Monday, October 31, 2005

Why lie?

Just a couple of thoughts on l'affair Scooter.

Cheney's now former chief of staff, Scooter Libby has, as all now know, been indicted for lying to both FBI investigators and a federal grand jury. The question then asks itself: why lie?

Answer 1: The dumb guy scenario. He didn't lie, he just misremembered. Seriously, this defense strategy has already been floated.

Answer 2: Everybody else except Libby is lying. And while the "everybody else" in this case amounts to a bunch of reporters, still.

Answer 3: He lied to protect himself. This "lone leaker" theory is very popular with those wingnuts still tied enough to reality to admit the ridiculousness of answers 1 and 2.

Answer 4: He lied to protect his boss, Darth Cheney. Let's break this down a bit.

A) Scooter learned of Valerie Plame Wilson's status as a CIA operative from Cheney.
B) After Messieur Plame's, er Wilson's damning NYT op-ed, Scooter discussed strategies on how to deal with the story with the Lord of all evil.
C) THE NEXT DAY Scooter then leaked Ms. Plame Wilson's status to Judy Miller and Matt Cooper. Which, if we're to believe the lone leaker theory, means that the ever loyal Scooter, after strategizing with his beloved boss, decides to go against orders and out Plame.

Yeah, right.

And yet I can somehow hear his words: "Nice little undercover operative wife that bastard Wilson has there. It'd be a shame if anything were to happen to her, wouldn't it Scooter?" Wink-wink, nudge-nudge.

Or words to that effect.

And be sure to add a version of the Tom Hagen/Frank Pentangelo conversation from The Godfather II here as well.

"You remember, Scooter, Roman history don't you? If a flunky took a fall for the Emperor he and his family were set for life, big chunks of Halliburton stock, er Italian villas were given. Plus of course George's, er the Emperor's full pardon as well. A good deal, right Scooter?"

Or words to that effect.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The REAL Scandal This Week

By jillian posting at DailyKos:

*Food Insecurity in America.*
While the country is glued to the media regarding Traitorgate, the Republicans voted to basically let fellow Americans go hungry. Welcome to the "Let them eat cake if they can find it" era that is dawning in America today.

On a party-line vote, a Republican-run U.S. House of Representatives committee voted to cut food stamps by $844 million on Friday, just hours after a new government report showed more Americans are struggling to put food on the table.

About 300,000 Americans would lose benefits due to tighter eligibility rules for food stamps, the major U.S. antihunger program, under the House plan. The cuts would be part of $3.7 billion pared from Agriculture Department programs over five years as part of government-wide spending reductions.

"This is not a giveaway program that results in windfall profits," said North Carolina Democrat G.K. Butterfield in opposing the cuts. "That is not moral. That is not American."

Antihunger activists said hunger rates were up for the fifth year in a row, so the cuts were a mistake.

"It is hard to imagine any congressional action that is more detached from reality," said James Weill of the Food Research and Action Center.

"Cutting food stamps now is a scandal," said David Beckman of Bread for the World, pointing to losses from hurricanes.

Approved 25-20, the committee package now will become part of an omnibus budget-cutting bill. - reuters

and why do they want people to go hungry? They want their buddies to make money off human tragedy.

House and Senate negotiators working on a $100 billion agriculture spending bill voted on Tuesday to allow states to privatize the food stamp program, which helps 25 million people put food on the table monthly - reuters

Our nation is facing insecurity...

The number of Americans experiencing food insecurity has been on the rise for five straight years with an 11.9 percent increase in 2004 compared to 2003. Rates of hunger and food insecurity increased in nearly all areas of the nation, and single female- headed households with children continued to have substantially higher rates of food insecurity than all other household types. Furthermore, the study shows the number of people living in food insecure households with hunger rose from 3.5 percent in 2003 to 3.9 percent in 2004-accounting for 4.4 million households, including 274,000 households with children. - Americas Second Harvest

and isn't this ironic....

Texas leads nation in rate of households at risk for hunger

This food stamp cutting is really a "good" way to "support our troops" (NOT!)

Military families on food stamps? It's not an urban myth. About 25,000 families of servicemen and women are eligible, and this may be an underestimate, since the most recent Defense Department report on the financial condition of the armed forces--from 1999--found that 40 percent of lower-ranking soldiers face "substantial financial difficulties." Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, reports hearing from constituents that the Army now includes applications for food stamps in its orientation packet for new recruits.

Yep, that's the GOP, balancing the budget on the backs of the poor.

One down, how many to go?

So, the power supply went out on my desktop today. Anything interesting happen while I replaced it?

Oh that.

I, as did the rest of the blogosphere, tuned in today to watch Patrick Fitzgerald's press conference announcing the indictment of Darth Cheney's Grand Moff Scooter Libby. And though disappointed that he hasn't nailed Rove, yet, I was impressed by the thoroughness of his indictment of Libby as well as the way he handled the announcement. Very Jack Webb just the facts-ish, though with a surprising touch of humor.

I was most impressed though by the passion he showed when countering the Republican spin machine's canard that perjury and obstruction charges are mere "technicalities".

And more important than his passion, he laid out exactly why such charges are so serious: lying about a potential offence makes investigation of that offence nearly impossible. Thus the fallacy behind the spin is exposed. Failure to indict on the original charge, in this case the exposure of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame, is no weakness on the prosecuter's part, when the potential perpetrator of that act, Scooter Libby, lied so as to make ascertaining the truth impossible.

One question that comes to mind is why Scooter didn't take the fifth, as is his contitutional right. My guess is based on the timing of the FBI and grand jury interviews which you'll recall took place prior to the 2004 election.

My supposition is that Scooter's, at very least, a good soldier and took one for the team at a time when it would have been perhaps fatally embarrasing for a top BushCorp™ flunky to imply complicity in an act of treason.

And while we ponder might have beens, did you note that Fitzgerald said that the reason he couldn't bring indictments in 2004 was largely because of his inability to obtain Cooper's and Miller's testimony? Did then these two reporters enable Bush's re-election by delaying their testimony until after the election? That sems to be the obvious result.

Speaking of dear Judy, I was happy that Fitzgerald clearly explained his reasoning for subpoenaing the two reporters: that in this case their were only two witnesses to the crime: the person leaking Plame's identity, and the reporter to whom her identity was leaked. Failing to get the reporter's testimony would mean relying solely on that of the leaker. And as is self-evident in Libby's case, such testimony leaves much to be desired.

Questions remain of course.

Already there is speculation that Rove is the mysterious "Official A" of the indictment.

And who, exactly was Novak's 2nd source?

And finally, the big question, one that Fitzgerald will apparently never answer, as he sees it as outside his mandate, precisely how self-aware were Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al. when they sold us the Iraqi war based on a series of suppostions about nukes and WMD that were clearly wrong?

It's manifestly obvious that a Congressional investigation is order. And unless I'm much mistaken, it will take the election of a Democratic congress in 2006 to get one.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

"That's what I said, what you gonna do about it?"

When you read a lead like this, what do you think?

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iran's new president has repeated a remark from a former ayatollah that Israel should be "wiped out from the map," insisting that a new series of attacks will destroy the Jewish state, and lashing out at Muslim countries and leaders that acknowledge Israel.

If you're a BushCorp™ True Believer©, your first thought may be that this is exactly why we need to continue the war in Iraq. With crazies like this running around it's vital that we fight them over there, so we don't have to fight them over here.

If you're a member the the reality based community your thoughts might be different.

First you might realize that, because of the US' continuing failed venture in Iraq, our enemies are daily emboldened by the evident limitations of US military power. With every carbomb and IED explosion, the limits of just what can be done by the greatest military power the world has ever known becomes clearer.

And further, with our military already overburdened, villains the world over, from Iran to North Korea can breath easier, knowing that a battalion of marines will be far from forthcoming.

And if you're an Iranian Islamo-fascist leader, your position is especially excellent. Every US "success" (e.g. the destruction of a purported insurgent cell) solidifies your policies over that of more moderate, secular political rivals. What, did you think demagogic calls to fight for God and country only work over here?

The Iraq war also serves as a useful destination for the hot-blooded young, under-employed males of your country. Better they fight the great satan in nextdoor Iraq, than foment opposition to your medieval government in Iran.

And further, even actual US success (i.e. establishing democratic rule in Iraq) works to your benefit as well. For if Iraq sees true democratic rule, that rule is going to have a distinctly shi'ite flavor, especially in those provinces on your south western border.

So, if you're a hard-line Iranian shi'ite leader your position vis à vis the US incursion into Iraq is truly win/win. And you can continue to mouth your outrageous blather and build up your nuclear facilities with impunity.

It's not like the US is in any position to do anything about it.

What's a little torture between friends?

No one who's paid attention to typical BushCorp™ modus operandi should be shocked that Darth Cheney is hip deep in the Valerie Plame scandal. From the AP:

While it is not against the law for three high-level officials to discuss the identity of a CIA agent, the conversation is part of Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of whether crimes were committed when Plame's name was leaked to journalists.

The New York Times, quoting unidentified lawyers involved in the case, said Libby's notes differed from his grand jury testimony. Libby reportedly told grand jurors he learned Plame's name from reporters.

There is nothing in the public record to suggest that Cheney, like perhaps Libby and deputy White House chief of staff Karl Rove, pointed reporters toward the CIA official in conversations about her husband, diplomat Joe Wilson.

But the investigation has lifted the veil on the White House's brass-knuckle political culture — and Cheney's role in it.

The latest disclosure also raises fresh questions about the vice president's credibility, long-ago frayed by inaccurate or questionable statements on

But really, what's a little public lying from someone who's also in favor of torture? From today's WaPo:
VICE PRESIDENT Cheney is aggressively pursuing an initiative that may be unprecedented for an elected official of the executive branch: He is proposing that Congress legally authorize human rights abuses by Americans. "Cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment of prisoners is banned by an international treaty negotiated by the Reagan administration and ratified by the United States. The State Department annually issues a report criticizing other governments for violating it. Now Mr. Cheney is asking Congress to approve legal language that would allow the CIA to commit such abuses against foreign prisoners it is holding abroad. In other words, this vice president has become an open advocate of torture. [Emphasis mine-CK]

As the Post notes, such an official stance is both unprecedented at this level of government, as well as indefensible. Fortunately the senate is, for once, not buying:
This summer Mr. Cheney told several Republican senators that President Bush would veto the annual defense spending bill if it contained language prohibiting the use of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by any U.S. personnel.

The senators ignored Mr. Cheney's threats, and the amendment, sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), passed this month by a vote of 90 to 9. So now Mr. Cheney is trying to persuade members of a House-Senate conference committee to adopt language that would not just nullify the McCain amendment but would formally adopt cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as a legal instrument of U.S. policy. The Senate's earlier vote suggests that it will not allow such a betrayal of American values. As for Mr. Cheney: He will be remembered as the vice president who campaigned for torture.

And should Bush choose to excersize the threatened, though rarely used (by him) presidential veto he will join his veep in further ignominy.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Why 2k?

From CNN:

U.S. military death toll in Iraq reaches 2,000

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The war in Iraq saw two milestones Tuesday that reflect the country's path toward democracy and its human toll as officials said the referendum on a draft constitution passed and the number of U.S. military deaths reached 2,000.

A cynic would suggest that the announcement of the referendum result was held to co-incide, and so try to mitigate, the death toll landmark.

In a further co-incidence, not noted by the CNN report, Darth Cheney may now be implicated in the effort to discredit WMD truth-teller Joe Wilson.

Dan Froomkin on the NYT report:
The New York Times this morning reports that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby apparently first learned that Joseph Wilson's wife was a CIA agent from none other than his boss -- Vice President Cheney.

This new revelation suggests that special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald's investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame's identity has reached even closer to the vice president than was previously known.

It is no great leap to speculate that Mr. Cheney shared this info with Scooter in order to help co-ordinate a typical BushCorp style ad hominem attack on Mr. Wilson.

And while. as the Times story stresses, a discussion of classified information between a veep and his CoS is not illegal, I must point out that if it's with the intent to commit a crime (say exposing an undercover CIA agent for example) it certainly is criminal, and in this particular case, treeasonous. And further, if Darth or Scooter lied to federal prosecuter Fitzgerald about their communications regarding Wilson and Plame, they may be guilty of obstruction and/or perjury regardless.

Stay tuned, Fitzmas is expected any day now.

The wisdom of Kay Bailey Hutchison

Now, lest you think from my earlier post, that Senator Hutchison is just all about defending Republican treason, let me point out she has sometimes expressed wiser views.

From, of all people, Alec Baldwin quoting KBH at Huffingtonpost:

"I do not hold the view of our Constitution that there must be an actual, indictable crime in order for an act of a public officer to be impeachable. It is clear to this Senator that there are, indeed, circumstances, short of a felony criminal offense, that would justify the removal of a public officer from office, including the President of the United States. Manifest injury to the Office of the President, to our Nation and to the American people and gross abuse of trust and of public office clearly can reach the level of intensity that would justify the impeachment and removal of a leader."

Sure, her words were spoken in 1999 and were referring to president Clinton, but am I wrong to believe that her words ring even truer today with a president whose indiscretions have led to war and death rather than a stain on a dress?

Mr. Leaker and Mrs. Wilson. A picture story

Having trouble getting your head around the Valerie Plame story? Here's a helpful picture story from fouro over at DailyKos.

Monday, October 24, 2005

GOP spin in defense of treason

As BushCorp™ loyalists nervously await the indictments almost certain to be handed down by the Plamegate grand jury, they're also trying out their spin cycles on how to put the best face on treason.

The latest is from Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas, on Meet the Press:

Senator Hutchison said she hoped "that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn't indict on the crime and so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation was not a waste of time and taxpayer dollars."

1) Just to pick nits, the cost of Fitzgerald's investigation has been an astonishingly low (by DC standards) $723,000 (compare with $52 million for the Ken Starr investigations of Clinton), and
2) "Perjury technicality"?! Jeez. Now perhaps in Texas lying to and obstructing federal investigators is the status quo, a time honored way to keep away from them gol durn revenooers. (In fact, given BushCorp™'s heavy Texas contingent, that would explain a lot). But I suspect, even for most folks in Texas, such behavior isn't actually acceptible.

Not even if you move to Washington.

One of the most despicable things about BushCorp™ lies and corruption is the "everybody does it" spin seems plausible.

Writing at, columnist Lloyd Garver makes an excellent suggestion:
Yet it seems that all these crimes are considered "business as usual" in American politics. And that's the outrage. The people we trust our government to should have a higher standard of ethics, not a lower one. If someone we've given power to lies, cheats, or steals, it's unforgivable.

Is this just the nature of the beast? Is it like complaining about the weather? Maybe not. I've got one suggestion that might help. It's time we pressure the lawmakers to have stronger penalties for those in power who commit crimes. Politicians are always calling for stiffer laws, so how could they not approve of this idea? Let's just double the fines and sentences for crimes that public officials commit. If perjury is a two-year offense for you or me, make it a four-year offense for a Congressman. If misappropriation of funds can get the average Joe 10 years, it should get the average Senator Joe 20. And make them serve their sentences in jails surrounded by prisoners whom they represented.

And while Mr. Garver's suggestion may never come to fruition, there is one penalty we the people can excercize: any pol who uses the everyone does it dodge needs to be sentenced out of office forthwith.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The failure of the welfare state?

I'm not exactly sure which neurons allow this, but it's an incredible conservative feat: the ability to carefully and thoughtfully examine the facts of a situation and then draw the precisely wrong conclusion. Of course it helps if you only examine some of the facts and ignore others.

Today's case in point is today's WaPo op-ed from George Will on GM's recent agreement with the UAW reducing GM's healthcare coverage for workers.

The place where George (can I call you George?) and I agree is that health care has become an enormous, unwelcome burden on American business.

If you're a conservative you then perceive that the GM/UAW agreement is therefore a death knell for that favorite Republican bugbear, the dreaded welfare state, or er, um, in this case, welfare company.

Yes, its true, due to the outrageous cost of healthcare in the US, companies like GM are being forced to give up the ungodly practice of paying for comprehensive healthcare for its employees.

And why do they have to do this? George has the answer, citing President of failed former GM subdivision Delphi Robert "Steve" Miller as his source (and who better I might ask than a failed chief executive?):

"He calculates that a competitive American industrial compensation cost is about $20 an hour. And to get to a total compensation cost of $20, including health care, retirement and workers' compensation, 'which is high in the states we are in like New York, Ohio and Michigan,' you have to have a basic hourly wage of $10. Pay at Delphi's plants in China is roughly $3 an hour."

Ah yes, that low cost bogeyman China. How do they do it? It's funny, but the conservative capitalists who love to use Chinese labor costs in their analysis of overpriced American labor always seem to omit one tiny little detail: China is a communist country that pays for all its citizens healthcare so that its businesses don't have to.

Does Mr. Will, via Mr. Miller believe this is the way the US should go? Apparently not:
“Herb Stein, the University of Chicago economist who served as chairman of President Richard Nixon's Council of Economic Advisers, famously said: If something cannot go on forever, it won't. Delphi's resort to bankruptcy and GM's attempt, with the cooperation of the UAW, to avoid, for now, doing that, suggest that America's welfare state -- its private sector as well as its public-sector components -- is reaching its Herb Stein Moment.”

Ah but if we’re going to go quoting the redoubtable Mr. Klein I prefer this:
“Capitalism survived its crisis and went on to great successes. But the capitalism that survived and succeeded was not the capitalism of 1929.”
--Herbert Stein, The Triumph of the Adaptive Society, 1989

And while Mr. Will and his ilk may wish for us to return to depression era capitalism, wiser souls recognize this as folly.

Without the social contract created by New Deal policies whether private or public, the type of capitalism Mr. Will espouses may well devolve into chaos as the divisions between haves and have-nots widens.

Or perhaps Mr. Will is just trying to sew the seeds of revolution?

[Correction: As Dave Schuler points out China does not provide medical coverage, and in fact, its healthcare insurance system is even less effective than the US'. For an interesting view of China's healthcare systems go here.}

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Texas Court Issues Arrest Warrant for DeLay

Don't ya love that headline? From WaPo:

A Texas court today issued an arrest warrant for Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), the powerful former House majority leader, ordering him to appear for booking at a county jail in his home district.

The court in Travis County, Tex., set bail for DeLay at $10,000, and a lawyer for the embattled congressman said it would be posted.

Dick DeGuerin, the lead counsel on DeLay's defense team, said the arrest warrant was "a matter of routine," the Associated Press reported.

However, the defense reportedly had hoped to avoid submitting DeLay, formerly the second-ranking Republican leader in the House, to the fingerprinting and mug shot photography that accompanies a formal arrest.

You know you're in trouble if the best thing the guys on your side can say is that your arrest is a matter of routine.

I mean sure, arrest warrants are routine for gang-bangers and mafiosi, but for Congressmen?

On the other hand, given the current Republican leadership's level of hubris and corruption, perhaps it will become so.

Stop me if you've heard this one before

Here's the headline:

Hurricane Wilma grows into most intense Atlantic storm ever

Here's the story:
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras – Hurricane Wilma wobbled toward Mexico's Cancun resort and Florida on Wednesday, an "extremely dangerous" storm that has already killed 12 people in the Caribbean and was labeled the most intense ever to form in the Americas.

Do I even need to point out the obvious?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Fitzmas greetings!

With potential indictments just days or hours away for BushCorp™ officials for outing undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame, or, more likely, conpiracy and obstruction of justice charges in the case, its tough avoiding a sever case of premature schadenfreude.

Happily Georgia10 blogging at DailyKos has some helpful suggestions for dealing with pre-Fitzmas anxiety. Read all about it here.

BushCorp™ nominee on record against abortion rights

After all the nod-nod, wink-wink going on between BushCorp™ and the religious right about SCOTUS nominee Harriet Miers' evangelical street-cred, the other shoe has finally dropped: proof of her oppostition to abortion rights and Roe v. Wade, from the WaPo:

Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers once pledged that she would "actively support" a constitutional amendment banning abortions except to save a mother's life, participate in antiabortion rallies, and try to block the flow of public money to clinics and organizations that help women obtain the procedure.

Those 1989 written promises to an antiabortion group, made as she was campaigning for a seat on the Dallas City Council, came to light in documents that Miers delivered to the Senate yesterday. They emerged one day after she assured two senators that no one knows how she would vote on Roe v. Wade , the landmark case that legalized abortion nationwide.

This revelation should surprise no-one who's been paying attention. From religious right kingmaker James Dobson's assurances, to Bush's clumsy pronuncements about the importance of her religion to her suitablility, Miers has clearly been chosen for her anti-choice proclivities by an administration that doesn't want to admit it's doing just that.

Well that's all over now. The only question remaining is how this will play out in Senate confirmation hearings. John Roberts got a pass on the abortion question because the lack of any specific record on the subject.

The irony here is that Miers, like Roberts, was likely chosen specifically because she lacked the judicial paper trail so damning to BushCorp™ appointees afraid of their own records.

So now the question stands as this: is Harriet Miers the staunch anti-abortionist she portrayed herself to be when running for a seat on the Dallas city council, or was she merely pandering to the religious right in order to get elected?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Bush/Cheney can be questioned in Plame civil suit

Just a little thought to make you smile a bitter little smile.

In a Bloomberg article exploring the possibility that Darth Cheney himself might be a subject of the Plamegate investigation, reporter Richard Keil closes his story with this little side-note:

In an interview yesterday, [former ambassador Joe] Wilson said that once the criminal questions are settled, he and his wife [Valerie Plame Wilson] may file a civil lawsuit against Bush, Cheney and others seeking damages for the alleged harm done to Plame's career.

If they do so, the current state of the law makes it likely that the suit will be allowed to proceed -- and Bush and Cheney will face questioning under oath -- while they are in office. The reason for that is a unanimous 1997 U.S. Supreme Court decision ruling that Paula Jones' sexual harassment suit against then- President Clinton could go forward immediately, a decision that was hailed by conservatives at the time. [Emphasis mine]

Yep, just file this one under the be careful what you ask for column. And stay tuned, given the increasingly apparent corruption of BushCorp and friends™, I expect many further ironies are in the offing.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Rise of the RSC

From the Washington Post:

[T]he Republican Study Committee, or RSC -- has gained the upper hand because of DeLay's criminal indictment in Texas, widespread criticism of the Republicans' handling of Hurricane Katrina, and uncertainty over the future of the leadership, according to lawmakers and aides.

Now, cutting the budget -- which only months ago seemed far from possible -- is at the center of the agenda in the House.

The return of Republican fiscal conservatives, ya gotta love it, seriously.

Sure, being Republicans and all, the RSC wants to move towards a balanced budget by cutting assistance to those among us least able to do without such assistance, the poor and the sick. And sure fiscal sanity might be more equitably be acheived by eliminating Bush's tax cuts for the top .01% of the wealthiest among us, or by scrapping the most pork laden transportation bill in history, or by cancelling the tax credit payoffs to the mega-rich energy companies. And lets us not forget the $5 billion/ month being poured into the sand in Iraq or a US military budget that rivals spending by the rest of the world combined as possible areas for cuts.

I mean these people are Republicans after all.

Still, at least these folks recognize the insanity of BushCorp™ borrow and spend policy: its destabilizing potential for the global economy, it's incredible callousness towards our children and grandchildren whose responsibility it will be to pay off the costs of Bush's follies.

And happily for Democrats, now that Republicans are beginning to show themselves as just that, we can have a real debate over how to regain fiscal sanity, a goal to which the Bushies have never, apparently, aspired.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Proposition 77 Update

It's been noted elswhere that the Democratic party, and most notably House majority leader Nancy Pelosi are against propostition 77, the California re-districting measure. What this tells me is that the Democratic party, as it currently stands, is still tied to the corrupt status quo, and gives further evidence as to exactly why re-districting is so important. Happily, true roots reform Democrats do understand why this measure, flaws and all, is so necessary. Per Kos:

I'm filling out my absentee ballot, and I've been trying to find a reason to vote no on 77, Arnold's effort to create a non-partisan redistricting process in California. And I can't think of any. I'm not sure why busting the current incumbent-protection racket would be a bad thing, why creating competitive districts and forcing incumbents to be more responsive to their constituents than the current 70-80 percent partisan districts require.

More on proposition 77 here.

So many scandals, so little time

It's exhausting, keeping up with Republican diableries these days, what's a lowly CaliBlogger to do?

I mean there's Plamegate, with Rove, Libby and even possibly Cheney implicated. There are new rounds of subpoenas for Frist and DeLay. There's Abramoff and Safavian. Et alia, et alia ad infinitum, or so it sometimes seems.

And that doesn't even include the regular old political stuff like BushCorp™'s continuing assault on the environment, normal evil-doing stuff like that.

Helpfully, today's WaPo gives a nice little round up of the most egregious stuff:

With Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove returning to a grand jury as early as today, associates said the architect of Bush's presidency has been preoccupied with his legal troubles, a diversion that some say contributed to the troubled handling of Harriet Miers's nomination to the Supreme Court. White House officials are privately bracing for the possibility that Rove or other officials could be indicted in the next two weeks.

Bush's main partners on Capitol Hill likewise are spending time defending themselves as the president's legislative initiatives founder. The indictment of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) for alleged campaign funding illegalities has thrown Republicans into one of the most tumultuous periods of their 11-year reign and created the prospect of a leadership battle. And while Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) deals with a subpoena in an insider-trading investigation, a bipartisan majority rebuked Bush over torture policies.

Most of the scandals have little direct connection with one another, but their accumulation in a compressed period has challenged a White House already beset by political problems stemming from the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina and high gasoline prices, according to Republican advisers close to the Bush team, several of whom said they could speak candidly only if they were not identified by name.
Beyond the short-term problems, Republicans are particularly anxious about the sprawling investigations of conservative lobbyist Jack Abramoff, whose business and political dealings regularly brought him into contact with dozens of lawmakers and top White House officials. Among insiders, he was one of the most familiar faces among the generation of operatives and lobbyists who came of age when Republicans took control of Congress after the 1994 elections.

"The one that people are most worried about is Abramoff because it seems to have such long tentacles," said former congressman Vin Weber (R-Minn.), a lobbyist with close ties to the White House. "This seems to be something that could spread almost anywhere . . . and that has a lot of people worried."

The Abramoff scandal has already resulted in two unanticipated casualties: David H. Safavian, a former Rove business partner serving as the top White House procurement official, recently resigned and was arrested on charges that he lied about and impeded an investigation into his dealings with Abramoff. And Timothy E. Flanigan, Bush's nominee for deputy attorney general, the number two job at the Justice Department, withdrew last week after questions were raised about his interactions with the lobbyist.

"The Abramoff thing is a lingering nuisance to everybody," said GOP lobbyist Charles Black. "I don't know who else might be caught up in it."

Twin investigations of Abramoff by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and a multi-agency federal task force appear likely to tar a host of lawmakers the White House has relied on for passage of critical legislative initiatives. At the same time, the House ethics committee, which has been essentially shut down over a staffing dispute, is expected to get back in business and look into allegations against DeLay and nearly a dozen other lawmakers, Democrats included. This is where the Abramoff and unrelated investigations could start to merge.

House Administration Committee Chairman Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio), a DeLay ally, is facing questions about ties to Abramoff, including his participation in a golf outing in Scotland that the lobbyist organized in 2002. And Rove allies have also been entangled in the Abramoff investigation. One is Ralph Reed, the former Christian Coalition leader who has struggled during a campaign for lieutenant governor of Georgia to shake off suggestions that he received Indian gambling money to mount a lobbying effort against rival casinos.

Some would conclude that BushCorp™ is just suffering secondtermitis, but I find it hard to believe that 2nd terms are somehow mystically jinxed.

Instead I prefer the formulation of an especially gifted elder Republican, Abraham Lincoln:
You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.

BushCorp™ has been fooling some people for years, but his pious phrases and posturing are faltering, even with some of his most devoted advocates.

Will there come a time when George W. Bush isn't fooling anybody?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Veep under the microscope

In one of those reports seemingly designed to put progressives' hearts all a flutter, Raw Story is reporting that Cheney is being investigated for his possible involvement in Plamegate:

Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is trying to determine whether Vice President Dick Cheney had a role in the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame-Wilson, individuals close to Fitzgerald say. Plame’s husband was a vocal critic of prewar intelligence used by President George W. Bush to build support for the Iraq war.

The investigation into who leaked the officer's name to reporters has now turned toward a little known cabal of administration hawks known as the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), which came together in August 2002 to publicize the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. WHIG was founded by Bush chief of staff Andrew Card and operated out of the Vice President’s office.

Fitzgerald’s examination centers on a group of players charged with not only selling the war, but according to sources familiar with the case, to discredit anyone who openly “disagreed with the official Iraq war” story.

The group’s members included Deputy White House chief of staff Karl Rove, Bush advisor Karen Hughes, Senior Advisor to the Vice President Mary Matalin, Deputy Director of Communications James Wilkinson, Assistant to the President and Legislative Liaison Nicholas Calio, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby - Chief of Staff to the Vice President and co-author of the Administration's pre-emptive strike policy.

Now I'm aware that any hope that Darth Cheney will be forced to resign may be just so much wishful thinking, but it is certainly not unheard of for VPs to be forced out of office in disgrace a lá Spiro Agnew.

And since I'm in a wishful thinking sort of mode, I've always considered one drawback to the "Impeach Bush" movement the fact that its result might be, eek, President Cheney!

But if Cheney goes, gosh, it's a progressive's pipe dream come true.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Throw-away lives

I am not often, but I was indeed shocked to learn that the US condemns 185 times as many juveniles to life sentences without the possibility of parole as the rest of the world combined. According to a new study by New York-based Human Rights Watch:

NEW YORK (AP) -- At least 2,225 juvenile offenders are serving life sentences without parole in the United States, compared to a total of 12 elsewhere in the world, two leading human rights groups said in urging the U.S. government to abolish a practice that violates international law.

And we're talking about people who committed their crimes as young as age 13.

And while the crimes committed were typically horrid, in many cases the youthful offender was committed under "felony murder" rules:
Under that charge [felony murder], anyone involved in a crime during which a death results is guilty of murder, regardless of whether they committed the killing. As a result, some juvenile offenders are being jailed for life simply for being present at the crime scene. [Note and emphasis mine-CK]

Now to be clear, I am certainly not advocating that youthful offenders who commit horrific crimes not be severely punished, but how can you put a teenager as young as 13 in jail for life, without ANY hope of parole?

And, as further demonstration that racism is still far from being a thing of the past, the vast majority of these disposable lives are black, the rate being 10 times higher than it is for whites.

And also, typically, such incarcerations are a relatively recent phenomenon based on fear:
Such sentences were relatively rare up through the 1980s. But in the early 1990s, the imposition of the sentence spiked sharply, a surge largely linked to states responding to the public's concern over juvenile "superpredators" -- teens with long and violent criminal histories, the report said.

Parker dismissed those fears as a "myth," saying the study found many of the youth offenders serving life without parole did not have criminal records as long or as violent as many believed. The study found an estimated 59 percent were sentenced to life without parole for their first criminal offense. [Emphasis mine-CK]

To me this story represents both a tragedy and a warning, that we must all beware when we allow ourselves to let our decisions be ruled by fear.

You can, and should, contact your congressional representatives here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Yes on Proposition 77

Let's say you've been elected to the student council government in high school. And, ambitious politician that you are, you want to make sure you get re-elected. What to do? You can either make sure your policies fit in with the goals of most of the students, or you set up future elections so that the only students that can vote for you are your friends.

If you've a like mind to the California legislature you choose the latter.

Using myself as an example that would meaning my "voting district" would consist of students from the nerd classes and clubs (band, computers, English lit., Model United Nations, Chess). To get this happy group together I'd agree with my jock council member associates that their voting group would consist of football players and cheerleaders, and my Loser council member associates would get voted on by shop class attendees.

Such an arrangement would be great for getting us all re-elected, unfortunately it would also mean we'll never be able to agree on what band to hire for the prom.

Thus the situation in California where the legislature essentially chooses its voters rather than allowing voters to choose them.

It is also the reason I am supporting passage of Proposition 77.

While I'm not completely happy with all the details of the plan (why 3 judges?) the main point is that the legislature can no longer map out its own districts.

Which means that increasingly politicians from both the left and right will be more accountable to all their constituents rather than just to those in their own party.

Which means better, less divided government all 'round.

For more of my thoughts on why non-partisan redistricting is so important go here and here.

[Update: It's been noted elswhere that the Democratic party, and most notably House majority leader Nancy Pelosi are against this propostition. What this tells me is that the Democratic party, as it currently stands, is still tied to the corrupt status quo, and gives further evidence as to exactly why re-districting is so important. Happily, true roots reform Democrats do understand why this measure, flaws and all, is so necessary. Per Kos:

I'm filling out my absentee ballot, and I've been trying to find a reason to vote no on 77, Arnold's effort to create a non-partisan redistricting process in California. And I can't think of any. I'm not sure why busting the current incumbent-protection racket would be a bad thing, why creating competitive districts and forcing incumbents to be more responsive to their constituents than the current 70-80 percent partisan districts require.]


Monday, October 10, 2005

Beyond the Pottery Barn Rule

A Washington Post Op-ed by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) brought back to mind some of my own thinking on the debacle in Iraq:

Our military leaders have long told us that there can be no purely military solution in Iraq and that a genuine, broad-based political settlement among the Iraqis is essential for success and for the defeat of the insurgency.

There is, however, one point on which leaders of the three main groups in Iraq agree: None of the Iraqi groups wants U.S. troops to leave precipitately. The Shiites want us to stay until Iraqi security forces are strong enough to deal with the insurgency on their own. The Kurds want us to remain for the impending future. And the Sunni Arab leaders want us to stay as a deterrent to those who might seek revenge against them for the actions of Saddam Hussein.

We must use that leverage -- the possibility of an American withdrawal -- to achieve the broad-based political settlement that is essential for defeating the insurgency.

Senator Levin, sadly, backs off the idea of an actual time-table, but his thinking is at least moving in the right direction. The point I've made before, is that real deadlines have a wonderful ability to focus the mind. And I'm not talking about target dates for writing a constitution, I'm talking about a we're leaving by December 2006 so you'd better get your sorry butts in gear 'cos we ain't gonna be around so save them for you kind of deadline.

Now this may seem harsh, but after 3 years, 1,900 dead, tens of thousands maimed and wounded and $200+ billion and rising, when is enough enough? How much more blood and gold are we going to spend to allow Iraqis the freedom to enact an Islamic theocratic democracy? How much longer will we continue to prevent Iraqis killing Iraqis in a civil war by having them kill our soldiers instead?

And besides, as I've posited before, a withdrawal timetable may have a salubrious effect on Iraqi leadership.
Stay with me here, but try this scenario on for size: Against all expectations for reasonable behavior, under immense public pressure BushCorp™ finally sets a withdrawal timetable, with US troops starting to leave Iraq by the end of 2005, and with total withdrawal set for November 2006 (Bush crows about bringing our boys and girls home in time for Thanksgiving - let him).

Immediately after this announcement virtually nothing changes. Why? Who's going to start believing Bush at this late date? So the suicide attacks continue and the Iraqi Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds keep bickering away. But as the months crawl toward December 2005 and US begins pulling some troops back to central locations three things happen, the foreign-import jihadists continue their attacks unabated, the anti-occupation sympathizers begin to see light at the end of the tunnel, and the Iraqi government elements begin to realize that if they don't work something out soon they're toast.

3 months into 2006, after a quarter of US troops have been withdrawn, the foreign insurgent attacks are beginning to falter as anti-occupation insurgents loose patience with their former jihadists brothers, and have fewer qualms about dropping a dime to the newly invigorated Iraqi government, which, under the threat of its own annihilation, has finally reached agreement between its disparate factors.

Meanwhile, back in the states, Army recruiting is back on track, improved Iraqi stability drops oil prices below $50/barrel, and the American public is finally making government focus on the domestic issues it's been ignoring since 9/11/01.

June 2006, the Iraqi government announces full amnesty for all native born Iraqi's, as well as a yearly stipend from its oil profits (having wisely placed almost all of it forces to defend the nation's oil reserves and utility infrastructure). The remaining Iraqi forces are replacing US troops along the Syrian border who've been spending the remainder of their time making sure no additional foreign insurgents enter the country. Insurgent attacks are becoming more and more infrequent as fresh recruits dwindle, along with Iraqi sympathizers. The Iraqi government begins a campaign to drive out "all foreign aggressors" and is cheered by the vast majority of its people.

September 2006, BushCorp™ under pressure from its corporate sponsors, tries to hedge on its November withdrawal deadline, explaining that it only wants to keep a small force of "military advisors". After rejecting the Iraqi government's demand that BushCorp™ follow the timetable, Democrats follow public sentiment by calling for Bush to resign or face impeachment.

November, 2006, the Republican Senators and Congressmen who survive the mid-term election have done so by promising to follow the public's will and seek a full and fair accounting for BushCorp™ war crimes.

January 2007,BushCorp™, in a last ditch effort to save itself pulls all remaining US troops from Iraq. The anti-occupationalists dance in the streets of Baghdad, the lone remaining foreign insurgent unleashes hell by blowing himself up in his apartment trying to build just one more IED, the Iraqi government argues over redesign of its new parliament building.

In the US, in an unprecedented, though not unexpected move, Congress impeaches BOTH President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. Having been found guilty of obstructing Congress in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, as well as of violating US and international law for permitting the use of torture, Bush retires to a life of brush-clearing in Crawford, while Cheney retires to an undisclosed location.

House speaker, now President, Pelosi announces "the nightmare is over" then proceeds to talk about her national priorities of energy independence and universal healthcare.

Colin Powell once famously warned that with Iraq we are bound by the "Pottery Barn Rule": you break it, you own it.

As it turns out, Pottery Barn has no such rule.

And neither should Iraq.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Not good enough for craigslist?

If you're like me, then all this news about Republican cronyism must really piss you off. I mean really, I have more qualifications than these people, and I bet you do too.

So, instead of sitting in your mother's basement stewing, why not get out there and do something about it? Go to and show the American public you haven't got what it takes, and get the job anyway!

Dozens of under-qualified Republicans can't be wrong.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

No on Proposition 76

Also known as the Arnie Empowerment Act, Prop 76 seeks to limit state budgets by use of an arbitrary formula, while at the same time giving the Governator carte blanche to cut what he wishes where he wishes.

Proponents will try to portray this measure as an attempt to accomplish the laudable goal of balancing the state's budget. Unfortunately it says nothing about balance, but instead just channels the perpetual Republican wet dream of reducing government to the point it virtually disappears.

You'll note how well this has worked out on the national level.


No Respect

You may be surprised that I'm not going batshit crazy over the report that God told Bush to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. But BushCorp™ revels in its faith-based decsion making process, and really, I've never believed much otherwise.

With the administration claiming the BBC report is absurd, what I'm wondering about is how this is playing with the Dobsonites who were so pleased to put one of their own in the White House. Wasn't this an opportunity for God's man in DC to take a stand for the Big Guy?

Oh well.

Perhaps they'll forgive Bush's denial as Jesus forgave Peter's.

Or perhaps they'll realized they've been duped all along.


Friday, October 07, 2005

No on Proposition 75

Along with Proposition 74, this is the other anti-union poison pill whose only motivating force is the desire to limit the effectiveness of union support for progressive politics.

'Nuff said.


No on Proposition 74

This, along with Proposition 75 is simply another wingnut attempt to punish union workers for their support of progressive politics.

Under the guise of improving teacher qualifications it basically takes the hiring/tenure/firing decisions away from the local school boards best qualified to make such decisions, and puts it in the hands of yet another state-wide bureaucracy.

At a time when hiring and retaining qualified teachers is difficult enough given California's budget restraints, does it make sense to make teacher retention even more difficult?

Sure it does, if you're against public education, which, at its heart, is what prop 74's backers are.


No on Proposition 73

This odious bit of garbage is yet another backhanded attempt to limit abortions under the guise of parental rights.

The selling point is the requirement of either parental notification or judicial approval before a minor can get an abortion.

The right may mock the "worst case" scenarios propounded by Prop 73's opponent where-in a scared teenage girl is forced to decide between having an unwanted baby or having her abusive father notified of her pregnancy. But I have to agree that such situations are all too real and too frequent.

When I was in high school I had a friend who was terrified that she'd become pregnant (not by me thank you, I was unerringly responsible even back then). And though the pregnancy was a false alarm (as well as a wake-up call) my very bright friend was mostly terrified about the consequences should her abusive father finding out.

And what if her only other option was a court order? Get real. What terrified teen is going to have the presence of mind, little less the money to step into our legal system?

But even if you are ok with the parental notification aspects prop 73, there's a more compelling reason to vote against it.

In addition to costing millions in added bureaucracy, prop 73's authors have inserted a poison pill into its language: Prop 73 "Defines abortion as causing 'death of the unborn child, a child conceived but not yet born.'"

That is to say that life begins at conception.

If you believe as I do in a woman's right to control the fate of her own body, this little statement should send shivers down your spine. If this is voted into law we're only a lawsuit or two away from having all abortions defined as homicides.


Thursday, October 06, 2005

Signs of Sanity in the Senate?

Well, it's official, the United States Senate is against torture:

WASHINGTON – Nearly 18 months after images of abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison stunned the world, the US Senate voted Wednesday to clarify rules that govern the military's treatment of detainees.

The amendment's overwhelming passage, despite objections from the White House, marks a rare congressional challenge to President Bush as commander-in-chief at a time when public support for his presidency is at a low.

It also puts Congress on record demanding a standard of humane treatment for detainees, even in the context of an all-out war on terror.

In the end, what tipped the vote was a call for clarity.

"We have to clarify that this is not what the United States is all about. This is what makes us different from the enemy we are fighting," said Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona, who sponsored the amendment that bars cruel and inhumane treatment of detainees.

I'm not certain which bothers me more, that US actions have made such a specific declaration necessary, and they have, or that BushCorp™ opposes the amendment:
White House officials say that legislation would limit the president's ability to carry out the war on terrorism.

This of course raises the question of whether the admin could be even more ineffective than it currently is. It also implies that the culture which led to Abu Ghraib was far from accidental, and that it was sourced at BushCorp™'s highest levels.

McCain is, of course, laying the groundwork for a 2008 presidential bid, and more power to him. But I have to wonder, with all the incompetence and corruption of W's reign becoming part of the public consciousness (about 10 months too late), will congressional Republicans begin to see King George as a liablity they can no longer live with?

Will there come a realization that another 3 years of BushCorp™ failure will so corrupt the public perception of the Republican party that, for its own sake, they must get rid of him?

The Republicans must either continue to support W and sink with him in 2006 and 2008, or will they instead take their medicine and impeach him as soon as any remotely credible excuse comes along?

From a political standpoint I'd call the current situation a win/win for Democrats.

If only the rest of the country didn't have to go along for the ride.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Have I missed anything?

Apologies for the scant posting of late, I've been incredibly busy with my day job (essentially we're trying to do a third of this year's business in just 3 weeks).

So I thought I'd just do a quick overview of what's going on.

I see that Tom DeLay now has money laundering charges added to his conspiracy charges, nice. One thing of key significance to the new charges is that they carry the potential for much stiffer penalties for the Hammer's associates, with potential jail sentences counted in decades, not years. Which, of course, means it might be that much easier to get one of the Bugman's buds to roll over on him.

Speaking of buds, it's gotta be nice being one of W's pals, it can even get you nominated to the Supreme Court. I don't know Harriet Miers, almost no-one does, that's the problem, her main claim to fame is as W's personal lawyer. That's it. You gotta give W points for cajones though, who else, while his administration is under the gun for rampant cronyism and incompetence, would nominate an unqualified pal for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land?

Let's see, what else? Ah yes, House Republicans are seeking to dismantle the endangered species act. No huge surprise there of course. Since Republicans don't care about children's healthcare, with millions still uninsured, they don't care about the middle class or Katrina victims, as demonstrated by the new MBNA sponsored bankruptcy legislation going into affect this month, or old people, whose money they'd hoped to gamble with via W's Social Security privatization scheme, what chance did wildlife ever have?