Saturday, March 31, 2007

American Stasi: Part 2

[x-posted at Daily Kos]

In my post, American Stasi, I noted the case of an ISP owner who the FBI attempted to force to spy on one of his customers using one of those National Security Letters whose abuse by the FBI has recently come under fire.

At the time I noted how very much this resembled the behavior of the dreaded East German secret police, the Stasi, which enlisted hundreds of thousands of citizen spies during its reign of terror.

The Isp owner was traunatized by his experience as an unwilling spy and the wall of lies his situaton built between himself and his co-workers, friends, and family.

Fortunately for the new American Stasi, there are plenty of potential volunteers. Indeed Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter's wacky soul-mate, is even starting a club for them.

Such as Malkin get no links from me, but here's the story from Chris Kelly writing at HuffingtonPost:

Most Americans just rolled over and surrendered when Arab terrorists took over the government and the media, but not Michelle Malkin.
She's fighting back. By starting a club.

All you have to do to join is report everyone you see who seems to be a foreigner. Or who seems to tolerate foreigners. Or who may be thinking foreigner-tolerating thoughts.

It's like the Junior Spies in 1984, only totally fun.

It's called The John Doe Movement and it's got an oath and everything. And if you join not only will you fight Islamofascism, but you can also come to Michelle's house after school, have a healthy snack, and play with her Breyer Horses. Well, not play with them. But, you know, look at them.

You also get a button. Wanna sign up?

Here's the pledge:

"Dear Muslim Terrorist Plotter/Planner/Funder/Enabler/Apologist,

You do not know me. But I am on the lookout for you. You are my enemy.
And I am yours.

I am John Doe.

I am traveling on your plane. I am riding on your train. I am at your bus stop. I am on your street. I am in your subway car. I am on your lift..."

(Now, I know what you're thinking: That sounds like a lot of travel. And who says "lift?" Are you Madonna? But don't get hung up on that. Let her talk.)

" ... I am your neighbor. I am your customer. I am your classmate. I am your boss."

(I am Polly Pocket.)

"...I am John Doe.

Malkin's "pledge" continues on at some length in that tenor and if you're interested please click the above link to read Mr. Kelly's full post. If you have the stomach for it he even supplies a link to Ms. Malkin's original.

I can only note with fear (and mocking) that those who wish to create an American Stasi have an able co-conspirator in Ms. Malkin and her fellow travelers.

Oh, and that ISP owner? Because of an FBI gag order, he was forced to identify himself as...John Doe.

Ah, the brave new world.

Confessions of a former Bushie

The New York Times features a story about former Bush confidant and Democratic convert Matthew Dowd.

A quote that's a masterpiece of understatement: Looking back, Mr. Dowd now says his faith in Mr. Bush was misplaced.

Go. Read. Now.

Monica Goodling: faith-based incompetence in the Bush administration

Few memes are so accepted as Common Wisdom, (within the progressive community anyway) as that of Bush's faith-based government. The ubiquitous response on the left has been its proud allegiance to the "reality-based" community, and Stephen Colbert's witty formulation that, "reality has a well known liberal bias".

But few, and certainly few of the MSM, have really investigated the depth with which the Bush administration has been infiltrated by literal members of the aforesaid faith-based community. Unti now.

One of the oddest little tidbits of information about Monica Goodling, the DoJ deputy who is taking the fifth rather than testify before congress about her role in Gonzogate, was the identity of her law school, Pat Robertson's Regent University School of Law.

And despite the fact that no-one outside the evangelical community has ever before heard of this institution of higher (much higher, heavenly you might say) learning, apparently it's had a huge impact on the nuts and bolts operation of the Bush administration.

As Max Blumenthal, posting at HuffingtonPost points out, our Republican Monica, is not alone in calling Regent her alma mater:

Goodling's involvement in Attorneygate is not the only aspect of her role in the Bush administration that bears examination. Her membership in a cadre of 150 graduates of Pat Robertson's Regent University currently serving in the administration is another, equally revealing component of the White House's political program.

Goodling earned her law degree from Regent, an institution founded by Robertson "to produce Christian leaders who will make a difference, who will change the world." Helping to purge politically disloyal federal prosecutors is just one way Goodling has helped fulfill Robertson's revolutionary goals.

And Regent is far from the only source of holier-than-thou Bush appointments. As Garry Willis makes clear in his extensively backgrounded article in the New York Review of Books, such agents of reaction were placed specifically in an effort to assuage Bush's evangelical supporters. In fact, just as Bush put corporate shills in positions of power on his economic deprtments, he put evangelicals in charge of his social bureaucracies.

How? From Mr. Willis:

The head of the White House Office of Personnel was Kay Coles James, a former dean of Pat Robertson's Regent University and a former vice-president of Gary Bauer's Family Research Council, the conservative Christian lobbying group that had been set up as the Washington branch of James Dobson's Focus on the Family. She knew whom to put where, or knew the religious right people who knew. An evangelical was in charge of placing evangelicals throughout the bureaucracy. The head lobbyist for the Family Research Council boasted that "a lot of FRC people are in place" in the administration. The evangelicals knew which positions could affect their agenda, whom to replace, and whom they wanted appointed. This was true for the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, and Health and Human Services—agencies that would rule on or administer matters dear to the evangelical causes. [Emphasis mine-CK]

Mr. Willis' article should be read in full to appreciate the full depth to which Bush appointees, selected for their adherence to his particularly narrow view of faith rather than say, competence, have penetrated the various executive branch agencies.

The scope of this infiltration is truly breathtaking, though hardly surprising to those of us who've been watching how this wretched administration has trashed this great nation's cities, environment, and military.

More surprising is how the MSM, which now is engaged with much hand-wringing over BushCorp™ incompetence, refuses to talk about exactly why this is so.

[Big hat tip to Digby for pointing me to the Willis article]

Friday, March 30, 2007

President George Costanza?

Well, apparently, it may as well be.

[H/t Andrew Sullivan]

Bush funding timeline arbitrary and false

Stop me if you've heard this before. The Bush administration, facing a real problem, none the less feels it somehow important to ratchet up their rhetoric, making the situation seem even more dire than it already is.

Sure, it's said, that sex sells. But being Republicans they can't use that. They use fear instead.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the administration has been urgently claiming that they must get the Emergency Funding Bill now being so hotly debated because of its timetable provisions by April 15, lest the military run short of cash and do things like cut back on the body armor the troops in Iraq still don't have.

Funny thing, it turns out that according to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, the military currently has funds to last until July. Josh Marshall, who continues to be the got to guy on the Purgegate, Gonzogate, whatever scandal, has the story:

President Bush says the Iraq/Afghanistan emergency budget supplemental is needed by mid-April or funding for the US troops in those countries will run out. A new Congressional Research Service report says that's not true. Current funds could last them through July. (ed.note: The news report is behind the subscription wall of NJ Congress Daily.)

So why did the president move up the date? Clearly to pressure congress into backing away from its efforts to provide some much needed oversight of Bush's war, and to do so soon.

But since every day provides more evidence (as if we needed any) that Bush's expedition in Iraq is doomed to failure, escalation surge or no, every day that congress continues to stand up Bush is a day closer to bringing this fiasco to its ignominious end.

[H/t Shaun Mullen at TMV]

Krauthammer: playing out his contract

More and more frequently people are asking, why should we continue to be subjected to the forcasts of those who were so wrong in their prognostications about the war in Iraq?

A good question, for which I can offer only a hypothesis, they're still under contract.

Such is the only explanation I can give as to why the Washington Post continues to publish the blatherings of folks like Charles Krauthammer.

Today he excoriates those who oppose the war in Iraq for their lack of strategic vision.

The Democratic insistence on the primacy of Afghanistan makes no strategic sense. Instead, it reflects a sensibility. They would rather support the Afghan war because its origins are cleaner, the casus belli clearer, the moral texture of the enterprise more comfortable. Afghanistan is a war of righteous revenge and restitution, law enforcement on the grandest of scales. As senator and presidential candidate Joe Biden put it, "If there was a totally just war since World War II, it is the war in Afghanistan."

And why, pray tell, would Democrats favor a war with a clear casus belli over one which the great strategic thinker Charles Krauthammer favors?

Perhaps it's because the American public, in all their foolishness, thinks that wars should only be fought when we are provoked, that wars are so terrible they should only be fought when our lives are truly threatened, that wars should be fought, not against those who might wish us harm, but against those who have actually caused us harm.

But then, Krauthammer clearly disdains the wisdom of democratic government, clearly preferring that such decisions be left to the philosopher kings, such as himself, who know the truth, regardless of how frequently and how badly they've been wrong in the past.


I could spend much more time reviling the likes of Krauthammer, but instead I'll just post a link to the comments he's garnered. Sad that so many of us fail to bow to the superior mind.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Bill Richardson: Worth a look

As I've said before, there are no circumstances under which I can foresee voting for anyone other than the Democratic nominee for president. Certainly ANYONE in the Democratic field, up to and including Dennis Kucinich is vastly superior to the current occupant of the Oval Office.

That being said, I am currently leaning towards Bill Richardson, and, at the very least, hope he gets earnest consideration by other Democratic voters.

I can understand Hillary's appeal, with her immense warchest and connection to the previous Democratic president, but he stances and approach, for me smack too much of the Democratic party of the past, with its dedication to big money and special interests.

Obama still serves as the most inspirational Democrat in the race, and, along with John Edwards, strikes me as the future face of the party. But frankly, given the mess the current president is going to leave for the next, I'd prefer someone with more executive experience and international expertise.

To my mind Bill Richardson is someone who embodies both.

From Robert Guttman, Director of the Center on Politics & Foreign Relations at Johns Hopkins, blogging at HuffPost:

Richardson is knowledgeable on the foreign policy issues of the day. His background as a congressman, United Nations Ambassador and Energy Secretary plus his frequent successful role as a roving diplomat who goes abroad to solve problems from Sudan to North Korea were readily apparent.

As he said in his talk, "I am a governor with foreign policy experience". Looking at the fact that four out of five of America's last presidents have been governors (Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush) and they have hailed from southern or southwestern states - Georgia, California, Arkansas and Texas - and you see in New Mexico Governor Richardson a competent and competitive Democratic candidate for president in 2008.

Richardson is exactly the sort of person one used to expect to get from Republicans, smart, tough, and competent. And I'm increasingly of the mind that he is exactly who the United States will need as its next president.

(Unless Al Gore decides to run.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Just boys, er, Republicans being boys

Lies, betrayal, email, til now the scandals revolving around Bushie lapdog Alberto Gonzales, has had it all, except sex.

Until now.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, both already under siege for other matters, are now being accused of failing to prosecute officers of the Texas Youth Commission after a Texas Ranger investigation documented that guards and administrators were sexually abusing the institution's teenage boy inmates.

Among the charges in the Texas Ranger report were that administrators would rouse boys from their sleep for the purpose of conducting all-night sex parties. [Emphasis mine-CK]

Of course I can kind of understand if Gonzalees was confused, after all, as Mark Foley demonstrated, this sort of thing is just boys being boys for Republicans.

Fox, henhouse. Henhouse, fox.

One of the really cool things about government is that, although Congress passes laws, it's up to the executive branch (read BushCorp™) to implement those laws.

The various agencies do this by implementing regulations which are not subject to Congressional approval, unless Congress is paying attention, which, you may have noticed, hasn't happened for the last six years.

So it is with the Interior Department which is revamping its rules regarding endangered species. You'll not be hugely surprised that the proposed regulations now being floated are cleverly desighned to make it harder to classify new species as endangered, and to be generally more friendly to a variety of business interests. has the scoop:

March 27, 2007 | The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is maneuvering to fundamentally weaken the Endangered Species Act, its strategy laid out in an internal 117-page draft proposal obtained by Salon. The proposed changes limit the number of species that can be protected and curtail the acres of wildlife habitat to be preserved. It shifts authority to enforce the act from the federal government to the states, and it dilutes legal barriers that protect habitat from sprawl, logging or mining.

"The proposed changes fundamentally gut the intent of the Endangered Species Act," says Jan Hasselman, a Seattle attorney with Earthjustice, an environmental law firm, who helped Salon interpret the proposal. "This is a no-holds-barred end run around one of America's most popular environmental protections. If these regulations stand up, the act will no longer provide a safety net for animals and plants on the brink of extinction."

Read the article for the whole dreadful story. But you'll not be surprised that the agency was trying to keep this whole sad affair secret. Guess they heard about the November elections, even if the Justice Department didn't.

But meanwhile suspicions that Fish and Wildlife is shilling for commercial interests has recently been confirmed by the NY Times.

WASHINGTON, March 28 — A top-ranking official overseeing the Fish and Wildlife Service at the Interior Department rode roughshod over agency scientists, and decisions made on her watch may not survive court challenges, investigators within the Interior Department have found.

Their report, sent to Congress this week by the department’s inspector general, does not accuse the official, Julie A. MacDonald, the deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, of any crime. But it does find that she violated federal rules when she sent internal agency documents to industry lobbyists.

Ms. MacDonald, an engineer by training, has provoked complaints from some wildlife biologists and lawyers in the agency for aggressive advocacy for industries’ views of the science that underlies agency decisions. The words of more than a dozen high-ranking career employees, from Interior Department headquarters and regional offices in California and Oregon, who are quoted usually by title in the report, describe a manager determined to see that agency findings and the underlying science conform with policy goals.

Stop me if you heard this before. A Bush appointee turns out to be a party hack whose sole interest is in intra-agency shilling for Bush's corporate masters and much more concerned about pursuing Bush ideology than about actual science or, you know, the public good.

The story of BushCorp™ writ over and over again.

Tony Snow: Get well soon

Let me join the many others across the blogosphere in wishing White aHouse spokesman Tony Snow a speedy recovery.

Despite our political differences, the big C is something I wouldn't wish on anyone.

Besides which, I don't think his current replacement is going to work out:

Seriously, hope to see you spinning real soon.

Iraq Withdrawal: A Congressional Endgame

In non-scandal news (except in the sense that our entire participation in the Iraqi occupation should be seen as scandalous), the Senate, by a 50-48 vote approved setting a pullout timeline as part of a spending bill, initially requested by President Bush, to allow him to continue his occupation.

The next step is for the Senate and House versions of this bill to go into discussions as to how they're differences may be reconciled before a final bill is submitted to the President. And while I've no idea what form that final reconciliation will take (will it have the Senate withdrawal timeline or the House's, will it contain some form of the troop readiness requirements propounded by John Murtha?), whatever its final form, the bill will certainly have some kind of withdrawal timeline included.

Bush has promised, as he did again today, to veto any bill conaining such a timeline.

One important point to note: Senate Republicans could have blocked that vote, but chose not to, preferring instead to hide behind rely upon Bush's veto pen to do the work for them. What this tells me is that Republicans are unwilling to be seen as the ones responsible for blocking this measure, they let it come to a vote, so they could be on record against, all the while knowing that their opposition wouldn't be the final say. Bush, in their calculations, will get that.

And keep in mind, Bush has said that a spending bill must be passed by April 15th (why does that date sound familiar?), else his war willl run low on money.

That all being said, here's my speculation on how this may play out.

Sometime in the next week or so a reconciled bill containing a withdrawal timeline of some sort will go to Bush.

At which point Bush will either cave, claiming the dire need for the funding, and reluctantly sign the measure, or he will veto it as promised. Since I doubt Bush will show the wisdom of accepting the out the Democratic Congress has given him ("I know the timeline's wrong, but we gotta have the money"), I expect him to veto.

At which point Republicans will have to face the decision which they only put off with yesterday's vote.

Because the FINAL decision doesn't rest with the President. It rests with them.

To date, the headlines that will have run are these:

  • "Congress Sends Emergency Spending Bill with Withdrawal Timeline to President."
  • "Bush Vetos Timeline Spending Bill"

The next headline is up to the Republicans, either:

  • "Congress Overrides Bush Veto: Troops to come home by March 2008"

  • "Republicans Back Bush, Kill Emergency Funding Bill: Troops to remain in Iraq indefinitely"

Given American sentiment on Iraq, and given that most of those same Republicans will be up for re-election in 2008, were I a Republican Congresscritter, I know which headline I'd rather see.

[UPDATE: The vote referred to above was technically on an amendment to the Senate's funding resolution, but which was, in effect, decisive, making the funding resolution's passsage inevitable, which it now has done, by a 51-47 vote-CK]

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A view of Iraq's future?

NO doubt the Bushies will be spinning this as good news, though it's a thin reed they're clutching.

From the Washington Post:

BAGHDAD -- In front of a blue metal gate, women in black abayas clutch food ration cards and exhibit a confidence rarely felt in the Iraqi capital. They will feed their families tonight. Several yards away, men sit behind wooden desks poring over hundreds of colorful folders, one each for Shiite families forced to flee their homes. Every family will be given a new life.

This busy office in the heart of the vast Shiite slum of Sadr City is not an arm of the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Nor is it a relief agency. It is the domain of the 33-year-old Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Here, Sadr doles out aid to his neediest followers, from cradle to grave, filling a void in a desperately uncertain country.

"We get no help from Maliki. Only Sayyid Moqtada helps us," said Saleh al-Ghathbawi, a tall, balding clerk in a blue tracksuit, using the honorific that signifies Sadr's descent from the prophet Muhammad.

Keep in mind that the US views al-Sadr as a terrorist and was long touted as a potential target of the surge.

But be that as it may, the surge must be working you say? Well sort of. From later in the same article:

Despite U.S. pressure, the Maliki government has not challenged Sadr's authority. The prime minister, who depends on Sadr for political support, has publicly chastised the U.S. military for staging raids into Sadr City. American troops patrol the streets now, but U.S. generals concede that they would not be able to do so without Sadr's cooperation.

In interviews across Sadr City, residents questioned the need for the presence of U.S. troops, saying they already felt safe. They also questioned why U.S. troops were raiding the homes of militia members.

"If it wasn't for the Mahdi Army, there would be a lot of problems here," said Abdul Sattar Ali, 70, silver-haired and unemployed, who has lived in Sadr City for four decades. [Emphasis mine-CK]

A well known axiom of anti-insurgency strategy is the battle for the "hearts and minds" of the local population.

It appears that, if anything, the US is only helping to win that battle for Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi army.

Free Shaquanda Cotton

Ah, justice in "post-rascist" America.

Justin Gardner has the full story (and links) over at The Moderate Voice.

And Mother's been on this story for a while.

And while we're at it, I've a suggestion for a sequel to What's the Matter with Kansas?: What the heck's with Texas?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Our Republican Monica takes the fifth

You've seen this scene before.

A beefy, olive complexioned man in a shark-skin suit, with a nick name that sounds like Vinny the Weasel, sweats beneath the steely gaze of his intrepid Senatorial interlocutor.

Senator: Mr. the Weasel, these documents (waves thick sheaf of papers) show that you were involved in a conspiracy to see that one Jimmy the Rat, would soon be sleeping with the fishes. Do you deny this charge?

Vinny the Weasel (after leaning over and holding an intense, though inaudible conversation with the attorney at his side): My lawyer tells me I gotta take the fifth.

The hearing room errupts in pandemonium.

(Cut to)

Vinny the Weasal in chains and oddly stripped jumpsuit being led to the hoosegow.

(Fade to black. Roll end credits)

Well, for today's edition of the Saga of the Gonzales 8 (will someone please establish a "gate" name for this fiasco so I know what to call it?), the part of Vinny the Weasel will be played by DoJ White House liason Monica M. Goodling.

Oh god, not another Monica.

Happily, for the moral fiber of this nation, this Monica has never given any president a blowjob (as far as we know).

What we do know is this. That this senior counselor to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, after taking an indefinite and unspecified leave of absence form her job at Justice last week, was this week called to testifiy before the Senate regarding her role in Purgegate (c'mon folks, let's settle on that nickname and soon).

And this afternoon we now find out that our Republican Monica (shouldn't EVERY party have its own Monica?) will, rather than testify, be instead taking the fifth.

Finer legal minds than mine will have to analyze the implications of her move. Certainly I have a hard time blaming her for not wanting to become a scapegoat for this corrupt and incompetent administration. But this is exremely bad news for the Bushies (hey, I wonder if they have a softball team? I can suggest a name). It just doesn't look good.

I'm especially looking forward to hearing wingnut spin doctors explain the finer points of Ohio v. Reiner and how, just because Monica is invoking her right against self-incrimination, it doesn't mean she's done anything incriminating.

That ought to go over well with the American public.

Unless they've seen the movie.

Some random reactions around the 'sphere:

The commenters at TPM Muckraker are, um skeptical.

One of Andrew Sullivan's readers think she should be offered immunity so she can testify (I agree, Ms. Goodling's a small fish in this scummy pond).

Over at Daily Kos mcjoan notes that Republican's aren't always big supporters of the Fifth Amendment, at least when (surprise, surprise, surprise) it applies to Clintons.

Breaking: New Scandal at the GSA

So many scandals, so little time.

I have to run off for a morning meeting, but I couldn't let pass this article in the Washington Post: GSA Chief Is Accused of Playing Politics.

You have to read fairly deep into the article to get the details of no-bid contracts for friends, and irresponsible renewal of overpriced sorporate contracts, but I wanted to make a brief comment on the last paragraph article.

"There was no undue influence in the award of the Sun Microsystems renewal contract," she [GSA Administrator Doan] wrote to Waxman. "I had no role whatsoever in any personnel actions involving anyone involved in those contract negotiations."

Indeed. A la Scooter Libby and Kyle Sampson, it was no doubt all her chief of staff's fault.

I'll be calling ewe-oo-oo-oo, oo-oo-ooooo!

[x-posted at Daily Kos]

In his 2006 State of the Union address, President Bush made a rather mystyfying reference, when he called for legislation to prohibit "human-animal hybrids".

At the time the comment left me and quite a few others curious as to why someone had slipped such an odd reference into the SOTU.

But with all due apologies, it turns out the president's worst nightmares have become reality. Run for your lives it's human-sheep hybrids!

Scientists have created the world's first human-sheep chimera - which has the body of a sheep and half-human organs.

The sheep have 15 per cent human cells and 85 per cent animal cells - and their evolution brings the prospect of animal organs being transplanted into humans one step closer.

Despite the jokes to come (from myself included), the process is actually very important for those in need of an organ transplant because the human cells used for the chimera would be from the recipient, reducing chances of rejection.

But enough of that, now for the joke:

How do you like my new sweater, it’s 80% Merino, 5% cotton and 15% Kevin.

[H/t to Joe Gandelman]

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Newsflash: BushCorp™ politicizes DoJ

But don't expect film at 11.

Though it strikes me as patently obvious that an administration that would let ideology guide us into the occupation of Iraq wouldn't hesitate to politicize the hypothetically apolitical Department of Justice, it appears the MSM is just catching on.

Triggered by the recent revelations of the politcal nature, perhaps criminally so, of the firings of the Gonzales 8, others are coming forward to a media that is shocked, shocked I tell you, that BushCorp™ has politicized the DoJ.

As the LA Times headline says:

Justice Department tugged to the right: Under Bush, the department has been tainted by politics, many say.

WASHINGTON — Not long after President Bush was first sworn in, White House political guru Karl Rove and his lieutenants met with officials of nearly every Cabinet agency to brief top officials on the latest polling data and issues that could influence voters and key constituencies.

But the departments of Justice, Defense and State were exempt. Given their missions — to administer federal laws, protect national security and conduct foreign policy — it was considered inappropriate to make such partisan presentations to them.

That sentiment didn't last long.

But while BushCorp™'s ever dwindling corp of defenders may claim that administrations always set political goals for their attorneys, that is a far cry from interfering in particular cases, which interference is unethical, and can be illegal.

Nonetheless, the critics tied their allegations to those described by two of the fired U.S. attorneys. David C. Iglesias of Albuquerque, N.M., and John McKay of Seattle have said they felt pressure from Republican officials to prosecute alleged voter fraud in their states.

Both said their offices reviewed the cases and concluded the evidence did not warrant prosecution.


Rich, a 37-year department veteran, said a partisan litmus test in hiring and decision-making has undermined a tradition of nonpartisan professionalism in the division.

"Unfortunately, since this administration took office, that professionalism and nonpartisan commitment to the historic mission of the division has been replaced by unprecedented political decision-making," he told the House Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on the Constitution, civil rights and civil liberties on Thursday.

[Recently retired head of the DoJ's Civil Rights Division, Joseph D.] Rich's views were backed by other department veterans who had left the department in recent years. Many, like Rich, have joined civil rights organizations, such as the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, where Rich now works.

"The U.S. attorneys' firing confirmed my view that at the highest levels of DOJ it was decided that politics would play a role in how decisions were made," said Mark Posner, a former civil rights division attorney who contributed to a book-length report released by a civil rights group in Washington last week called "The Erosion of Rights: Declining Civil Rights Enforcement Under the Bush Administration."

The Civil Rights Division veterans focused their criticism on major voting case decisions over the last six years that they say have generally benefited the GOP.

The most recent case concerned a 2005 Georgia law that required voters to provide photo identification. Staff attorneys raised concerns about the law after the Georgia secretary of state supplied data showing that tens of thousands of voters might not have driver's licenses or other prescribed forms of identification. They said the plan could effectively disenfranchise large numbers of black voters.

The staff objections were ignored, department veterans said, and the Georgia ID rule was approved by the Justice Department 24 hours after the staff report was filed.

Again, none of this is shocking stuff, in the sense that such is obviously SOP for our Bushie government.

And I'm currently torn between which I find more shocking, that the MSM never seemed to notice, or that it's finally noticing now.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The sound of one shoe dropping

Last week, when Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez claimed that he "was not involved in any discussions about what was going on" we knew that he was either incompetent or lying.

Now we know which.

As the AP is reporting:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales approved plans to fire several U.S. attorneys in an hourlong meeting last fall, according to documents released Friday that indicate he was more involved in the dismissals than he has claimed.

Last week, Gonzales said he ''was not involved in any discussions about what was going on'' in the firings of eight prosecutors that has since led to a political firestorm and calls for his ouster.

A Nov. 27 meeting, in which the attorney general and at least five top Justice Department officials participated, focused on a five-step plan for carrying out the firings of the prosecutors, Gonzales' aides said late Friday.

There, Gonzales signed off on the plan, which was drafted by his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson. Sampson resigned last week. Another Justice aide closely involved in the dismissals, White House liaison Monica Goodling, has also taken a leave of absence, two officials said.

Oops, good thing he wasn't under oath, but shouldn't baldface lies to the American people carry some sort of penalty?

I'm just asking.

Breaking News: Vampires don't exist

I suppose this must be considered good news.

But while I suppose I'll be able to sleep a bit easier at night I'm afraid my investment in garlic futures is totally going to tank.

The American Stasi

You may recall that the FBI has recently been found to have abused one of its Patriot Act powers by issuing National Security Letters (essentially subpoenas but without the piddling detail of court approval) without following even the very loose requirements of the Act. Between 2003 and 2005 the FBI issued over 140,000 of them.

I'd like to highlight a fascinating letter in today's Washington Post written by a person who was issued one of those letters, someone who remains anonymous, because, like all such persons, he continues to be compelled to refrain from revealing his identity because of a gag order forbidding him to reveal any details of the situation to anybody.

Three years ago, I received a national security letter (NSL) in my capacity as the president of a small Internet access and consulting business. The letter ordered me to provide sensitive information about one of my clients. There was no indication that a judge had reviewed or approved the letter, and it turned out that none had. The letter came with a gag provision that prohibited me from telling anyone, including my client, that the FBI was seeking this information. Based on the context of the demand -- a context that the FBI still won't let me discuss publicly -- I suspected that the FBI was abusing its power and that the letter sought information to which the FBI was not entitled.

Given his doubts, Mr. Doe went to the ACLU who took up his case, with the effect that he never complied to the NSL, which, um, request, has since been dropped after all. It seems that Mr. Doe's potential information wasn't quite so vital to national security after all.

Most interesting to me are the effects of the gag order under which Mr. Doe continues to toil.

Living under the gag order has been stressful and surreal. Under the threat of criminal prosecution, I must hide all aspects of my involvement in the case -- including the mere fact that I received an NSL -- from my colleagues, my family and my friends. When I meet with my attorneys I cannot tell my girlfriend where I am going or where I have been. I hide any papers related to the case in a place where she will not look. When clients and friends ask me whether I am the one challenging the constitutionality of the NSL statute, I have no choice but to look them in the eye and lie.

I resent being conscripted as a secret informer for the government and being made to mislead those who are close to me, especially because I have doubts about the legitimacy of the underlying investigation.

In the bad old days of the cold war the East German secret police (Stasi) were infamous for their penetration into the everyday lives of their comrades.

Their effectiveness was based in large part on their use of "Unofficial collaborators", by the end of the cold war employing over 300,000 of these citizen spies.

It's not clear to me how many of these spies were willing collaborators and how many were coerced by the Stasi to co-operate.

But it is certainly a sad commentary on the present state of affairs that the FBI's behavior bears such a startling similarity to that of the dreaded Stasi.


Just in case you need another example of how lame is the MSM, witness today's brouhaha over the misreporting of the "end" of the Edwards campaign.

I'm not going to excerpt Howard Kurtz's outline of how this bit of misinformation exploded across our airwaves. Just read it for yourself and weep.

Suffice it to say that it is a case study for how the right wing noise machine operates and how it enlists the ever willing dupes of the MSM in its cause.

First Lady: Elizabeth Edwards

Disclosure: I like John Edwards and think his populist approach is a necessary counterweight to the current corporate domination of the US government. As they said in the movie, the devil's greatest trick was convincing the world he didn't exist. So it is with the class warfare currently being won by the corporate classses who have made even the mention of class warfare taboo.

So be it.

As you should be aware by now, John's wife Elizabeth is having to renew her struggle against cancer. And as a thinking, feeling human being your heart goes out for her and her family, as well as for the millions of others whose suffering will not have the advantage of treatments made available solely because of personal wealth.

And, in fact, while facing her own personal crisis, Elizabeth Edwards' heart goes out to those uninsured others as well. And in fact, Mrs. Edwards is a wise enough person to recognize that she, despite her disease, is, in fact, one of the lucky few. That being a person of wealth she stands a decent chance of living on despite her disease.

She recognizes that her husband advocates policies that would give that same chance of survival to millions of her fellow Americans.

And so, she has decided that her husband should not forgo his pursuit of the presidency, but should instead pursue a course of action that could give millions of Americans the same opportunities for healthcare that she currently enjoys.

Rush Limbaugh claims that the Edwards' announcement today was an effort "to jump-start the campaign."

I claim that Limbaugh's natterings say much more about the condition of Limbaugh's drug-addled soul than those of the Edwards'.

As for Elizabeth Edwards, I'd be proud to call her the first lady.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Drip, drip, drip

Countdown with Keith Olbermann has become for many as much "Must See" TV as Heroes or Lost, though the plot twists, given the predictable disingenuousness of the Bush administration, are never quite as shocking (is it me or is Locke REALLY going over the edge?).

Anyway, last night's Countdown featured an interview with Senator Charles Schumer, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, discussing Bush's refusal to let his aides testify under oath regarding the Gonzales 8 investigation.

One quote from Senator Schumer struck me as particularly interesting, as a veiled threat, as well as an invitation for DoJ people to step forward:

There are enough disgruntled people in the Justice Department in particular - because they really resented what happened here - that the information is going to come out. It can either come out 'drip, drip, drip' or it'll come out all at once, we'll get to the bottom of it in a complete way and move one (sic). It would be much better for the White House, as well as the Justice Department and the country, if they let it all come out at once. [Emphasis mine-CK]

Now we see that, as I noted in an earlier post, this is exactly what is happening.

And I strongly suspect, as does Senator Schumer, that Sharon Y. Eubanks is the only government attorney who knows that her position as an officer of the court (which lawyers are) was compromised by political directives from on high.

How high?

That's really the question isn't it?

The Law

With the politicization of the Justice Department now an open secret it's no surprise that other government lawyers are coming forward.

The leader of the Justice Department team that prosecuted a landmark lawsuit against tobacco companies said yesterday that Bush administration political appointees repeatedly ordered her to take steps that weakened the government's racketeering case.

Sharon Y. Eubanks said Bush loyalists in Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's office began micromanaging the team's strategy in the final weeks of the 2005 trial, to the detriment of the government's claim that the industry had conspired to lie to U.S. smokers.

She said a supervisor demanded that she and her trial team drop recommendations that tobacco executives be removed from their corporate positions as a possible penalty. He and two others instructed her to tell key witnesses to change their testimony. And they ordered Eubanks to read verbatim a closing argument they had rewritten for her, she said.

"The political people were pushing the buttons and ordering us to say what we said," Eubanks said. "And because of that, we failed to zealously represent the interests of the American public."

Despite CW antipathy towards the legal profession, the people that I met in law school were uniformly sincere individuals whose dedication to the rule of law was unquestionable.

For what is "rule of law" but the recognition that authority is better placed in the accumulated wisdom of a people, "the law", than in the fleeting self-interest of any individual. Even if that individual has been chosen President of the United States.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Conservative paper calls for Bush to allow aide testimony under oath

North San Diego County is one of the most conservative areas in the state of California.

How conservative?

When its Republican Congressman Randall "Duke" Cunningham admitted to and was convicted of corruption charges (prosecuted, perhaps not so coincidentally by Carol Lam, one of the Gonzales 8), the district still chose to elect another Republican to take his place.

So it can't be good news for the Bushies (my new favoritist term) when the local paper for this very conservative area calls for Karl Rove and Harriet Miers to testify under oath and on the record.

Given that he has so many other more important issues to manage -- there's a war on, after all -- and the fact that this is only the first salvo in what promises to be a long battle, President Bush should submit to this round of subpoenas. Again, Congress is right to pursue the testimony, under oath, of government officials whose previous comments misled our elected representatives and the public, whether deliberately or not.

President Bush still has a chance to avoid the approaching legal showdown between two branches of government. He would be well advised to wait for the next charge by the Democrats in Congress to stand his ground. That attack almost certainly will be on matters of more importance, and his defense will be far less compromised by the mistakes of his own men.

Prudent advice, given with the President's best interests in mind.

Almost makes me hope he's too stubborn to take it.

Not all the media lack vision

On this, the four year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, I've already taken note of just how wrong the rightwing press was in its analysis of this disaster.

I'd like to point out one visionary publication that had it right. From the March 26, 2003 edition of...The Onion:

And what exactly is our endgame here? Do we really believe that we can install Gen. Tommy Franks as the ruler of Iraq? Is our arrogance and hubris so great that we actually believe that a U.S. provisional military regime will be welcomed with open arms by the Iraqi people? Democracy cannot possibly thrive under coercion. To take over a country and impose one's own system of government without regard for the people of that country is the very antithesis of democracy. And it is doomed to fail.

And the good folks at the Onion were not only prescient, they were fair to a fault, helpfully providing a counterpoint argument:

"A war against Iraq is not only morally wrong, it will be an unmitigated disaster"?

Sorry, no, I disagree.

"To take over a country and impose one's own system of government without regard for the people of that country is the very antithesis of democracy"?

You are completely wrong.

Trust me, it's all going to work out perfect. Nothing bad is going to happen. It's all under control.

Why do you keep saying these things? I can tell when there's trouble looming, and I really don't sense that right now. We're in control of this situation, and we know what we're doing. So stop being so pessimistic.

Look, you've been proven wrong, so stop talking. You've had your say already. Be quiet, okay? Everything's fine.

You're wrong.

Damn these guys are good.

Bush v. Congress: my summary analysis

Some of you may be wondering why Congress is rejecting President Bush's self-styled "reasonable" offer to let Karl Rove and Harriet Miers testify before congress only on condition that they not be under oath and under conditions that prevent the public from ever finding out what was said.

Let me break this argument down to its essentials (I'm paraphrasing of course).

President to Congress and the public: "Trust us".

Congress to President: "Yeah, right".

For those of you who are interested in a rather more extensive analysis of the confrontation, as well as a thorough sampling of blogosphere reaction may I recommend Joe Gandelman's extensive post over at The Moderate Voice.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Cassandra Speaks

From Wikipedia:

In Greek mythology, Cassandra (Greek: Κασσάνδρα "she who entangles men") (also known as Alexandra) was a daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy whose beauty caused Apollo to grant her the gift of prophecy. However, when she did not return his love, Apollo placed a curse on her so that no one would ever believe her predictions.

A big tip of the hat to Jackson Williams blogging at HuffingtonPost for digging up this gem from neo-con tough talker William Kristol's Weekly Standard, circa 2003.

On the 4th anniversary of the onset of Bush's folly, and while the same idiots are touting the surge in Iraq, as well as an attack on Iran, it seems a suitable time to review their mockery of those among the sane with the temerity to doubt the US' invasion of Iraq.

Keep the above definition in mind as you savor the irony of what the Weekly Standard too appropriately calls The Cassandra Chronicles:

AREN'T YOU PROUD of us? For most of this past week, as an overwhelmingly successful, lightning-quick Anglo-American military assault liberated Iraq's capital city, and ordinary Baghdadis poured into the streets to kiss our GIs and stomp on pictures of Saddam Hussein, THE SCRAPBOOK has remained the soul of magnanimity and restraint.

Here in our office there's this giant archive of newsclips, transcripts, and Internet postings we collected in the months preceding the war, wherein a world community of jackasses confidently predicted that the events lately unfolding on our television screens could not and would not ever take place. And you can imagine the temptation, we're sure: A lesser SCRAPBOOK would throw open the file boxes and run through the streets with treasures like these, laughing hysterically.

"This invasion of Iraq, if it goes off, will join the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Desert One, Beirut, and Somalia in the history of military catastrophe. What will set it apart, distinguishing it for all time, is the immense--and transparent--political stupidity." --Chris Matthews, San Francisco Chronicle, August 25, 2002

The whole article is like this. And if those mocked turned out to be slightly off in the details, they were more than correct in the assessment of the ultimate outcome of this disaster. And certainly more correect than the sooth-sayers at the Standard.

Indeed it's Cassandra all over again, prophets telling the truth, but doomed to see their words fall on deaf ears.

At least those of Bill Kristol and their ilk.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

US Attorney fired for investigating GOPers, the obvious confirmed

In a startling confirmation of the obvious (my milieu if you'll recall), Senator Dianne Feinstein revealed today on Meet the Press that US Attorney Carol Lam was fired because of (gasp) the growing scandal surrounding the investigation of corrupt Republican Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham. From the LA Times:

Lam spearheaded the case against Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the former Republican congressman from Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., who pleaded guilty to bribery and income-tax evasion. He was sentenced in March 2006 to eight years and four months in prison.

Then, Feinstein said, in a broadening of the Cunningham investigation, Lam turned her sights on two of the former congressman's associates: Brent R. Wilkes, a defense contractor, and Kyle Dustin "Dusty" Foggo, a top CIA official who abruptly resigned May 8.

Feinstein said that, on May 10, Lam "sent a notice to the Justice Department saying that there would be two search warrants sent in the case of 'Dusty' Foggo and a defense contractor. The next day, an e-mail went from the Justice Department to the White House."

That May 11 e-mail was from D. Kyle Sampson, chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, to White House Deputy Counsel William Kelley. "The real problem we have right now with Carol Lam ... leads me to conclude that we should have someone ready to be nominated on 11/18, the day her 4-year term expires," it read.

In fact they waited until December 7 to fire Lam along with the rest of the Gonzales 8.

The only surprise here is that the arrogant bastards waited until after the election.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

OPR investigation: the new, bigger Gonzales-gate?

[x-posted at Daily Kos]

And while we're on the subject of criminal White House behavior, here's a story which seems to carry the potential for actionable (read impeachable) offence.
Remember waaay back when there was a bit of a tiff over the revelation that the National Security Agency was surveilling Americans without the judicial oversight required by the US constitution.

It was in the papers a while but then kind of went away because, funny story, the President of the United States denied security clearance to the government officials investigating the case.

Sure, some folks questioned this at the time, but with no investigation there were no facts to report, and hence no news. And, funny story, the Republican dominated Congress declined to investigate further.

Well, are you ready for another funny story?

Turns out that former White House counsel and current Attorney General (at least at the moment), Alberto Gonzales, knew at the time he was advising the President about how to deal with the NSA surveillance investigation, that he (Alberto) was personally a target of that same investigation.

The invaluable Murray Waas:

Shortly before Attorney General Alberto Gonzales advised President Bush last year on whether to shut down a Justice Department inquiry regarding the administration's warrantless domestic eavesdropping program, Gonzales learned that his own conduct would likely be a focus of the investigation, according to government records and interviews.

Bush personally intervened to sideline the Justice Department probe in April 2006 by taking the unusual step of denying investigators the security clearances necessary for their work.

It is unclear whether the president knew at the time of his decision that the Justice inquiry -- to be conducted by the department's internal ethics watchdog, the Office of Professional Responsibility -- would almost certainly examine the conduct of his attorney general.

So, here's a time line for you:
  1. The NYTimes reveals the existence of the NSA's domestic spying program, brouhaha ensues.
  2. OPR (Office of Professional Responsibility, a branch of the Justice Department) announces that it will be investigating the NSA.
  3. Then White House Counsel Gonzales learns that he will also be a subject of the OPR investigation.
  4. Gonzales' client, aka George W. Bush, then quashes the investigation by denying the OPR investigators security clearance to investigate the NSA.
This being the case, two possibilities remain.

Gonzales didn't tell Bush that Gonzales was a subject of the investigation, with-holding pertinent information from his boss who then quashed the investigation for the purported national security reasons.


Gonzales told Bush that he was a subject of the investigation, as one might expect given their relationship, and Bush quashed the investigation to save his protege's ass, using national security as his Nixonian excuse.

If the former was the case Gonzales was merely as incompetent a White House Counsel as he is an AG.

If the latter was the case Bush, Gonzales, and anyone else aware of the situation, was involved in a conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Bush has dodged bullets (figuratively only if you please) all his life, but without a compliant GOP congress to look the other way, will he dodge this one?

[For more background Murray Waas is the go to guy on this story. See his articles here and here.]

Criminal behavior

Dear reader, you may be forgiven for wondering about the brouhaha revolving aroung the firing a a few United States Attorneys. What's the big deal? These people serve (as has oft been repeated in the last few days) at the pleasure of the president. He can fire them whenever he wants. Nothing criminal here.

But if it's truly the non-story that GOPers and their mouthpieces at Fox Noise say it is, what are we to make of the Whitehouse's confused attempts to explain away their behavior?

Just to bring you up to date on the Whitehouse's evolving lies account of the firings of the Gonzales 8 (in chronological order):

  1. Just a routine personnel matter, nothing to see here.
  2. The firings were because the selected attorneys were incompetent, and you know how big we are on competence.
  3. Maybe the firings were political, but we can do that, 'cos y'know Clinton did it, so it must be ok.
  4. The firings weren''t political, and even if they were AG Gonzales didn't know about it, it's Kyle Sampson's (Gonzales' chief of staff) fault.
  5. It's Harriet Miers' fault. Karl Rove was just trying to reign in the politicization of the DoJ.
  6. It's not Harriet's fault, we don't remember whose fault it is, but we're sure it's not the President's.
If you're confused I don't blame you. But what do you expect from this Whitehouse, truth?

(If you'll pardon the webese: ROFLMAO!!!!!!)


For a clear view of what's really going on I'd suggest my own brief analysis.

And for extensive coverage you can't do better than the guy who's been pounding this story so hard even the MSM and Congress sat up and took notice, the blogosphere's own Josh Marshall.

At the moment though I'd like to look at a brief passage buried in today's Washington Post article on the latest iteration of the WH's version of events.

Many of the documents released over the past week were sent or received by Sampson, whose resignation, Gonzales and other Justice officials said, was prompted by his failure to tell others in the department about his contacts with the White House, leading to testimony by McNulty and others that may have been misleading.

Sampson disputed that version of events in his statement last night, saying he "felt he had let the attorney general down in failing to . . . organize a more effective political response to the unfounded accusations of impropriety in the replacement process."

Sampson's statement also suggested that his contacts with the White House were well known within Justice. If the contacts were not brought to the attention of McNulty and others, the statement said, it was "because no one focused on it or deemed it important at the time." [Emphasis mine-CK)

Though clearly intended to back up his "we didn't do anything wrong" defense, Sampson's intentionally self-serving statement holds, for me, a glimmer of the truth.

Remember, this was back in 2005. Bush had just received the "mandate" of an actual electoral victory (as opposed to his appointment by the Supreme Court in 2000) and the Bushies were riding high. Time to clean house.

And what better place to start than with some US attorneys who either hadn't shown proper enthusiasm for prosecuting Democrats or even (gasp, the horror, the horror) had had the temerity to prosecute Republicans.

I'm suggesting that to a Whitehouse where policy IS politics, politicizing the prosecution of the law of the land was no big deal. Business as usual.

So while, to you or I, subverting the criminal justice system might seem an attack on this country's fundamental principal of the rule of law, to those serving King George it was standard operating procedure.

And that's the real crime.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Things that make you go hmmm

Washington is all abuzz about whether US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will have a job a few weeks from now (Google news search here). And while I suppose that office pools on his departure date are as rife as those for the NCAA playoffs, Gonzales' continued employment is a mere distraction from the real point of this situation.

The question is not whether Gonzales is an incompetent who lied to Congress and used his position as the nation's top law officer to further polish Bush's boots.

The question is whether the Whitehouse engaged in a concerted effort, a conspiracy if you will, to punish US Attorneys for not using their offices to further partisan Republican goals.

Pending congressional investigation (thanks be to the deity of your choice for a Democratic Congress) hard evidence is still lacking (though recently released emails from the DoJ are certainly suggestive) but a quick review of the circumstantial is suggestive.

We know that USA David Iglesias disappointed Republican Representative Heather Wilson and Senator Pete Dominici for his failure to file indictments against local New Mexico Democrats before the November, 2006 elections. Please note that indictments have yet to be filed, and may well never be, leading to the suspicion that Mr. Iglesias was only doing his job by not filing charges because there was no chargeable offense.

And failure to file charges just because no crime had been committed appear to account for U.S. Attorney David McKay's spot among the Gonzales 8. "There was no evidence, and I am not going to drag innocent people in front of a grand jury."

Obviously in need of the axe.

San Diego USA Carol Lam was merely the prosecuter behind the conviction of corrupt Republican Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham. 'Nuff said.

Now we learn that fired USA H.E. "Bud" Cummins was involved in an investigation involving the Missouri GOP:

In January 2006, he had begun looking into allegations that Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt had rewarded GOP supporters with lucrative contracts to run the state's driver's license offices. Cummins [USA-Arkansas - CK] handled the case because U.S. attorneys in Missouri had recused themselves over potential conflicts of interest.

But in June, Cummins said, he was told by the Justice Department that he would be fired at year's end to make room for Timothy Griffin — an operative tied to White House political guru Karl Rove.

GOP investigation? Them's hangin' words.

And as a further bonus Cummin's firing opened the door for the placement of Karl Rove protege Tim Griffinin the Arkansas Attorney General's office.

Let's see. Former Arkansas first lady Hillary Clinton is running for President. And the Bush Whitehouse is, according to those darn emails, was especially interested in placing a Rovian puppet in a position to launch any number of investigations in the Clinton's home state.

It's just another of those things that make you go hmmm.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Patience on Iraq

I seem to be recommending a lot of articles from the Washington Post of late, but I suppose that's because I consider it a must read for those interested in national and international affairs.

Which is not to say that I agree with all their writers, and sometimes REALLY disagree with their editorial stances, but by and large they manage to present a broad range of views from people who, truth be told, have mad DC their home beat.

Today's recommendation is from Harold Meyerson who (along with EJ Dionne) is one of the Post's most reliable reasonable progressives.

No one has ever described David Obey as phlegmatic. The Wisconsin Democrat, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, combines long-standing liberal passions with a keen sense for the deals that must be cut to turn those passions into law. And on occasion, people who don't share Obey's assessment of where, and whether, the deal should be cut have been subjected to an Obey outburst.

Last week, as he was working to build support for amendments that would impose a 2008 deadline on U.S. combat activities in Iraq, Obey was accosted by Tina Richards, an antiwar activist and mother of a Marine. With YouTube immortalizing the encounter, Richards asked Obey why he was supporting the supplemental war appropriations bill to which the amendments would be attached and why Congress couldn't just defund the war and bring the troops home now.

Obey erupted. "We can't get the votes," he shouted. "Do you see a magic wand in my pocket? We don't have the votes for it."

"We're trying to use the supplemental," he explained, "to end the war." Obey has since apologized for blowing up, but that hasn't deterred some antiwar bloggers from condemning him as some loony warmonger. In a similar vein, other antiwar protesters now ring Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco home, calling on her to bring the troops home now.

In effect, what the protesters are doing is making the unattainable perfect the enemy of the barely-attainable good.

And I have to agree.

To be clear I certainly understand the frustration many feel about a war that should never hae been started in the first place.

But short of staging some kind of coup d'etat I expect progress to be made only incrementally.

And yes, it is criminal that more American soldiers and innocent Iraqis will die while congress' wheels slowly grind, but it is important to remember that the guilt for these deahs lies not at the feet of those who are slowly but surely pushing the wheel, but at those who got us here in the first place.

As Mr. Meyerson points out either more Republicans (and blue-dog Dems) will join the growing consensus against the war, or they will be replaced in 2008.

I know it seems a long time, and for those who die it will be, quite literally an eternity, but it's important to remember that Bush has spent 6 years digging this hole (and continues to dig away). It will take time for Democratic leadership to dig us out.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Road to hell

Every weekday the Washington Post website hosts topical discussions between its readers and various reporters and guest commentators, with topics covering a wide range of subjects from politics and media to entertainment and sports.

The quality of the discussions vary widely with the subject matter and the reporter, and while some have a tendency to be a bit flip when questioned, most seem to be making an honest effort to address their given issues.

And occasionally the discussion can give rise to what might be called a moment of clarity.

Such a moment arose today in a discussion with Tony Smith, chair of the Tufts University political science department, regarding the various Democratic Iraq withdrawal plans being floated in DC.

Washington: For the first time in world history, a nation that supports the values of democracy, freedom, and liberty dominates the scene. My view is that we need to do everything we can to ensure that those values are promoted and accepted throughout the world. It seems to me that most Americans from both parties share that view. We will make some mistakes in aggressively promoting democratic values and fighting tyranny, but our mission is noble. Why do you disagree?

Tony Smith: The road to hell is paved with good intentions. That is, these noble sentiments can cause far more harm than good when they mask ulterior motives of a will to power, are self righteous and demean others. that is the problem with the Bush Doctrine in my opinion. [Emphasis mine - CK]

Now, if he'd added a little lecture on the law of unintended consequences he might have been echoing my own view of the disastrous Bush Doctrine.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Inherent abuse of power by the FBI

I suppose some folks out there will be shocked that when given the power to access private information without court oversight the FBI, you'd better sit down now, abused that power.

A Justice Department investigation has found pervasive errors in the FBI's use of its power to secretly demand telephone, e-mail and financial records in national security cases, officials with access to the report said yesterday.

The inspector general's audit found 22 possible breaches of internal FBI and Justice Department regulations -- some of which were potential violations of law -- in a sampling of 293 "national security letters." The letters were used by the FBI to obtain the personal records of U.S. residents or visitors between 2003 and 2005. The FBI identified 26 potential violations in other cases.

Officials said they could not be sure of the scope of the violations but suggested they could be more widespread, though not deliberate. In nearly a quarter of the case files Inspector General Glenn A. Fine reviewed, he found previously unreported potential violations.

And not only does the IG not know how widespread the violations were (remember his report was based on a sampling), but the particulars of some of the vioaltions were particularly troubling.

But [Inspector General] Fine found that FBI agents used national security letters without citing an authorized investigation, claimed "exigent" circumstances that did not exist in demanding information and did not have adequate documentation to justify the issuance of letters.

In other words, the FBI used these National Security Letters in cases that didn't involve national security, as well as in cases where the matters being investigated were not really so urgent as to require warrantless investigation.

And while the FBI director is blaming the violations on a failure to follow internal policies I would suggest that such failures are inherent when government agents are able to act without judicial oversight.

People are people and they are by varying degrees zealous, clever, and lazy. And so are FBI agents.

By allowing what are essentially extrajudicial search warrants, the Patriot Act provisions which allow the use of national security letters invite abuse.

And if a power can be abused, it will be. Absent some countervailing force that is. This is why we have three branches of government, so they can keep an eye on each other.

So when in a fit of fear, like, say 9/11, we foolishly remove such oversight, why be shocked when such abuse occurs?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Senate Dems offer more aggressive Iraq plan

Hey, if one Democratic plan to get us out of Iraq is good, two must be better, right?

Actually the plan put out by Senate leadership is fairly short of detail (where the devil resides), but it does give a hard pullout date of March 2008 that's more aggressive than the House's September date.

The thing is, despite the left's enthusiasm for Senator Reid's proposal, given the narrow Democratic majority, I have a hard time imagine how this proposal will ever come to a vote, little less see the the business end of Bush's veto pen.

A Democratic Plan for Iraq

Top house Democrats today revealed their plan today for forcing President Bush's and the Iraqi government's hands towards a resolution of the Iraq occupation.

And though Republicans and Bush himself will no doubt fall back to their talking points about timetables and "letting the commanders on the ground" make the decisions, the plan seems to actually put forth a reasonable path towards excavating ourselves from the hole that BushCorp™ has dug for us.

It remains to be seen whether Bush and the Republicans will have the wisdom to use the opportunity they're being offered.

Here are the key features of the proposed plan and their importance.

Date Certain
Regardless of the any other provisions of the bill (called "U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans Health and Iraq Accountability Act"), troops withdrawals are to begin by March, 2008, ending by August of that year.

Requires adherence to Bush's benchmarks
This requires that Bush certify that the Iraqi government meet the benchmarks that he himself set up when authorizing the current escalation surge. Two deadlines are involved here. By July 1, 2007 Bush must certify that "progress" has been made towards his benchmarks, failure to do so triggers a withdrawal window within 6 months. And by October, 2007 the Iraqis must have acheived Bush's benchmarks else it triggers a 180 day withdrawal window with the last Americans leaving by March 2008.

The key importance of these provisions is that they force the Iraqi government to do something it has been loath to do in the past, its job. It gives the Iraqis a choice and an opportunity: they can continue their internicine squabbling and parochial pursuit of tribal (as oposed to national) interests, or they can put their bickering aside and become the founding fathers of a new Iraq. (For an extended revery on the value of timetables see here).

And the timetables also help Bush force Iraqi co-operation while giving him a chance to save face (I know, he doesn't deserve to, but it may be necessary unless Democrats are somehow able to put together a veto-proof majority). As with Musharraf in Pakistan, the administration can use the Democratic congress as a sword to hold over their heads. "Look Nouri, I'd love to give you all the time in the world, but these Democrats..."

(Really) Supporting the Troops
The bill requires that the Army adhere to its own rest and readiness standards.

In large part Bush has been able to continue fighting this war by extending tours of duty and cutting short training and equipment for an Army now strained to the breaking point. Bush can still over-rule this provision, if he can publicly and specifically justify his actions. In other words, he has to tell the American people why he's short-changing the troops.

Further the bill provides for obviously much needed improvement for funding for military and veteran healthcare. The ongoing Walter Reed scandal alone shows the obvious necessity for this provision.

Fighting the Real War on the 9/11 Terrorists
The proposed Democratic plan provides for increased funding for the war in Afghanistan.

One of the many casualties of Bush's misguided Iraqi adventure was and is the fight against the people who actually attacked us on 9/11 and their Taliban supporters in Afghanistan. With al Qaeda and the Taliban resurgent, and Osama bin Laden (you remember him?) still on the loose Democrats are seeking to address problems that should have been resolved long ago, but were left undone by Bush's rush to war with Iraq.

Final thoughts (for the moment)
As the top US commander in Iraq, general David Petraeus has just pointed out, the problems in Iraq cannot be resolved by the military alone, but require the Iraqi government to do the work required to come together and bring a measure of security to their country.

And though, to our everlasting shame, the US invasion was the catalyst for the civil war now enveloping that country, it's becoming increasingly evident that our military presence there is not ever going to be a solution.

Therefore the only rational course of action is to stop the waste (I'll use the term if no-one else will) of American lives and resources in an unwinnable situation, while at the same time providing the Iraqis with both incentives to come together, as well as the sure knowledge that they MUST do so in order to survive.

Bush has continued to refuse to make this admittedly hard, but necessary decision. By doing so he has ceded the administration's responsibility for setting policy for the men and women fighting in Iraq. It is therefore incumbent on Congress to force his hand.

Let us hope he takes this opportunity.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Neo-con tunnelvision

Such is the selective memory and tunnelvision of the neo-con that they can be wrong, even when they're right.

Today's example comes via an LA Times op-ed by Max Boot.

Boot's thesis is that the alarm expressed by the non-kool-aid drinking world over the possibility of a BushCorp™ attack on Iran is redounding to the benefit of the Bush administration. That by focusing attention on Bush's bellicosity the reality-based community will force Iran to compromise it might not otherwise be open to.

My hope is that Boot's thesis proves true. Though paths he takes to his conclusion are irritatingly misguided.

His first imprecation is that our alarm over the potential for irrational BushCorp™ belligerance is somehow unwarranted:

You would think that the United States was Nazi Germany preparing to launch a war of aggression on Poland based on a fabricated provocation.

No, we think that Bush, having started a war of choice under false pretenses in Iraq, might be starting to build the case for another war of false pretenses against Iran.

And I'm not even getting into the latest sham intel about IEDs.

Suffice it to say that the very public alarm over Bush has indeed had a beneficial effect, public awareness usually does. If it has the effect of assisting Bush in negotiating with Iran, so much the better.

The main pont is that appropriate skepticism about this administration's judgment is a good thing for everybody.

Even Max Boot.

Another GOP poster boy

I feel so honored.

None other than Kos himself is running with my idea to put more wingnuts in the spotlight, the idea being that the better the public gets to know these wackjobs the better for us all.

Kos' honoree is fascist conservative Michael Savage, who's considering a run for president.

You can find Mr. Savage's blatherings with a google search of your own if you have the stomach for it. Bur Kos has some exciting news:

A web poll on his site asks whether he should run for the presidency. There are close to 3 million votes. He claims he'll pull the trigger at 5 million.

Mr. Savage is now at 3.02 million so be sure to click the link and vote to send this guy into the Republican primaries. It's time the mouth breathing crowd got the candidate they deserve.

P.s. As the old Chicagoland saying goes: vote and vote often, just hit the back button on your browser to vote as many times as you like.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

118 Killed in Iraq Attacks

Well, it looks like something is surging in Iraq after all. The death toll.

Wingnut "family" groups oppose transparent government

From the Washington Post:

The National Right to Life Committee and Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) are locking horns -- not over abortion, but over whether thousands of top executive branch officials should have to disclose the names of people who lobby them.

Driven by the over-the-top, clandestine lobbying of Bush administration officials by now-convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Waxman's House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has unanimously approved the Executive Branch Reform Act. A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that she backs the measure, which would require senior bureaucrats to report quarterly whom they speak to about government actions, and that she expects it to get a vote in the House.

But Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, is vowing to stop the bill at all costs. He thinks it would discourage officials from meeting with citizens, including his own members. That makes it downright undemocratic. And he is consistent: He led a coalition that helped kill broad ethics reform legislation last year because it would have imposed a similar type of reporting requirement on grass-roots lobbying. [Emphasis mine-CK]

Get that, he's afraid of letting the public know what lobbyists government officials spend time with.

He's afraid that it would discourage said officials from meeting with said citizens.

Now why would that be?

Perhaps this is just wild speculation on my part, but could it be that if the public found out which wingnut advocacy groups have the administration's ear we might be somewhat less than pleased?

Libby guilty of perjury and obstruction

I guess Steve Martin's "I forgot" defense doesn't work so well after all.

But of course Scooter might not have been in this position if he had simply claimed ignorance or faulty memory during the initial investigation.

Instead he made up a story (which he apparently got ok'd by his boss, Darth Cheney) about learning about Valerie Plame's status as a NOC CIA officer from Tim Russert.

Unfortunately this looks like the end of the line as Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald doesn't forsee any further prosecutions, unless new information arises that is.

But could it be that the Dark Lord shouldn't rest too easily? Especially if Libby loses his appeals could it be that some "new information" might emerge from his faulty memory?

Stay tuned.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Support Ann Coulter(?!)

[x-posted at Daily Kos: be sure to read the comments]

I am, shall we say, no fan of Ann Coulter's.

But the uproar about her latest vile screed at the CPAC convention has got me t' thinkin'.

Mixed with the well deserved criticism resounding around both left and right blogistan have been calls for the various networks and newspapers who spread her poisonous views to shun our darling Ann.

And while I can viscerally agree with this stance, and as disagreable as the thought of further success for her continuing efforts at self-promotion is to me, still I have to wonder, aren't we on left really better off having her as the face of the Republican party?

This thought was sparked, in part, by an article by Bill Scher [h/t to digby], who's been blogging CPAC. Scher's main point is that, despite the mushy Common Wisdom about Democrats' problems with the religious community, they're nothing compared with Republican's problems with the secular.

Lots of ink has been spilled about how Democrats and liberals suffer from a "religion problem" -- a perceived hostility towards Christianity and religion in general. But Pew Research Center exit poll data from the 2006 midterm elections shows the opposite.

Democrats crushed Republicans among secular voters, broadly defined as those who attend church seldom (favoring Democrats 60% to 38%) or never (67% to 30%). Republicans retained strong support among those who attend church more than weekly. But among those who only go weekly -- the larger portion of the religious vote -- the Republican lead shrunk from 15 points to 7.

In short, Republicans failed to be competitive among secular voters, while Democrats were at least competitive among regular churchgoers. And since the secular vote is roughly equal to the regular churchgoing vote, according to the last several national election exit polls, that means Republicans and their conservative base have a far bigger secular problem than their rivals have a religion problem.

Republican depredations over the last few years (think Teri Schiavo) have finally managed to impinge on the consciousness of middle America.

I say, let's keep the ball rolling. I want MORE Ann Coulter, not less.

Instead of emailing CNN's advertisers to complain, write instead to demand more of her, the true face of the Republican party.

Let everyone you know that, however you disagree with her, you appreciate just how much her unabashed expression of the true conservative spirit, speaking, as she does, the truths so many GOPers keep hidden from the light of day.

Let's make Ann Coulter the postergirl for the Republican party.

And I know, it'll be difficult knowing that you're both making her even richer, while also making her Little Green Fetishists soil themselves with glee.

But think.

With any luck we'll get a few more years of hate from her before she falls into the event horizon of the black hole that is her soul.

And she can suck the GOP in along with her.

So along with all the other good works in which you are no doubt engaged, ask yourself, what can I do today to get Ann Coulter more airtime?

You'll be glad you did.

[Update: Congratulations to the folks at Daily Kos whose efforts have gotten several advertisers to drop their spots on AC's website. That's the spirit! Now she'll need to write another book and whore it on the Today Show. Remember, the more we see AC, the better for America!]

The Lost Tomb of Jesus

[x-posted at Daily Kos]

Some thoughts on the much anticipated (for the last week anyway) documentary.

Am I the only one who thinks that someone attempting to debunk essential Christian mythology shouldn't be pretending that he's not doing just that?

I mean buddy, I've lived the past 6 years under George Bush, I know disingenuous when I see it.

Using the hoary, "will the patinas match up?, answers after the commercial break" formula seems just a tad hackneyed.

Big problem, those of us who might be convinced that Christian mythology is a myth don't really need convinced, and those who might need to be convinced won't be.

Still, that said, raising a question for further scientific study isn't a bad thing generally.

More interesting was the after show analysis with Ted Koppel.

What's Ted's problem with re-enactments? Has he never seen a Discovery Channel show before? Has he never "watched" Homo Habilus building a campfire to roast marrow bones?

Regarding huffy agnostic archeologists who claim they have no dog in this fight: well, except that the archeological community has been sitting on this story for 26 years without comment and is then one-upped by a hack documentarian. No dog? Hardly.

Regarding theologians insisting that the problem with the film is that it doesn't provide for ample critical review: as opposed to EVERY SERMON EVER DELIVERED?

Final thought: anything that is bound to piss off fundamentalist Christians can't be all bad.

Hume: Walter Reed problems make Bush look bad

Um yeah, I suppose that IS the real problem. Via Think Progress:

This morning on Fox News Sunday, Brit Hume spoke about the Walter Reed scandal in entirely political terms, saying “the problem” is that it “looks terrible” for the administration.

To her credit NPR's Mara Liasson points out that subhuman conditions at a veteran's hospital might be something more than a mere PR problem:

I think, you know, to say it looks bad, it also is bad. Those pictures were horrible. These are people — nobody who is being treated for any kind of injury should have to live in that condition, let alone people who just fought in a war for our country.

Ah Mara, your hearts in the right place, but what makes you think a Fox Noise commentator would be any human interest story that doesn't involve comely blond girls?

Check out Think Progress for the video.

[H/t to Atrios who, y'know, needs the link]