Tuesday, July 31, 2007

you don’t take the punching bag out of the gym

Mike Lukovich
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Many analysts and bloggers are all hopped up this week about the parade of rats leaving the perceived-as-sinking ship, SS Alberto Gonzales. Representative Adam Putnam, Chair of the House Republican Caucus, said the attorney general’s loss of credibility “diminishes the justice department.” Fox “News” anchor Chris Wallace announced on Sunday that no one would come on his show to defend AG AG. Senator Arlen “Mumbles” Specter has apparently given the White House a deadline of high noon today to clean up the barf that the attorney general left all over a Senate hearing room last week. (If they refuse? Senator Mumbles will no doubt threaten to be very displeased at some point in the future, after additional deliberation, but let’s not be too hasty.) Even a sanctimonious shill like Senator Orrin Hatch slipped up on Sunday and admitted that Fredo has a credibility problem.

But if we have learned nothing this year, we have learned that reports of Fat Albert’s imminent demise are about as valuable as Dick “Death Throes” Cheney’s assessments of the Iraqi insurgency.

Yes, in an average time, with an average presidency, dealing with an average number of failures, scandals, and misdeeds, a high-ranking figurehead as fucked up as Fredo would be considered a drag on the administration. But these are not average times, and for a well below average president with a well above average number of failures and scandals, his lil’ friend, Alberto Gonzales, is the best thing that could happen.

Instead of focusing on a president’s blatant violations of the Constitution, instead of discussing the administration’s massive domestic spying program—warrantless eavesdropping, wholesale data mining, unsupervised surveillance of US citizens—we are debating whether the country’s chief law enforcement officer perjured himself, or just almost perjured himself.

Instead of screaming from the highest hills that the purge of US attorneys was, at its roots, part of a grand plan by the White House to corrupt the democratic process and steal elections, we instead wonder about how much various Gonzales underlings knew, and who they talked to, and whether the attorney general was directly involved, and who serves at the pleasure of the president, and whether we should hold various officials in contempt of Congress or just threaten to do so.

While Bush and Cheney continue to fail the American people, line the pockets of their friends, and systematically dismantle the Constitution, various members of Congress are threatening to call for a special prosecutor—to investigate Gonzales!

How about, instead of us all doing the Gonzo shuffle, we get a special prosecutor to look into some of the corrupt actions of the Attorney General’s bosses? From sleazy energy deals, to lying us into the Iraq war, to the money gone missing during the reconstruction of Iraq, to the no-bid contracts for cronies, to the failures before and after hurricane Katrina, to the domestic spying, to the politicization of public agencies, to the CIA leak case, to the secret prisons, extraordinary rendition, and torture, to the US attorneys scandal, and so many more, the number of dodgy, disingenuous, dishonest, and downright dastardly dealings that merit an investigation could keep attorneys and prosecutors busy for the next six or seven of the vice president’s defibrillator batteries.

While there is no doubt in my mind that Abu Gonzales deserves to be, no, needs to be impeached, I am no longer content to fiddle with Fredo while the Constitution burns. If our Representatives and Senators can walk and chew gum at the same time, if they can investigate and impeach Gonzales while going full bore after the real kingpins of the crime syndicate known as the Bush/Cheney Administration, then I wish them Godspeed. But, if we continue as we have this last week, and so many weeks this year, then my considered opinion at this point is: skip it.

Of course, if there suddenly were no Alberto Gonzales to kick around anymore, then Congress, the establishment and non-establishment media, and, indeed, the rest of America, would have to turn their attentions elsewhere. . . perhaps somewhere just up the org chart.

As Orrin Hatch repeated many times this weekend, “Gonzales is being used a punching bag by Democrats and, frankly, some Republicans.” Which is why you won’t be seeing anyone in White House accepting the Alberto Gonzales’ “resignation” anytime soon.

(cross-posted to capitoilette and Daily Kos)

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

shocked, shocked. . .

On a day when Halliburton announced a 19% uptick in second quarter profits, is it of any particular amount of surprise to learn that the massive tax-payer-funded cash giveaway also known as the war in Iraq has resulted in massive graft and corruption?

A former officer in the U.S. Army Reserves pleaded guilty Monday to bribery, conspiracy and money laundering charges in connection with a government contracting scheme in Balad, Iraq.

John Allen Rivard, 48, entered the plea before U.S. Magistrate Andrew W. Austin. Rivard pleaded guilty to charges that he conspired with a government contractor and accepted bribes to steer federally funded contracts to the contractor's company from April 2004 through August 2005. At the time, Rivard was deployed for logistical support near Balad.

In exchange for 5 percent of the contracts' values, Rivard awarded multimillion dollar contracts for such items as tractor trailers.

The total value of the contracts awarded was approximately $21 million (€15.19 million), according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Rivard said he received more than $220,000 (€159,178) in bribe payments. Rivard also confessed to conspiring with others in the United States to launder the proceeds of the bribery scheme, sending money to others to purchase, among other things, rent on a West Hollywood, California apartment and a down payment on a new BMW convertible.

From a tent in Balad (home to the massive Camp Anaconda) with a Humvee parked outside to an apartment in West Hollywood and a Beemer—why, it’s the American dream!

(Of course, here in Bush’s opportunity society, some less, shall we say, “enterprising” Iraq veterans have had to resort to a lawsuit in an attempt to pry a few dollars worth of disability pay from the underfunded kakistocracy commonly referred to as the VA.)

I would like to think that some smart presidential aspirant could cut through the “everybody does it” clutter to expose the Bush/Cheney Administration for the giant kleptocracy it really is.

Everybody doesn’t do this. This is something completely different. This is what happens when a unitary, greedy executive operates without oversight for over half a decade. This is what happens when you appoint loyal ideologues and cronies to positions of authority. This is what happens when White House war-making authority is allowed to flourish unchecked by the Congress. This is what happens when you go into war without a clue of how to get out. This is what happens when foreign policy exists only to service domestic electoral concerns. This is what happens when Pentagon auditors are overruled and punished for flagging cost overruns.

Alas, things being what they are, this is what happens when you vote Republican.

(PS Yes, I know I just used this headline in April—this is also what happens when you elect Republicans.)

(cross-posted to Daily Kos)

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Monday, July 23, 2007

it’s like looking in a mirror. . .

OK, it’s not really like looking in a mirror—it’s more like listening to myself on tape. . .or, maybe it’s just like reading my own diary. . . except that I don’t keep a diary.

Whatever! When I finally got around to reading the out-of-sight, oh so right, just-for-spite, Saturday night pie fight of a post by Hunter, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming need to share it with my “community.”

By way of preamble, I have been saying for some unfathomable time now to anyone that dare raise the subject that I have little patience for self-proclaimed political “libertarians.” “Republicans without guts,” I’d call them, meaning not that I don’t find many out-of-the-closet Republicans to be cowards, too, but that those that insist they are not Republicans, but, instead, Libertarians are nothing more than people with all the beliefs of your average, run-of-the-mill Republican, but without the courage of their convictions to actually admit it.

I guess I originally formed this equation before the rise of the Christian Right within the Republican party (god, that seems like a long time ago), so I am sure that there are now those who will use the example of “social conservatives” to differentiate themselves from Republicans. There might be a teeny, tiny bit of something there, but just like I never used to believe those that claimed that they “wore their hearts on the left and their wallets on the right,” I feel that those who believe you can just let the “free market” reign in a well-organized and vocal minority of evangelical bigots—because they (the libertarians) don’t agree but wouldn’t want to impose—are basically consigning the disadvantaged to a tyranny of, by, and for the fanatics.

Hunter finds spectral similarities not so much on the right as the left (libertarianism is “anarchism, but with crappier music”), but otherwise details the problem pretty much exactly as I see it:

There are many political -isms that I am distinctly not a fan of, and I am wary of all of them. . . . But libertarianism I will freely admit I do not understand -- at least, not in any way that libertarians might like -- and I confess I find it hard to credit what I can decipher only as glorified, self-centered apathy as an -ism at all. From my own experiences and conversations, it has always seemed that modern libertarianism is the political philosophy you tie yourself to if you are too lazy and politically uninterested to come up with any concrete justifications for anything better. It wears well on cynics, especially young cynics that are bitter enough to become conservatives but not willing to thereby subject themselves to a lifetime of being isolated and un-hip, and on old, isolated-by-decades-of-choice cynics that don't give a crap anymore.

Libertarians seem deaf to the cries of the individual (assuming that individual is not him or herself) and disinterested in the health of the community. The markets will police themselves, they tend to argue, better than any “big brother,” and people will look after their own interests better than any “nanny state.” These jargon-laden aphorisms are not only ignorant of pretty much the entire history of the industrialized world, they are usually spoken by individuals who have already enjoyed the benefits of an unfairly weighted marketplace. . . or are maybe just pissed off that the marketplace hasn’t yet been unfairly weighted enough to benefit them. . . and, no matter the economic circumstance, individuals who don’t seem to care much about other people.

But, Hunter pretty much says all that, and more, and says it in a pretty lively fashion—so I recommend you take a look. And, take a look at the comments, too (warning: there are over 600), if you are interested in even more discussion on the matter. . . or if you just like pie.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

going for baroque

When you don’t have a legal leg to stand on, and you only have to tap dance around the Congress for another 18 months, why not dispense with all the tedious formalities of Constitutional governance and just go nuts? You know, dispense with the subtleties, do something really grand!

Oh, that’s what you decided to do? OK.

Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege.

The position presents serious legal and political obstacles for congressional Democrats, who have begun laying the groundwork for contempt proceedings against current and former White House officials in order to pry loose information about the dismissals.

Under federal law, a statutory contempt citation by the House or Senate must be submitted to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, "whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action."

But administration officials argued yesterday that Congress has no power to force a U.S. attorney to pursue contempt charges in cases, such as the prosecutor firings, in which the president has declared that testimony or documents are protected from release by executive privilege.

Oh, c’mon, that’s all? Just some total blanket cover-up thingamabob to stop Congress from calling you to account? That only deals with after you do something untoward—it’s what you actually do that counts.

In a little-noticed executive order issued on Tuesday, President Bush directed the Treasury Department to block the U.S.-based financial assets of anyone deemed to have threatened "the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq" or who "undermin(e) efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq."

The order empowers Treasury, in consultation with the State and Defense Departments, to target those individuals or organizations that either "have committed, or ... pose a significant risk of committing" acts of violence with the "purpose or effect" of harming the Iraqi government or hindering reconstruction efforts. It applies to "U.S. persons," a category including American citizens. It had not previously been disclosed -- and still hasn't -- that U.S. persons are abetting the Iraqi insurgency, nor that Iraqi insurgents have property in the United States, raising questions about who in fact the order targets.

"The part where they reserve lots of discretion to themselves is the list of conditions that goes beyond determination of acts of violence. 'Threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq,' that could be anything," says Ken Mayer, an expert in executive orders and a University of Wisconsin political scientist. "Think of the possibilities: it could be charities that send a small amount of money (to groups linked to) the insurgency, or it could be the government of Iran that has assets in the U.S. and has money that flows through a U.S. bank or something like that."

Yeah! That’s more like it! As Bruce Fine, official from the Reagan DoJ, puts it:

Certainly it is highly constitutionally questionable to empower the government to destroy someone economically without giving notice. This is so sweeping it's staggering. I've never seen anything so broad that it expands beyond terrorism, beyond seeking to use violence or the threat of violence to cower or intimidate a population. This covers stabilization in Iraq. I suppose you could issue an executive order about stabilization in Afghanistan as well. And it goes beyond even attempting violence, to cover those who pose 'a significant risk' of violence. Suppose Congress passed a law saying you've committed a crime if there's significant risk that you might commit a crime.

“Suppose Congress passed a law”—that’s so quaint! Why would anybody in this executive branch care tinker’s cuss about that?

As a former New Orleans district attorney (might have) said: We are through the looking glass here, people.

Or, like I accidentally put it up top, it’s like tap dancing without legs!

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

while you weren’t sleeping

Many pixels have been spilled on just how crappy a job the establishment media has done in covering the all-night debate and Republican filibuster of the Levin/Reed amendment (and Republican obstruction of Democratic initiatives, in general), not just because, as I observed last night, the debate was not carried by any broadcast outlet, but because the ladies and gentlemen of the fourth estate just can’t seem to be bothered to take the time to explain what was going on this week.

For instance, here’s a tiny little example I’ll mention because someone I know specifically asked me about it. Everyone—everyone—is reporting that Wednesday morning’s vote tally was 52-47 (52-47 for or against what is, alas, another story). . . and then an internet source might link to a roll-call so you can see which Senators voted which way. None, as best I can search*, have explained that the vote would really have been 53-46 if this had been a simple majority up-or-down vote on the amendment. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid switched his vote from yea to nay in order to reserve the right to reconsider at a later date (only one who voted with the majority victorious side can move to reconsider).

It should also be pointed out here, because it has been pointed out in so few other places, that within that, in reality, seven-vote majority are several measures of progress, failure, and/or, at the very least, public accountability.

It is real news, for instance, that Republicans Susan Collins (ME) and Olympia Snowe (ME) joined Chuck Hegel (R-NE) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) as voting for a timely and mandated redeployment out of Iraq. That is real movement—not monumental movement, but real.

It should also be news that several Republicans who have made a big show of late of “breaking” with President Bush and his Iraq policy turned out to be, essentially, full of it. Dick Lugar (R-IN), George Voinovich (R-OH), John Warner (R-VA), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Pete Domenici (R-NM), John Sununu (R-NH), and Judd Gregg (R-NH) have now duly earned their WINO status.

But all that sort of information seems secondary to—well, you know, I just don’t know what it is secondary to. I assume that reporters think that they have covered the event, but you can’t help but feel they see it as some sort of football match, at best, or a cat fight, at worst.

With that sort of attitude from the supposedly educated members of the establishment media, is it any wonder that so many in the general population whine about the partisan bitterness and game-playing in Washington, assuming nothing really important is happening past the politics?

And taking the bate and running with the metaphor for a moment, how are any of us who do care about the issues supposed to advance the ball if the “sports” reporters can’t even be bothered to explain the rules?

Assuming, of course, that they know the rules, themselves.

*Update: Paragraph ten of Thursday’s New York Times article on the vote does explain Senator Reid’s “no” vote.

(cross-posted to capitoilette and Daily Kos)

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

when Harry met fili

I’m here somewhere past the middle of my all-nighter with Harry—that would be the overnight session called by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in an attempt to break the Republican filibuster (not, as Diane Sawyer carelessly reported, the Democratic filibuster—sheesh!) and move forward with a straight up-or-down, simple majority vote on the Levin/Reed Amendment (which would mandate an ordered redeployment of American combat troops out of Iraq starting in no less than 120 days)—and I have a few thoughts:

  • Do you think that Senator Clinton requested the 4 AM slot?

  • The revolution should be televised—Watching the C-SPAN stream on my laptop all night is nice and all, but I can’t help but think as I squint at the tiny frame and occasionally have to reload the page, America should be watching—and they ain’t gonna want to be watching like this!

    I remember being transfixed—as a young kid, mind you—by the Watergate hearings. It taught me so much about government and instilled in me a hunger for political news that exists to this day.

    Those hearings were covered gavel-to-gavel on regular broadcast television—there was nothing else back then—you couldn't escape them, and so, you had no choice but to watch, listen, and, most importantly, learn.

    I think I heard Bill Moyers, at the end of last Friday's great show about impeachment, saying something about how PBS should be honoring its mandate and televising this debate. . . I guess they didn't listen to him.

  • I’m a bit surprised to see Senator John McCain in attendance for this vote—he has skipped something like the last 13 important Iraq votes. I guess the asshole needs all the free media he can get. . . even if it’s only C-SPAN2.

  • This debate has given us a new ‘INO epithet: the WINO—those that support Withdrawal In Name Only. . . or at least it has served to identify the WINOs.

  • Republicans who reference the latest selectively declassified propaganda National Intelligence Estimate are just nuts. . . or liars. . . or both.

  • This “Let the Generals decide” trope is so messed up, it’s hard to argue with it in a concise form—but here goes: First, that’s not how America works. Generals carry out policies—they don’t make them. But, second, Bush, who is so fond of this saying, has done nothing of the sort. Every time a General disagrees with the Bush “strategy,” he is relieved or forced to quit. This happened most recently when General Abizaid and General Casey were replaced, respectively, with Admiral Fallon and General Patraeus because the former two did not support Bush’s plan to escalate the war (oh, sorry, the “surge”).

  • Republicans seem hell-bent on using this twisted you-can’t-disprove-a-negative logic that says “You think things suck now, well, they would suck more if we hadn’t done what we did.” Of course, that is only made more ridiculous by those that warn that Iraq will become a horrid mess if we leave. . . because now its just the happiest place on earth™, I guess.

  • And, finally, you can argue all kinds of scenarios contingent upon all kinds of build-ups and drawdowns, but you can’t argue that any story will end with a US military victory. It seems that almost all supporters of this war debacle, along with everyone that knows better, agrees that you can’t win this thing militarily. Yet, knowing that, I read today that Pentagon personnel outnumber the staffs of the Department of State and USAID combined—210 to one! There are “substantially more people employed as musicians in Defense bands than in the entire foreign service”! Since we can’t solve our problems with blood and bombs, isn’t it about time that we realigned out priorities, wound down the failed military fiasco that passes for Bush Middle East/GWOT™ “policy,” and got busy arming our diplomatic corps with money, people, and authority to actually make some real progress?


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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

it sounds like she’ll have her hands full

Last week, you might remember, I discussed the rather presumptuous apology acceptance speech by Louisiana Senator David Vitter:

This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible. Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife. . . .

At that time, I said that I couldn’t speak for his wife; well, now I can.

Even though last week’s press release was supposed to be Vitter’s last word on the subject, the whore cuddling, Klan coddling Senator felt the need to have a second, public last word—and this time, it wasn’t enough that he should suffer, he was going to make his wife suffer with him.

Standing awkwardly by husband David’s side on Monday, Wendy Vitter had this to say:

To those of you who know me, are you surprised that I have something to say? You know, in most any other marriage, this would have been a private issue between a husband and a wife -- very private. Obviously, it is not here...Last week, some people very sympathetically said to me, "I wouldn't want to be in your shoes right now." I stand before you to tell you very proudly, I am proud to be Wendy Vitter.

Well, to those of you that know Ms. Vitter, you may not be surprised that she has something to say, but you were probably pretty surprised by what she was saying. . . and that she was saying it with empty hands.

You see, back in 2000, when US Representative David Vitter was championing rightwing “values”, Wendy was asked if she would forgive her husband if he were found to be cheating on her—specifically, would she forgive him like Hillary Clinton forgave President Bill? Here’s what Ms. Vitter told the Times-Picayune (via Salon):

I'm a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary. If he does something like that, I'm walking away with one thing, and it's not alimony, trust me.

[I will give your eyebrows a moment to return to earth.]

Yes, she really said that for publication then, and she really stood next to Senator Vitter in public on Monday—and I, for one, have to wonder about what was said, done, or promised in private in the interim.

And, were it not for the outrageous hypocrisy of the moralizing Mr. Vitter, I would be OK with it being a private matter. . . and likely more than happy to accept everybody’s last words.

But, I don’t think we’ve heard the last “last word”—from either of them—and, if you go back and read the entire 2004 Salon article by Mary Jacoby, you will understand why it shouldn’t be.

(And a picture’s worth a thousand words, huh?)

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Monday, July 16, 2007

lazy reporting. lazy legislating?

The problem is inherent in the opening paragraph. A front page article from Sunday’s New York Times reads this way:

MOSCOW, July 14 — President Vladimir V. Putin, angered by American plans to deploy a missile shield in Eastern Europe, formally notified NATO governments on Saturday that Russia will suspend its obligations under the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, a key cold war-era arms limitation agreement.

Before we go further, yes, the move by Russia to withdraw from the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty is a problem with some far-reaching consequences—but we have gotten to this point, in part, at least, because of an assumption so flawed yet so ingrained at this point that esteemed Times reporters and editors let it go without so much as a footnote or clarifying paragraph.

What has angered Putin so much as to risk such a theoretically destabilizing move as suspending a treaty (one that actually has no formal mechanism for suspension, it turns out)? Why it’s “American plans to deploy a missile shield in Eastern Europe,” of course. Except, one problem: There is no such thing as a missile shield.

Besides the fact that such a statement is just inaccurate on its face—the Bush Administration has announced plans to put some sort of radar monitoring bases in one former Eastern Bloc nation, and some missile launchers in another—it is so conceptually vacant as to be meaningless.

The “missile shield,” called The Strategic Defense Initiative by supporters and “Star Wars” by skeptics until the Bush/Rove/Luntz spin machine gave it a new, marketing-savvy name, has existed only in the minds and computer simulations of unhinged science geeks and greedy defense contractors for something like three or four decades. But, to be nothing if not painfully straight, here in the real world, there is no such thing as a “missile shield.” After all these years and billions upon billions of dollars, no real world test of any of the proposed systems has even come close to justifying further development, let alone a test case deployment.

And that part of the equations doesn’t even begin to answer nor even ask the question: What is the threat?

The Russians? Administration mouthpieces say absolutely not—they remain our friends. Rather, the Bush bunch would have us believe this “system,” nestled against Russia’s border, has been designed to protect Europe against some Mideastern missile threat, presumably Iran.

Do a little simple research—the kind that the Times, perhaps, couldn’t be bothered to do—and you will find countless articles debunking both the program and the threat. For the purposes of my point, here, I will just say that this “missile shield” is a nonworking solution to a nonexistent problem.

That point, it seems, is now lost on the New York Times—but it should not be lost on our congressional leaders. This Bush boondoggle, though completely fantastic, has factual consequences. To allow the administration to continue down a path of faux deployment in some cynical attempt to further provoke a stand off (or two) while further lining the pockets of defense contractor friends would be dangerous and, frankly, unforgivable.

Unforgivable, especially, when it can so easily be stopped. Unlike so many of the problems crafted by this administration that seem intractable while Bush and Cheney continue to occupy the White House, Star Wars, um, the “missile shield” can be stopped cold in its tracks with one vote—or even with one failure to vote.

Congress could decide today to defund this program. Kill the research. Cancel the contracts. Refuse to fund the construction of the European bases. It’s actually that simple.


Like, real world really.

Do so, and the threat Putin perceives and acts upon goes away. Treaties can remain intact, and this manufactured crisis can be disassembled.

It is incumbent upon the Democratic leadership in the House—those that control the power of the purse—to avoid the lazy “logic” of the Times and those that such thinking enables. This moment provides an accessible opportunity to show leadership on an issue that has far-reaching consequences—foreign and domestic. Failure to seize that opportunity would be, well, lazy, yes, but also almost as unforgivable as the folly itself.

(cross-posted to Daily Kos and capitoilette)

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Friday, July 13, 2007

‘round and ‘round we go

Bush’s circular logic got you down, or are you lovin’ the spin. . . .

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

I see a conundrum. . .

And I think Bush’s (or is it Cheney’s?) lawyers see it too. . . .

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finally, someone that will benefit from global warming. . .

The makers of aluminum bats.

Baseball bats going extinct. At a baseball bat factory tucked into the lush tree country in northwestern Pennsylvania, the operators have drawn up a “three-to-five-year emergency plan” if the white ash tree, which has been used for decades to make the bat of choice, is compromised by the effects of global warming.

There is also some emerald beetle that may or may not like it hot, but the article makes it pretty clear that if the beetle doesn’t finish them off, ash forests—along with the other tree of choice for baseball bats, maple—will move much further north or disappear because of the warming climate. And, even before the trees disappear, the longer growing season of a warmer climate will produce a softer wood that will not be suitable for major league duty.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

with friends like these

At the very same time Senator Asshole was on the floor of the Senate shilling for the current president’s war, McCain’s top two campaign aids were announcing that they were no longer going to work to make Johnny Mac the next president.

Ironic,” says Joe Sudbay over at AMERICAblog:

In 2000, the Bush team destroyed McCain's presidential aspirations by running a fiercely negative campaign against him. In 2008, the Bush team destroyed McCain's presidential aspirations because the Senator remained fiercely loyal to the failed policies of the failed presidency of George Bush.

Most likely, both Bush (who did his own fantasyland fear mongering on Tuesday) and McCain will spin all of this as the story of two men of conviction standing side by side, come what may. But the reality is more tawdry.

McCain has been contorting himself and twisting his “straight talk” for the better part of this decade in a failed attempt to find his party’s ideological sweet spot, while the president McCain has chosen to mimic stands more or less frozen, increasingly desperate for allies, and even more desperate for approval from his daddy’s generation.

McCain clings to his lead-lined life preserver while Bush grasps at any straw man that will have him—even one going down in flames. It’s getting so it is hard to tell who is the greater liability for whom. Is it worse for McCain to be seen as so tied to Mr. 29%, or is it worse for Bush to have Senator McFlop as his biggest cheerleader?

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

five years

That’s all we’ve got:

IEA warns of oil and gas crunch in five years

PARIS: The International Energy Agency warned Monday of the prospect of a global oil and gas crunch due to higher-than-expected demand and below-par supply from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other suppliers.

"Not only does oil look extremely tight in five years time, but this coincides with the prospect of even tighter natural gas markets at the turn of the decade," the energy security watchdog for the 26-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said in an oil market report.

The Paris-based agency forecasts escalating global growth will cause spare capacity of the OPEC to fall to "uncomfortably low levels" — and non-OPEC countries will not pick up the slack. Supply increases from non-OPEC oil producers will start receding starting in 2009, the report says.

No additional commentary from me this time—the headline really says it all. Truly terrifying, actually.

Plus, how could I resist such an easy Bowie allusion?

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this one should be easy

Well, surprise, surprise, President Bush has again defied Congress and again invoked a tenuous claim of executive privilege to do so:

President Bush directed former aides to defy congressional subpoenas, claiming executive privilege and prodding lawmakers closer to their first contempt citations against administration officials since Ronald Reagan was president.

It was the second time in as many weeks that Bush had cited executive privilege in resisting Congress' investigation into the firings of U.S. attorneys.

White House Counsel Fred Fielding insisted that Bush was acting in good faith in withholding documents and directing the two aides -- Fielding's predecessor, Harriet Miers, and Bush's former political director, Sara Taylor -- to defy subpoenas ordering them to explain their roles in the firings over the winter.

In the standoff between branches of government, Fielding renewed the White House offer to let Miers, Taylor and other administration officials meet with congressional investigators off the record and with no transcript. He declined to explain anew the legal underpinnings of the privilege claim as the chairmen of the House and Senate judiciary committees had directed.

Both House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy have issued responses. Conyers was stern but polite:

We are extremely disappointed with the White House letter. While we remain willing to negotiate with the White House, they adhere to their unacceptable all-or-nothing position, and now will not even seek to properly justify their privilege claims. Contrary to what the White House may believe, it is the Congress and the Courts that will decide whether an invocation of Executive Privilege is valid, not the White House unilaterally.

While Leahy exhibited a bit more piss and vinegar:

I have to wonder if the White House’s refusal to provide a detailed basis for this executive privilege claim has more to do with its inability to craft an effective one.

But I have to wonder if Democrats are not missing the best and easiest argument to make in this and the other privilege cases. It seems to me that what needs to be said is something like this:

President Bush has again demonstrated his belief that he, and anyone else he designates, is above the law, but worse, he has asserted that his administration owes nothing to the American people. In this case, the president’s continued insistence that his aids will only meet with Congressional investigators in secret and without a transcript confirms such disrespect. Why is it OK for administration officials to talk to a select few in private, but not OK for them to talk in the open, in front of the people that elect the president and pay the salaries of his entire staff?

We think the American people deserve to hear what these Bush aids have to say. We believe that Americans are capable of understanding the facts of this case, and, more importantly, understanding right from wrong. Judging from the position taken by President Bush, either he believes that the people are incapable of understanding, or he is deeply afraid that they will understand all too well.

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how does he know?

First-term Senator David Vitter is the first high-profile elected to get publicly, uh, fingered in the so-called “DC madam” scandal. Vitter, who has previously attacked “the Hollywood left” for undermining marriage, had this to say in his defense:

This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible. Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife. . . .

Now, I can’t speak for his wife, but when it comes to God. . . .

Seriously, I’m not a big pray-er, and have never been to confession, but as best I understand, don’t you ask God for forgiveness, and continue to pray for His forgiveness—isn’t that how it works? How does Vitter know he has “received forgiveness from God”? Isn’t that a little presumptuous?

(h/t TP)

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Monday, July 09, 2007

you don’t say (time of the season)

The New York Times said this:

It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.

Senator Harry Reid said this:

I think that each time these people vote to continue what's going on in Iraq it is a bad, bad move for them and a worse move for our country.

Byron York of the National Review said this:

In other words, if Bush had pardoned Libby because the CIA leak probe never should have happened, fine. But don't play judge, Mr. President -- that's not your branch.

And the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol said this:

I regard this as an extremely clever Machiavellian move by the president. It cheers me up about the Bush White House, and I’m really heartened.

And that’s not the half of it! Here’s what I say. . . .

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Friday, July 06, 2007

it was too stupid a joke—until fox called it news

I swear upon a stack of hyperlinks. . . . Last weekend, when it became known that five of the seven suspects in the failed car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow were employed by British hospitals, I was all set to write a sarcastic post about how national healthcare causes terrorism. . .

. . . but I decided it was just too stupid to waste your time.

Of course, I don’t have to fill a 24-hour news cycle with rightist propaganda, so I had the luxury of making that judgment call. It seems the folks at Fox News aren’t as fortunate.

Today [Thursday] on Fox News’s Your World With Neil Cavuto, National Review Online columnist Jerry Bowyer attacked Michael Moore’s movie SiCKO and its positive portrayal of the health care in countries such as Britain and France. He argued that national health care systems are breeding grounds for terrorists because they are “bureaucratic.” “I think the terrorists have shown over and over again…they’re very good at gaming the system with bureaucracies,” said Bowyer.

Perhaps the most hysterical point of all is that there is actually a coordinated PR blitz to denigrate SiCKO. . . which is a popular Hollywood movie! So much money; so few brains.

My other thought upon reading Bowyer’s comments: If bureaucracies are breeding grounds for terrorists, perhaps we should turn a wary eye toward the Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon. . . or maybe we should put private health insurers on the terrorist watch list:

Only 4% of Medicare and Medicaid budgets go to administration compared to 20% and more for private insurance. According to the World Health Organization, private insurers higher costs are "mainly due to the extensive bureaucracy required to assess risk, rate premiums, design benefit packages and review, pay or refuse claims."

[emphasis so added]

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

independence day

I am a bit flummoxed today, confronted as I am with all kinds of news and takes on the news of the Cheney Bush Administration’s latest abominations in the face of history and the law. Mix that up with America’s birthday, and one cannot help feel the need to construct some sort of grand and sweeping metaphor that compares the people who put this country together with the ones who are tearing it apart. And, to top it off, this is my 500th post on guy2k, so the pressure to deliver some sort of blogospheric fireworks is enormous.

It being independence day, I can’t help but note with joy and relief that BBC reporter Alan Johnston was been released some 114 days after his kidnapping by “the Army of Islam, a shadowy militant group dominated by Gaza's powerful Dugmush clan.” Johnston’s safe return is perhaps a bit of a coup for Hamas and its leader, Ismail Haniya, but it is a bigger victory for all of those who worked to keep Johnston’s story front and center and those (including some in Hamas) who negotiated a peaceful and successful resolution to this hostage “crisis.”

And, it being Independence Day, I cannot help but think of the inscription at the base of the Statue of Liberty—“Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”—and how absolutely twisted and tarnished that sentiment has become today. Twisted by the corporate, classist (and possibly racist) authors of the recent immigration “compromise” that sought to replace the poor, huddled masses with a select group of educated, vocationally skilled immigrants that could pass some sort of merit test, and tarnished by the xenophobic, hate-mongering (and certainly racist) right wing of the Republican Party that fought bitterly to stop the immigration bill from becoming law. I am actually glad that the compromise fell apart and this particular “reform” was stopped, but I am very disheartened by the fact that Republicans had to save the Democrats from themselves.

And, it being this day, I am thinking about our former colonial master, Great Britain, and their current problems with educated, vocationally skilled immigrants who were allegedly involved in the failed car bombings last week. I am amazed that the world seems amazed that educated and relatively successful men—in this case, medical doctors—would allegedly get involved with such a sinister plot. As if a degree and some money inoculates a person from feelings of oppression and alienation. And, has everyone forgotten that Ayman al-Zawahiri was a doctor from a solidly middle-class family?

And, it being Independence Day, I cannot help but think about our nominal president and his apparent declaration of independence from the Constitution, the rule of law, and the people for whom he allegedly works.

As Sheryl Gay Stolberg absurdly put it in yesterday’s New York Times:

President Bush’s decision to commute the sentence of I. Lewis Libby Jr. was the act of a liberated man — a leader who knows that, with 18 months left in the Oval Office and only a dwindling band of conservatives still behind him, he might as well do what he wants.

The Times labeled this “reporting” “News Analysis”—which is what I guess gave SGS the ability to declare her independence from the facts. This story, and its hacktastic follow-up today, are key exhibits in the case that many beltway reporters have become lazy enablers, if not willing co-conspirators, in the orphaning of America’s founding principles. This “analysis” actually implies that the judge in the Libby trail somehow forced the president’s hand—presumably by adhering to the law—and Bush had no choice but to show “character and courage” (as Bill Kristol put it) and commute Scooter’s sentence.

Today, Stolberg (with the help of Jim Rutenberg and Neil Lewis), reports that White House Press Secretary Tony Snow had to fend off an “unruly press corps, whose members demanded to know why Mr. Libby had received special treatment.” What exactly was unruly? That they demanded straight answers to simple questions? I listened to that presser, and the only thing unruly was Snow’s grasp of the facts.

A free and independent (there’s that word again) press is, of course, one of the cornerstones of our democracy as envisioned some 231 years ago, but it is hard to tell if Sheryl Gay Stolberg is with the Fourth Estate or Vice President Fourthbranch.

And, again, it being Independence Day, I cannot help but think of the very document that started this whole crazy experiment in terra and terror.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

[emphasis added]

Kind of makes you think, don’t it?

I hope that some small number of my first 500 posts have also kind of made you think. Happy Independence Day.

(cross-posted to Daily Kos)

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

the obstructionist’s obstructionist

There are many fine and forceful reactions to Monday’s announcement by President GW Bush, explaining how this decision violates sentencing law, flies in the face of precedent, and even ignores the recent opinion of the United States Supreme Court. While it has been clear for some time that the Bush cabal has little respect for the law, it also appears clear that few of their choices to flout the law are made randomly or impulsively. So, while men and women of conscience across the board express outrage at the presidential order to commute the 30-month sentence of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, I am left with a nagging question: Why commutation—why not a pardon?

While the establishment media is content to settle on the notion that this commutation is some sort of grand compromise crafted by a White House seeking to mollify Bush’s hard-right base while blunting the bigger backlash that would be expected from a full pardon, this strikes me as a nuance that might be lost on both sides. Sure, there is now an additional talking point for the Libby lobby—this idea that he will still live with the shame (Scooter? Shame?) and pay a fine (though, in reality, his defense fund will likely pick up the tab)—but as Scooter’s lawyers continue to pursue their appeals, and Patrick Fitzgerald continues to defend the conviction, the “base” will continue to push for a pardon. And, though admittedly without the reaction to such a pardon by which to measure it, Monday’s blistering rebukes—including Representative John Conyers’ suggestion that hearings on the leak and commutation are imminent—hardly seem blunted.

So, what’s in a commute? I am not an expert on the law here, but from clicking around, this is how I understand it:

The heart of the matter lies in the crime. Scooter Libby was convicted on obstruction charges for interfering with a federal investigation into the leak of the name of a covert CIA operative as retaliation against her husband for exposing some of the lies that comprised the administration’s case for the invasion of Iraq. The annals of the Libby investigation make it pretty clear that Vice President Dick Cheney, likely with the knowledge of President Bush and his top aids, engineered the vengeful leak. Were Libby to stop obstructing and speak truthfully as to what he knows, he could likely complete the federal case against the Vice President (at the very least).

With the dreaded time in hoosegow looming, federal prosecutors could hold out the possibility of a reduced sentence in exchange for Libby’s cooperation. Such truthful testimony would clearly be unacceptable and, indeed, threatening to Cheney, Rove, and Bush.

So, why not a pardon, then? Well, to the best of my understanding, a full pardon would eliminate Scooter’s claim to Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination.

. . . but would leave intact possible jeopardy for contempt of court and/or new charges of perjury. The result is that Libby could be required to testify under oath -- and under penalty of perjury and contempt -- about what others in the administration knew and when they knew it.

I also think, by extension, Libby could not take the Fifth if called to testify under oath before a congressional committee investigating the original leak. (I am making an inference here, though. If someone has a clearer understanding of this part of the law, please chime in.)

Without Libby’s Fifth Amendment rights, a large chink in the armor of VP Fourthbranch could be left exposed. And a potential witness for the prosecution stewing with his incriminating thoughts in a federal prison would be more risk and stress than this administration likely deems acceptable. Thus, commutation of Scooter’s sentence looks less like the fence-sitting compromise of a weak president, and more like the conniving plan of his powerful veep.

Motives aside, the circumstances remain the same: I. Lewis Libby’s obstruction is deemed by this lawless administration as less worthy of punishment because he obstructed on behalf of his friend and boss, Dick Cheney. Where I might differ from establishment outlets, as well as from TPM’s Josh Marshall, is that Monday’s commutation was not “the minimum necessary to keep the man silent”—it was the exact amount needed to keep the nation in the dark.

(cross-posted to capitoilette and Daily Kos)

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Monday, July 02, 2007

so, now the decider decides sentences, too

This just in: President Bush has commuted the sentence of convicted felon Scooter Libby:

WASHINGTON - President Bush commuted the sentence of former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on Monday, sparing him from a 2 1/2-year prison term that Bush said was excessive. Bush's move came hours after a federal appeals panel ruled Libby could not delay his prison term in the CIA leak case.

That meant Libby was likely to have to report to prison soon and put new pressure on the president, who had been sidestepping calls by Libby's allies to pardon the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.

President Bush released a statement saying that he thought the 30-month sentence to be “excessive.” (This from a man who has tossed people into indefinite detention with out a trial.) However, as Nina Totenberg has observed, the Libby sentence was shorter than one handed down in a nearly identical case, and that sentence was just upheld by the Bush-packed US Supreme Court.

I guess being “The Decider” entitles you to be judge and jury—and the SCOTUS—too.

Of course, a commutation is not quite a pardon; Libby remains a convicted felon, and will likely be disbarred. Still, the commutation is an offensive slap in the face to all those who worked to dutifully fulfill the requirements of our nation’s laws and to all of us who still try to respect those laws. But will the nominal president’s half-nod to his master be enough to satisfy the “L’État c’est moi” set that kneel to their smirking god Dick?

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