The Aeration Zone: A liberal breath of fresh air

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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Tenets of Bradley’s book, New American Story, a liberal breath of fresh air

Former Senator Bill Bradley has also blown a liberal breath of air into the public policy arena in his new book. This blog should flesh out and assess each of these tenets for their merit in terms of supporting their inclusion in the Democratic Party 2008 Presidential platform. For now, here is a list of his main tenets.

-Doctrine of Collective Action: use a systems approach integrating the issues into integrated policy.

-Tell the truth about Health Care (HC), Pensions, Education, and Environment vs. spin

-Stop Red/Blue divisiveness by rescinding gerrymandered Congressional Districts

-Achieve more U.S. voter participation via a weekend election date

-Lose oil dependence via increased auto fuel efficiency standards. 48 MPG ends oil imports; tax break to buy hybrids, surtax to buy guzzlers

-Follow the Edwards HC Plan and fund by a 10% ($50 bil.) cut in Defense budget via tougher accountability standards, i.e. No more F22 with 45% cost overrun and 20 months late.

-Focus on key issues via international co-operation as a team sport-all nations contribute according to the sustainable competitive advantage (SCA) of nations. (Iraq would be a good place to start).
Issues (SCA nations in paren by this author)
.HC (UK)
.Ed (Germany)
.Pension (?)
.Environment (EU)
.Global Financial Institution reform (US/EU-IMF could stop acting like Citibank’s agent)
.Global poverty (US)
.Global disease (US)
.Religious intolerance (?)
-Restructure the Democratic Party (page out of GOP book)
*Focused Strategy
.Rejuvenated Think tanks
.Media control

*Purge Weaknesses
.Fear of thinking big-courage profiles missing
.Tax and spend-bring back the multiplier
.Soft on defense-tighten up accountability
.Closed mind to faith-acknowledge spiritual side
.Wealth bashing-support individual initiative, but hold to responsibility to society
.Special friends-cast a wider net
.Hypnotic over charismatic leaders-white knight vs. pragmatic doer with longer coattails

It would be useful for Scatablog to take up and expand on these issues over the coming weeks.

Cool it, Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald is great, maybe the most thoughtful analyst in the blogosphere, and this is a good post on the hit jobs coming for Democratic candidates, but I think this goes way off the deep end.
It's for that reason that the only presidential candidate, at least among the (credible) Democrats, who seems truly odious is Hillary Clinton, and that is true not so much because of her, but because of the people with whom she has chosen to surround herself and who will run our government should she be elected. To understand why that is so, just read Matt Stoller's superb and important story about how the Clintonistas operate.
The people who are attached to the Clinton campaign and who will be swept back into power with her -- the Terry McAuliffes and Mike McCurrys and Howard Wolfsons and Chris Lehanes and James Carvilles -- are pure embodiments of the whole corrupt and principle-less and worthless edifice. They're the people who, both when they were in power and throughout the Bush presidency, sleazily fed at the trough and they believe in nothing. Cheap and deceitful cynicism is the nourishment which sustains them and, most of all, they love the Beltway power system and can't wait to resume their place in it -- fully preserved and unchanged.
I agree entirely with Kos' view of the Clinton campaign: "just take a gander at all the Clintonistas in that cast of characters. What a lot of unsavory characters. And those are the folks currently surrounding Hillary Clinton."

He might as well say there hasn’t been a dime’s worth of difference between Bill Clinton’s Presidency – where, after all, do the "Clintonistas" come from? -- and George Bush’s. That is absurd, and dangerous. Loosening the hold of the Beltway consultants certainly is something to keep working on, but come next year, we better bury the hatchets. I don't consider them "odious" because I disagree with their constrained view of the world from the Beltway summit and agree that the Beltway ethic has been corrupted by a number of forces. Instead of oil barons and radical Christian jihadists, any Democrat has to answer to ethnic minorities, unions, feminists, environmentalists and a whole bunch of ordinary Americans throughout the country Bush and Cheney don't like or care about very much. I hate to see a terrific spokesman for our side -- one of a few real destination blogs -- undermine his credibility by losing perspective. Get a grip, Glenn.

Classifying the candidates

Glenn Greenwald notes the widespread criticism of Obama as not being substantive enough because he has yet to formulate a health care proposal and makes the following observation:

All of the candidates, including Obama, are going to issue a detailed health care plan soon enough. But the political system in which those health care plans -- and every other specific legislative proposal -- are going to be assessed, debated and processed is profoundly corrupt and broken.

Thus, any candidate who does not address those systemic political diseases is not actually being "substantive" at all, no matter how many thick white papers they issue chock full of think-tank-developed "plans." Between (a) a candidate who understands our fundamental political problems but who has yet to issue a detailed health care plan and (b) a candidate who has all sorts of detailed, wonky legislative policies developed by aides but who has no real critique of our political culture and will do nothing but feed off of it and perpetuate it, candidate (a) is clearly the more "substantive" candidate in the way that matters.

He goes on to note that he puts Hillary in class B. In that, I think I agree with him, and it's the main reason I'm lukewarm about her candidacy. However, Greenwald seems to think Obama is the only one in class A. Frankly, I'm not sure about that at all. First, I'm not sure how fully Obama understands our fundamental political problems. I haven't heard him screaming very loudly about the destruction of our Constitution that's been going on for the past six years. And, second, I think I would add Edwards to the list of those potentially falling into class A.

Russian Intelligence, is it better than ours?

I heard about this yesterday but didn't see any actual coverage of it till now (h/t Kevin Drum):

MOSCOW, March 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russian military intelligence services are reporting a flurry of activity by U.S. Armed Forces near Iran's borders, a high-ranking security source said Tuesday.

"The latest military intelligence data point to heightened U.S. military preparations for both an air and ground operation against Iran," the official said, adding that the Pentagon has probably not yet made a final decision as to when an attack will be launched.

He said the Pentagon is looking for a way to deliver a strike against Iran "that would enable the Americans to bring the country to its knees at minimal cost."

He also said the U.S. Naval presence in the Persian Gulf has for the first time in the past four years reached the level that existed shortly before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Col.-Gen. Leonid Ivashov, vice president of the Academy of Geopolitical Sciences, said last week that the Pentagon is planning to deliver a massive air strike on Iran's military infrastructure in the near future.

Global Warming

No real surprises here:

"Hundreds of species have already changed their ranges, and ecosystems are being disrupted," said University of Michigan ecologist Rosina Bierbaum, former head of the U.S. IPCC delegation. "It is clear that a number of species are going to be lost."

Unfortunately, the species that deserves to be lost is the one that will probably survive most of the others -- humans.

A comforting decision

This, via Raw Story, is a comfort to me. My two daughters won't be able to become marines and fight in the Iraq quagmire:

US Marines may be tough, but after April 1 they won't be able to show it with big tattoos.

Marine Corps Commandant James Conway has slapped a ban on new tattoos that are visible when a marine is dressed in shorts and a T-shirt.

Effective April 1, "Marines are prohibited from: tattoos or brands on the head and neck. Sleeve tattos are likewise prohibited," the new regulations stated.

Justice done the American way

David Hicks, the Aussie held at Gitmo, was sentenced yesterday, following what may well have been a forced confession of guilt. After all, when facing the prospect of a kangaroo court finding you guilty without evidence and sentencing you to life in Guantanamo, wouldn't you opt for nine months imprisonment in Australia, your home country? Boy, I sure would, even though Australia isn't my home country. Here's the NY Times account:

The sentence came at the end of a long day in Guantánamo’s military commission courtroom and followed the deliberations of an eight-member panel of military officers. Having deliberated for two hours, the panel returned at 8 p.m. with a sentence of seven years, the maximum it was permitted to impose under the deal in which Mr. Hicks pleaded guilty on Monday.

But the deal also provided that he actually serve the lesser of nine months or whatever sentence the panel arrived at. The balance of the seven years that could have been imposed is considered suspended.

The agreement for just nine additional months of imprisonment was remarkable for a detainee who, before the plea negotiations, had faced a potential life term and had become an international symbol of many of the 385 detainees here.

Hmmm. Here's this "hardened criminal terrorist" who's had to be held incommunicado for five full years in the Gitmo hell hole because otherwise the U.S. might be destroyed. For all of that, nine months in jail in Australia, where he may actually be let go. But, what did we get in return? Ahhhhh.

...The deal included a statement by Mr. Hicks that he “has never been illegally treated” while a captive, despite claims of beatings he had made in the past. It also included a promise not to pursue suits over the treatment he received while in detention and “not to communicate in any way with the media” for a year.

Critics said those requirements were a continuation of what they say has been a pattern of illegal detention policies. “It is a modern cutting out of his tongue,” said Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a legal advocacy group, based in New York, that is coordinating the representation of detainees in many suits challenging Guantánamo detention.

Mr. Ratner and other critics said the provisions requiring Mr. Hicks’s silence and the recanting of his accusations of abuse raised questions of whether officials would use their extensive prosecutorial powers in the military commission process to muffle the public debate about detention policies.

An agreement not to sue us. Somehow, I doubt that would stand the laugh test in a real American court. ["Real American court" is defined here as any court in the United States of America before Bush contaminated the well.] Also, I wonder if the Aussies will hold him to his promise not to talk to the press.

Ah well, now that he's pleaded guilty and made these statements, the fanatic 28 percent that still love the scrub will believe him guilty no matter what the evidence shows after he's freed.

Religious truths

Stanley Fish has an op-ed in today's Times (now that the LA Times has turned into a Republican rag, it no longer deserves a claim to confusion when you refer to a paper as The Times. The Times is now the New York Times -- at least in the U.S.) on the merits of teaching the Bible in the classroom. It begins [behind subscription wall] as follows:

In 1992, at a conference of Republican governors, Kirk Fordice of Mississippi referred to America as a “Christian nation.” One of his colleagues rose to say that what Governor Fordice no doubt meant is that America is a Judeo-Christian nation. If I meant that, Fordice replied, I would have said it.

I thought of Fordice when I was reading Time magazine’s April 2 cover story, “The Case for Teaching the Bible,” by David Van Biema, which also rehearses the case for not teaching the Bible. The arguments are predictable.

On the one side, knowledge of the Bible “is essential to being a full-fledged, well-rounded citizen”; also, if you get into a debate with a creationist, it would be good if you knew what you’re talking about.

On the other side: bring the Bible into the schools and you are half a step away from proselytizing; and besides, courses in the Bible typically play down the book’s horrific parts (dashing children against stones and the like), and say little about the killings done in its name.

He goes on to discuss how some want to teach the Bible in a secular fashion, ignoring the religious "truths" imbedded in it and seems to conclude that if you do that, it's not worth teaching. Here are the concluding paragraphs:

Of course, the “one true God” stuff is what the secular project runs away from, or “brackets.” It counsels respect for all religions and calls upon us to celebrate their diversity. But religion’s truth claims don’t want your respect. They want your belief and, finally, your soul. They are jealous claims. Thou shalt have no other God before me.

This is what Fordice meant. He understood that if he prefaced Christian with “Judeo,” he would be blunting the force of the belief he adhered to and joining the ranks of the multiculturalist appreciators of everything. Once it’s Judeo-Christian, it will soon be Judeo-Islamic-Christian, then Judeo-Islamic-Native American-Christian and then. ... Teaching the Bible in that spirit may succeed in avoiding the dangers of proselytizing and indoctrination. But if you’re going to cut the heart out of something, why teach it at all?

Now, I'm going to dispute this position. There's much to learn from a study of the Bible, both old and new testament, that has nothing to do with the particular "religious truths" that one kind of religious fanatic or another imputes to it. I took courses in the Bible all through high school and college, and, while I temporarily adopted Christianity at that time largely because most everyone around me pretended to be Christian as well, it had nothing to do with the instruction I received in the Bible. The Bible can easily be taught as an historical document, offering a mirror into the lives and thinking of the people of that time. It can be taught, in part, as beautiful poetry (the Psalms, for instance). It can be taught in conjunction with archaeology and other historical documents to explore what the Biblican writings probably meant to contemporaries.

Indeed, one of the best courses I ever sat in on was an Old Testament course taught by a Jewish Rabbi who made the books of the Old Testament come alive without in any way indoctrinating the students in his faith.

I value that education, notwithstanding the fact that I am now somewhere between agnostic and atheistic. It gave me a basis for understanding references to Biblican events in subsequent art and literature. But, perhaps more importantly, it gave me a working understanding of the scriptural basis of at least two of the world's most important religions and to some degree a basis for a third religion (Islam).

All that said, however, I am against teaching it in public elementary and secondary schools. First, many teachers would be unable to keep their religion out of their instruction. I recall attending an elementary school function in Florida a couple of days after 9/11. The kids were still pretty shell shocked by the events of that day, but the teacher tried to sooth them by telling them that the reason this happened was because those were bad people because they didn't believe in Jesus Christ. I'm sure this would be the rule and not the exception throughout much of the South and mid-west if the Bible were taught in elementary schools.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, those who tried to look at Biblical scholarship as a fact-based enterprise and taught about the Bible in a secular manner would be roundly condemned by the various and varying religious fanatics in the community for perverting the particular understanding they put on particular favored passages that "prove" their own particular slant on truth. Think about the fights in front of Boards of Education today over these issues (evolution, for example) and think just how much worse that would be if someone taught that the miracle of the loaves and fishes might just be allegorical and not literal. That teacher would be brought up for discipline in an instant in many communities around our country.

Jesus with a Penis

Q. So what are Bill Donohue and the Catholic League lathered up about now as one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities EVER?

A. A sculpture of Jesus in chocolate.

Q. So, what's wrong with that?

A. Not sure. Either it's because the color of chocolate is makes him look African-American or -- oh My God -- he has a penis!

Jesus! Jesus with a penis! That gives a whole new meaning to Christian "love," doesn't it?

The stench grows

Laura Rozen has some details on the connection between Mitchell Wade (of Duke Cunningham fame) and our esteemed V.P., Richard the Lion-Mouthed. It's worth a read if you were wondering why Carol Lam got canned. It's also a good lesson on how the Federal procurement process works under this administration. No smoking guns, but ... you know what happens to fruit and vegetables left in the kitchen garbage bag too long.

The Hollow Man

I love it! Nancy Pelosi has announced that she's going to visit Syria in her upcoming trip to the Mideast. Bush is absolutely livid -- can't you just see him seething. Not only is some upstart from Congress one-upping him, but it's a woman to boot. President Pelosi is taking the reins -- perhaps a bit prematurely, since Bush hasn't been impeached yet -- and showing everyone that Bush is now nothing but a hollow man, a stuffed man, with headpiece filled with straw (to paraphrase T.S. Eliot.)

The leader of the US House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in coming days will visit Syria, a country President George W. Bush has shunned as a state sponsor of terrorism, despite being asked by the administration not to go.

"In our view, it is not the right time to have these sort of high-profile visitors to Syria," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters Friday.

Pelosi will not be the first member of Congress in recent months to travel to Syria, but as House speaker she is the most senior.

"This is a country that is a state sponsor of terror, one that is trying to disrupt the Saniora government in Lebanon and one that is allowing foreign fighters to flow into Iraq from its borders," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi, arrived in Israel on Friday on her second fact-finding trip to the Middle East since she took over in January.

Among those in her delegation is Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress. Others traveling with Pelosi include Rep. Tom Lantos, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Friday, March 30, 2007

The sheer stupidity of the right wing

Maybe nothing illustrates the bottomless depths of silliness to which the right-wing has descended than the absurd attempt to “debate” global warning and, especially, to ridicule Al Gore’s warning thereof. Apparently, they care a lot more about despising and scoring points against Gore than they do about their kids’ futures.

First of all, sure the isolated naysayers could be right and all the other scientists and their studies and data wrong. Yes, it has happened before. But then consider the bargain here. If Gore and virtually the entire body of climate scientists are correct, then we damned well better start doing something to keep an earth that is livable. If we don’t and they are right, the consequences could be horrendous -- in fact, will be horrendous if they are really, really right. If they are wrong and the crackpot scientists are right, then what have we lost? We will have begun a process, one that will be gradual in any event, to reduce our reliance on burning oil and coal, something everyone acknowledges we ought to be doing anyway for geopolitical as well as environmental reasons.

Hmm, on this side, death and destruction, first from people around the world who hate us even while we depend on what they have and we don’t, and then from rising seas flooding the coastal cities and ghastly temperatures. On the other side, less dependence on the people with the oil, a cleaner environment, and loads of new high-tech jobs creating and maintaining new ways of getting and using energy.

If 1000 thoroughly qualified meteorologists are saying there’s a 50% chance a Class V hurricane will hit land between X and Y within the next ten years, doesn’t it make sense to build a new home there that will withstand a Class V hurricane -- even if a couple of biologists who dabble in meteorology (“scientists,” that is) say they are all wrong – that the chance is virtually zero that anything worse than a tropical storm will hit, and even if it does it will land between Z and A -- so who needs the extra expense?

All the nutcase right-wingers want (and the entire Republican Party other than a few courtly Republican Senators is heading there) is to oppose Gore, liberals and anything that’s good for the environment – because Gore and liberals will usually favor something good for the environment. If Al Gore and the liberals are against death and destruction of America, then I’m for death and destruction of America. How can we liberals not see the perfect sense in that?

Truth challenged

There are times when I think Bush is simply congenitally unable to tell the truth. He's been saying the funds for the troops will run out by April 15th. But, the Congressional Research Service says not until June or July.

In a memo to the Senate Budget Committee dated Wednesday, the congressional analysts said the Army has enough money in its existing budget to fund operations and maintenance through the end of May — about $52.6 billion. If additional transfer authority is tapped, subject to Congress approving a reprogramming request, the Army would have enough funds to make it through nearly two additional months, or toward the end of July. Using all of its transfer authority, the Army could have as much as $60.1 billion available.

Rice called to testify -- don't count on it

Raw Story says that the House Government Committee is calling Rice to testify on Niger uranium, among other things:

The House Government Committee today formally requested Secretary Rice to testify before the Oversight Committee on Apr. 18th regarding the Bush administration's claims that Iraq sought uranium from Niger, White House treatment of classified information, the appointment of Ambassador Jones as "special coordinator" for Iraq, and other subjects.

Claims that Iraq were seeking uranium from Niger were based on documents that were later proved to be forgeries, and caused ire among Democrats and others who felt the Administration had provided false information to Congress about Iraq in the lead-up to war.

Somehow, I doubt she'll appear.

Infectioius Amnesia

Joe Sudbay at AmericaBlog argues that Republicans seem to have contracted infectious amnesia.

The President's Spouse

Do we really want a president who would have his wife sit in on cabinet meetings? That's what Giuliani would do, he says.

The biggest tax increase in history

Holzoy at Obsidian Wings has a good post on Robert Novak's claim that the Democrats have just passed the largest tax increase in the history of the universe.

Short version: The Dems haven't done anything. They just haven't stopped the Bush tax cuts (which the Republicans made temporary to hide their impact) from expiring.

So, you're mayor of New York. You're told that the guy you're thinking of promoting to police commissioner has ties to the mob. You forget what you've been told and promote the guy. Later you recommend him for promotion to head up homeland security. Does any of that make sense to you?

Rudolph W. Giuliani told a grand jury that his former chief investigator remembered having briefed him on some aspects of Bernard B. Kerik’s relationship with a company suspected of ties to organized crime before Mr. Kerik’s appointment as New York City police commissioner, according to court records.

Mr. Giuliani, testifying last year under oath before a Bronx grand jury investigating Mr. Kerik, said he had no memory of the briefing, but he did not dispute that it had taken place, according to a transcript of his testimony.

Is this a man we want in the White House?

The "loyal Bushie"

Today's lead editorial in the NY Times sums up Kyle Sampson's testimony pretty well:

In his Senate testimony yesterday, Kyle Sampson, the former chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, tried to be a “loyal Bushie,” a term Mr. Sampson used in his infamous e-mail message to describe what he was looking for in United States attorneys. But if Mr. Sampson was trying to fall on his sword, he had horrible aim. In testimony that got so embarrassing for the White House that the Republicans tried to cut it off, Mr. Sampson simply ended up making it clearer than ever that the eight prosecutors were fired for political reasons.

He provided more evidence, also, that the attorney general and other top Justice Department officials were dishonest in their initial statements about the firings.

Mr. Sampson flatly contradicted the attorney general’s claim that he did not participate in the selection of the prosecutors to be fired and never had a conversation about “where things stood.” Mr. Sampson testified that Mr. Gonzales was “aware of this process from the beginning,” and that the two men regularly discussed where things stood. Mr. Sampson also confirmed that Mr. Gonzales was at the Nov. 27 meeting where the selected prosecutors’ fates were sealed.

A Great week

It's been a great week for the big W hasn't it. Let's see. The Senate votes for the funds Bush wants but also voted to limit the duration of the Iraq war. Several new rationales for the firing of the eight prosecutors are trial ballooned, but the balloons are quickly shot down. Kyle Sampson tells us that Gonzo lied to Congress and that the firings really were political -- just the good kind of political (i.e., supporting Republicans), not the bad kind of political (i.e., supporting Dems). A former general and professor at West Point tells Bush and the current generals that things are hopelessly screwed up in Iraq. The "purge" is allegedly working because anyone can walk down the streets of Baghdad without protection, until it turns out no one can walk down any Baghdad street without protection. Massive bombings and reprisal attacks fill the streets of Iraq with dead bodies. The Director of the F.B.I. admits his agency misused the powers of the "Patriot Act" but said (with fingers crossed behind his back) that he won't do it again.

Ah yes. A very good week. And it's only Friday morning. What do you suppose will be released after the news cycle is shut down this afternoon?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A bit more on Bush-whacked Justice

Digby's column, "Machiavelli's Inbred Children", starts off citing an LA Times op-ed by Joseph Rich, a retired DOJ career civil rights attorney. Rich begins:

THE SCANDAL unfolding around the firing of eight U.S. attorneys compels the conclusion that the Bush administration has rewarded loyalty over all else. A destructive pattern of partisan political actions at the Justice Department started long before this incident, however, as those of us who worked in its civil rights division can attest.

I spent more than 35 years in the department enforcing federal civil rights laws — particularly voting rights. Before leaving in 2005, I worked for attorneys general with dramatically different political philosophies — from John Mitchell to Ed Meese to Janet Reno. Regardless of the administration, the political appointees had respect for the experience and judgment of longtime civil servants.

Under the Bush administration, however, all that changed. Over the last six years, this Justice Department has ignored the advice of its staff and skewed aspects of law enforcement in ways that clearly were intended to influence the outcome of elections.

It has notably shirked its legal responsibility to protect voting rights. From 2001 to 2006, no voting discrimination cases were brought on behalf of African American or Native American voters. U.S. attorneys were told instead to give priority to voter fraud cases, which, when coupled with the strong support for voter ID laws, indicated an intent to depress voter turnout in minority and poor communities.

Well, as Jack Benny used to say. "They hate our freedoms", as another less humourous comedian famously said. It's not really a revelation, as I recall, but still.

Rich has more to say. So does Digby ("since I first started writing on-line, one of my recurring themes is that the modern Republican party has become fundamentally hostile to democracy"), mostly about the Bush v. Gore, Florida recount debacle.

But I will stop after this: funny, I hadn't thought that anything was more critical to this nation right now than the Iraq occupation; but maybe, just maybe, the current Senate Judiciary hearings are more fundamental.

Income inequality - Bush style

The NY Times [behind subscription wall] explores the 2005 tax return data and finds that the top 300 people in the country (in terms of income) had total income equal to the collective total of all the rest of the income earners (150 million) in the country combined.

The also found this:

Income inequality grew significantly in 2005, with the top 1 percent of Americans — those with incomes that year of more than $348,000 — receiving their largest share of national income since 1928, analysis of newly released tax data shows.

The top 10 percent, roughly those earning more than $100,000, also reached a level of income share not seen since before the Depression.

While total reported income in the United States increased almost 9 percent in 2005, the most recent year for which such data is available, average incomes for those in the bottom 90 percent dipped slightly compared with the year before, dropping $172, or 0.6 percent.

The gains went largely to the top 1 percent, whose incomes rose to an average of more than $1.1 million each, an increase of more than $139,000, or about 14 percent.

Is he lying?

Most of the Senators, including Arlen Specter, don't seem to believe Kyle Sampson is telling the truth. His comments just don't hold water. He's trying to fall on his own sword and protect everyone else.

Light blogging

Light blogging today because I've been gardening and watching the Kyle Sampson hearings (not at the same time).

McCain is toast

Apparently St. John McCain discussed the possibility that he switch to the Democratic Party for over two months back in 2001, according to Tom Daschel and Tom Downey.

If he had any chance before, it's gone now.

Security leads to freedom

Glenn Greenwald has a great post up about the real goal of neo-conservatism. It's underlying philosophy is "security leads to freedom" and the best way to "security" is to have an all-powerful central government that spies on all of its citizens, restricts their activities, limits their civil rights, but expands its militarism limitlessly.

The Gonzales toaster is working overtime today

Well if today's news that the DOJ is now admitting that Gonzales lied to Congress doesn't seal his fate, I would think nothing short of impeachment will. Meanwhile, the circumstantial evidence that the firings were designed for political retribution builds. There are no smoking guns yet, and Kyle Sampson isn't fessing up, but the case gets stronger by the minute.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

National Review wants Gonzo dumped

Big Tent Democrat at TalkLeft notes that the National Review called for the resignation of Alberto Gonzales today and asks, "when is the last time you agreed with the National Review? I can't remember either."

Frankly, I'm not sure I agree with them now. Gonzales is such a cancer growing on the Republican corpus, metastasizing to every part of its body, that his staying may do more to destroy the party than his leaving will benefit the rest of us. Go Gonzo go. Stay on for at least a few more weeks until we can pronounce the corpse DOA.

Meanwhile, while I love to see the Republican party dying of a cancer, I don't love to see any of it's individual members doing so. Best wishes to Tony Snow in his efforts to fight it.

Lurita Doan't remember anything, duh

Lurita Doan testified before Congress today about the "team building" meeting held at the GSA where a White House official presented a slide show on how the GSA could help Republicans target Democrats in key races in 2008. If you haven't watched her stammer, stutter, and obfuscate yet, watch this clip. It's hillarious. At least, it hillarious until you realize that this is what our taxpayer dollars and our federal bureaucracy are being used to do.

Attacking the U.S. Attorneys

Digby informs us they're now swiftboating the US Attorneys.

Here's a new attack ad playing on New Mexico radio stations:

Former US Attorney David Iglesias wonders why he was fired. He says it was politics. Well, let's look at the facts.

Iglesias brags he won a huge corruption case but he cut sweetheart deals with those involved and then lost 23 of 24 counts at trial (voices: NOT GUILTY!)

In 2004 3000 suspect voter registration forms turned up. But Iglesias did nothing even when a crack dealer was busted with them and even when political operatives took the fifth and refused to testify about their fraud. David Iglesias just looked the other way.

No wonder a criminal defense lawyer just praised him. He let her client walk.

While he looked the other way on fraud, Iglesias did prosecute a girl for putting bubble gum on a speeding ticket and he did find time to take dozens of taxpayer funded junkets around the world.

Meanwhile his own prosecutors criticized him and a former state supreme court judge publicly called him an ingrate.

Now Iglesias is even trying to play the race card.

David Iglesias. He still can't figure out why he was fired.

C'mon David, isn't it obvious?

This was put together by a group called New Mexicans For Honest Courts. (You can hear the ad at the web site.)

If Iglesias has any more dirt to tell, I'll bet he'll start telling it now.

What's up with St. John?

So what the heck is going on with McCain? As everone and his brother has noted, yesterday McCain told CNN (and everyone else as well) that there were several peaceful neighborhoods in Baghdad where you could go walking down the street without protection. Later, Wolf Blitzer asked CNN's Baghdad correspondent Michael Ware if this were true. He said it was utterly laughable. That a westerner wouldn't last 20 minutes anywhere in Baghdad. If the Sunnis or the Shi'as didn't get you the robbers and thugs would.

More and more, McCain seems to be living in lala land. Yes, his colleagues on the wingnut side of the aisle have been doing that for years, but in the past, McCain has usually seemed to be reality based, even when I disagreed with him (which was often). Now, he just seems to have lost it. I'm wondering if he's going where Ronald Reagan went. Or, is it just pandering for political gain? If the latter, it isn't working.

Senate Judiciary Cmte: friends or foes?

Poor Monica G-- has to take the 5th amendment because the Seante Judiciary Committee is a "hostile and questionable environment."

Apparently, it will not be quite so hostile for her former coworker, D. Kyle Sampson. According to Raw Story, Sen. Orrin Hatch (who received campaign donations from Sampson) said,
I personally feel badly for young Kyle Sampson. He worked on this committee. He's a very honest, decent, honorable person. And he had the unenviable job of handling these matters. . . . And, frankly, I will resent anybody who tries to hurt the man.
Cue the music: "Someone to watch over me-e-e". Sugar daddies come and go; one can never have enough, I guess. (I guess there's whichever sugar daddy is paying Monica's pricey lawyer.)

'Course every political appointee working in DOJ will be a GOP donor-- troubling in a minor, icky-icky sort of way, but hardly surprising. The real point is, the reasons for Goodling's fifth amendment plea are specious on their face.

It's how they govern

Kagro X at Daily Kos has a good piece about today's Harold Meyerson's Washington Post article entitled "The GOP, Asleep at the wheel." He thinks it's badly misnamed. Here are the conclusory paragraphs:

It is, without a doubt, the intention of this "administration" to ignore anything and everything that gets in their way: voters, laws, subpoenas, everything. They have told us as much point blank. They have told us they will defy troop withdrawal legislation. They have told us they will defy Congressional subpoenas. And we stand poised to let them run out the clock doing it.

So as much as I appreciate the sentiment from Meyerson and others in the traditional media who are waking up to the fact that this "administration" doesn't appear to be paying attention to the fact that Americans have had enough of their corruption, the plain truth is that this isn't "sleepwalking," as Meyerson cutely phrases it in the close of his piece.

This. Is. How. Republicans. "Govern."

Elect another one -- especially if we neglect to lay down the law with this one -- and you're rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

So true.

"Brutal" Iranians videotape military captives

Shades of Abu Ghraib!

Look, Iran is hardly a social-democratic paradise, and I reckon their miltary's kidnapping (not, I am pretty sure, "capture") of those British sailors and marines was for some sort of political statement, whether ill-advised or not.

But now they have broadcast a video of the kidnappees. And so out comes the appeal to standards of the Geneva Convention:
Before the video was broadcast, a spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair said any showing of British personnel on TV would be a breach of the Geneva Conventions.

"It's completely unacceptable for these pictures to be shown on television," the British Foreign Office said in a statement after the broadcast. "There is no doubt our personnel were seized in Iraqi territorial waters."
(Ignore the non sequitir from the Foreign Office for now.) Remember when we were told how "antiquated" those Geneva Conventions were? (Here, for example. I seem to recall that being an Abu Gonzales characterization, as well.) So long as we're straight:
  • waterboarding by us-- what Geneva Conventions?
  • videotapes showing non-physically-mistreated prisoners by Iran-- bring on Nuremburg!

No, the Iranians are not in the right. But Tony the poodle should be talking to his leash-holder abut far more serious "breaches" and "complete unacceptabilities."

Hell on earth

Since WallDon seems to be communing with the Pope these days. . . . (Yes, I'll think about a comment-- maybe later today.)

Speaking of hell (both that place in which faux Jesus-loving types, but who love power and war and wealth more, might just have reserved themselves a timeshare, and also the metaphorical kind that our very nonmetaphorical war is), however, I just ran across this stunning piece by veteran war corespondent Joe Galloway,"Five Years of Broken" (h/t Mike's Blog Roundup at Crooks and Liars), posted at a site called "" which doesn't look terribly lefty.

He writes:

[President Bush] is starting off the fifth year with $400 billion already spent foolishly, 3,200 soldiers and Marines killed, more than 50,000 wounded or injured and nothing in sight but more of the same.

[big snip] A nation that approved the president's conduct of the war by nearly 70 percent now disapproves by almost the same percentage. That nation underlined its disapproval by handing control of Congress to the Democrats last fall.

The president can still swagger and smirk on occasion, but all he can promise now - with 150,000 American troops operating in the middle of a bloody civil war that our actions unleashed - is more of the same. More billions. More dead and wounded Americans. More slaughtered Iraqis. That, and as he told the nation: "There will be good days and bad days."

I can promise the president from Texas that this ill-begotten, poorly planned and mismanaged war will be his lasting legacy when, in 22 months, he packs his bags and heads home to the ranch in Crawford.

Iraq will hang around his neck - and those of Cheney and Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle and Douglas Feith - like a rotting albatross for all the days of their lives.

No doubt the contractors who are bloated like ticks on the billions they've sucked out of the public trough will write the checks to build George W. Bush a really fine presidential library on the campus of Southern Methodist University.

All of it will be a lie, just like the lies his administration told to beat the war drums five years ago.

How will the curators portray the broken military, the broken Constitution, the broken laws, the forever broken troops who came home missing limbs or eyes or pieces of their brains, the broken promises to cherish and care for the families of those who were killed and those very wounded veterans?

How will they portray the corruption, both real and spiritual, that this man and his accomplices have visited upon a nation and a people who once could be proud of their place in this world?

"All of it will be a lie." Oof.

There are days, WallDon, when it occurs to me that the traditional Christian notion of hellfire is a (necessary?) component of a sense of cosmic justice, and the idea of hell (as well as heaven for that matter) first arose among Jews, well before the time of Christianity, in the face of brutal imperial oppression and pretension. The Last Judgment is the genuine "no spin zone", so to speak.

I guess this is almost, but not quite my full reply to Walldon's recent column, "Politics of fear", after all. Let's just say for now that WallDon's final comment "Me, I'll go ahead and do whatever the hell I want to" sounds too much like el Presidente and company for my taste. I prefer the politics of mercy, compassion and justice myself. (And I suspect so do both WallDon and for that matter the Pope, but they can speak for themselves-- though I am sure that WallDon was speaking against a cheapened sense of hell and morality [Bill and Monica, omigod!!] in the context of that posting.) It is far easier to say, "politics of mercy, compassion and justice" than it is to do them, let alone to know what they require me (or us) to do: something other than endless military campaigning abroad and growing income inequality at home seem places to start, however.

Politics of fear

We all know that Bush has been using the politics of fear to his advantage at least since 9/11. But, it's beginning to wear a bit thin now that we see how totally incompetent he's been.

However, the politics of fear is nothing new, as the Pope reminds us today:

Hell is a place where sinners really do burn in an everlasting fire, and not just a religious symbol designed to galvanise the faithful, the Pope has said.

Addressing a parish gathering in a northern suburb of Rome, Benedict XVI said that in the modern world many people, including some believers, had forgotten that if they failed to “admit blame and promise to sin no more”, they risked “eternal damnation — the Inferno”.

Hell “really exists and is eternal, even if nobody talks about it much any more”, he said.

The fear of eternal damnation is probably a large part of the sticky stuff that has held the church together for all these years. I'm sure someone (ChiTom?) will remind me about it if I'm wrong, but I don't recall Jesus spouting off about hell fire and damnation much at all. It seems to me that his message was not the negative, "if you don't do as I say, you'll burn in hell," kind of thing. It was more the "do as I say and you'll earn your reward in heaven."

Frankly, I'm not that fond of either type of incentive, since I believe you should do right because it's right, not because you'll profit in some way by it.

Of course, that's for you. Me, I'll go ahead and do whatever the hell I want to.

The plot thickens

It's very interesting that Monica Goodling, the Gonzales aide who is planning to take the 5th. when called to testify before Congress, was on the line with Sen. Pete Dominici when he tried to muscle David Iglesias into accelerating the indictment of a Democrat before the November 2006 elections.

(AP) - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ liaison with the White House will refuse to answer questions at upcoming Senate hearings about the firings of eight US attorneys.

An attorney for Monica Goodling says she will cite her Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.

Goodling was involved in an April Sixth, 2006, phone call between the Justice Department and New Mexico Republican Senator Pete Domenici.

Domenici had complained to the Bush administration and the president about David Iglesias, then the US attorney in Albuquerque.

Domenici wanted Iglesias to push more aggressively on a corruption probe against Democrats before the 2006 elections.

I think we're beginning to understand why she's decided to take the 5th. It's also beginning to look as though this thing was coordinated very closely with the White House. After all, Monica is the liason between DOJ and the White House. That's her job, to coordinate.

Seems to me some negotiations over limited immunity would be in order here to force her testimony.

No sale of NJ Turnpike

I was glad to see that Gov. Corzine nixed the idea of selling the New Jersey Turnpike to private interests. a) selling an earning asset is no way to solve a budget crisis. It just postpones the crisis. b) generally speaking, roads shouldn't be private property. It will lead to higher tolls and/or lower maintenance. Neither are good for the state.

Wednesday Daffodil blogging

The first of the season in my yard

The war bills

Now that Senate Democrats have defeated the Thuglicans' effort to strip the Iraq supplemental appropriation bill of deadlines and look well on their way to passing the bill, the question is will they have the guts to stick to their guns when the going gets rough? We know that Bush is going to veto the bill, and nobody thinks there's a chance a overriding the veto. The Thuglicans think they can intimidate the Dems to go back to square one and vote out a "clean" bill with no strings attached by accusing the Dems of failing to fund the war.

It seems to me that the Dems should be screaming from the ramparts that it is Bush who vetoed the war funding, not the Dems. The Dems just gave him more funds than he asked for. The right strategy, it seems to me, is to bring back another bill with deadlines - possibly with more support than before, and continue to do this until Bush is either forced to negotiate or forced to stop the war altogether.

If Bush leaves the troops out there to die without ammo or food just to avoid negotiating with Democrats, then he should be tried for treason and shot.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Gunfight at the Okay Corral

Kagro X at Daily Kos discusses an alternative to the standard contempt of Congress citation called "Inherent Contempt." As noted here yesterday, the problem with Congress holding Bush officials in contempt if they refuse to appear under subpoena is that the contempt citation is enforced by the Attorney General, who, in this case, is certainly not going to prosecute anyone in the White House. The Courts have generally avoided hearing cases like this, so, if Congress took it to Court, the Court would probably say, "go suck eggs."

Under "Inherent Contempt," Kargo X says Congress would hold it's own trial of the individual deemed in contempt, and, if they convict, they can incarcerate the individual until the next adjournment of Congress. Sounds good, but how do they enforce this? Somehow, the prospect of the Sargent at arms and the Capitol Police seeking to arrest White House officials does not seem likely. I can see the FBI and the T-Men lined up to defend the White House and a few dozen wizened old men from the Capitol Police trying to break through the cordon.

But, the very fact we're talking about this is pretty scary. It sounds like something out of Mugabe's Zimbabwe.

If they don't have bread, let them starve

Without further comment, this from USA Today:

Cities are cracking down on charities that feed the homeless, adopting rules that restrict food giveaways to certain locations, require charities to get permits or limit the number of free meals they can provide.

Orlando, Dallas, Las Vegas and Wilmington, N.C., began enforcing such laws last year. Some are being challenged.

Medicare Part D - one more idiocy

One more idiocy of Medicare Part D. I turned 65 this month, so I switched from my previous health care plan to Medicare and from no drug coverage to Medicare Part D under a plan sponsored by Humana. Recently, I called the pharmacy to order refills on one of my prescriptions and forgot to tell them I was under a new drug plan. When I went in to pick up the prescription, they handed me to drugs and the invoice for $22.50. At that point, I remembered that I was now on Medicare Part D and handed them my card. Since the plan I'm on has an initial deductible of $250.00 I knew I would pay the full price of the drug, so I began to write a check. The pharmacist warned me to stop because the price would be different under the plan. Bingo, the approval from Humana came through, and the pharmacist had to charge me $28.50, six dollars more that I would have had to pay when I was uninsured!

Tell me how that makes sense.

Open foot, insert mouth

Juan Cole on Ehud Olmert:

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert put his foot in his mouth by saying that US troops should stay in Iraq, otherwise the resulting chaos might cause the Hashemite monarchy of Jordan to fall. Jordan has a peace treaty with Israel and puts up with Israeli colonization of the West Bank even while condemning it-- i.e. Jordan functions as a de facto ally of Israel. Olmert sees its potential loss as a threat to Israeli security. The Jordanians are hopping mad about Olmert's comments. They see their regime as perfectly stable, whereas they wonder how long Olmert's government can last, with only 2% of Israelis expressing trust in him in polls. And, the Jordanians believe that the real threat to regional security is Israel's steadfast refusal to grant the Palestinians their own state within recognized and viable borders.

What the Jordanians are not saying, but is worth saying, is that if chaos in Iraq was a threat to the stability of Israel's neighbors and therefore to Israel itself, it was foolish for Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert to act as cheerleaders for an Iraq War back in 2002 and early 2003. War has unpredictable consequences. Olmert is wrong about the fragility of the Hashemite monarchy, but is right-- too late!-- that the violence in Iraq may well rebound against Israel.

Monday, March 26, 2007

"If that's a liberal, then I'm a liberal”

Obviously, this guy in Alabama touted by kos, Ron Sparks, the state’s Agriculture and Industry Commissioner, has a political death wish – what with acknowledging he’s a “liberal” in Alabama of all places. And some people think he might run for the Senate? Hah, give us a break.

Sure, I really like this, but really -- there's no way he will ever get anywhere in one of the reddest of red states:

"Sometimes people say, `Commissioner, why do you get so emotional?' Because I'm sick and tired of people taking a simple word and spinning it and making us look like we're bad. Let me tell you something: I'm not ashamed of people saying, `Commissioner, you're a liberal,'" Sparks said, creating more applause.
He said he was taught by his grandmother that when people were less fortunate, you should help them and that everyone deserves the same education and healthcare.
"If that's a liberal, then I'm a liberal. They need to quit spinning it, folks, and we need to step up to the battle," Sparks said to more applause.

But wait a second: in 2002, he won statewide as a Democrat, as a populist straight-talking Democrat, by a tidy 51-46 margin. But surely he got clobbered in 2006 talkin’ all liberal like that. Nope, this time he annihilated his Republican opponent 59-41, winning 62 of the 67 counties.

Time to readjust: if you’re liberal, just go out and be good one, dammit.

A Sea Change

You know there has been a sea change when my son announces that he's seriously considering changing sides politically. Heretofore, he has been a died-in-the-wool, listen to him every day, Rush Limbaugh conservative. I guess the utter incompetence can't be missed even by those with their eyes closed anymore.

Will the Iranians be more humane than we are?

Digby notes that the Iranians are questioning the fifteen Brits in their custody at the same time we are running a kangaroo court in Guantanamo and wonders whose rules of interrogation the Iranians will choose to use. He concludes:

The potential for very serious consequences from this is quite high. I can't believe we are in the position of having to hope the Iranians show more restraint and good sense than Dick Cheney, but we are.

Impeachment may be the only solution

Kagro X at Daily Kos has an interesting exposition of what happens if Bush orders his troops to ignore subpoenas. Apparently, it's up to the DOJ to prosecute once a contempt of Congress motion has been passed. Last time that happened, in the Reagan administration (surprise, surprise), the DOJ refused to prosecute. Congress took the case to the Courts. The Court dismissed the case on the grounds that political disputes should be resolved by the politicians, not the Courts. The Reagan administration declared victory and no prosecutions were brought.

That certainly seems likely to repeat itself here.

And, that leaves impeachment as the only viable solution.

DOJ Official to take fifth

The criminality is starting to come out in spades. Now we have a DOJ official who's going to take the fifth when she testifies before Congress. Via Talking Points Memo:

Breaking off the AP wire: DoJ official Monica Goodling to take the 5th at upcoming congressional hearing.

You know that wouldn't happen unless there's something criminal afoot. I wonder about Congress giving her immunity to force her testimony. That might bring something out.


Somehow, I don't think this is a bluff. I think the White House really means to stonewall on this:

WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House stood by Alberto Gonzales on Monday, even as support for the embattled attorney general erodes on Capitol Hill amid new questions about his honesty.

..."We are not negotiating," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said. "We are where we are, which is where we were last week. ... I can understand why people would think we have not made the right decision, but we think we have.'"

The sphere of politicization

TPM Muckraker traces the connections between purgegate and the politicization of the GSA that was detailed by today's Washington Post. Somehow or other I am reminded of that sketch by Leonardo daVinci's Vitruvian Man (the man with outstretched arms and legs describing a perfect circle.) The man is Karl Rove and the circle is the ambit of the government bureaucracies he has politicized.

P.S. Now that I've dug up the jpg, I see the man is a whole lot better looking than Karl. Maybe someone could photoshop a pic of Karl into this.

Uruguayan seeks Kissinger extradition

I wonder if Kissinger's past will ever catch up with him:

An attorney for a victim of Uruguay's 1973-1985 dictatorship has asked his government to request the extradition of former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger over his alleged role in the notorious Operation Condor.

Condor was a secret plan hatched by South American dictators in the 1970s to eliminate leftist political opponents in the region. Details of the plan have emerged over the past years in documents and court testimony.

The Latin American dictatorships of the time "were mere executors" of a "plan of extermination" hatched in the United States by a group led by Kissinger, said attorney Gustavo Salle, who represents the family of Bernardo Arnone.

Uruguayan prosecutor Mirtha Guianze has received the request and is studying the case, according to news reports.

Of course, this isn't the only messy business Kissinger was involved in as Nixon's hatchet man. There was also the overthrow of the democratically elected president of Chile in favor of Pinochet, among many others.

Americans are real men, Britains are pussies

Proving we march hairy-chested onto the world stage, we claim we have hairy chests:

A senior American commander in the Gulf has said his men would have fired on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard rather than let themselves be taken hostage.

In a dramatic illustration of the different postures adopted by British and US forces working together in Iraq, Lt-Cdr Erik Horner - who has been working alongside the task force to which the 15 captured Britons belonged - said he was "surprised" the British marines and sailors had not been more aggressive.

Not only would the fifteen guys be dead if they had done this, but we would probably be in a full scale war with Iran. Of course, the Cheney types would love that.

Better late than never

Some flip flops are not all bad:

In a dramatic reversal of his earlier stand, Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, has apologised for his country's official involvement in forcing women to serve as sex slaves during the second world war.

"I am apologising here and now as the prime minister, and it is as stated in the Kono Statement," Abe told a parliamentary committee on Monday in response to a question by an opposition lawmaker.

"As I frequently say, I feel sympathy for the people who underwent hardships, and I apologise for the fact that they were placed in this situation at the time," Abe told the committee.

Pendulum swings

In today's NY Times, Paul Krugman writes of the "Emerging Republican Minority." [Behind subscription wall] There he explains that the public is growing more liberal while the Republicans are growing more conservative. In particular, he explains that the public is now favoring larger government to get things done, while the Republicans believe they lost in 2006 because they didn't push small government enough.

I tend to think Krugman is right -- at least in the short-term. People have seen government services privatized and services that should be run by the government run privately, and they see they don't work. At least, not without oversight. Just this morning, the Times ran a front page article on how long-term care insurance companies (principally Conseco and its subs) just refuse to pay claims when their clients check in to assisted living facilities. In one case, the client was told first that she was too late for coverage, then they told her the nursing home wasn't "approved" even though it was licensed by the State, finally they told her she was too well for assisted living even though she had early stage dementia and took 37 pills a day.

A couple of days ago Blue Cross of California was fined $1 million for falsely cancelling insurance policies once claims were filed (typically for alleged misstatements on applications made years before). The insurance inspectors examined 90 randomly selected policy cancellations, out of about 1,000 a year in California, and found violations in each one. That's one hundred percent of the sample. Projecting that to the whole population of cancellations suggests that every cancellation was fraudulent. The $1 million fine is probably small change compared to the savings Blue Cross gained through the cancellations.

To a large degree, the hostility to large government developed because people had to deal with huge, inefficient government bureaucracies, run by snotty, rude people who seemed to believe the agency was there for their benefit, not for the benefit of the public. Credit cards or checks were never accepted (think of the Post Office, the subway ticket booth, the Marriage License bureau, the Division of Motor Vehicles, paying traffic fines). Forms were complicated and often incomprehensible. Lines were long. Delays were the norm.

For most of us, those inconveniences are now a thing of the past when we deal with most government agencies. The Post Office and the subway and even the Courts accept Master Charge (or Visa or Discover or even American Express). Here in New Jersey, the DMV is still not a pleasant place, but the staff are friendly and helpful (at least at the branch in Orange) and try their best to make things work. Further most of us have very little direct dealings with the government since so much has now been privatized. Hence, there's little to point the finger at to complain about anymore. [Of course, if you're a resident alien trying to deal with the INS, you're likely to have had an entirely different experience with our government. I suppose I should also include Katrina victims with the resident aliens in this.]

The main remaining source of discontent with the government tends to be the IRS. Let's face it, nobody likes to be taxed if they can get the other guy to pick up the tab, and the complicated structure of the tax system is not (exclusively) the fault of the IRS. Congress designed this atrocity.

So, with the government largely out of the picture these days, there's little to dislike about government services. Indeed, the Conservatives were too successful. They took the government out of our lives, and now we don't dislike it anymore.

For a time, I suspect the pendulum will swing in the direction of larger government. Perhaps we will get universal health insurance (although that's a giant leap for Americankind). But, if we are successful, our success like that of the Conservatives will tend to breed its own destruction. Once we have to deal with government on a routine basis, we will start to find things to complain about, and the government will once again become the butt of those complaints.

In the meantime though, let's relish our success.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The peace and quiet in "most" of Iraq

The Bushies are always saying most of Iraq is calm and peaceful and that the troubles are confined to only a few places like Anbar Province and Baghdad. This reporter for the UK's Independent has learned otherwise:

The difficulty of reporting Iraq is that it is impossibly dangerous to know what is happening in most of the country outside central Baghdad. Bush and Blair hint that large parts of Iraq are at peace; untrue, but difficult to disprove without getting killed in the attempt. My best bet was to go to Sulaymaniyah, an attractive city ringed by snow-covered mountains in eastern Kurdistan. I would then drive south, sticking to a road running through Kurdish towns and villages to Khanaqin, a relatively safe Kurdish enclave in north-east Diyala province, one of the more violent places in Iraq.

We start for the south through heavy rain, and turn sharp east at Kalar, a grubby Kurdish town, to Jalawlah, a mixed Kurdish and Arab town where there has been fighting. Ominously, there are few trucks coming towards us. I was on this road last year and it was crowded with them.

We go to the heavily guarded office of the deputy head of the PUK, Mamosta Saleh, who says the situation in Diyala is getting worse. The insurgents have control of Baquba, the provincial capital. He says: "They are also attacking a Kurdish tribe called the Zargosh in the Hamrin mountains." Security is so bad that government rations had not been delivered for seven months.

I do the rounds of the town and hear on all sides that "security is good in the centre". Everybody says this in Iraq, even in villages that do not seem to have a centre. I know that six weeks earlier a bomb killed 12 and wounded 40 people in the centre of Khanaqin.

Baquba is only 30 miles from Baghdad. It is as if the government in London had lost control of Reading.

That's just the first day of a week in the reporter's journal. You need to read the whole thing to get the full impact.


Meanwhile, five more U.S. soldiers were killed today:

BAGHDAD - With U.S. attack helicopters buzzing overhead, gunmen and Iraqi security forces clashed Sunday in a Sunni area in central Baghdad, and police said at least two people were killed in fighting in the neighborhood's narrow streets and alleys. Roadside bombings, meanwhile, killed five U.S. soldiers, including four in a single strike in a volatile province northeast of the capital.

Gonzalez fate?

Alberto Gonzales is beginning to exude the smell of burnt toast, but the problem for Bush is he doesn't dare dump him. If Gonzales got ticked and decided to squeal, he knows too much. But, even if he didn't squeal, you can bet that others in the DOJ would, particularly once the boss was gone. Further, Bush will have a really difficult time getting a new political hack like Gonzales approved by the Senate. Without a hack in there, he may not be able to prevent the dike from breaking, and he certainly won't be able to go one using the DOJ as a cudgel with which to beat the Democrats over the head. My guess is that Bush is going to try pretty hard to tough this out. That means he's likely to become more pugnacious, not less.

So where does that lead us?

Missing from the purgegate docs: evidence of concern about impact on the Department's effectiveness

David Kurtz at Talking Points Memo makes an important observation:

... in the documents released by the Justice Department which I have reviewed, I have not seen any sort of reference to the impact of the dismissals on ongoing investigations. No mention of it being taken into consideration. No sign of internal discussions about ensuring that the continuity of the investigations were maintained. No reference to deliberations over the allocation of manpower and resources. In short, nothing to suggest that disrupting major high-profile investigations was an outcome to be avoided.

Lots of attention has rightly been paid to another dog that did not bark: the lack of a department paper trial for the alleged "performance-related problems" that the officials claim were the basis for the dismissals. But in a scandal where the worst suspicion is that the dismissals were intended to impede ongoing public corruption investigations of Republicans, the absence in the record of any reference to the effect the dismissals might have on those investigations seems like a particularly glaring omission.

It seems to me that in any other organization in the world, the most important concern you would have over major personnel changes would be the effect of those changes on the effectiveness of the organization. The absence of any evidence of such concern here here is perhaps the most glaring evidence of, at minimum, the utter incompetence of DOJ's management and is probably evidence of its sheer corruption.

No Rove e-mails

I see that no e-mails from Karl Rove have been turned over to Congress in any of the data dumps so far even though there are e-mails discussing his involvement in purgegate. Apparently, part of the reason is that Karl almost never uses the govenment e-mail system. Instead, he uses the RNC system. That would seem to be an effort to by-pass the document retention policy of the government. For all we know, it may even explain the missing Rove e-mail that suddenly turned up in the Plame investigation. Somebody needs to start subpoenaing the RNC for these things.

Spying on the demonstrators

You know, I can understand why police types who work for the Federal Government, e.g. the FBI or the CIA, support the Federal Government and brutalize those who don't, but I don't understand why police types who don't work for the Federal Government always do those things too. Police, wherever they are and whoever they work for, just seem to love to spy on anyone who doesn't support the president's policies. It's been true as long as I can remember, although it seems to be getting a bit more open these days.

For at least a year before the 2004 Republican National Convention, teams of undercover New York City police officers traveled to cities across the country, Canada and Europe to conduct covert observations of people who planned to protest at the convention, according to police records and interviews.

From Albuquerque to Montreal, San Francisco to Miami, undercover New York police officers attended meetings of political groups, posing as sympathizers or fellow activists, the records show.

They made friends, shared meals, swapped e-mail messages and then filed daily reports with the department’s Intelligence Division. Other investigators mined Internet sites and chat rooms.

From these operations, run by the department’s “R.N.C. Intelligence Squad,” the police identified a handful of groups and individuals who expressed interest in creating havoc during the convention, as well as some who used Web sites to urge or predict violence.

But potential troublemakers were hardly the only ones to end up in the files. In hundreds of reports stamped “N.Y.P.D. Secret,” the Intelligence Division chronicled the views and plans of people who had no apparent intention of breaking the law, the records show.

These included members of street theater companies, church groups and antiwar organizations, as well as environmentalists and people opposed to the death penalty, globalization and other government policies. Three New York City elected officials were cited in the reports.

In at least some cases, intelligence on what appeared to be lawful activity was shared with police departments in other cities. A police report on an organization of artists called Bands Against Bush noted that the group was planning concerts on Oct. 11, 2003, in New York, Washington, Seattle, San Francisco and Boston. Between musical sets, the report said, there would be political speeches and videos.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Greed drives out decency

GREED by Julian Edney

There are now more than 200 billionaires. Some five percent of American households have assets over $1 million. And we’re back to levels of extravagant consumption not seen for 100 years (5). By historical accounts this is a nation of persistent and resilient people with an unshakable mission: the pursuit of happiness. This idea of happiness is largely connected with wealth (and this connection has long philosophic roots). It is a nation of ambitious people with notions of unfettered future growth, a nation that celebrates abundance. There seems to be no reason anyone should be deprived of luxury, if he works hard. Indeed with this country’s aggregate wealth, there should be no reason anyone should ever go hungry or suffer.
People are going hungry in America. A Department of Agriculture survey found 3.9% of the population, or 4.4 million American households, sometimes go hungry for lack of money (6).
Estimates are that 3 out of 10 Americans will face poverty sometime in their lives (7).
Misery is a word seldom applied to the contemporary scene. Like wretchedness it seems antique, an Old World term. But many Americans live in cold, dank slums; many do not earn enough for shelter, many sleep outside. In America’s inner cities and at its lowest levels, under freeway bridges and in tubercular alleys, in stained and broken rooming houses and in torn-apart schools, misery exists and persists. All our largest cities contain neighborhoods where some people live day to day in apartments that could be mistaken for closets, some fearing to leave home on gang-terrorized streets, some sharing bus seats with people with drug-scarred arms. Every great metropolis has its skid row mired in fecal gutters, where whole blocks are awash in narcotics and violence, its inhabitants despised and flatly abandoned.
America is once again a nation of extremes.

Just asking

So, does anybody have a theory as to just why it is that the White House Department of Justice decided to wait until 7:00 pm last night (Friday) after the news cycle had ended for the week to release the next round of purgegate documents?

Just asking.

So, do you still want to have a beer with him?

Bush polls in the tank:

Feb. 26, 2007 A record number of Americans disapprove of the war in Iraq, and a clear majority now favors the eventual withdrawal of U.S. forces, even if civil order has not been restored there — potentially a tipping point in public attitudes on the war.

While solutions remain vexing, for the first time ABC News/Washington Post polls show a narrow majority of Americans support setting a deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces. Two-thirds oppose George W. Bush's troop surge; most oppose it strongly.

It all makes for a continued hard slog for the president: Just 36 percent approve of his job performance overall, very near his career low of 33 percent last month. Bush hasn't seen majority approval in more than two years — the longest run without majority support for any president since Harry Truman from 1950-53.

Crossing the Rubicon

So sayeth DevilsTower at DailyKos:

... It was under Nixon that the philosophy of a supreme executive was gestated. It was under Nixon that the men who populate the current administration were taught their love for tyranny over justice. From Watergate, to Iran-Contra, to Iraq, Nixon's heirs have worked to chisel away the rule of law. With Snow's blunt declaration of independence, any remaining illusion that the executive branch continues to act as part of the government is removed. If this interpretation holds, if the congress can not exert authority over the executive, then we are a democracy in name only.

In a high school history book, the fall of the Roman Republic is usually dated to the point were Julius Caesar, in defiance of Senate "micromanagement," ordered his legions across the Rubicon to end effective representative oversight. However, at the time, the Romans didn't see it that way. They continued to call themselves a republic for years. Decades. Long after Caesar, they kept up the hollow pretense of a senate, marching in each day to pass laws that the executive of their day did not follow, and direct armies that moved only at the emperor's command.

The Bush administration is waist deep in the Rubicon. The only question now is whether we will drive them back to the bank, or admit that we are only play-acting at democracy.

Too true. I fear the worst and hope for the best.

Finding a convenient reason for the firings, aka Killing three birds with one stone

I love this e-mail (via Talking Points Memo) from the DOJ's document dump last night discussing what to blame the fired attorneys for and recommending blaming them for immigration issues:

The e-mails also show that administration officials struggled to find a way to justify the firings and considered citing immigration enforcement simply because three of the fired prosecutors were stationed near the border with Mexico. While the e-mails don't provide evidence of partisan motives for the firings, they seem to undercut the administration's explanation that the prosecutors were dismissed for poor performance.

"The one common link here is that three of them are along the southern border so you could make the connection that DOJ is unhappy with the immigration prosecution numbers in those districts," Tasia Scolinos, a senior public affairs specialist at the Justice Department, told Catherine Martin, a White House communications adviser, in an e-mail.


Reported without (much) comment:

GENEVA - An independent expert told the U.N. human rights council on Thursday that Israel's treatment of Palestinians is comparable to apartheid.

John Dugard, a South African investigator on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said that "anyone who experienced apartheid has a sense of deja vu when visiting the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories)."

Dugard, a lawyer who campaigned against apartheid in the 1980s, presented his findings on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories to the 47-nation council, which commissioned the report last year.

…Dugard said that he had previously refrained from using the term apartheid "on account of the sensitivity of the issue."

But the uproar over Carter's book "and the serious attempts to impugn his integrity, particularly in the United States, has led me to reconsider this decision," Dugard said.

Citing the existence of separate residential areas for Jews and Palestinians in Hebron, as well as separate roads for Jewish settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank and Jordan Valley, he said Israel's actions clearly violated international conventions.

"Can it seriously be denied that such acts are committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over another racial group," Dugard said.

Of course, rather than doing anything to correct the situation, Israel had it's kneejerk response:

His comments drew an immediate rebuke from Israel's ambassador to the
United Nations in Geneva, who said Dugard had resorted to "inflammatory and inciteful language" which did not contribute to a constructive dialogue on the Middle East question.

The report was "utterly one-sided, highly selective, and unreservedly biased," Itzhak Levanon added.

Pigs can fly

So, now that we know that Gonzales lied to Congress and the American public about his role in purgegate, what happens next?

WASHINGTON, March 23 — Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and senior advisers discussed the plan to remove seven United States attorneys at a meeting last Nov. 27, 10 days before the dismissals were carried out, according to a Justice Department calendar entry disclosed Friday.

The previously undisclosed meeting appeared to contradict Mr. Gonzales’s previous statements about his knowledge of the dismissals. He said at a news conference on March 13 that he had not participated in any discussions about the removals, but knew in general that his aides were working on personnel changes involving United States attorneys.

The DOJ is saying this isn't inconsistent with his other statements, but that's like saying black is white, up is down, and pigs can fly. Of course, they've been getting away with that for years, so why do I ask?

Friday, March 23, 2007

A bit of over-spending

Via the Carpetbagger, I learn that the Bush 2004 campaign overspent its funding limits by a little bit -- $40 million.

The three Democrats on the Federal Election Commission revealed yesterday that they strongly believe President Bush exceeded legal spending limits during the 2004 presidential contest and that his campaign owes the government $40 million.

Burying embarrassing cases

Steve Soto, at the Left Coaster, tells us that the Justice Department is up to its tricks once again, trying to bury the Jack Abramoff-related investigations by striking a plea bargain with one of the parties that doesn't force him to cooperate with further investigations:

While the Democrats are focused elsewhere, the Bush Administration is trying today to close off any future damage from the Jack Abramoff mess by tanking the government's case against former industry lobbyist and Interior Department deputy J. Steven Griles. In a court filing this morning, the Alberto Gonzales Justice Department will now allow Griles to plead simply to one count of obstruction of justice by lying to Congress. But Justice will also ask the court for only the minimum sentence for Griles, and will not demand that Griles cooperate with the government’s pursuit of others, including possibly Abramoff, Interior Secretary Gale Norton, GOP representative John Doolittle, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and Grover Norquist. In essence, the Bush Justice Department is covering its tracks and eliminating any trail to the White House by scuttling this case and allowing Griles to walk away from cooperating with them on other investigations.

Secret whistle blowers waiting in the wings

Apparently, Sen. Patrick Leahy told Keith Olbermann that he may have some secret whistleblower witnesses waiting in the background to testify about the US Attorney purges if they're needed.

Olbermann continued, "I'm wondering what we should infer from that. Are there rabbits in hats that you have that we don't know about?"

"Keith, I was a prosecutor for eight years," Leahy said. "I've always tried to have a few witnesses honing back in case we need them and I suspect we will have them."

Perhaps they're trying to get Rove into a perjury trap. That's probably why the White House won't let him testify under oath.