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Saturday, June 30, 2007


It's been obvious since before it started that the "surge" would fail, and it's been obvious for weeks that it is failing, but, just to beat a dead horse (no pun intended), there's this:

Insurgents killed five US soldiers in an ambush in Baghdad as the military said it had detained dozens of suspected Al-Qaeda linked militants in raids across Iraq on Friday.

The soldiers were killed, and seven more wounded, in southern Baghdad on Thursday when their attackers detonated a roadside bomb against their patrol and then opened fire on it, the military said on Friday.

One of the wounded soldiers had returned to duty but six more were still receiving treatment, the military said.

The latest fatalities took US losses in Iraq to 82 this month alone and to 3,559 since the March 2003 invasion, according to an AFP count based on Pentagon figures.

In May, 121 US soldiers were killed, making that month the deadliest since November 2004, when US marines stormed the former rebel town of Fallujah.

"The toll for the past three months - 329 - made it the deadliest quarter for U.S. troops in Iraq since the war began in March 2003," the Associated Press reports.

Inside the beltway journalism

Via Kevin Drum, I came across this piece by Ken Silverstein in the LA Times:

EARLIER THIS YEAR, I put on a brand-new tailored suit, picked up a sleek leather briefcase and headed to downtown Washington for meetings with some of the city's most prominent lobbyists. I had contacted their firms several weeks earlier, pretending to be the representative of a London-based energy company with business interests in Turkmenistan. I told them I wanted to hire the services of a firm to burnish that country's image.

I didn't mention that Turkmenistan is run by an ugly, neo-Stalinist regime. They surely knew that, and besides, they didn't care. As I explained in this month's issue of Harper's Magazine, the lobbyists I met at Cassidy & Associates and APCO were more than eager to help out. In exchange for fees of up to $1.5 million a year, they offered to send congressional delegations to Turkmenistan and write and plant opinion pieces in newspapers under the names of academics and think-tank experts they would recruit. They even offered to set up supposedly "independent" media events in Washington that would promote Turkmenistan (the agenda and speakers would actually be determined by the lobbyists).

All this, Cassidy and APCO promised, could be done quietly and unobtrusively, because the law that regulates foreign lobbyists is so flimsy that the firms would be required to reveal little information in their public disclosure forms.

Now, in a fabulous bit of irony, my article about the unethical behavior of lobbying firms has become, for some in the media, a story about my ethics in reporting the story. The lobbyists have attacked the story and me personally, saying that it was unethical of me to misrepresent myself when I went to speak to them.

That kind of reaction is to be expected from the lobbyists exposed in my article. But what I found more disappointing is that their concerns were then mirrored by Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz, who was apparently far less concerned by the lobbyists' ability to manipulate public and political opinion than by my use of undercover journalism.

"No matter how good the story," he wrote, "lying to get it raises as many questions about journalists as their subjects."

I can't say I was utterly surprised by Kurtz's criticism. Some major media organizations allow, in principle, undercover journalism — assuming the story in question is deemed vital to the public interest and could not have been obtained through more conventional means — but very few practice it anymore. And that's unfortunate, because there's a long tradition of sting operations in American journalism, dating back at least to the 1880s, when Nellie Bly pretended to be insane in order to reveal the atrocious treatment of inmates at the Women's Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell's Island in New York City.

... Today, however, it's almost impossible to imagine a mainstream media outlet undertaking a major undercover investigation. That's partly a result of the 1997 verdict against ABC News in the Food Lion case. The TV network accused Food Lion of selling cheese that had been gnawed on by rats as well as spoiled meat and fish that had been doused in bleach to cover up its rancid smell. But even though the grocery chain never denied the allegations in court, it successfully sued ABC for fraud — arguing that the reporters only made those discoveries after getting jobs at Food Lion by lying on their resumes. In other words, the fact that their reporting was accurate was no longer a defense.

The decline of undercover reporting — and of investigative reporting in general — also reflects, in part, the increasing conservatism and cautiousness of the media, especially the smug, high-end Washington press corps. As reporters have grown more socially prominent during the last several decades, they've become part of the very power structure that they're supposed to be tracking and scrutinizing.

Chuck Lewis, a former "60 Minutes" producer and founder of the Center for Public Integrity, once told me: "The values of the news media are the same as those of the elite, and they badly want to be viewed by the elites as acceptable."

... I'm willing to debate the merits of my piece, but the carping from the Washington press corps is hard to stomach. This is the group that attended the White House correspondents dinner and clapped for a rapping Karl Rove. As a class, they honor politeness over honesty and believe that being "balanced" means giving the same weight to a lie as you give to the truth.

I'll take Nellie Bly any day.

Friday, June 29, 2007

July 4th. recess

Well, it's a Friday, it's just about 5:00 pm, and the Congressional 4th of July recess is upon us -- so, who is going to be Bush's recess appointment today?

There aren't any Supreme Court seats open (I hope) so it won't be that.

Of course, given Bush's contempt for the Constitution, he might just declare that there are a few more member of the Supreme Court and appoint them.

Supreme Court agrees to hear Gitmo detainees

Well, for a change maybe we have some good news from the Supreme Idiots:

WASHINGTON - Rejecting Bush administration arguments, the Supreme Court reversed course and agreed Friday to review whether Guantanamo Bay detainees can use the civilian court system to challenge their indefinite confinement.

The administration argues that a new law strips courts of their jurisdiction to hear detainee cases. The justices took the action without comment along with other end-of-term orders.

In April, the court turned down an identical request, although several justices indicated they could be persuaded otherwise.

The move is highly unusual.

The court did not indicate what changed the justices' minds about considering the issue. But last week, lawyers for the detainees filed a statement from a military lawyer in which he described the inadequacy of the process the administration has put forward as an alternative to a full-blown review by civilian courts.

Or is it good news? Perhaps the five right wingers got together and agreed to take this because they want to rule against the detainees and for Bush. Or, am I too cynical?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Lockerbie conviction to be appealed

Was this another victim of the lynch mob mentality that seems to take over after every terrorist action?

A Libyan man jailed over the 1988 Lockerbie aeroplane bombing has been given the right to appeal against his conviction.
The independent Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission said on Thursday that it would refer Abdel Basset al-Megrahi's case to the High Court, a step taken in cases where there is a possible miscarriage of justice.
The former Libyan intelligence agent has been serving a life sentence in Scotland after being convicted in 2001 of the bombing of the Pan Am flight which killed 270 people.

"The commission is of the view, based upon our lengthy investigations, new evidence we have found and other evidence which was not before the trial court, that the applicant may have suffered a miscarriage of justice," the panel said in a statement summarising its 800-page report.

I'll see a purple cow first

Emptywheel points out that the President's executive privilege claim today was supported by an opinion from the Solicitor General, the very same person who is supposed to be investigating the Justice Department firings.

More troubling, however, is what Fielding attaches: an opinion written by Solicitor General Paul Clement, explaining that OLC has reviewed Congress' requests and found that those requests fall squarely within the realm of executive privilege.

Dear Mr. President,

You have requested my legal advice as to whether you may assert executive privilege with respect to the subpoenaed documents and testimony concerning the categories of information described in this letter. It is my considered legal judgment that you may assert executive privilege over the subpoenaed documents and testimony.

Paul Clement, as you'll recall, is the guy currently in charge of any investigation into the US Attorney firings, since Alberto Gonzales recused himself some months ago. He's the one who technically oversees the Office of Special Counsel investigation into whether politics played an improper part in Iglesias' firing or the hiring of career employees in DOJ, he's the one who oversees the joint Office of Professional Responsibility and Inspector General investigations into whether anything improper--including obstruction of justice--occurred in the hiring and firing of USAs. And now, he's the guy who gets to tell the President that he doesn't have to turn over what might amount to evidence of obstruction of justice in the Foggo and Wilkes case, among others.

Of course, to some degree this makes sense. When this goes to court, it is Clement who will have to defend the White House position on refusing to turn over the documents.

But that just demonstrates how hopelessly compromised Clement is. He is--already, even before we hit the courts--in a position where he is simultaneously defending the White House, and investigating it.

I never did think it very likely that the DOJ's investigation of its boss would lead very far, but I've lowered the odds of that even further now. I expect to see a purple cow before I'll see Gonzo on trial.

FTC disses net neutrality

By the time Bush leaves office we may not have a country left. Today, as I mentioned before, the Supreme Idiots overturned Brown vs. Board of Ed. Now we learn that the FTC wants to sell the internet to the big phone companies:

The Federal Trade Commission today dealt a serious blow to "Net Neutrality" proponents as it issued a report dismissive of claims that the government needs to get involved in preserving the fairness of networks in the United States.

The report, entitled "Broadband Connectivity Competition Policy," was drafted in response to growing concerns about broadband competitiveness and network neutrality. The FTC intends the report to be consulted as a guideline by policy makers and legislators, but it has no binding force. Nevertheless, the report's findings are yet another sign that US government agencies are not particularly interested in the network neutrality problem right now. In fact, the FTC is essentially saying that they can find no evidence of a problem to begin with.

Of course they want to do in the internet. It's the only place left these days where the real news can be obtained.

Supreme Idiots overturn Brown v. Board of Education. Racial imbalance is just fine now, particularly if it disadvantages blacks

Updated below:

Well, I really didn't think they would go this far, but sure enough, they went and did it. The Supreme Court has just overturned Brown v. Board of Ed. even while saying they didn't. School boards can no longer assign children to schools with a view to correcting racial imbalance.

Here's part of Justice Breyer's dissent:

These cases consider the longstanding efforts of two local school boards to integrate their public schools. The school board plans before us resemble many others adopted in the last 50 years by primary and secondary schools throughout the Nation. All of those plans represent local efforts to bring about the kind of racially integrated education that Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U. S. 483 (1954), long ago promised -- efforts that this Court has repeatedly required, permitted, and encouraged local authorities to undertake. This Court has recognized that the public interests at stake in such cases are "compelling." We have approved of "narrowly tailored" plans that are no less race-conscious than the plans before us. And we have understood that the Constitution permits local communities to adopt desegregation plans even where it does not require them to do so.

The plurality pays inadequate attention to this law, to past opinions' rationales, their language, and the contexts in which they arise. As a result, it reverses course and reaches the wrong conclusion. In doing so, it distorts precedent, it misapplies the relevant constitutional principles, it announces legal rules that will obstruct efforts by state and local governments to deal effectively with the growing resegregation of public schools, it threatens to substitute for present calm a disruptive round of racerelated litigation, and it undermines Brown's promise of integrated primary and secondary education that local communities have sought to make a reality. This cannot be justified in the name of the Equal Protection Clause.


And, lest you think the problems of racisim are a thing of the past, read this:

In September 2006, a group of African American high school students in Jena, Louisiana, asked the school for permission to sit beneath a "whites only" shade tree. There was an unwritten rule that blacks couldn't sit beneath the tree. The school said they didn't care where students sat. The next day, students arrived at school to see three nooses (in school colors) hanging from the tree.

The boys who hung the nooses were suspended from school for a few days. The school administration chalked it up as a harmless prank, but Jena's black population didn't take it so lightly. Fights and unrest started breaking out at school. The District Attorney, Reed Walters, was called in to directly address black students at the school and told them all he could "end their life with a stroke of the pen."

Black students were assaulted at white parties. A white man drew a loaded rifle on three black teens at a local convenience store. (They wrestled it from him and ran away.) Someone tried to burn down the school, and on December 4th, a fight broke out that led to six black students being charged with attempted murder. To his word, the D.A. pushed for maximum charges, which carry sentences of eighty years. Four of the six are being tried as adults (ages 17 & 18) and two are juveniles.

Subpoenas and other stuff

I know everyone is chattering about the White House's decision to refuse to release documents and witnesses to the House Judiciary Committee despite the subpoenas, but surely that didn't come as a surprise to anyone, did it? I'm sure Cheney is back there in his undisclosed location saying the same thing about Conyers and Leahy that he said to Leahy's face a year or so ago. I can also see Bush and Cheney smiling and sharing some high fives while giving the bird to Congress.

Still, Conyers says he's going to fight. Some lawyer on TV last night said Congress might make better progress on this in the courts if they claim they are investigating criminal behavior. Otherwise, I doubt the courts will touch this with a ten foot pole, and, if they do, it will only be because a bunch of right wing judges want to side with the White House. Traditionally, the Court has neven been keen on intervening in spats between the other two branches of government -- or is it now the "other three" branches?

25 + 20 + 5 + 4 + 3 = 57

Some basic Iraqi arithmetic: 25 + 20 + 5 + 4 + 3 = 57

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A car bomb killed 25 people on Thursday at a busy intersection in Baghdad where minibuses pick up and drop off passengers, while 20 beheaded bodies were found on a river bank south of the capital, Iraqi police said.

Another car bomb in Baghdad targeting motorists queuing for petrol killed five people, police said. Mortar bombs also killed four people in two separate neighborhoods in the city.

In the southern city of Basra, a roadside bomb killed three British soldiers and wounded another, the British military said.

The latest attacks underscore the strength of militants in Iraq despite the arrival of 28,000 additional U.S. troops. The unrelenting violence is pushing Iraq to the brink of all-out civil war between majority Shi'ites and minority Sunni Arabs.

Immigration bill dies

I can't say I'm crying crocodile tears over the death of the immigration bill, even if it is seen as a victory for the right wingnuts. It was a horribly flawed bill to begin with.

Taxes on the rich

It takes a Warren Buffett to call for higher taxes on the rich:

Buffett said he makes $46 million a year in income and is only taxed at a 17.7 percent rate on his federal income taxes. By contrast, those who work for him, and make considerably less, pay on average about 32.9 percent in taxes - with the highest rate being 39.7 percent.

To emphasize his point, Buffett offered $1 million to the audience member who could show that one of the nation's wealthiest individuals pays a higher tax rate than one of their subordinates.

"I'm willing to bet anyone in this room $1 million that those rates are less than the secretary has to pay," said Buffett.

I generally agree with Buffett on this, but in fairness I feel compelled to point out that he appears to be making an apples to oranges comparison here. The article says he pays 17.7 percent in federal income taxes but some of his underlings pay 39.7 percent. The latter figure cannot be federal income taxes alone since the top marginal tax bracket is only 35%. Thus, he must be including state and local taxes or payroll taxes or both in the 39.7% while only including the federal income taxes in the 17.7%.

Or, perhaps, the reporter simply got it wrong.

They don't like us very much

They don't like us very much.

Growing numbers of people worldwide view environmental problems, pollution, infectious diseases, nuclear proliferation and the widening gap between rich and poor as the most menacing threats facing the planet, according to a 47-nation survey published yesterday by the US-based Pew Global Attitudes Project.

The survey, which conducted more than 45,000 interviews, finds that global opinion is increasingly wary of the world's dominant countries but also unimpressed by aspiring leaders in Iran and Venezuela who challenge the international status quo. In contrast, the UN receives strong support.

The US comes in for sharp criticism. "Global distrust of American leadership is reflected in increasing disapproval of the cornerstones of US foreign policy," the survey says. "Not only is there worldwide support for a withdrawal of US troops from Iraq but there is also considerable opposition to US and Nato operations in Afghanistan ... The US image remains abysmal in most Muslim countries in the Middle East and Asia and continues to decline among the publics of America's oldest allies."

…In an implicit rejection of the Bush administration's "freedom agenda", the survey also finds "a broad and deepening dislike of American values and a global backlash against the spread of American ideas and customs. Majorities or pluralities in most countries surveyed say they dislike American ideas about democracy."

And among key allies in western Europe, the view that the US unilaterally ignores the interests of other countries is deep-rooted.

But, who cares anyway? They're all foreigners.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

More from the Department of Just Us

TPM Muckraker has the latest on the questions surrounding the prosecution of former Democratic governor of Alabama, Don Siegelman. Now, the Thuglican prosecutors are trying to get him sentenced for crimes of which he was acquitted. They want to send him up the river for 30 years. The crimes he was actually convicted of usually carry short sentences if any. But that's not all. Read the whole thing.

First in show

Well, the Poodle is now in a position to continue to screw things up in the Middle East:

Tony Blair has been appointed as envoy for the Quartet group of Middle East negotiators after he stepped down as Britain's prime minister.

Members of the group - the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia - confirmed the position on Wednesday.

The decision came after Russia agreed to drop its reservations over the appointment.

With Bush calling the shots and the Poodle executing them, we can be sure that the Middle East will remain a boiling cauldron of hatred for the foreseeable future. Too bad the Ruskies caved on this one.

Sucking up to the Thuglican bullies

I wish I could get excited about the subpoenas that the Senate Judiciary Committee just issued for documents on the illegal domestic surveillance program, but, let's face it, nothing is going to come of this. The White House/Cheney will refuse to comply with the subpoenas. The Democrats will whine about it, but they won't have the guts to actually declare anyone in contempt of Congress. And, even if they did, it's Alberto Gonzales who has to enforce the contempt citations, in which he will be included.

Let's face it, these guys are going to get away scott free with destroying our Constitution and trampling over the law.

I had hoped that the Dems would have more guts once they got into power, but too many of them listen to the likes of David Broder, who would rather have them suck up to the Thuglican bullies than stand up for themselves.


It seems the scuttlebut today is that the Republicans have a rather diabolical two pronged plan afoot to keep the White House in 2008. The first part involves Lugar and Voinovich and perhaps others setting up the Democrats to believe that the Thuglicans are actually out to end the war in Iraq. This will soften the Democrats up enough sucker them into striking a deal with the White House that sounds as though it is winding down the war, but which, in fact, allows Bush to keep the troops in Iraq as long as he pleases. Meanwhile, the Thuglicans, not the Democrats, will get the kudos for "ending" the war, and the war as a campaign issue will be off the table.

The second prong is to have Dick Cheney resign and replace him with whomever Bush chooses as his successor in order to set the successor up as second-commander-in-chief soon enough to give him a real boost come election day. So, that needs to happen in about six months.

I have no inside dope, but it sure wouldn't surprise me if that's the way things play out. And, the Democrats are just stupid enough to fall for it.

FDA v. Italian Researchers

So, who do you believe?

The US Food and Drug Administration says there is no need for an urgent review of the safety of aspartame, despite a new study showing the sweetener may cause cancer.

A US consumer group has called for the review after Italian researchers published a new study that showed aspartame - widely used in soft drinks - might cause leukaemia, lymphoma and breast cancer in rats.

"This is the second study by the same lab showing that aspartame causes cancer in rats," Centre for Science in the Public Interest executive director Michael Jacobson said.

Aspartame is used mostly in soft drinks but is also sold in packets to use in coffee, tea or on food.

Morando Soffritti of the Ramazzini Foundation in Bologna, Italy, and colleagues tested aspartame in rats, which they allowed to live until they died naturally.

Their study of more than 4,000 rats showed a lifetime of eating high doses of the sweetener raised the likelihood of several types of cancer.

"On the basis of the present findings, we believe that a review of the current regulations governing the use of aspartame cannot be delayed," Soffritti's team wrote in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, which is published by the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

"This review is particularly urgent with regard to aspartame-containing beverages, heavily consumed by children."

FDA spokesman Michael Herndon said the agency had not yet reviewed the study.

"However, the conclusions from this second European Ramazzini Foundation are not consistent with those from the large number of studies on aspartame that have been evaluated by FDA, including five previously conducted negative chronic carcinogenicity studies," Herndon said in an email.

"Therefore, at this time, FDA finds no reason to alter its previous conclusion that aspartame is safe as a general purpose sweetener in food."

My vote goes with the Italians, who aren't on the Coca Cola payroll.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Half full or half empty?

It's amazing how liberal bloggers can see the same glass so differently. Here's Steve Soto on the Lugar/Voinovich pullback from Bush's war in Iraq:

I know that many of you will never agree with my suggestion that the Democrats can wind down the occupation if they make it easier for GOP senators to approve a mission change from occupation to counter-terrorism, rather than a complete withdrawal in Iraq. But please note that if you build it, they will come.

Now Voinovich follows Lugar’s lead. How many other GOP senators will now not want to be left behind?

And here's Big Tent Democrat at TalkLeft on the same topic:

It is tempting for those of us who wish for an end to the US's Iraq Debacle to make much of statements like this:

Ohio Senator George Voinovich says the US should begin pulling troops out of Iraq and make greater use of diplomacy. . . . His remarks come on the heels of similar comments yesterday from Indiana Senator Richard Lugar. The two say they're still not ready to insist on a timetable for withdrawal. But both are making it clear their patience is gone.

The temptation must be resisted. What this position stakes out is the view that it is acceptable to SAY you oppose President Bush's Iraq policy without actually doing anything about it. Forget for a moment the policy fact that saying you oppose the President's policy and then voting to fund it will effect no change in policy. Consider the crass politics of the situation. If the Lugar/Voinovich/Smith/Hagel position is treated as politically acceptable, even admirable, Democrats will be creating a political safe harbor for Republicans to avoid having to run on supporting Bush's Iraq Debacle. More.

I'm afraid I side with Big Tent Democrat. The glass is not only half empty, it's completely empty. These guys may talk alot about how they disagree with the war, but when it comes down to actually doing something about it, they will never side with the Democrats. They'll side with Bush.

Forget the semester abroad - it now proves you're aiding al Qaeda

This is the most absurd thing I've ever heard:

THE FBI IS visiting the nation's top technical universities in a bid to stop students taking their holidays outside the country.

MIT, Boston College, and the University of Massachusetts, have all had a visit from the spooks to warn them about the dangers of foreign spies and terrorists stealing sensitive academic research.

The FBI wants the universities to impose rules that will stop US university students from working late at the campus, travelling abroad, showing an interest in their colleagues' work, or have friends outside the United States, engaging in independent research, or making extra money without the prior consent of the authorities.

The rules are part of guidelines given to administrators by the FBI.

The Feds are convinced that if you are doing any of these things you are likely to be a foreign agent who is nicking technology for foreign powers.

Well, maybe not the MOST absurd. Cheney's recent claim to be the fourth branch of government probably gets that title. But, pretty damned absurd. Just go dump your foreign friends, guys. Perhaps we should lock everyone in a hermetically sealed undisclosed location under ground. Then, we wouldn't need a government.

The man is an utter idiot

I repeat, the man is an utter idiot:

ABC News' Rick Klein reports: President Bush has spent a whole lot of time in recent months claiming that the immigration bill isn't "amnesty."

But in describing the measure Tuesday morning, an apparent slip of the tongue suggested otherwise -- providing fodder for the talk-radio crowd that loathes the bill and wants it defeated in the Senate.

"You know, I've heard all the rhetoric -- you've heard it, too -- about how this is amnesty. Amnesty means that you've got to pay a price for having been here illegally, and this bill does that," Bush said, according to the official White House transcript.

Two top DC press outrages for today

The Daily Howler has a good report today on the Washington Post’s strange decision to give a platform to someone with no scientific knowledge whatsoever to offer her doubts about the science of global warming; except, of course, that it’s not strange at all, since she manages skillfully to level the usual line of infantile attacks on Al Gore that you hear mainly from the D.C. press corps, and not from those who consider him for a Nobel prize or give him an Oscar, or make his film and books best sellers, or the majority who voted for him in 2000 despite the best efforts of that press contingent to trash him.

Also noted by the Howler today: Richard Cohen, in making the flat-out false statement that Valerie Plame “was not covert” (in his absurd apology for Scooter Libby the other day) either did not care or did not know that Patrick Fitzgerald, while releasing a CIA statement for his investigation explicitly saying she was, in fact, considered to be covert by the CIA – which might be expected to know better than, say, a newspaper columnist -- with specific information in the CIA statement identifying how her position met the necessary elements of the definition, expressly declared that he had decided from virtually the beginning that she was covert under the statutory definition.

Perhaps even more infuriating than Cohen’s dishonesty or failure to do minimal homework, whichever it was, is the paucity of reports in mainstream news of Fitzgerald’s conclusion at the time it was issued. Here we had seen one right-wing pundit after another asserting in every possible media outlet with no basis whatsoever that Libby and the administration did nothing wrong because she was not “covert,” and then the major media cannot be bothered to report that every one of them was utterly – OK, extremely likely to be, based on the likely difficulty of proving the CIA does not know when its agents are covert or not – wrong.

Rovian justice: just burn down their house and wreck their car

That'll stop those GD whistle blowers from ratting on me anymore. (From an article by Scott Horton in Harpers Magazine):

The Siegelman prosecution was commenced as the result of a plan hatched between senior figures in the Alabama Republican Party and Karl Rove. This connection is not coincidental, because Rove was once fired by the first President Bush and then had to rehabilitate himself. Rove did this in spades, and the place where he worked his political magic was in Alabama. He put together a campaign to engineer the Alabama GOP’s capture of the state’s judicial machinery. It worked brilliantly. And Rove has retained tight connections with the Alabama GOP ever since. Rove and the Alabama GOP leaders set out to destroy Siegelman’s political career and thus smooth the path by which the Republican Party could secure and retain political control of the Alabama statehouse. It was crafted in such a way as to retard the ability of Democrats to raise money from campaign donors so that they might contest office in Alabama. Each of these purposes is “corrupt.” Key to this plan was the use of the machinery of the Department of Justice for its completion – involving the U.S. attorneys offices in Birmingham and Montgomery, and the Department of Justice in Washington. Rove was in a position to make this work and he did so.

The curtain was pulled back on this plan when Dana Jill Simpson, a Republican lawyer who previously worked on a campaign against Siegelman, decided to blow the whistle. Her affidavit described William Canary, a legendary figure in the Alabama GOP, bragging that “his girls” would take care of Siegelman. Canary’s wife is Leura Canary, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama. Alice Martin, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama is a close confidante of Canary’s. He referred repeatedly to “Karl,” assuring that “Karl” had worked things out with the Justice Department in Washington to assure a criminal investigation and prosecution of Siegelman. Canary is a close friend of Karl Rove, and I have documented their long relationship in another post.

The response to Simpson’s affidavit has been a series of brusque dismissive statements – all of them unsworn – from others who figured in the discussion and the federal prosecutor in the Siegelman case, who has now made a series of demonstrably false statements concerning the matter. She’s been smeared as “crazy” and as a “disgruntled contract bidder.” And something nastier: after her intention to speak became known, Simpson’s house was burned to the ground, and her car was driven off the road and totaled. Clearly, there are some very powerful people in Alabama who feel threatened. Her case starts to sound like a chapter out of John Grisham’s book The Pelican Brief. However, those who have dismissed Simpson are in for a very rude surprise. Her affidavit stands up on every point, and there is substantial evidence which will corroborate its details.

Truth, justice and the American way

Glenn Greenwald makes a telling point today. We have the gal to hold a man (David Hicks) for five years in Guantanamo without trial, torture him, finally put him in front of a kangaroo court where he is forced to confess his crimes and sign a statement he wasn't tortured in order to get out and return to Australia, and then waive his signed statement in front of the press as proof of what great guys we are while still condemning the Iranians for capturing 15 British sailors, holding them for a couple of weeks, getting signed statements from them of their guilt, parading the statements in front of the press and then releasing the Brits. Ahhhh, it's nice to always be on the side of truth, justice, and the American way!

It's not just Cheney

As is so often the case, Publius hits the nail on the head:

We can complain all we want about Cheney, but the real story in the Post series is what a non-entity Bush has been during the course of his presidency. Bush outsourced the big, historical decisions of our age to an ad hoc, invisible institution known loosely as Cheney’s Office and stood by and did nothing while they wrecked everything they touched. So if you want to blame someone for Cheney’s excesses, you have to start with Bush.

But the blame doesn’t stop there. The reason Cheney’s Office got to dominate the executive branch is because we -- America -- elected a neophyte who lacked the experience, knowledge, and judgment to be president. In an ideal world, the presidential campaign should root someone like that out of the process -- not because he’s a conservative, but because he’s completely unqualified. But it didn’t. Our nation’s political machinery elevated a grossly inexperienced and ignorant man to the Oval Office. The entirely predictable result is that he would be forced to rely on someone else to make the decisions he wasn’t able or willing to make.

It’s pretty simple. When you elect someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing, you’re essentially electing someone else to be president. Kerry and Gore had their flaws, but they would have been the Deciders. They certainly would not have tolerated a lawless, out-of-control operation such as Cheney’s Office. At the very least, they would have, you know, been aware of the debates and had some pre-existing knowledge to inform their judgment. Bush, by contrast, was simply no match for Cheney and Rumsfeld’s decades of experience.

Thus, the failure that is Cheney is not merely an individual failure on the part of Bush. Cheney is an institutional failure -- a failure of our political system. That’s the key to understand. The rise of Cheney is itself an indictment of our political institutions and culture.

Monday, June 25, 2007

News from Iraq: All “al Qaeda,” all the time

Here’s a letter below that I sent to the Public Editor of The New York Times. It references an important write-up by Glenn Greenwald on how suddenly the enemy is always "al Qaeda" -- clearly a deceptive ploy to shore up the remaining supporters of the war. Greenwald followed it up today. I hope others will keep applying the pressure – on the Times, the Washington Post, CNN, the networks. Scatablog, ever ahead of the curve, warned about the phrase “al Qaeda in Iraq” as a propaganda device in September 2006 (“News flash! Republicans test-market new meme, mainstream media regurgitates it”)

Subject: Now it's always "al Qaeda"

Prominent blogger Glenn Greenwald has rightfully identified a gravely serious deceptive practice recently embraced by Times reporters and editors: in order to provide rhetorical cover for the military “surge” in Iraq, they are dutifully adopting the new U.S. Government convention of falsely calling everyone we fight in Iraq “al Qaeda.” As Greenwald points out, this notion was discredited a long, long time ago, even by Bush himself.

This is so utterly contemptible as journalism that the “New York Times” is becoming a sick joke of a newspaper in the eyes of decently educated people. Despite occasional figleaf editorials that provide the pretense of some independence and liberalism, when it counts the New York Times will obediently pass on the latest propaganda dreamed up to maintain a bare pretense of a rationale for this terrible war. It's Judy Miller redux. Apparently the Washington Post and CNN are playing right along, too. It is impossible to exaggerate the sheer, dripping contempt that such reporters and editors deserve.

Why does a once-great institution allow itself to be torn down from within? It is a very sad thing to see. It's sadder, though, for the thousands who are killed or maimed because the so-called "4th Estate" refuses to do its job.

No accidents here. They knew what they were doing

Anonymous Liberal's interpretation of today's disclosures about Cheney & Co. in the Washington Post:

In other words, the people who were championing the use of these new (illegal) interrogation techniques were specifically warned [by John Yoo, no less] that if military interrogators were permitted to use them, it would be difficult to contain the spread of such practices and abuse was likely. In the best case, these warnings were disregarded, the techniques migrated, and the result was Abu Ghraib. In the worst case (which I suspect is more likely), the use of these enhanced techniques was affirmatively encouraged in all military theatres, not just Guantanamo, and the result was Abu Ghraib. Either way, the Office of the Vice President is directly responsible for stripping away the clear rules that had previously existed regarding the treatment of military detainees, a move that set the stage for what would later happen at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.

More from the Supreme Idiot's

When I posted on the Supreme Idiot's ruling on McCain-Feingold earlier, I hadn't heard about the ruling on the student free speech case, but Publius caught the inconsistency:

Shocking isn't it. The Supreme Court finds it ok to regulate student speech (at a public parade) when it references drugs. But then basically the same coalition of Justices think McCain-Feingold's regulation of issue ads places an impermissible burden on speech. And basically the same coalition of Justices dissent in both cases. Why, it's almost as if the legal doctrine is doing no work at all! No, surely our super-coherent First Amendment jurisprudence doesn't allow for result-based decisions dressed up as law. I mean, these are Supreme Court Justices after all -- they don't look at results.

[Snark aside, I haven't read these yet. And I'm not crazy about issue ad restrictions. But on first sniff, this looks like blatant result-oriented jurisprudence across the bench.]


On a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that a group of taxpayers did not have standing to sue the US government for its funding of faith-based initiatives with federal money. The decision, Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation, was written by Samuel Alito, the second Supreme Court Justice appointed by President George W. Bush, according to the website SCOTUSBlog.

The damage Bush has done this country by appointing ideological hacks to the Court will last for years to come and not just last, but get worse and worse and worse, even after Bush himself is long gone and forgotten in the cess pool of history.

Update: Question: So, if citizens don't have standing to bring a case against the government, who does? Haliburton perhaps?

Even worse than we imagined in our nightmares

I don't have much to add to what everyone else is saying about the two Washington Post artilces on Darth Cheney and his master enabler, David Adington, the second of which is here, other than to say that Cheney is, if possible, even worse than we imagined in our nightmares. Read it for yourself and weep.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

America the superior

This piece from Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon just rang a very loud bell with me that resonates with my own thinking:

But I do think liberals who dislike Moore so strongly are genuine in their distaste and not just trotting it out to appear fair’n'balanced. And I think that Ezra’s review points to why—the overarching theme of Moore’s career has been an attack on American exceptionalism, a disease that infects both the left and the right in this country. Granted, the right suffers from the disease far more, but the belief that America is somehow better or at least different and can’t be held up to the same standards as other countries is endemic. It’s why so many usually intelligent liberal types fell into the trap of supporting the invasion of Iraq, when it should have been clear from the beginning what a bad idea it was—they just believed, in their heart of hearts, that America could succeed at this task that would be impossible for anyone else. Maybe the Marshall Plan’s effectiveness has deluded us into believing we have powers we don’t, or maybe it’s just that exceptionalism is drilled into our heads from the first day we crack open a history book in school. But Moore’s repetitive refrain that Americans would overcome a lot of our problems by learning a little humility grates on a fundamental and widely shared belief, which goes a long way towards explaining why critics particularly don’t like the way Moore sandbags people and takes them down a few notches. It’s a representation of what he’s doing to our cherished belief in our superiority.

The problem is Moore’s right. American exceptionalism is our nation’s tragic flaw and until we set out to fix it, we’re going to continue to make one avoidable blunder (like the Iraq war) after another.

So, get over this "we're the best country in the world with the best and smartest people who are superior in every respect to other people." Hell, we came from those "other people."

Don't hold your breath

Bush is apparently preparing to "concoct" a victory in Iraq even as we are defeated.

WASHINGTON, June 23 — Last month, Congress set a deadline for the American commander in Iraq, declaring that by Sept. 15 he would have to assess progress there before billions more dollars are approved to finance the military effort to stabilize the country. The commander, Gen. David H. Petraeus, said in recent days that his report would be only a snapshot of trends, strongly suggesting he will be asking for more time.

But even before he composes the first sentences of the report, to be written with the new American ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan C. Crocker, the administration is commissioning other assessments that could dilute its findings about the impact of the current troop increase. The intent appears to be to give President Bush, who publicly puts great emphasis on listening to his field commanders, a wide range of options.

In other words, don't hold your breath for a September pull back. When we get to September, Bush & Co. will say things need another FU (six month's is a "Friedman Unit) or two, perhaps with an additional escalation. The Republicans who were saying that Bush only had till September will all go along. The Dems will wimp out, fearing that they will appear to be cutting funding to the troops if they stop funding the war, and this war will go on until Bush leaves office, assuming he does. You never know. As Commander of Everything, he may just decide to stay on. After all, he's above the law and the Constitution.

Maybe it's better to die young

You sometimes wonder whether modern medicine does more harm than good. We all know that excess weight is bad for your heart. But, now we learn that the drugs doctors prescribe for high blood pressure, heart palps, and other heart problems cause excess weight:

Thousands of people who take prescription medicines for everyday conditions are gaining large amounts of weight as an unexpected side effect, scientists have warned.

Researchers, who found that some patients were putting on up to 22lbs in a year, say that the drugs may even be contributing to the nation's rocketing obesity epidemic.

All of the patients they studied, on medication for conditions as diverse as diabetes, epilepsy, depression, high blood pressure and schizophrenia, showed evidence of weight increase.

For many years, doctors recommended margerine instead of butter, but then we learned that the fats in most margerines are worse than the fats in butter.

And, doctors can now preserve lives so long that most of us will happily live out our years without knowing about it because we're senile.

Is there really a benefit to society/humanity to increasing our life spans? Or would it be better to die a bit earlier and leave room for our children and grandchildren?

Having your cake and eating it too

emptywheel at The Next Hurrah notes that if the VP is not part of the executive branch, it would be illegal for the White House to share classified information with the VP's office.

Just one more twist on this twisted, convoluted, cockamamie theory of secret, undisclosed niches in the Constitution. As Kissweb said earlier, this is the man who claims "executive privilege" at every turn who is now claiming not to be part of the executive branch.

Talk about having your cake and eating it too. (Although, come to think of it, what good is a cake if you can't eat it?)

Dear John

Pachacutec at Firedoglake has a "Dear John" letter to John Edwards. I think I second the motion:

I read our commenters here. They like you. You’ve staked out the most creative, progressive and politically incorrect ideas among the those in the top tier of Democratic hopefuls. Your anti-poverty agenda is heartfelt and really meaningful for what ails America. Your willingness to call bullshit on the “war on terror” is genuinely courageous.

But you’re too gentle, so far, to be trusted. It’s time to get your hair mussed. If you don’t, you’re going to continue to get this kind of hit piece coverage. The elites hate you and your anti-poverty agenda because they see you as a traitor to your class. They think you’re a sanctimonious prig for calling them out on their own blatant hypocrisy.

The haircut issue is a symbol for your lack of willingness to pick a fight and win it. People who support you need less North Carolina gentlemanly Clay Aitken (dog whistle: wimp wimp wimp) and more Ronald Reagan: the ability to slip a stiletto in someone’s ribs while looking them in the eye, smiling at them and making them laugh.

If you want to win, you have to show you can dish out damage, smiling, and never break a sweat. So far, you’re not breaking through.

I get that you’re banking on your superior organizing in Iowa to earn you a breakout moment, but you could do even better by playing offense before that happens. Kerry waited to try to throw a punch when he was swiftboated by the right and the media, and it was too late. Obama is campaigning not to lose: he’s running a personality cult campaign, and you can’t beat Hillary while you and he are splitting the “new wave” vote. You need to be more forceful in making your campaign about ideas that make a difference in people’s lives.

The questions for you, if you really want to pay the price to make the changes you say you want to make, are: can you “hit” a woman? Can you beat up, politically, on a black man and not feel guilty about it?

If not, please, stop wasting people’s time and money.

From what I can tell, you have the better ideas than the other top contenders do, but if you’re not willing to draw some political blood to enact them, you’re just not going to win the time and energy of the people I see in the base of the party who really want to fight for you. You have to fight for yourself first.

If you do that, effectively and deftly, then I suspect you’ll have people at your back, providing covering fire. If not, well, you can always become a university president somewhere.

Who has the moral high ground?

Steve Clemons on Cuba:

Michael Moore is making quite a splash in Washington with his new film, Sicko. I have yet to see the film, but I think that one of the key takeaways from the documentary on the sorry state of American health care is that in Cuba, comprehensive quality health care is considered a human right.

Cuba gets much wrong -- but after Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Haditha, and frankly 47 million uninsured Americans with no health care -- America has a diminished level of moral credibility to stand on when criticizing illiberal regimes. Today, Cuba is exporting doctors whereas it used to export revolution and weaponry. Without getting too deep for the moment, just ask yourself which country in the world tops the charts on exporting armaments and revolution.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Lies, lies and more lies

John Aravosis at Americablog caught this one:

The war based on a lie, whose progress updates are a lie, run by a bunch of liars, now has one more lie to add to the mix: The flags on our troops' uniforms say "Made in USA," but they're really "Made in Thailand." I'm sure the White House will simply hail this as Thailand's contribution to the ever-shrinking Coalition of the Willing.

We really didn't mean all that "Executive Privilege" stuff

Steve Benen, a contributor to Josh Marshall’s “Talking Point Memo,” poses a great set of questions on the Vice President’s alleged exemption from keeping government secrets secret. The argument seems to boil down to the bizarre and frivolous claim that the Vice President's Office, although created along with the Presidency in Article II of the Constitution, is not part of the “Executive Branch” (and subject to the President’s “Executive Order” on keeping government secrets secret) because the Constitution, as part of the checks-and-balances system, also provides for a legislative function for the Vice President: presiding over the Senate and casting a deciding vote in the case of a tie. By the way, hasn’t the Vice President on numerous occasions claimed the benefit of “EXECUTIVE privilege”?

The Mercer resignation

Emptywheel has some interesting observations on Bill Mercer's resignation from the Justice Department yesterday. It's mainly to preserve his job (which he has largely ignored for the past three years) as U.S. Attorney in Montana, where his role is to protect Conrad Burns from prosecution and screw the Indians.

Bush-Cheney to Iraq: Butt out of your business

The Bush administration is refusing once again to release five mid-level operatives of an Iranian delegation to Northern Iraq who were seized by U.S. forces several months ago when the storyline of Iranian aid to the Iraqi insurgency began to be run up the flagpole. Generously, our government has said it will re-consider the detention sometime this fall. This refusal is despite pleas from the Iraqi Government – that’s the sovereign Iraqi Government that we created – asking for the prisoners to be released. Why won’t they? Well, because, that’s why. Probably because, in addition to continuing to manufacture and maintain an on-going crisis with Iran, Cheney and Bush (and their staffs) are addicted to staging one in-your-face moment after another. If it makes perfect sense to go one way, they will go the other just to prove they can get away with it.

That wall walked right up to me and bumped me. Bad, bad wall!

As you've probably heard, the waiting time for passport applications has exploded to three months or more. The reason, of course, is that the government promulgated new regulations requiring all citizens returning from trips to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and other places to present passports or be barred re-entry to the country. The State Department knew about this two years in advance, and any idiot should have foreseen there would be a large surge of passport applications. Foreseen or not, it appears no one prepared for the surge and, hence, the long waits for applicants.

However, in true Bush form, the government can't even admit to error in this case. Who's to blame for this? Not the government, of course. It's the American people. From an editorial in today's NY Times:

The department blames the delays on the eagerness of Americans to prepare for the new rules by applying to obtain passports even when they had no imminent travel plans. In other words, ordinary citizens were so responsible that they caught the State Department off-guard. Such good citizenship also doesn’t come cheap. Standard processing fees for an adult are $97. Expediting the application runs an extra $60 per person and, even with the hefty rush charge, it still takes two to three weeks.

Welcome back, Judy Miller

There's so much in this article in today's NY Times to comment about:

BAGHDAD, June 22 — The operational commander of troops battling to drive fighters with Al Qaeda from Baquba said Friday that 80 percent of the top Qaeda leaders in the city fled before the American-led offensive began earlier this week. He compared their flight with the escape of Qaeda leaders from Falluja ahead of an American offensive that recaptured that city in 2004.

In an otherwise upbeat assessment, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the second-ranking American commander in Iraq, told reporters that leaders of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia had been alerted to the Baquba offensive by widespread public discussion of the American plan to clear the city before the attack began. He portrayed the Qaeda leaders’ escape as cowardice, saying that “when the fight comes, they leave,” abandoning “midlevelQaeda leaders and fighters to face the might of American troops — just, he said, as they did in Falluja.

Some American officers in Baquba have placed blame for the Qaeda leaders’ flight on public remarks about the offensive in the days before it began by top American commanders, including Gen. David H. Petraeus, the overall commander in Iraq. But General Odierno cast the issue in broader terms, saying Qaeda leaders were bound to know an attack was coming in light of President Bush’s decision to pour nearly 30,000 additional troops into the fight in a bid to secure Baghdad and areas around the capital that have been insurgent strongholds. That included Baquba, which lies 40 miles north.

First, although I know Americans have short memories, it is not too hard to remember all the hype about this attack on Baquba that we've had in the past few days. The story was that this was an "entirely new" thrust by the U.S. to catch the enemy in his stronghold and trap him there, rather than play "whack-a-mole" as we have in the past. Well, despite the "entirely new" thrust, we clearly got the same result (Falluja) that we had in the past. Good going guys!

And, just why did we get that result? Well, it's because of all that hype about the "entirely new" thrust. The enemy listens to our hype, it seems, and responds accordingly. In this case, by getting out of the line of fire.

Now, to go one step further, instead of giving the enemy credit for having some common sense and stepping out of the line of fire we accuse them of "cowardice" and unseemly behavior. I guess it's their fault that we didn't trap them.

However, my biggest criticism of this article by the usually careful John Burns is the cavalier way in which these insurgents are repeatedly called al Qaeda fighters. Now, back in the days of Falluja, they were referred to as "insurgents," not as "Qaeda" because they were largely not Qaeda. My guess is that the same thing is still true but that the latest propaganda strategy by our Prez & Co. is to call everyone and everything that harms us "Qaeda." The vast bulk of the insurgency in Iraq is simply not al Qaeda, and, even the ones that call themselves "Qaeda in Mesopotamia" are at best only loosely affiliated -- if they are affiliated at all -- with al Qaeda. However, the word has obviously gone out to the commanders in the field to call every enemy "Qaeda." And, John Burns takes the bait and runs with it.

Welcome back, Judy Miller.

Update: Glenn Greenwald has a good deal more on this trend in the press to parrot the government's propaganda line on this, here.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Thigpen shoots ten times and misses every time

I mean, this article from the Washington Post yesterday has to be a joke. Come on. Some guy with the name "Thigpen."

A security officer at Walter Reed Army Medical Center pulled a handgun and fired 10 rounds at a fellow guard during the morning rush hour yesterday at the hospital's main gate, striking no one but sending stray bullets into two cars and a utility pole, D.C. police said.

Police said the incident started on hospital grounds just inside the front gate along Georgia Avenue NW after one officer jokingly referred to an armed colleague as "retarded."

The offended security officer was identified by police as Dwan Thigpen, 34, a veteran of the Iraq war. Police said he emptied the magazine in his 9mm Beretta as he fired at his fleeing co-worker.

Thigpen, who is due in court today, was charged with assault with intent to kill while armed. He is an employee of a private company based in Virginia that has a contract with Walter Reed to provide security.

And this is how we outsource (privatize) security at our military installations now.

From the horse's mouth

I've been pretty tied up today, but when I saw this, I felt it I had to put it out:

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - An Army officer with a key role in the U.S. military hearings at Guantanamo Bay says they relied on vague and incomplete intelligence and were pressured to declare detainees "enemy combatants," often without any specific evidence.

His affidavit, released Friday, is the first criticism by a member of the military panels that determine whether detainees will continue to be held.

Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham, a 26-year veteran of military intelligence who is an Army reserve officer and a California lawyer, said military prosecutors were provided with only "generic" material that didn't hold up to the most basic legal challenges.

Despite repeated requests, intelligence agencies arbitrarily refused to provide specific information that could have helped either side in the tribunals, according to Abraham, who said he served as a main liaison between the Combat Status Review Tribunals and those intelligence agencies.

"What were purported to be specific statements of fact lacked even the most fundamental earmarks of objectively credible evidence," Abraham said in the affidavit, filed in a Washington appeals court on behalf of a Kuwaiti detainee, Fawzi al-Odah, who is challenging his classification as an "enemy combatant."

Not that we didn't know this to begin with, but there was no hard proof because the whole process has been so shrouded in secrecy. Now, someone with guts has set his name to an affidavit. That's EVIDENCE folks, whatever the wingnuts may claim.

Right wing statistics: Not even close enough for government work much less media

The lie of the month on right wing radio goes to Hanraty, 6/6/07. Claim: U.S. lower income quintile rose 80% under Bush. Just one problem: Their mean 2000 income was $17,500 and in 2006, $22,050. That’s a 26% increase with the 54% differential hardly attributable to rounding error.

Now, back to the black hole.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Throwing out the inspectors

Does this remind you of anything?

Since 2003, however, Cheney's office has refused to submit the data to ISOO. And when ISOO inspectors tried in 2004 to schedule a routine inspection of the vice president's offices, they were rebuffed, Waxman's letter claims.

I know, I posted about this earlier today, but as I read this, I say to myself, "Oh my, it seems to me there was someone else who we claimed refused to let inspectors in just about this same time in 2003. Now, who was that? And, what did we do about it? Oh, yeah. It was Saddam, and we went to war."

So, which war would be more justified? The one against a nasty dictator that hadn't attacked us, didn't have WMD, and was no significant threat to us? Or, the one against a nasty dictator that robbed us of our Constitution, detained helpless civilians without trial or right to counsel, tortured some of them, and otherwise road roughshod over our democracy?

I vote for war against Cheney.

National Healthcare: Problem, Solution

Here’s what I’d like to see from the Democratic candidates:

The first priority is this: No American should ever face losing a lifetime of savings due to a health catastrophe. Every American who gets health insurance through a job faces that possibility someday. No American company should stop hiring or decide it has to use temps because healthcare costs are so unpredictable. No American company should be at an unfair competitive disadvantage against companies whose countries pick up healthcare costs.

When I take office, I will begin work immediately to create what I am proposing to call the Federal Major Medical Insurance Corporation. It will cover every American not on Medicare for all healthcare costs above X. That’s Federal umbrella health insurance. For all costs above X, it is absolutely universal, absolutely portable, and absolutely cannot be denied due to a pre-existing condition.

Below X, insurance companies can compete to fill in the gap. We may be able to convert some existing programs to help all Americans buy the gap insurance. We will probably have to set some ground rules for that. Of course, the biggest hurdle is that we will have to decide what X can be, considering all the damage the Bush administration has done to the Federal budget. We may have to make a modest start with a high deductible for X. But we need to first get the structure in place, so at some point the cash register stops ringing on a family facing major illness. Over time, too, we may be able to make X more and more reasonable for everyone.

This is true insurance. We all face the possibility of a devastating healthcare event. Who it will hit and how much it will cost is completely unpredictable. Even if you believe strongly in limited government, it makes perfect sense for all the American people to get together and promise each other that we will never allow a health problem turn into a complete financial disaster. We all did that when we promised each other that not having work in old age will not mean poverty. That was Social Security, and it works (and will continue to work in the future). Because it makes perfect sense, that’s why we can do this.

We have many other things to do in the healthcare arena. But eliminating the fear of personal or family financial disaster is the first one, the biggest one, the one that frees us from the current mess that is poisoning our society and our economy. We must do it.

Too often, Democratic candidates tells us what the solution is without first clearly identifying the problem the voters are experiencing – just assuming the voters know the problem and will see that it fits the plan (and vice versa). “We want health insurance because, well, because we’re Democrats who always want health insurance. Here’s my plan. It might sound complicated, but trust me, it’s a good plan.” Voters want to know you understand the problem – really understand the problem. Just getting that far is huge. Other voters, smug in their current jobs with good benefits, may need a little push to see there is a problem that could affect them. This approach is problem (possible financial disaster, companies reluctant to hire full-time employees), solution (Federal Major Medical Insurance Corporation).

I like to say, Keep It Simple, Stupid. Problem, solution. 10 minutes. If I am a voter, I totally get this. If I don’t know the problem personally, I certainly see the problem. I see why it depresses jobs, too. I see why people stay in jobs they hate for fear of losing the benefits. Federal insurance above X may not be perfect, but it’s a huge, huge improvement. It’s for everybody, forever until Medicare. I also see the votes pouring in so fast that radical right wing Republicanism is destroyed for a generation, as it needs to be. I see the remaining Republicans extremely reluctant to oppose this obvious benefit to the American people, to shout "socialism" or take the side of the corporate opponents. I see major corporations who are not insurance companies or pharmaceutical companies jumping on board for the huge cost relief, even if reluctantly for undermining their Business Roundtable buddies from those industries. I see insurance companies giving weak opposition because they can quickly figure out how to operate profitably under this system. I see pharmaceutical companies caving because they always make money hand over fist, no matter what. I see moderate libertarian Republicans grudgingly admit that this might be a legitimate function of government.

Will somebody please tell me what’s fundamentally wrong with this picture?

Sieg Heil King Cheney

It appears Cheney thinks he's not only above the law but above the President himself:

Washington, D.C. — The Oversight Committee has learned that over the objections of the National Archives, Vice President Cheney exempted his office from the presidential order that establishes government-wide procedures for safeguarding classified national security information. The Vice President asserts that his office is not an “entity within the executive branch.”

As described in a letter from Chairman Waxman to the Vice President, the National Archives protested the Vice President’s position in letters written in June 2006 and August 2006. When these letters were ignored, the National Archives wrote to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in January 2007 to seek a resolution of the impasse. The Vice President’s staff responded by seeking to abolish the agency within the Archives that is responsible for implementing the President’s executive order.

In his letter to the Vice President, Chairman Waxman writes: “I question both the legality and wisdom of your actions. … [I]t would appear particularly irresponsible to give an office with your history of security breaches an exemption from the safeguards that apply to all other executive branch officials.”

Of course, we all knew Cheney was really the one running things, but jeese, now he thinks he's king too.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Keeping the poodle on the leash

It appears that the poodle likes its leash, and King George the Wth likes to hold it while walking the poodle:

Tony Blair could soon be appointed the Middle East Quartet's envoy, according to information obtained by Al Jazeera on Wednesday.

The British prime minister will step down on June 27 and officials from the Bush administration are understood to be in talks with him over the role.

Tim Friend, Al Jazeera's correspondent in London, said he understood there were intense negotiations between the US and London over the appointment, and that over the last 48 hours high-ranking US officials have been in London talking to Blair.

The worst choice of all

Please explain to me why it is that the leading Democratic aspirants for president all fail to come to grips with the Iraq issue? All of them have picked the worst of all possible alternatives -- leaving a residual force there for .............. (ever?). As Mimikatz (at The Next Hurrah) says:

President Bush has said, "As long as I'm President", which is to say let the next guy deal with the problem; I can't figure it out. This is wholly irresponsible for a leader in time of war, as Josh Marshall says.

The Generals and some foreign policy hawks say ten years, fifty years, who knows? Look at Korea. This is supposed to be a serious position.

The top three Democratic candidates all talk of withdrawing most of the troops but leaving a "residual force" of 30,000 to 50,000, but none of them explain what the force would do beyond "training," something a much larger force has failed to do effectively, "force protection," which, as I understand it, simply means protecting the forces we have there, and thus is a somewhat circular objective, and "fighting al Qaeda," which is in Iraq because we are, and that is where they can fight us most easily. The assumption seems to be that in January, 2009 order will miraculously have been restored to the point where our forces will not be in the middle of a multi-party civil war as they are now, and we can concentrate on al Qaeda in Iraq. This is also considered a serious postion, though less so than endless war and/or occupation.

Yet a fourth position could be summed up as "sure we made mistakes in Iraq, but if we go into Iran we can get it right this time." This is the Cheney/neocon position and is considered crazy except by those who believe it, and they consider it the only really manly position.

Getting out in an orderly fashion, beginning this fall, is not considered to be a serious position, and yet it is the only one that truly makes sense.

On Digby

Until today, I had assumed Digby was a male, but today I watched this video of Digby giving an acceptance speech at the Take Back America conference. She doesn't fit the image I had of him/her before, but who cares. Here' s a brief segment:

We are passionate about politics, and in this era of Republican corruption, excess and failure, that passion sometimes manifests itself as anger. But how can you not be angry? So many institutions have failed us in the last decade, that being vitriolic seems the only sane response. . . . I’m a blogger-pundit, a role for which I am abundantly qualified. . . . I have opinions, I write them down, and a lot of people read them. Yes, that’s all there is to it. Sorry, David Broder.

Shredding the Constitution

Here's a great catch by Jonathan Schwarz:

When Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe first began writing stories about Bush's presidential signing statements last year, former Bush administration lawyers told us not to be concerned:

Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law School professor who until last year oversaw the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel for the administration, said the statements do not change the law; they just let people know how the president is interpreting it.

''Nobody reads them," said Goldsmith. ''They have no significance. Nothing in the world changes by the publication of a signing statement..."

As a new story by Savage explains, that's apparently now inoperative:

Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, defended Bush's use of signing statements and his expansive view of the president's constitutional powers.

"We are executing the law as we believe we are empowered to do so," Fratto said. "The signing statements certainly do and should have an impact. They are real."

Scalia endorses torture/jury nullification

I don't often copy an entire post from someone else, but this one from Digby is worth copying:

Did you all hear about our illustrious Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia using the fictional character of Jack Bauer to illustrate his belief that torture is necessary in a time of crisis?

Senior judges from North America and Europe were in the midst of a panel discussion about torture and terrorism law, when a Canadian judge’s passing remark - “Thankfully, security agencies in all our countries do not subscribe to the mantra ‘What would Jack Bauer do?’ ” - got the legal bulldog in [Justice Antonin Scalia] barking.

The conservative jurist stuck up for Agent Bauer, arguing that fictional or not, federal agents require latitude in times of great crisis. “Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. … He saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” Judge Scalia said. Then, recalling Season 2, where the agent’s rough interrogation tactics saved California from a terrorist nuke, the Supreme Court judge etched a line in the sand.

“Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?” Judge Scalia challenged his fellow judges. “Say that criminal law is against him? ‘You have the right to a jury trial?’ Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don’t think so.”

I assume he was just being his usual rollicking, hilarious self, but I do worry just a tad that he fails to understand that in real life there is no narrative arc and you can't change the script if it doesn't work. And I worry even more that he and his philosophical brethren forget that sometimes the "good guys" are actually the "bad guys" and when the "good guys" are given total latitude to decide what is and is not a "crisis" we will tend to find ourselves in one all the time.

This Jack Bauer phenomenon is getting out of hand. It's bad enough that average Americans get off on the idea that sometimes you just have to take the gloves off and pull somebody's fingernails out. And it's even worse that right wing talk show hosts believe that because "24" gets good ratings it should be taken as a national referendum in support of torture. But I guess I expect something a little bit more serious from Supreme Court judges -- even adorable pranksters like Scalia.

And I will be most anxious to learn in what other situations he supports jury nullification. It is, to say the least, an unusual outlook on the rule of law from a Supreme Court justice.

I'm certainly looking forward to the next 20 years of conservative judicial activism, aren't you? I knew they'd be rolling back as much progress as possible, but I didn't actually contemplate that they'd try to roll it all the way back to the Inquisition. Good to know.

Is there room for Bloomberg?

Matt Yglesias makes a good point about Bloomberg's desertion of the GOP. There's certainly no room for him as an independent presidential candidate if Rudy is the GOP choice.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Perjury, disclosing identity of covert CIA agent: a molehill, says Richard Cohen

Richard Cohen says Prosecutor Fitzgerald made a mountain out of a molehill. Note that he did not cite a single fact or indeed present any argument whatsoever for this declaration. I guess we are supposed to take his declaration of what is important and what is not because he says so. He is, after all, Richard Cohen and we’re not.

Here’s what Richard Cohen thinks is a molehill. In his 2003 State of the Union address, Bush made a statement that was false. It helped convince Americans we needed to go to war. So someone finally stood up and told us what the President said was false. It was false. People responsible for the speech knew it was false. So the Bush administration decides to get back at the truth-teller by letting the world know that the person’s wife is an agent at the CIA. The CIA says she was a covert operative, which, in theory, makes the disclosure of her identity a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The person whose identity was exposed that prompted adoption of the statute was assassinated. Suppose she is correct that her identification "has jeopardized and even destroyed entire networks of foreign agents." Or do does Cohen just assume it’s a big lie?

And then, for whatever reason considering how paltry the whole thing is, Libby lied to the FBI and the grand jury. Maybe because having looked at what the law says, he was afraid he had broken it? Whatever, it’s perjury. Perjury to protect publicly revealing the name of a covert CIA agent. Which was revealed to get back at or undermine the credibility of someone who told the truth. About a false statement by the President that was important in getting us into a disastrous war. That’s a molehill, says Richard Cohen, important Washington columnist.

Should someone like that be a Washington columnist?

Rudy Giuliani canned from Iraq Study Group

Josh Marshall picked up on this story about Rudy Giuliani being essentially fired from the Iraq Study Group for failing to do his duty, but it needs to be spread around as much as possible, so spread it around:

WASHINGTON -- Rudolph Giuliani's membership on an elite Iraq study panel came to an abrupt end last spring after he failed to show up for a single official meeting of the group, causing the panel's top Republican to give him a stark choice: either attend the meetings or quit, several sources said.

Giuliani left the Iraq Study Group last May after just two months, walking away from a chance to make up for his lack of foreign policy credentials on the top issue in the 2008 race, the Iraq war.

He cited "previous time commitments" in a letter explaining his decision to quit, and a look at his schedule suggests why -- the sessions at times conflicted with Giuliani's lucrative speaking tour that garnered him $11.4 million in 14 months.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Hillary v. Obama: Restraint goes both ways

Obama has apologized for his staff putting out the juvenile jab at Hillary Clinton – Senator Clinton (D-Punjab) – that Indian groups understandably took as insulting. That's good, but Clinton herself should distance herself from her campaign underlings constantly trying to embarrass Obama by tattling to the press for every campaign gaff he certainly did not approve.

Guys, as Obama said, you are trying out for quarterback of the same team. Quarterback candidates who criticize the others to the coaching staff do not inspire confidence. In the interests of waging the main battle in the second half of 2008, we expect to see you and your organizations know how to show restraint against the inevitable feelings from the preliminary rounds. The very essence of that restraint is knowing the cliches and sticking to them no matter how much you feel like screaming what an idiot or hypocrite your fellow Democrat is. We will make our decision as Democrats based on how well you take it to the opposition – so far we are not all that impressed -- not how well you undermine each other.