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July 28, 2007


I think we are finally having it exposed for uis how little conservatives really believe in democracy. Their ideology has been reduced to "getting and holding power, the more the better." And for what? To make the world safer for multi-millionaires and billionaires. That's all it comes down to. And they have these legions of Bushbots repeating that who think they are in on the con, but who are never going to amount to anything. Pathetic, except that it is (they are) so dangerous.

It really is a corporate mentality and they are working overtime to prevent a hostile take-over by the American people. In a way it is a perfect clash between democracy and capitalism. I am certain that the history books will study this period diligently someday. We will learn a lot from this episode and perhaps we will be better for it. (if we survive it, that is)

This returns a pretty salient issue to focus; at least to my addled conscience. In none of these hearings, reports, discussions by our contemporaries etc. do I see healthy discussions on how the US Atty provision got "slipped" into the Patriot Act in the first place. We have fleshed out the results of this action, but not necessarily the action itself. We are told that literally nobody in Congress knew about this, including the Senator (Spectre) that was was responsible. We talk about impeachable conduct and criminal conduct, but never place this act itself in that discussion. If there are overt acts in the genesis of "Purgegate", this is arguably the linchpin. If, as we have been led to believe, no member of Congress had knowledge of this (which I find impossible to believe), then the act of the Administration (via their "plumber" Brett Tolman) surreptitiously placing this critical provision in legislation is an act of outright and blatant criminal fraud perpetrated on Congress and the American people and, without any question, a "high crime and misdemeanor". If, on the other hand, certain members of Congress were in on the play; depending on who and how many, it still may be a criminal fraud and those members of Congress may be co-conspirators. Alternatively, it may all be on the up and up; but given the outrage (faux I bet) and denials from the entirety of Congress this seems unlikely. We have done so much to nail down the specific facts and timeline of Purgegate, but not on this issue. We need to know the specifics, including, significantly, where in the Administration the impetus actually originated. Congress wants no part of this as it is embarrassing to them, but it has to be done.

...legions of Bushbots repeating that who think they are in on the con, but who are never going to amount to anything. Pathetic, except that it is (they are) so dangerous.

They don't think they're in on the con. The reverse is true -- they know they're being conned. They don't care.

The salient fact in American politics, which we forget at our peril, is that there are between forty and seventy million Americans who will volunteer to live in a cardboard box under a bridge and toast sparrows on an old curtain rod so long as they are sure that the fag, or the foreigner, or the Muslim, or the liberal, or the whatever, in the next box over doesn't even get the sparrows.

That dovetails nicely with the drive by those at the top to get their hands on everything. And that's coalition enough to elect a president.


They do mention that in their request for a special counsel to investigate Gonzales.

EW - Oh, I saw that, but that mention doesn't really rise to the level of what I am talking about. I guess I should be happy that they even mentioned it in light of the black eye the matter is for Congress. But, go figure, that is not enough in my eyes.

bmaz - I'd like to know more about that, if for no other reason than as an example of why Congress should not, as in never, vote on bills they haven't actually read through. If necessary, get someone to read it out loud on the floor, with attendance required for anyone who intends to vote on it. (In other words, if you don't show up for the reading, you don't get to vote on it.)

I'm tired of people who want the money and the power, but not the responsibility, that comes with the job.

"I'm tired of people who want the money and the power, but not the responsibility, that comes with the job."

Well that's really it, isn't it, PJ? Even when the Dems were in the minority, they should have hired volunteers (law students, say) to read bills through looking for trojan horses like that one.

Apropos of my initial comment, I'm getting increasingly concerned that we won;t be rid of theswe people in Jan 2009 if we don't take some serious steps by the end of the year to curb Bush's power.

And erven if we do bid them adieu, we will have all the Hinderakers and soldiers in PTSD and assorted others undermining the Dems from the day after the election, if not before.

We are really going to reap some bad karma for not doing more to stop Bush, IMHO.

Unless Florida is flooded and the southeast is on fire and anger turns to the GOP for having denied global warming or something. Of course, they'll blame that on the immigrants too.

Thanks to bmaz for raising an issue I consider vital and unsettlingly, puzzlingly ignored: how that provision was slipped into the Patriot Act reauthorization. And it wasn't even the only example in that bill, if I'm recalling correctly.

I'd like to see a TNH main post on this issue, whether from the regulars or via a guest post from bmaz.

bmaz -- I may be wrong, but my impression is that the number of pages each member of Congress would have to read is pretty enormous. Plus, IIRC in the last Congress (and in all likelihood, those preceding it) they were endlessly voting on bills the day after (sometimes hours after) getting the final version of the bill. Such a system makes it really easy to slip something nefarious into a bill. In fact, I believe the Rethugs rushed things on purpose, so Dems could never get a good look at anything until it was too late.

I don't expect each member to read every last page, that is why they have a staff. However, even a diligent staff can't get through long and complicated documents in a few hours. I think this needs to be remedied, some sort of waiting period (based on the number of pages, so the longer the document, the longer the waiting period) to ensure every member's staff has time for a proper review.

And then, if I was a member of Congress and I discovered that a member of my staff was a White House mole, I would fire their ass. I wonder, did Spectre ever fire the guy responsible for that PATRIOT Act provision?

Heh heh. Thank you Neil, but I can assure you that if it needs to be done, EW would do a far better job than I. I am simply not as good on knowledge and understanding of the micro details as EW, and many others here. My strength, if indeed I have one at all, is in the bigger picture and the way things fit into legal considerations.

Phred I agree with that completely. That is one reason I included the fraud part of the discussion. There was a conscious and dedicated effort to do it surreptitiously, and that fits clearly within a classic fraud discussion.

Bush nominated Brett Tolman to be the U.S. Attorney for Utah. Guess he got what was coming to him.

AG AG's choice for the USA in Utah was Kyle Sampson.

Tolman was supported by Hatch and Spectre.

bmaz -- I hope LHP sees your comments so she can add fraud to her articles of impeachment. Thanks!

somethingsrotten -- Your moniker is particularly well suited for that comment ;) Thanks for the answer. Do you happen to know if Specter fired him first or was he still being a good little mole right up until he got nod to be a USA?

That false "appointment/replacement is the sole prerogative of the executive" meme has been asserted from the get go.

US Attorneys and Iraq - March 15, 2007

That the proposed legislation is in any way an improper intrusion on executive prerogatives is pure, unmitigated and utter crap. Whoever signed onto that line didn't do their homework. The Constitution doesn't give the President the executive prerogative that that National Review Online has fabricated out of thin air. Under the Constitution, Congress is responsible to choose where to vest the appointment (and by inference, replacement) power.

Before 1986, replacement US Attorneys weren't even nominated by the president. Check it out.

somethingsrotten -- You mean even AFTER pulling a stunt like that Spectre supported him as a USA?!?! Did Specter not know at that time what Tolman had done, or was this Spectre's way of telling the world that slipping that provision in was just ducky with him?

As for reading legislation to prevent little sneaky things from slipping through, how about the big things? The misfit elitists in Congress managed to pass an interrogation law representing radical changes to status quo, and you can't convince me they didn't read that. Didn't understand it, sure, I'll buy that - but they read it, it was the subject of front-page prominent negotiation between the WH and Congress.

cboldt - Again, as seems to be frequently the case, I completely agree with both of those comments. But they are part and parcel, if they read it and don't understand it, or even realize they are not lawyers etc. and that they might ought to get some advice to make SURE they understand it; it is their incumbent duty to do just that. The way this crap continuously transpires is patently unconscionable.

Thanks to bmaz for raising an issue I consider vital and unsettlingly, [..] I'd like to see a TNH main post on this issue, whether from the regulars or via a guest post from bmaz.
Posted by: Nell | July 28, 2007 at 15:52

Heh heh. Thank you Neil, but I can assure you that if it needs to be done, EW would do a far better job than I. Posted by: bmaz | July 28, 2007 at 16:11

I'd like to make a distinction between the blogger Nell and other blogging activities which I authorized under my inherent power as a blogger. - Neil

Oops. Been telling you folks for months I have crappy eyesight and need to break down and get glasses or lasik or something. Sorry about that.

-- The way this crap continuously transpires is patently unconscionable. --

It defies being labeled. Whatever it is, the people long ago (generations, not years) lost control over their government.

Very few voters comprehend the principles, nevermind the details. Too much power concentrated at too high a level over too many aspects of everyday life.

And the people ask for MORE!

Off topic, but since I'm posting, I want to draw attention to the fact that I continued to post on a dead thread addressing the subject of interrogation techniques, in the interest of making a stand-alone record. In that thread I also persisted in a defensive reaction in the form of an ongoing personal criticism.

Washing away or damage to lung surfactant is reversible
July 27, 2007 at 10:51

JEP - Between the two of us, you are the more arrogant one.
July 27, 2007 at 11:30

I mention the posts here because I think the subject of the interrogation statute is an important subject, and prefer it not be "swept away" by distraction.


I understand about the amount of reading they'd have to do.

I live in CA - we get these humongous propositions on the ballot. I've found some kickers in them (there was one I recall that was supposed to restrict smoking ... and there was a ban on nuclear power plants buried inside it, that, funny thing about it, no one ever mentioned). I try to read the analyst's report and the props themselves, but not the arguments (which are usually cr*p, except for the names attached).
[I also wish that, with some of them, someone had taken the instigator aside and asked them what they really intended it to do, and to think about cheaper and simpler ways to reach that goal. The one on mistreatment of horses comes immediately to mind: if you want them to be treated humanely on the way to becoming pet food, the easy way is to have horsemeat declared fit for human consumption, which would require that they get breaks for food, etc, the same as sheep and cattle. But no, they had to go for doing it the complicated way ....]

As a person who spent many summers in California (Santa Monica) while in high school and college, who still goes there often and who lives in the state next door; the proposition system gone wild coupled with the Howard Jarvis Prop 13 tax nightmare has put Kaleefornee in a world of hurt.

Things like the Tolman language usually get slipped into the final version of a Bill during meetings of House/Senate Conference Committees, when they must reconcile quite different versions of Bills already passed by each house. On such bills, when they return to the floor, no amendments are possible, and they are only subject to an up or down vote.

What happens is that the Conference Committee principles resolve the big differences, and then they go home, leaving staff to complete the technical language. If, as in this case, you probably had staffers from both houses carrying the WH water, the process of "slipping in" is just a matter of quickly agreeing to add language, and the other side approving, and viewing the effort as a technical correction.

There have over the years been many efforts to fix this -- for instance requiring a period of 48 hours between publication of the final language and either house's vote -- meaning at least some members of the public in DC could read through legislation. More recently, the demand has been to put it on the net 48 hours before a vote. If I remember they did revise rules on this at the beginning of this session, but they also allowed for circumstances when they could eliminate the 48 hours for public reading of the final product.

Conference Committees, and the preperation of a Final Conference Report have always been a place where Mischief is easily accomplished, (frequently in the dead of night when all but the green eyeshade boys have gone home to bed) and there are many interests who want to keep it this way. It is where all the earmarks get very precisely worded, where language that narrows a broad public purpose gets inserted.

To change it -- publication and the 48 hour reading period would help, but holding the Chairs in both houses who co-chair Conference Committees personally responsible would also help. In this instance, if I remember rightly, putting Tolman on his staff was part of the price Specter paid for actually getting his Chairmanship of Judiciary. (Remember the Religious Right threw a fit because Arlen is pro-choice, and they wanted the Republican Conference to take him out of contention for the Chairmanship.) His price for actually getting his Chairmanship in 2003 was to accept Tolman as his minder. The matter of slipping in the total elimination of Senate Advice and Consent privilege vis a vis replacement USA's was probably only one consequence of that little power play. There may be many others -- we and the MSM just haven't really looked at the details of how various Conference Reports were finalized.

Sara, I agree with that. But, as you state, Brett Tolman likely was not a solo commando slipping into a dark room woom via night vision goggles or something; there had to be at least a couple of other who saw and acknowledged the move, whether they understood the significance or not. However it specifically happened, I want to know everyone in the chain, what their respective roles were, and where and who the genesis was in the White House. Also want tio know which, if any, Congressmembers were aware in the least of this plan. This was a pretty significant little cog in the big wheel and I, personally, want to understand it.

Woom should read "room". Man, I get worse every day.

Thanks for explaining the process Sara.

I'm curious, what it the rationale for the 48 hours? I mean, I get the nefarious ones, but someone at some point probably had to stand up in public and justify it. Why not a week? Why not two weeks? Surely after all the time it takes to get through both chambers and the conference committee, another week or two wouldn't make any significant difference in elapsed time.

bmaz, I'm totally with you on this, I would like to know the names of every single staff member on the conference committee and find out what their connections to the WH are. I had considered this a sneaky underhanded trick, but I hadn't managed to clearly see it as fraud, until now. Thanks for that.

Dang it, it's catching bmaz, that should have been "what is". Sheesh...


If it makes you feel better, I voted agin 13 and for the other one (7?) which was much milder and, IIRC, didn't have the supermajority clause stuck in it. Some of the consequences of 13 were, or should have been, pretty easy to predict. (For people want to keep their property taxes down: Don't use real estate as an investment, especially short-term. And don't sign covenants with your neighbors that keep your assessed valuations going up in lockstep.)

I hope Jarvis and Gann end up in one of the lower circles.

48 hours on the Internet would be a Capital Improvement, believe me. There is actually no way to dispassionately teach the political science of Conference Reports when leadership has declared a drive toward "end of session" except to suggest you get involved with some poor little non-profit that does good work, but needs something either from Congress or the State Legislatures, and go be a volunteer lobbyist, and get an education. It is a casino.

I first got exposed to the process back in the 1960's when the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights gave me Congressional Credentials, and sent me with a very experience player of the game, to work the Civil Rights bill in 64, and then some of the Great Society programs. I then developed a speciality in the Minnesota State Legislature, and eventually I taught students to do it -- right now one of my former students is President of the State Senate, and a master player in the game. So what I recommend if you want to learn is pick a very deserving cause that has no money to hire a professional lobbyist, volunteer, and learn it too. (That is actually how I taught my students.)

You have to understand that a Conference Report can emerge that bears very little relationship to the bills actually passed by either house. In most cases this is not so, as committee members who nursed along a bill through the process are very sensitive to having something left on the floor in Conference. If so, they will stay till the bitter end to watch over their product, which frequently is the result of hard negotiation in committee and on the individual house floors. But quite honestly, since 2003 when both house were Republican, they didn't even appoint Democratic Conferees -- the Leadership (Hastert and Frist) decided on what would be in and out, and the Conferences were mostly sham, bringing forward essentially what the WH wanted. The price of getting a special bit of language or an earmark into a bill, was to go along with the sham. That kept the Republicans united, and the Dem's could not do a damn thing about it, except some screaming when the Conference Report appeared on the floor for an up or down vote.

So -- understanding the system, then you take that and let folk know how Mischief can be done. Part of that is having access to bills that go into conference, and the report that comes out -- and since they can be heavy duty legal language, and less than a thousand pages is not unusual, you have to have people who know what they are reading organized and available to find the rotten stuff before the final floor votes. I know, 48 hours isn't long, but it is a huge improvement on perhaps an hour or so, and bills that are not yet printed, but just a jumble of stuff hot off the copier. The whole point of creating a jam up of must pass bills at the end of a session is precisely so the little "slip in" game can be played. On one occassion during the final mark up of the 64 Civil Rights Bill, some of the conferees and staff came in with a whole mass of changes at about 2AM that changed "Shall" to "May" -- difference in Affirmative Action Law and the EEOC structure between You Must -- or at your pleasure. Some of us had to get old Hubert out of bed to come to the conference room and give a speech and read the riot act. He was, afterall, the historic floor leader on that thing, and the last thing he would have wanted in his bio is that he lost because he went home and was enjoying a good night's sleep. The Shall's stayed in the final language.

If it were up to me to design a remedy given current resources -- I would put a fair minded live blogger inside every Conference meeting, directly connected to anyone with net access who was a stakeholder in the process. You doing the Patriot Act tonight between Midnight and 6AM, while the congress critters sleep, fine -- every Civil Liberties committee around the country would be gathered and watching in some Law Library, so if you are quietly changing a US Code -- they know how to pull the reference up and react. (and know how to react effectively). Same with everything else where there is a community of stakeholders all around the country. They might start doing it in daylight hours and with the Congressional Principles present for the process if such a minor little change given present technology was organized. I think 48 hours between final publication and final vote is fine -- but it needs to become fully institutionalized and above all, rooted in how people work politically. Much less of this stuff would happen if spotlights and daylight were focused on the process. You want high priced K-Street operatives to have less power and influence -- this would be a way to get there. The Tolman's of the world who can slip something in are, to the K-Street Firms, heavy ladden in Gold. Afterall, that is what they sell their clients.

Wow. Thanks Sara. Clearly my high school civics class level of understanding of this topic is woefully inadequate. First, I hadn't thought about the end-of-session cramming being a good reason why 48 hours would be preferable to a week or two. Second, I had no idea that Dems had not been represented at all in recent years on the Conference Committees. Third, given the Rethug system, it is clear why one of Specter's staff was a mole -- apparently they all were.

And finally, thanks for the peek in the window of history on the Civil Rights Act. That bit about the "shall" to "may" switcheroo was fascinating. Good for Hubert! Good for those who stayed up all night to keep tabs on things.

If there is one thing the internet is ideally suited for it is as a mechanism for interested folks to keep tabs on things. Lets hope the requirement that all pending legislation is posted on the net 48 hours before the final vote is implemented soon.

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