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Wall Street Journal Gone Wild

There will be plenty of formal responses to the news that The Wall Street Journal will soon join the "stable" of Rupert Murdoch's "media properties.

But few will top that of MoveOn.org Civic Action, the grassroots activism wing of the popular internet forum.

MoveOn will dispatch newsboys and newsgirls to the streets of New York City tomorrow to hand out Murdoched versions of The Wall Street Journal in front of the venerable financial newspaper's Manhattan headquarters.

The parody papers will feature actual headlines from Murdoch's Fox News network -- and, with them, the suggestion that the Journal will soon be the latest reflection of Murdoch's one-size-fits-all approach to media.

That approach, it should be noted, is resolutely neo-liberal when it comes to economics -- all for free trade, privatization, deregulation -- and neo-conservative when it comes to superpower politics. It is wholly deferent to the presidents and prime ministers with whom Murdoch willingly and willfully allies himself. And it has a tendency to reduce serious matters to the sort of tabloid takes favored by Murdoch's New York Post newspaper.

Among the actual Fox headlines that will be featured on the Murdoched Journals to be distributed Wednesday:

"All-Out Civil War In Iraq: Could It Be a Good Thing?"

"Is The Liberal Media Helping To Fuel Terror?"

"The #1 President on Mideast Matters: George W. Bush?"

"Study: Some Trees Contribute To Global Warming"

"Have Democrats Forgotten The Lessons of 9/11?"

The headlines are as silly as Fox.

But there point is an important one.

One of America's most respected journalistic voices is in danger of becoming the print version of a certain fairly-imbalanced news network.

"This may be the beginning of the end for the Wall Street Journal," says Adam Green, the civic communications director for MoveOn.org Civic Action. "No sane businessperson or investor will tolerate the type of unreliable, partisan news that Murdoch serves up at Fox and his other media outlets."

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John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

"The President Cannot Ignore an Impeachment"

After months of revelations about his ham-handed attempts to politicize investigations and prosecutions by U.S. Attorneys and sections of the Department of Justice he heads, after his repeated refusals to cooperate with Congress and his deliberate attempts to deceive the House and Senate judiciary committees, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has invited impeachment to an extent rarely seen in the long and sordid history of executive assaults on the rule of law.

And Congressman Jay Inslee is answering the invitation.

The Washington Democrat moved Tuesday to introduce a resolution that directs the House Judiciary Committee to investigate whether Alberto R. Gonzales, Attorney General of the United States, should be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.

Inslee's initiative is a serious one, and he is in many senses precisely the right member of the House to be making this push.

As a former prosecutor, he is well acquainted with the requirements of the oath that all House members swear to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic." He is, as well, a member of the Democratic establishment in the House, a relatively moderate representative who is on good terms with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But, most significantly, he is a representative from a state with an active impeachment movement.

For more than a year, the Washington for Impeachment campaign has demanded that Congress act to hold members of the Bush-Cheney administration to account for their high crimes and misdemeanors. Inslee has heard those demands, loud and clear, and he recognizes their broad appeal. Thus, his move to open an impeachment inquiry is proceeding on the precise lines that the founders intended.

Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Mason and their compatriots believed that impeachment should be an organic process, driven by public outrage over executive excess. They intended that the people would raise the call for accountability and that the federal legislators closest to the grassroots, members of the House, would take it up.

Pelosi -- who today admitted that as member of her caucus, as opposed to its leader, she "would probably advocate" for impeachment -- upset the organic process with her declaration last year that "impeachment is off the table." She was speaking specifically about President Bush, but her words chilled efforts to hold any members of the administration to account.

The chill began to come off in a meaningful way when a maverick member of the Democratic caucus, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, introduced articles of impeachment against Vice President Cheney. Fourteen House members, most of them stalwart progressives who are made of sturdier stuff than Pelosi and her lieutenants, have agreed so far to cosponsor Kucinich's resolution. They have taken the right stand and their numbers will grow.

But Inslee's initiative is of a different character. He is no maverick. And he has attracted cosponsors from the mainstream of the caucus, including a number of former prosecutors. Initial cosponsors included Xavier Becerra of California, Michael Arcuri of New York, Ben Chandler of Kentucky, Dennis Moore of Kansas, Bruce Braley of Iowa and Tom Udall of New Mexico. And as word of the initiative spread, more members indicated that they would sign on, including Oregon Democrats Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio.

Inslee's initial plan was to solicit support from former prosecutors, many of whom serve on the Judiciary Committee. But his resolution is attracting attention from many of the 122 members who in May cosponsored a resolution by California Democrat Adam Schiff "expressing no confidence in the performance of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and urging the President to request his resignation."

It has become clear that the administration has no intention of abandoning Gonzales -- especially with Vice President Cheney's Monday declaration that "I'm a big fan of Al's." So Inslee has offered the appropriate response.

"It's indefensible to allow the continued violation of American privacy, and it's indefensible to treat the truth with such cavalier disregard when talking to the American people and Congress," the congressman says. "So if the president won't do his job (and either seek the Attorney General's resignation or fire him) we'll do ours."

As a former prosecutor, Inslee is doing things by the book.

His resolution does not feature explicit articles of impeachment. Rather, it initiates a process that should lead to the writing of articles by the House Judiciary Committee -- along lines similar to those seen during the period before the committee voted for three articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon. "Our resolution follows the careful procedure of conducting a thorough investigation before the House would decide on articles of impeachment -- a fairness the attorney general did not afford to his fired U.S. attorneys," explains Inslee.

If the committee chooses to free itself from Pelosi's grip and do its work, and if it approaches the task seriously, it will have no difficulty developing articles of impeachment against Gonzales. Politicizing federal investigations and prosecutions and lying to Congress are classic examples of impeachable offenses. So too, by any reasonable measure, should be faking up flimsy justifications for torture, warrantless wiretapping and other abuses of civil liberties.

The clear evidence of wrongdoing will not lead allies of the administration to roll over and let an impeachment move against Gonzales advance easily. Texas Congressman Lamar Smith, the Bush partisan who is the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, hastily denounced Inslee's initiative. "The call by Democrats to impeach Attorney General Gonzales is a misuse of congressional power for purely political reasons and a waste of the American publics' money and time," grumbled Smith.

The Texan is wrong. If House Democrats were to avoid proposing the impeachment of Gonzales -- presumably out of a desire to let the Attorney General "twist in the wind" and further discredit a Republican administration and its congressional allies -- that would be a "misuse of congressional power for purely political reasons."

Impeaching Gonzales is not merely an appropriate use of congressional power. It is the only appropriate use of congressional power in this circumstance.

It is, as well, what Inslee's constituents want. Washington for Impeachment director Linda Boyd hailed the introduction of the impeachment resolution and declared, "We will impeach to restore the rule of law!"

Boyd's got it right.

Impeachment is not merely about Gonzales. It is about renewing the Constitutionally-dictated system of checks and balances that virtually collapsed during the first six years of the Bush-Cheney interregnum. President Bush's disregard for the rule of law, and for the cautious assertions of the House and Senate up to this point, has created a Constitutional crisis. Impeachment, alone, is the proper response to that crisis.

"The president cannot ignore an impeachment," says Inslee, who correctly explains that, "This is the only option available to the American people."

But this may not be the only use of the option. The investigation of Gonzales will, necessarily, touch on Bush and Cheney. And, as it does, the issue of how Congress must deal with the impeachable offenses of a lawless president and vice president will, finally, be placed on the table.

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John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

A Reply to Dave Zirin

In The Nation's web-letters, Dave Zirin repliesto my post about his column on Michael Vick. In the nicest possibleway, he suggests that I'm out of my depth in tackling a sportssubject. He's certainly right that I'm no expert on sports or sportsmedia. How big an expert you need to be in this case is anotherquestion.

Zirin's big point is that Vick and other football stars do not havethe moral agency I attribute to them, because they come from poorbackgrounds and have few alternatives : "Vick and others are free notto play professional football. They are also free to work inMcDonalds, or go to a public school that treats them like prisoners."

That may be so. I wasn't condemning Vick for playing football, though,but for allegedly running a barbaric and illegal dogfighting business.What does dogfighting have to do with escaping from a life flippingburgers? Or -- Zirin's other distracting topic -- with the prevalenceof sports injuries? True, as Zirin notes, there are greater evils inthe world than animal torture, and animal torture does not exist in avacuum: "We are carrying out two military occupations, spend $500billion on "defense" and have over 300 million guns in circulation. Itshouldn't surprise us that violent sports, from the NFL to UltimateFighting, find a wide audience. It also shouldn't surprise us thatplayers in these sports engage in past times [sic] that one would deemanti-social."

Yes, yes: violence in, violence out. Not only am I not surprised thatour warlike and violence-loving society produces lots of, um,violence, I've made the same point myself. But every now and then, acrime is so gratuitously horrible it stands out. To blame Vick'salleged crimes on society and outrage against them on racism feelslike an evasion, like political boilerplate.

I do have trouble seeing sports stars -- zillionaires idolized bymillions and held up as role models to children (and how idiotic isthat?) --as mere victims of the system. To me they seem more likely tobe testosterone-poisoned narcissists who think they can get away withanything, and often do. The celebrity culture of entitlement -- that'sthe system they operate in, not the Old South. It may be true, asZirin says, that only poor kids become professional players, becausethe work is so hard and the struggle so great -- but whatever Vick'sorigins it's hard to see as a peon someone who is making $13 milliondollars a year. As for racism , that may be true of the radiofrothers-- maybe one day a white star will be accused of animaltorture and we can compare the public response. But it doesn'tdescribe me, or the many Nation readers who've written in to expresstheir outrage.

If charging racism doesn't play at The Nation, you probably need abetter argument.

Why Pelosi Opposes Impeachment

If she were not in the House--and not Speaker of the House--Nancy Pelosi says she "would probably advocate" impeaching President Bush.

But given her current role as party leader, at a breakfast with progressive journalists today (named after our great friend Maria Leavey) Pelosi sketched her case against impeachment.

"The question of impeachment is something that would divide the country," Pelosi said this morning during a wide-ranging discussion in the ornate Speaker's office. Her top priorities are ending the war in Iraq, expanding health care, creating jobs and preserving the environment. "I know what our success can be on those issues. I don't know what our success can be on impeaching the president."

Democratic Party leaders do not have the votes to pass an impeachment resolution. And Democrats could be judged harshly for partisan gridlock, just as the American people turned on Congressional Republicans in the 90s for pursuing the impeachment of President Clinton.

In the first question of the morning, Pelosi was asked if she supported a proposal by Washington Rep. Jay Inslee to impeach beleaguered Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The Speaker looked down and rubbed her temples wearily. "I would like us to stay focused on our agenda this week," she said. Today the entails finalizing ethics and lobbying reform. Tomorrow it will mean expanding children's health care and boosting Medicare benefits. By the end of the week the House will likely pass an energy bill and legislation will be brought to the floor that reins in the Bush Administration's warrantless wiretapping program.

Pelosi's no fan of Gonzales or his bosses. "The Administration wants the Attorney General to sign off on what can be collected," she says of the wiretapping proposal. "Absolutely not."

She is greatly disturbed by the lawlessness of this Administration and its contempt for checks and balances. "I take an oath to defend and protect the Constitution, so it is a top priority for me and my colleagues to uphold that." She notes the vigorous oversight hearings held by committee chairman like John Conyers and Henry Waxman.

But Pelosi sees impeaching Gonzales and his superiors as a distraction from the ambitious agenda she has crafted for the House. [UPDATE: Pelosi's staff notes she only said that she opposes impeaching Gonzales this week and did not comment on the larger policy. Listen to the recording for yourself at 19:30.]

"If I can just hold my caucus together," she says, "I can take them to this progressive place."

As to whether she fears a primary challenge from pro-impeachment activist Cindy Sheehan, the topic sadly never came up.

Vitter's Close Call

Imagine this scenario: A young congressional aide who moonlights for an escort service receives a call from her madam. The woman who owns the service asks her to meet a customer at a certain spot and time. When the aide/escort arrives, she sees that the client is a member of Congress and sits on the very same committee where she works. Embarrassing? Uncomfortable? A potential scandal? They now each know a big secret about the other. She knows he is using an escort service. He knows she is working for that same service. What do they do? Is his--or her--political career in peril?

The records of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, a.k.a. the DC Madam, suggest that Republican Senator David Vitter came close to experiencing such an awkward moment when he served in the House of Representatives. These phone records indicate that Palfrey may have set Vitter up with an escort who was a staffer for a congressional committee that included Vitter as a member. But if the two did meet for an escort experience, Vitter escaped being found out by his (indirect) subordinate.

According to the aide/escort--whose name I'm not revealing--she would not have recognized Vitter. "It's entirely conceivable," she says, "that I encountered him [while working as an escort for Palfrey] and did not know it." This woman notes that she had been with the committee a brief time, had attended only a few of its meetings, and was not familiar with all of its members. "I wouldn't know him if I saw him," she says. Throughout her stint working for Palfrey, this woman notes, "I did not come across anyone I recognized, no public figures....We [escorts] didn't know them. They didn't know us."

Vitter has acknowledged calling Pamela Martin and Associates, the escort service Palfrey ran until 2006. "This was a very serious sin in my past," he said in a statement released to the Associated Press on July 9, after Time magazine notified his office that Vitter's phone number was on Palfrey's billing records. (A Hustler editor contacted Vitter's office minutes after a Time reporter did.) But Vitter, who has campaigned on family values and who argued in 1998 that President Bill Clinton had to be impeached for his immoral conduct, has refused to say anything specific about his use of the escort service, and he has declined to resign from the Senate. Vitter's office did not respond to a request for a comment for this story.

According to Palfrey, this is how her business worked. A prospective client would call a local Washington phone number. She would answer the call at her Vallejo, California, home. (Most of her billing records do not show these incoming calls.) The man would ask for an escort and perhaps make special requests. Palfrey would then phone her employees in Washington to find someone appropriate for the customer. Next, she would call the client back and confirm the session. These long-distance outgoing calls to her escorts and to the customers are listed on her phone bills. As she explains it, in certain instances one can determine which woman was dispatched to a client by looking at the phone numbers that appear before the phone number of the customer. On one phone bill, the number of the aide/escort appears before a phone number for Vitter.

The phone records are not conclusive evidence that this congressional aide and Vitter had a professional meeting outside the committee room. But Palfrey says that would be a reasonable reading of the documents. (Palfrey says she has no direct knowledge that Vitter was a client because she knew most of her customers by first names or aliases. She no longer has detailed records showing which escorts visited which clients.)

I am not naming the aide/escort because this woman, unlike Vitter, has not engaged in public hypocrisy. Also, I have no evidence she broke the law. (Palfrey claims her women engaged in fantasy role-playing with their customers; the government, in its prosecution of Palfrey, maintains she ran a prostitution ring.) This woman left Capitol Hill and Palfrey's business years ago. With the help of investigative reporter Dan Moldea, who first discovered Vitter's number on Palfrey's telephone bills while working with Larry Flynt, I found her. When I contacted her, she was unaware that Palfrey had been busted, that Palfrey had posted the escort service's telephone records on the Internet, or that Vitter had been caught in the scandal. She asked me not to use her name: "It was a long time ago."

It's a curious episode. Vitter might have hired an escort with whom he worked in Congress. In most circumstances, committee aides can recognize the lawmakers they serve. What might have happened had this aide done so with Vitter? Exposure? Intrigue? Danger? "It was apparently a very close call," the woman says. "This could make a great a screenplay." But in this situation--if it did come to pass--Vitter was lucky. He was not on her radar screen. The congressman would have been just another john.

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JUST OUT IN PAPERBACK: HUBRIS: THE INSIDE STORY OF SPIN, SCANDAL, AND THE SELLING OF THE IRAQ WAR by Michael Isikoff and David Corn. The paperback edition of this New York Times bestseller contains a new afterword on George W. Bush's so-called surge in Iraq and the Scooter Libby trial. The Washington Post said of Hubris: "Indispensable....This [book] pulls together with unusually shocking clarity the multiple failures of process and statecraft." The New York Times called it, "The most comprehensive account of the White House's political machinations...fascinating reading." Tom Brokaw praised it as "a bold and provocative book." Hendrik Hertzberg, senior editor of The New Yorker notes, "The selling of Bush's Iraq debacle is one of the most important--and appalling--stories of the last half-century, and Michael Isikoff and David Corn have reported the hell out of it." For highlights from Hubris, click here.

Help Jesse Friedman Overturn his Wrongful Conviction

There was great news in this morning's inbox from Elisabeth Friedman, wife of Jesse Friedman. After running into wall after brick wall in his attempt to have his conviction overturned, Jesse's finally caught a break: A federal judge has granted his habeas corpus petition.

Jesse was one of numerous innocent victims of the wave of mass-child-sex-abuse cases that swept the country in the l980s and l990s. Convicted as a teenager of molesting boys who took computer classes from his father, who was also convicted, he served 13 years in prison for a crime that looks more and more like one that never happened. ( See the celebrated documentary Capturing the Friedmans for more on the case.) The ingredients common to sex-panic cases were all present: an over-zealous police and prosecutor, a hostile community, frenzied media, dubious therapeutic practices like recovered memory and hypnosis, immense pressure put on kids to say what the prosecution wanted to hear, evidence withheld from the defense, and so on. In the light of what we now know about false confessions, which minors are particularly likely to make, Jesse's plea bargain stands as yet more evidence that too often innocent people can be made to look guilty.

Our system of justice runs on money -- shouldn't be so, but that's the way it is. After almost 20 years entangled in the case, the Friedman family is reaching out for help. If you can contribute even $5 to Jesse's defense fund, you can help him take his fight to prove his innocence to the next level. You can make a donation through Paypal at www.FriedmanDefenseFund.org. Or you can write a check to NCRJ with Jesse Friedman on the memo line and mail it to National Center for Reason and Justice P.O. Box 230414 Boston MA 02123-0414.

Please help get the word out -- forward this e mail to your friends, post it on your blog. This case is about one person railroaded by the justice system, but it's also about all of us. Our system. Our justice.

Elisabeth's letter is long, but I'm quoting it in full and hope you'll read the whole thing. It gives a clear account of what's at stake in the upcoming phase of the case, and is also quite moving.

Dear Friends and Supporters,

After 20 years of fighting for justice, we finally have our firstsignificant victory. Jesse has been granted a hearing in FederalCourt. Finally we have the opportunity to call witnesses, depose thoseinvolved in the prosecution, and possibly have Jesse's convictionoverturned. The legal issues are somewhat complicated, but I'll tryto explain:

In the Federal appeal we raised three issues each relating to thewithholding of information which should have been provided to Jesseprior to trial. These were Constitutional violations and had we knownof any of this information at the time, Jesse would have mostcertainly have taken his case to trial rather than pleading guilty.

The following are three issues raised.

1) More than 100 children were present during the computer classes (atthe same time as the alleged abuse was going on) who told the police,I was there and nothing happened. This was never disclosed to thedefense.

2) As our lawyers put it: "There was a crucible of suggestion,intimidation, and falsification on the part of the police. Theprosecution failed to disclose exculpatory evidence showing that thepolice utilized aggressive suggestive and coercive interrogationtechniques they knew, or should have known, would yield falseallegations."

3) The use of hypnosis during therapeutic sessions resulted in asituation of potential "implanted memory" or "repressed memorysyndrome" and should have been disclosed to the defense at the time.

In her decision the federal judge ruled on the first two issues thatthe statute of limitations had expired and denied our petition. It isworthy to note that she did NOT rule our issues were meritless, merelythat they were time-barred.

However, on the third issue, relating to hypnosis, Judge Seybertordered a hearing to determine to what extent hypnosis was used, andhow gross a constitutional violation this newly discovered evidenceproves itself to be.

Our lawyer told us the chance of being granted a hearing from a habeascorpus was about as probable as walking into the corner deli andwinning a million dollars on a scratch off lottery ticket.

In our hearts we never thought it would be possible for Jesse to havea fair day in court. Nonetheless, we did everything possible to proveJesse's innocence. He never hurt those children. The lie perpetratedon his life was also perpetrated on the lives of those children whowere "accusers." The relentless questioning by the police, and thetherapists who used hypnosis on children as a means of elicitingtestimony, destroyed the lives of the children involved. Jesse hasbeen fighting not only to prove his innocence, but also to try andbring healing to those who have grown up believing they were sexuallyabused, when indeed they never were.

As a result of Jesse's conviction we live under the oppression andrestrictions of Megan's Law. There is no way to explain howdehumanizing and difficult this is. One example is a fear of reprisalfrom law enforcement, as well as the community, if we were to become parents.We live our life, always with a cloud of fear. This new chance forjustice not only gives us an opportunity to shed a light on the truth,it also gives us the small and tender hope that we may someday livenormal, simple lives.

Before I married Jesse, I knew our lives would be difficult, but Imarried him anyway. Even though it meant giving up on some things Ihold so completely dear (like my hopes of being a mother). I love himthat much. I love him more than I ever thought I could love at all.

We are overjoyed with having won a hearing, but we are also in shock:happy, terrified, wonderful immense shock.

I think perhaps one of the largest concerns is money, and the lackthere of. Jesse and I keep thinking of Michael Moore's movie "Sicko"with the story of the guy who looses his fingers on a table saw. Thedoctors tell him, "We can save the middle finger for $60,000 or thering finger $12,000." That is how we feel. I don't know if peoplerealize that justice goes for a high price, and that indeed a lack ofmoney often means a lack of justice.

As of now, where we stand, there is pretty much nothing left to paythe lawyers. The money Jesse got from his father's life insuranceclaim has long since evaporated in legal bills. This appeal was onlypossible because of a generous team of people donating time, money,support, and effort, most specifically Andrew Jarecki (the director ofCapturing the Friedmans) without whom there would have been no movie,and no appeal. It would no longer be fair to expect so much more fromAndrew for he has already given so much and continues to be awonderful friend.

Our lawyer, Ron Kuby, knew of our meager funding. While Mr. Kuby neveragreed to working pro bono, he did agree to do what he could with whatwas available, and he has done some outstanding work. This past Marchwe got what we thought would be the last bill from Ron and there wasno money to pay him. Out of the goodness of his heart he agreed tokeep working on the case in good faith, agreeing to wait and see,knowing I would do what I could to eventually pay him for all hiswork.

Because of this wonderful turn of events this case now stands to besignificantly more expensive than we ever had funding for. It is nolonger Mr. Kuby working late into the night on his laptop with a pileof books. It's now about hiring private investigators; tracking downwitnesses; finding experts on hypnosis; and full days in courtdeposing witnesses.

The thought of having to ask for money to help fund continue fightingthis case makes us feel terrible. It's just not the kind of thing thatfeels good to anyone. Especially knowing there were those who havealready donated to the defense fund. At this point, we just don't knowwhat else to do. There is really not much that I can say, just that,if it falls on your heart to give then please help, even if it's only$5. If a thousand people could give $5 that can make a significantdifference. I also ask that if you can pray, please pray that we willbe able to go into this hearing with everything we need to see justiceprevail.

Donations made to the National Center for Reason and Justice, whosponsor Jesse's case, are tax-deductible (as they are a 501(c)(3)organization). The NCRJ is an advocacy and issue-awareness groupdedicated to helping those much like Jesse. Donations can be made tothe NCRJ, allocated for Jesse Friedman, and mailed to:

National Center for Reason and Justice P.O. Box 230414 Boston MA02123-0414

Donations may also be made on-line via the Friedman Defense Fund.There is information and a link for Pay-Pal athttp://www.FriedmanDefenseFund.org. All that money will go to pay legalbills directly.

My mother once told me that people bow down to God because the weightof the world crushes them, not because they are particularlysubmissive. That is how it has always been with me. When my world getstoo heavy I bow down, because I can't always carry my heart when itgets so heavy. Jesse on the other hand has always had a mind-bogglingreservoir of strength. He carries the immense weight of theseinjustices with his head up, heart strong, one foot in front of theother, and none of this has been able to bring him down. This pastweek I have seen him bow down, not because he was crushed, but becausehe was in awe. He is in awe of seeing even just a chance of justice inhis life, and that is significant because justice and freedom arethings most of us take for granted.

Keep your eyes on the media, and check-in with Jesse's website forupdates and breakthroughs in the case.

Thank you so much for your support. Your kind letters have been awonderful influence on our lives.

Sincerely,

Elisabeth Friedman

A New Middle East Arms Race

The Bush Administration has a solution to the escalating arms race in the Middle East: sell more arms.

Under an Administration proposal, Saudi Arabia will get $20 billion of satellite-guided bombs, fighter jet upgrades and new navy ships over ten years to counteract Iran. Israel will get $30 billion over the same period to balance Saudi Arabia, a 43 percent increase compared to the last decade. Not to be left out, Egypt will receive $13 billion. Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have also been promised a piece of the pie.

In the latest US-backed arms bonanza, everyone's a winner!

The pact with the Kingdom of Saud--home to 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers, 45 percent of foreign fighters in Iraq and birthplace of Al Qaeda--in particular has prompted resistance inside Congress and human rights organizations.

Representatives Anthony Weiner and Jerry Nadler introduced a plan to block the deal on the steps of the Saudi consulate in New York City on Saturday. "We should remember that the high tech arms we gave to the Shah of Iran ended up in the Ayatollah Khomeini's hands," Nadler said. "The same thing could end up happening in Saudi Arabia."

If the US withdraws from Iraq, the Saudi royal family has pledged to arm Sunni military leaders and create new Sunni militias. An advisor to the Saudi government admitted in a November op-ed that Saudi intervention in Iraq "could spark a regional war."

In other words, the weapons the US is proposing to sell to the kingdom could likely end up in the hands of the very people we are currently targeting in Iraq.

Don't forget this picture from 1983 of a certain American official shaking hands with a certain ally-turned-dictator in Baghdad. If only Donald Rumsfeld were still around...

Newt's Pygmy Primary

Last week in Washington Newt Gingrich may or may not have compared the GOP candidates for president to a group of "pygmies."

When asked if he'd join the '08 fray, Newt, ever erudite, invoked Charles De Gaulle. "This is like going to De Gaulle when he was at Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises during the Fourth Republic and saying, 'Don't you want to rush in and join the pygmies?'" he said at a dinner sponsored by the American Spectator. "I have no interest in the current political process."

But it seems as if Fred Thompson might win Gingrich's pygmy primary. Newt's longtime strategist, Rich Galen, recently signed up with the (to-be-announced-in-September) Thompson campaign. Gingrich and his wife dined with the Thompsons last month and he's said that if the former Tennessee Senator "runs and does well, then I think that makes it easier for me not to run."

What a relief! But given Gingrich's sordid personal history and chronic foot-in-month disease, an endorsement for Thompson could be more trouble than it's worth.

Censure and Impeachment: Take 2

New York Congressman Maurice Hinchey is easily the most dogged critic of Vice President Dick Cheney in the House of Representatives, and Hinchey has not exactly been soft on President Bush. So it comes as no surprise that Hinchey, a passionate progressive who stood up to the Bush administration when most of the Democratic candidates to replace Bush were cowering in corners of the Capitol, is preparing to introduce House versions of Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold's proposals to formally condemn the Bush administration "for falsifying its justification to attack Iraq, mismanaging the subsequent military occupation, and egregiously abusing the Constitution."

Hinchey is working with Feingold to develop language for censure resolutions that the ardent critics of the administration hope will quickly attract broad support after their introduction next week.

The first resolution from Feingold and Hinchey is expected to cite Bush and Cheney for making intentionally false statements about Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction and for misleading Congress and the public into believing Saddam Hussein had ties to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. In addition, it will score the president and vice president for failing to plan for the occupation of Iraq, distorting the reality on the ground as it deteriorated, and overstretching the military in order to maintain the administration's mad mission in Iraq.

The second resolution is expected to suggest that Bush, Cheney and other senior administration officials have blatantly disregarded the rule of law. It will focus on the administration's illegal NSA warrantless surveillance program, its extreme policies on torture, the abusive use of presidential signing statements, the politically-motivated firings of U.S. Attorneys and the failure of the administration to cooperate with congressional inquiries.

"The American people have reached a breaking point with this administration and they are demanding that Congress step up and hold the president, vice president, and others in the executive branch responsible for their actions," says Hinchey, who has been sounding the alarm about Cheney's wrongdoing for years. "While President Bush and Vice President Cheney continue to operate as if they are leaders of a monarchy, Congress should censure them and make it clear to this and future generations that their actions are entirely unacceptable. If Congress does not act to formally admonish this White House then the future of our democracy will be placed on a slippery slope in which other presidents may point to the actions of this administration as justification for further abuses of the Constitution. Congress cannot allow such abuses of power and law, which is why Senator Feingold and I will soon introduce these censure resolutions."

Feingold, who first proposed censuring Bush more than a year ago, has struggled to gain support from fellow Democrats in the Senate for any kind of demand for presidential accountability. So he was clearly delighted by the willingness of Hinchey to step up as an ally in the House.

"Congressman Hinchey has been a strong voice in opposition to the President's policies in Iraq and in defense of the Constitution," says Feingold. "I thank Congressman Hinchey for his willingness to stand up to this administration for its misleading statements leading up to and during our military involvement in Iraq, as well as its attack on the rule of law. I am working with Congressman Hinchey and others in crafting these censure resolutions condemning the damaging actions of this administration. Censure is about holding the administration accountable. Congress must be on the record repudiating the administration's misconduct, both for the American people, and for history."

The censure resolutions carry no formal penalty. Unmentioned in the Constitution or in the procedural rules of the House or Senate, a censure vote would not even have the authority to compel the president or vice president to respond to Congress. Yet, a rare rebuke from one or both houses of Congress would put Bush and Cheney on notice that they must either change their approaches in the final 18 months of their tenure or face an even stronger push for their impeachment and removal from office.

An honest review of the records of Bush and Cheney leaves little doubt that impeachment is warranted, and 14 members of the House have now signed on as cosponsors of Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich's proposal to impeach Cheney. But for a Congress that has shown little taste for the serious work of upholding the Constitution, the censure resolutions offer what Feingold refers to as "moderate" response to administration wrongdoing.

Censure of Bush, Cheney and their underlings by the House or Senate would be meaningful. It would confirm that America has reached a too-long delayed "accountability moment." And, assuming that Bush and Cheney continue to respond to any congressional challenge like belligerent school boys rather than sworn defenders of the republic, it is highly unlikely that a renewed push to censure Bush and Cheney will undermine the burgeoning grassroots campaign for impeachment. Only if Bush and Cheney were to acknowledge their wrongs, change their policies and finish their terms as the model officials they have never been would a censure drive push impeachment off the table.

Demands for censure and impeachment ought to be seen as complimentary. They are both expressions of the desire of enlightened members of the legislative branch to begin holding errant executives to account.

Hinchey is right when he says that, "History must show that Congress stood up to this administration and formally condemned it."

Ultimately, history may ask less of Congress than the American people. The people are already expressing a desire for more than a formal condemnation of Bush and Cheney. Fifty-four percent, according to a recent American Research Group poll, want the vice president impeached. Support for impeaching the president hovers just below 50 -- and the anti-Bush, anti-Cheney numbers have been rising, rapidly, in recent months.

But a formal condemnation, in the form of censure resolutions, ought not be dismissed as a compromise or a deviation from the one true path of impeachment. Getting members of the House and Senate to sign on for censuring Bush and Cheney forces them to start thinking about the administration's lawlessness, it gets them on the record for accountability and it narrows the gap for the leap to impeach. ---------------------------------------------------------------------

John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"