placed a tremendous burden on the Army Reserve and created this crisis." An unnamed active duty Army officer called Helmly a "true hero," and told the Sun, "This is a warning flag that the Army is broken. We all knew it was going to show up in the Reserve and National Guard first."
Maryland Governor Won't Tax HMOs
Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R) has been on a campaign to "help doctors" get relief from the high cost of malpractice insurance. However, now that state Democrats have presented him with a plan to do just that, he has announced that he will veto it. The reason is that the Democratic plan would put a 2% tax on premiums paid to HMOs. While Ehrlich was willing to legalize slot machines in the state, and watched as regressive taxes were added to homeowner sewer fees and gasoline, taxing HMOs is apparently where "read my lips" Bob draws the line. He is likely to lose this one, though: The Democrats have enough of a majority to override his veto, even after a last-ditch e-mail from right-wing guru Grover Norquist went out to every state legislator, urging them to support the Governor.
DoD To Investigate Gitmo Abuse Back to 2002
In response to information made public by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which contains reports and complaints from FBI agents on the scene, as to the maltreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Defense Department announced Jan. 5 that there would be an investigation. Brig. Gen. John T. Furlow will lead the inquiry. There are three other military investigations into the treatment of prisoners yet to be completed, plus the five already released.
In addition to the evidence in FBI memos and e-mails, contained in thousands of pages of documents the ACLU obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, this week's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine says that the Geneva Convention was violated by military medical personnel, who helped design coercive interrogation techniques.