United States News Digest
Bush Claims Right To Open Mail Without a Warrant
In another of his infamous signing statements Dec. 20probably written, as usual, by Dick Cheney's chief of staff David AddingtonPresident Bush asserted that he has the right to open the U.S. mail without a court warrant, under emergency conditions.
Even though the new law, the "Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act," prohibits it, Bush says that he will construe that section "in a manner consistent ... with the need to conduct searches in exigent circumstances."
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif), the incoming House Government Reform Committee chairman, who co-sponsored the bill, said that, "Despite the President's statement that he may be able to circumvent a basic privacy protection, the new postal law continues to prohibit the government from snooping into people's mail without a warrant."
"You have to be concerned," said a senior U.S. official who reviewed the matter. "It takes Executive Branch authority beyond anything we've ever known."
And a senior aide to the Senate Intelligence Committee aide vowed, "It's something we're going to look into."
Congressman Calls for Oversight of Federal Reserve
The incoming House Finance Committee chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass) called for more oversight of the Federal Reserve during a speech at the National Press Club Jan. 3. Frank was asked how the Federal Reserve fit into his agenda, and how he thinks the Fed should change.
"I think we should talk about it more," replied Frank. "But there are people in this country who think that the Fed somehow should be above democracy. I mean, I remember talking to people in the Clinton Administration: "Oh, we can't discuss interest rates." I mean, we can debate whether Terri Schiavo's life should be recognized as over. We can debate wars in Iraq, but God forbid anybody in elected office should talk about whether or not we need a 25-basis-point increase in the Fed. Somehow, that's sacrosanct. No, it isn't. It's public policy."
During the same speech, Frank also endorsed a universal single-payer health-care system. He said that even though it doesn't come under the jurisdiction of his committee, "The single greatest thing I would like to do in public policy is a universal single-payer health care system."
Issue of Impeachment Broached at White House Briefing
The issue of Presidential impeachment was broached at the White House briefing on Jan. 3, in a question from EIR correspondent Bill Jones. Earlier that morning, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who is close to the new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was interviewed on C-SPAN, and said that impeachment had been taken off the table. There were a good number of calls that came in, however, in which the Democratic base was demanding that it be put back on the table. The exchange between EIR and White House Spokesman Tony Snow went as follows:
EIR: While Speaker-to-be Pelosi seems to have taken the issue of impeachment off the table, if you listen to the C-SPAN call-ins today to Debbie Wasserman Schultz, about one out of three were calling for impeachment. Is the President concerned that there might be a groundswell, in spite of whatever promises may have been made, and in the light of all the investigations that will be going on, that the issue of impeachment still hangs as a specter over the White House?
Snow: The President is going to be doing his job. As somebody who used to be a talk show host, you learn, never try to take the pulse of a nation on the basis of people who call in.... I would hesitate to draw vast conclusions about the American populace based on folks who choose to call in to a single television program. The President is concentrating on winning in Iraq and working with Democrats to demonstrate that this government can function, it can do what the people want it to do, which is to spend their money wisely, to deal with priorities they care about, and to get the people's business done, while you're in a vigorous debate, a minimum of rancor.
Bush Throws Down Gauntlet to the Democrats
Speaking after a meeting with his cabinet Jan. 3, President Bush, feigning bipartisanship, actually threw down the gauntlet to the new House of Representatives. "The Congress has changed; our obligations to the country haven't changed," Bush said, continuing to stay the course, refusing to accept the reality that the world was turned upside down on Nov. 7. After blathering about how successful his tax cuts for the rich have been, he addressed the issue of the budget, which, because of his policies, now has the largest deficit in U.S. history. Bush claimed he would balance the Federal budget by 2012
He raised again the totally discredited proposal to privatize Social Security and Medicare, which he calls "reform," complaining that it "had been shot down by the Congress in the first year of his second term." Finally, he quickly turned on his heels when his comments were over and walked back to the Oval Office, refusing even to respond as questions were shouted by reporters gathered in the Rose Garden.
Typical of Democratic responses to Bush's press conference was Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) who responded to Bush's call for "compromise" by commenting, "We hope that when the President says compromise, it means more than 'do it my way,' which is what he's meant in the past."
New Jersey Moves Towards Abolishing Death Penalty
A commission of the New Jersey State Legislature recommended on Jan. 2, that the state become the first to abolish the death penalty, since it was reinstated in the U.S. in 1972. The commission report found no compelling evidence that capital punishment serves a legitimate purpose, and increasing evidence that it is inconsistent with "evolving standards of decency."
The 13-member New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission, including two prosecutors, a police chief, clergy members, and murder victims representatives, began meeting in June, and heard from scores of witnesses at five public hearings before issuing its 127-page report. The report states: "Based on our findings, the commission recommends that the death penalty in New Jersey be abolished and replaced with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, to be served in a maximum security facility...."
New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D), embraced the report. "As someone who has long opposed the death penalty," he said in a statement, "I look forward to working with the Legislature to carry out the recommendations."
Kennedy-Era Historian Bemoans 'Stupidity of Our Leadership'
Historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. in a Jan. 2 op-ed in the New York Times, accounts in part for the disaster of the Bush Administration as being Bush's ignorance of history: "Many signs point to a growing historical consciousness among the American people. I trust that this is so. It is useful to remember that history is to the nation as memory is to the individual. As persons deprived of memory become disoriented and lost, not knowing where they have been and where they are going, so a nation denied a conception of the past will be disabled in dealing with its present and its future....
Schlesinger, who served as Special Assistant to the President in the Kennedy Administration, and authored the widely read book A Thousand Days, about JFK's brief term in office, added, "Sometimes, when I am particularly depressed, I ascribe our behavior to stupiditythe stupidity of our leadership, the stupidity of our culture. Three decades ago, we suffered defeat in an unwinnable war against tribalism, the most fanatic of political emotions, fighting against a country about which we knew nothing and in which we had no vital interests. Vietnam was hopeless enough, but to repeat the same arrogant folly 30 years later in Iraq is unforgivable....
But, Schlesinger added, hopefully, "The great strength of history in a free society is its capacity for self-correction."
Real Drug Crisis Is Among the Baby Boomers
When it comes to drug use, "forget the kids, the real crisis is among boomers," Center on Juvenile & Criminal Justice researcher Mike Males reported in a New York Times op-ed Jan. 3. Teenagers are the least part of the growing drug abuse crisis in the U.S.despite the shocking fact that teenage deaths from illicit drug use tripled in the last decade, even as overall usage dropped in this age-group. Today, the fastest-growing population of drug abusers is white, middle-aged Americans: the Boomers. In the case of California, the state's Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs survey of drug abusers found that the biggest contributors to drug abuse, death, and injury in that state are educated middle-aged women, living in the Central Valley and rural areas, while the fastest-declining, lowest-risk populations are urban black and Hispanic teenagers. Death from drug overdoses of people in their 40s and 50s has risen 800% since 1980; 300% in the last decade. And with that, "graying baby boomers have become America's fastest-growing crime scourge." Arrests for drug offenses among those over 40 rose to 360,000 in 2005, up from 22,000 in 1980, while the number of Americans over the age of 40 arrested for violent and property felonies rose from 170,000 in 1980, to 420,000 in 2005.
The legacy of the Congress on Cultural Freedom's war is a 400% increase over the last two decades in the number of Americans of all ages dying of drug abuse.