Saturday, March 31, 2007

Karl Rove - computer guru


It's all geek to me, but it is apparently very significant that Karl Rove was spotted with a Coptix brochure. It leads to a whole new line of inquiry into Rove's violating the Presidential Records Act and how easily he could have his private email accounts wiped out or moved offshore.

As Corrente Wire notes, Leahy should subpoena those servers right away, before they have time to "fix" them.

UPDATE: It appears I've been punk'd. Mea culpa is here.

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Ex-operative Dowd says Bush failed his trust

Cry me a river. Six years after the fact, political opportunist Matthew Dowd is ever so sorry he helped Bush screw us over. The "disappointed Democrat" who followed the money and sidled up to the GOP as soon as they held the power, and the pursestrings, now admits he made a mistake. Sure he and Rove put their little heads together and cooked up every dirty trick in the book to get their Boy Blunder into office and keep him there, but Bush seemed like such a nice guy at the time. Now Dowd feels betrayed.
He criticized the president as failing to call the nation to a shared sense of sacrifice at a time of war, failing to reach across the political divide to build consensus and ignoring the will of the people on Iraq. He said he believed the president had not moved aggressively enough to hold anyone accountable for the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and that Mr. Bush still approached governing with a “my way or the highway” mentality reinforced by a shrinking circle of trusted aides.
Like all of that wasn't obvious before the 04 election? Digby digs up the dirty laundry Dowd is trying to wash clean with his crocodile tears. Dowd isn't sorry he supported Bush because of his dirty deeds or he would have quit the campaign. He's sorry Bush was so bad at accomplishing them that he got caught and now they're all going to go down in disgrace.

I've often wished that we would all live to see the karmic kickback for the remorselessly vile ways that Bush and his minions like Dowd have betrayed us. To see Dowd so frantically trying to distance himself from the administration now leads me to think we may yet see this whole gang of thugs and cutthroats go down in shame and disaster.

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The big picture on the Chocolate Jesus


Ironically, I'm late in posting today because I was unexpectedly invited to attend an Easter Egg hunt. You want to talk about offending Christian values, watch a handful of uncouth parents knock some 3 year old out of the way so their kid can get another dollar's worth of free candy off the ground. But enough of that, here's the controversial Chocolate Jesus in his full frontal glory [via].

I'm not a church-goer but I do consider myself a Christian of sorts and I am not offended by this. It's a respectful depiction of the crucifixion that makes a valid statement on the commercialization of this formerly religious holiday. However, I am very offended that psuedo-Catholic and decidedly anti-Chrisitan hatemonger Bill Donohue was able to screech this showing to a halt with his insane blathering. Shame on the gallery for caving in to this lunatic and curse the media who continue to legitimize this self-serving egomanic by promoting his insane rantings in the news, instead of leaving him on the street corner with the rest of the long haired freaks passing out flyers and warning that the end is near.

What is offensive to Christian values about a simple rendering of the human body? It's not like the artist gave him an erection. I mean according to the Bible, didn't God make man in his own image? Are we to be so offended by God's creation that we're horrified by viewing it unclothed? And in fact, the "Bible says that "while the Son of God hung naked for all to see and mock at, they cast lots for his seamless coat that was used to cover the entire body." It's historically accurate.

One wonders what would have happened to the artworks of the Great Masters if Donohue's vicious "Christians" plyed their moral judgements on those times. Look at the picture again and look at this one. I don't see a whole lot of difference. Michelangelo made it in 1494 for the church Santa Spirito. In fact he often depicted Jesus naked right up to his last sculpture, left unfinished before his death.

And if we're to be offended by nudity, what would Donohue's rampaging mob have to say about DaVinci's rendering of the Madonna and child? Whoa baby. Not only do you have a nude Jesus but the Holy Virgin is showing some seriously naked breast there. I don't think it would pass the deranged Donohue's modesty test. And I guess Raphael, who painted baby Jesus nude, more than once would have been out of job too. I mean, holy genitals are holy genitals right?

I think we should have a counter-protest and flood that gallery and hotel with emails supporting the exhibit, because frankly I'm offended that they would even care if such vile people boycotted them.

Me, I'm not at all offended by a chocolate penis. I find this much more seriously offensive.



For more on Donohue and other related religious absurdities see Steve Benen and if you stand the groan worthy puns, (which I loved), check out Joe Gandelman's thoughts on the subject along with his usual excellent roundup of reactions around Blogtopia.

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David Hicks cuts deal for nine month sentence

Well, after being incarcerated at Gitmo for five years as allegedly one the worst terrorists we have in custody, Australian prisoner David Hicks pled guilty to terrorism charges after agreeing that "he faced damning evidence taken from 'notes by interrogators' that he had been shown." Our government had recommended a seven year sentence but under the terms of the plea deal, Hicks will be released within 60 days, or probably sooner, and returned to Australia to serve a nine month sentence. We have teenagers in America who get stiffer sentences than that for possession of a couple of grams of marijuana in a school zone.

And what did Hicks have to give up in order to score this sweet offer?
Under his plea deal, Hicks stipulated that he has "never been illegally treated by a person or persons while in the custody of the U.S. government," Kohlmann said. In the statement read by Mori, Hicks thanked U.S. service members for their professionalism during his imprisonment.

Furthermore, the judge said, the agreement bars Hicks from suing the U.S. government for alleged abuse, forfeits any right to appeal his conviction and imposes a gag order that prevents him speaking with news media for a year from his sentencing date.
He also can't profit from writing a book about his experiences after the gag order expires. Any money he makes on his story must be handed over to the Australian government. And he had to agree to appear as a government witness in future trials for either the US or the Aussies, although what useful testimony he could possibly offer after being held incommunicado for five years is unclear.

So what are we to make of this outcome? Either he was a dangerous terrorist or he wasn't. If he was a real terrorist, it's outrageous that the US let him go with such a light sentence. If he wasn't really a dangerous terrorist, the terms of the plea agreement suggest the Bush administration was more afraid of what he might say about his treatment at Guantanamo than they were about the possibility that he might commit terrorist acts against our country.

It's difficult not to be reminded of Jose Padilla, an American citizen held for three years as a "dangerous terrorist" and then when his illegal detainment was finally challenged by the courts, the Bush administration moved him to civil jurisdiction and charged him with -- well, basically nothing.

And what's up with the signing of a statement saying he wasn't mistreated? Isn't that what the terrorists who have kidnapped westerners in Iraq have repeatedly done? In fact, isn't this exactly the sort of coerced statement that Iran forced the British hostages to sign? As the "good guys" in the war on terror, shouldn't we be conducting ourselves more honorably than the people we're fighting?

Padilla is "lucky" that he's an American citizen or he would still be confined indefinitely and without counsel under Bush's "enemy combatant" rule. Hicks is "lucky" that he's a white guy from an allied nation whose government needed some good PR for their reelection campaign.

I fear for the 80 remaining less well connected prisoners scheduled for trial, the outcomes won't be so lenient. As for the 305 others who aren't even scheduled for trial, it looks like they're going to face at least another two years of forced gag orders from the inside of Gitmo, since it seems unlikely Bush will take his own Secretary of Defense's recommendation to shut that hell hole down.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Hey it's my blogiversary

Actually I missed it by a couple of days. I started this one on the 25th two years ago with this silly little post. It took me months to get it up to speed. As I said in my little intro, I had a flash of inspiration for the name and wanted to hold it but nonetheless, The Impolitic was born in this time frame.

I atually rewrote the initial post as I recall. Orginally I had dedicated this blog to Al LaRue, an old patron of mine when I was bartending at the VFW. Al was one of my favorites. Smart old guy with a great sense of humor and even though our politics were really different, we became friends of a sort. He used to say, "Libby, you and I are lot alike. We're straight shooters in a corkscrew world."

I think I decided it was too schmaltzy so I changed it to the more neutral post and besides, I wasn't sure old Al would like his name associated with a lefty blog. Since then, I've been through a lot of changes but I'm still a straight shooter in a corkscrew world, both in my drinking and my thinking.

Two years later, I'm not the biggest blog on the block but I think I really did get the highest common denominator among my readers. I continue to be amazed at the high caliber thinkers that come here to spend a few moments with me and at the many, many kindnesses the Blogtopians have shown me and cherish the friendships I've formed with my regular readers.

There's too many people to thank individually. I'm sure I'd forget someone important so I'll just say thanks so much to everyone for giving me the inspiration and the encouragement to keep me sitting at the keyboard. Without you I'd be talking to myself.

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Bush pushes dubious deadline

Well what a shock. Bush lied again. He's been saying the spending bills for the military must be passed by April 15th or the troops will run out of money. In truth, they have plenty of funds to get through to June and possibly through the end of July.

Plenty of time to allow the House and Senate to negotitate legislation that would change the course of the Iraq occupation and still fund the troops stuck there. Does Bush not understand that the propaganda just ain't catapultin' anymore or is really so arrogant that he thinks he can continue to hoodwink Americans without challenge, because you know he's the decider and all and we should just trust him.

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The Super Secret Citizen Spy Club

Just when you think the wingnuts couldn't possibly get more inane, Michelle Malkin goes and starts up a Vigilante Club. I can't bring myself to link to it, but you should read the manifesto with Chris Kelly's editorial asides anyway in order to avoid falling into a catatonic state of either boredom or disbelief or both. Chris has the links but Malkin could have saved some bandwidth and simply said: If you look like an Arab, I hate you and I'm going to report your every move to the authorities.

Am I the only one thinking that Malkin is really the reincarnation of Eva Braun?

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For the children?



This is what your tax dollars pay for under the Bush administration. I don't know whether to cry or break the crockery. Children in prison garb? It simply shouldn't happen in America.

[via Prison Legal News]

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Let's take hate out of the debate

Pete Abel at TMV takes on a topic that's been much on mind these last few weeks, that being the incivility of discourse in our political discussions. He asks a good question and comes up with the correct answers.
... Why do benevolent conservatives (and yes, they do exist) tolerate the prominent, malicious voices that have become the spokespeople and hence caricature of the movement?

At least half the answer has something to do with the day President Johnson signed into law a landmark bill that irrevocably boosted civil rights in this country and prompted a mass exodus of hatemongers from the D’s to the R’s.
And from the continued post at his own blog he offers a couple of good solutions.
(1) Conservatives must make it very clear that the haters should find another home; they are no more welcome among the elephants than among the donkeys. If you hate, or speak hatefully or without compassion, you are not a conservative.

(2) Conservatives must systematically embrace and acknowledge the reality that part of good fortune is indeed fortunate (i.e., outside our control) and that without such fortune, we would be neighbors to those we've unfairly, silently, if not unconsciously labeled less deserving and less human.
It's as I said the other day. What's sorely lacking in the debate is empathy. It's the inability to back away from the argument at hand to make any attempt to see the other guy's point of view and understand why he might hold it. I think a lot of that stems from our insistence on seeking comfort in aligning with like voices and insisting on labels.

If we started to frame the debate, not as Democrats or Republicans or libertarians (small and big L), but as fellow Americans with a common goal towards the common good, we would come up with a lot more solutions to solve the problems, rather than endless talking points that might win debates but provide no real answers.

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An easy way out of the hostage controversy

I've been struggling to make sense of the Iran hostage situation but Craig Murray has cleared up a lot of my confusion and offers a very sensible solution.

Short version: The whole incident stems from an imaginary boundary line that has long been in dispute. Both sides should simply acknowledge that they acted in good faith and without evil intent, the hostages should be released immediately and steps should be taken to finally draw an agreed upon line between the terrorities. No political points would be made for any side, but everyone would win.

Makes sense to me.

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A big blogiversary

I was a little off kilter yesterday so I'm a day late, but do click over and wish my new boss a happy anniversay. The Reaction just turned two years old. And as long as you're there, scroll around and check out the rest of the blog. Team Reaction is doing some fabulous posting this week.

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Time for Dems to plot a new course to the White House

Steve Soto asks the question that I've been asking since Hillary's name was first floated as the Democratic nominee in 08. Leaving aside her qualifications, or lack thereof depending on where you stand on the candidates, can she win in the general election?

My gut feeling has always been no, she can't. It would be political sucide for the Democrats to run with her. By the time we get to the election, the GOP will have drummed up their reliable hate-based voters into an anti-Clinton frenzy. Which is not to say they were ever in any other state of mind but her candidacy would surely energize the wavering Republicans who are otherwise ready to jump ship and won't do a thing to mobilize the moderate Independent voters the Democrats need in order to win.

I agree with Soto. The election of 08 will the year of fresh faces and running a DC insider is a sure avenue to losing the race. No DC incumbent is untainted by the culture of corruption the public sees surrounding the Beltway. It's time to take a new road.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

The rich get richer...

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

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

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

The new data also shows that the top 300,000 Americans collectively enjoyed almost as much income as the bottom 150 million Americans. Per person, the top group received 440 times as much as the average person in the bottom half earned, nearly doubling the gap from 1980.
Think about that for minute, 300,000 rich guys raked in as much money as the rest of us 150 million working schlubs all put together earned. Now aren't you glad Bush gave these guys all those badly needed tax breaks?

And just when did this income gap start, you ask? During the Reagan years of course. Scroll down here for No More Mister Nice Blog's handy chart and his commentary on Giuliani's place in this pyramid scheme.

As John Cole notes, if the GOP want to figure out why they got trounced at the polls and no one likes them anymore, they should look at these numbers. They can tout the booming economy all they want, but the masses get a little cranky when they start feeling the pinch in their wallet.

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Get a life Inhofe

Sorry posting has been light today. For one thing it's a dreary dismally gray day and I never really wake up in this kind of weather. For another I'm feelig a little under the weather today and I've been preoccupied with working out the details for my impending move to the Mcpartments which you can read about at some length at Last One Speaks. I'm off now to sign the paperwork but here's the irritating stupid politican trick of the day.

Of all the lame-assed excuses to act like a total jerk, Okie Sen. Inhofe has the lamest. He's holding up authorization for the "Live Earth" concert to be held in DC with some procedural nonsense, claiming the event is too partisan to be held on government property. As opposed to say, the anti-abortion rally that was held by the anti-choice crowd some time back?

I don't suppose that this has anything to do with the fact that Al Gore's organization is co-sponsoring the event and that Inhofe is the biggest dead-ender skeptic of climate disruption on the planet. What a putz.

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Viral videos and other media madness

Yes, it's that time again friends, when the White House lets down its hair and cavorts with our madcap media at the annual press corps dinner in DC. Although the event lacked the acerbic bite of Colbert this year it was not without it's thrilling moments. The President took the podium to deliver the customary lame jokes but it was our beloved Sultan of Slime, Karl Rove, who stole the show. Fair warning - do not view the following videos immediately after eating.

First up is Rove's standup routine which culminated in a sure to become legendary rap dance boogie.

And to supplement the text of the jokes above, scroll down here to the link for the video of Dear Leader delivering his lines. I guess when they told him to deliver a monologue he thought they said monotone - or maybe they just upped his dose of Zoloft.

Speaking of leaden zombies, she apparently wasn't invited to the press affair, so the venereal venerated inebriated Prof. Althouse consoled herself with a video camera, a jug of wine, and the cast of American Idol. Code Red alert warning on this one. Don't watch it alone. Be sure to have a non-viewing friend in the next room in case emergency medical intervention becomes necessary.

I fell into a deep state of catatonic disbelief after 23 seconds which rendered me unable to turn it off and was forced to watch the entire segment. Help me. I can smell the synapses burning from toxic vapidity exposure. Words fail...

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Hoisted by their own petard

It seems the White House insiders have only just realized emails are forever. Now that Gonzales and the Justice Department has just been caught out in their lies by these small correspondences we all take for granted, White House aides have stopped using the internal system.
"We just got a bit lazy," said one aide. "We knew E-mails could be subpoenaed. We saw that with the Clintons but I don't think anybody saw that we were doing anything wrong."

But the release of White House emails to the Democrats and the expanded request for more from Rep. Henry Waxman has iced the system. At least two aides said that they have subsequently bought their own private E-mail system through a cellular phone or Blackberry server. When asked how he communicated, one aide pulled out a new personal cellphone and said, "texting."
This I imagine has more to do with avoiding potential embarrassment from personal communications to friends and lovers but the bigger story is the emails related to official business that are being sent through outside accounts, particularly through accounts provided by the RNC.

Rove reportedly conducts 95% of his White House business through such accounts, which would appear to violate the Presidental Records Act. But as Josh Marshall points out, he may have too clever by half in trying to cheat the Act. It may well have negated their executive privilege claims. Kevin Drum expands that line of thinking.
In other words, if staffers were primarily discussing the U.S. Attorney firings on personal and RNC accounts, that implicitly means that they themselves weren't treating it as the kind of official business that would be protected by executive privilege. Alternatively, if they were using private accounts specifically to evade legitimate congressional oversight, then executive privilege claims might also fail for all their other communications as well.
Meanwhile, Steve Benen explains this further and adds another interesting wrinkle.
And third, as Laura Rozen explained, there are security concerns to consider. Rozen noted earlier this week that the White House is a huge electronic surveillance target and by announcing that they’re not using their official email accounts anymore, foreign intelligence agencies might “become curious about the 95% of the government’s business that Karl is lobbing outside the system.”
How much more proof do we need that this administration has put its personal political interests above everything else, including national security? Rove's concern was certainly to avoid accountability. How deliciously ironic would it be if he was finally held to account for his misdeeds by way of his own deceitful devices?

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Diplomatic pressure softens Iran hostage situation

The Iranian hostage situation continues to unfold. The muckraking SkyNews reports footage of the captured British soldiers has been aired on Iranian TV and also that the sole woman hostage may soon be released. The stills that accompany the article are comforting in that the hostages do look unharmed and comfortable considering the circumstances. I've certainly seen hostages in worse condition in my lifetime.

Meanwhile, the particulars of the taking are, of course, in contention with Iran claiming the UK marines violated their territorial waters and the UK claiming they didn't. Now, six days later the UK has come up with some proof they're correct. My friend Michael van der Galien is more trusting than I and accepts the British version, but the sad effect of having endured four years of information manipulation by both Bush and Blair have rendered me unable to accept anyone's claims on face value.

Meanwhile, Michael points us to Robert Clayton Dean who is all exercised over Iran's violation of the Geneva Conventions.
The Iranians have just announced that they intend to commit yet another violation of the Geneva Conventions: publicly displaying the British sailors they captured last week.

This makes the third violation of the Geneva Conventions by Iran: threatening to try soldiers in uniform for espionage, interrogation of captured soldiers, and now public display of captured soldiers.
He decries the double standard on the left and asks where is the outrage among the "usual suspects" which I assume includes anyone who criticized the US violations of the same.

I'm a bit confused about his point. Of course, Iran should be condemned for violating the Conventions. But is that supposed to excuse us? Leaving aside the enemy combatants, even within his narrow definition, didn't we do these three things to Saddam? Shouldn't he have been qualified for protection under the conventions?

Did he forget our own Attorney General, Mr. Gonzales deemed the conventions to be "quaint" in supporting the US torture policy? The implication clearly being they were outmoded. Should we be then be surprised that the madman from Tehran treats them with equal disregard?

Guys like Mr. Dean like to cast the left's concerns about the conventions as anti-American when we wanted them applied to enemy combatants, but this is exactly what I, and many on the left have been warning about since the beginning; that our treatment of the enemy would eventually endanger our own troops and allies. As ye sow.... and all that.

It seems to me the double standard is on his side of the fence. I'm outraged about any violation of human rights while they excuse the Bush administration, who not only violated them first but codified the violations to make them legal. Using their own words, with which they condemn the left, either you're outraged about both or you don't really have the right to complain about either.

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Surge strategy producing new surge of violence

Sometimes I have to check the date to be sure I'm not caught in a time warp and reading the same news over and over again, because it surely doesn't seem to change much in Iraq. After the initial period of expected calm in Baghdad when the new US troops rolled in, sectarian violence is popping up more forcefully than ever all over Iraq. In the last two days I've read about at least a half dozen smaller incidents including an attack on the Green Zone that killed at least one soldier and several Iraqis. Then of course there was the high profile truck bombings in Tal Afar a couple of days which unsurprisingly resulted in this scenario.
Shiite militants and police enraged by massive truck bombings in the northwestern town of Tal Afar went on a revenge spree against Sunni residents there Wednesday, killing as many as 60 people, officials said.

...The shooting continued for more than two hours, the officials said.

Army troops later moved into the Sunni areas to stop the violence and a curfew was slapped on the entire town, according to Wathiq al-Hamdani, the provincial police chief and his head of operations, Brig. Abdul-Karim al-Jibouri.

"The situation is under control now," said al-Hamdani. "The local Tal Afar police have been confined to their bases and policemen from Mosul are moving there to replace them."
If memory serves, the local police are supposed to be the key to "winning" in Iraq. Somehow I find it difficult to see how having to confine them to their bases in order to keep them from killing their fellow countrymen as a win. I also remind you that Tal Afar was touted as a sign of success by Bush back in September 05. And remember our "victory" in Fallujah? Two suicide car bombers attacked the government center there this week.

Isn't this exactly what happened when we had the unofficial surge last summer? Call me a defeatist if you like, but this isn't forward progress in my book. It's more like running on a treadmill. We may be moving fast, but we're not really getting anywhere.

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Detainee overload in Iraq

I keep hearing the surge supporters saying we're making progress in Iraq but considering a big part of this "new" plan was winning over the Iraqi civilians, I have to count this as a step backward.
Hundreds of Iraqis detained in the Baghdad security crackdown have been crammed into two detention centers run by the Defense Ministry that were designed to hold only dozens of people, a government monitoring group said Tuesday.

...In one of the detention centers, in the town of Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad, 705 people were packed into an area built for 75, according to Maan Zeki Khadum, an official with the monitoring group. The other center, on Muthana Air Base, held 272 people in a space designed to hold about 50, he said, and included two women and four boys who were being held in violation of regulations that require juveniles to be separated from adults and males from females.

He said the detention system had been suffering from a problem of “fast detention and very slow release, especially for those who are not guilty.”
Surge supporter Capt. Ed takes issue with that last remark.
"Especially for those not guilty"? Of course we do not want to detain the innocent, but we don't need to release real terrorists at all. Slow release, grinding down to none at all, should suit everyone just fine for the latter. That's why the US and Iraqis need to work on a competent process to review the data for those seized, but a lack of speed in that process is hardly an excuse for not capturing terrorists at all.
And therein lies the problem. We've had four years to figure out who the real terrorists are and complaints of months long detentions that result in no charges have been voiced nearly since the beginning. Hard to believe we're going to win any hearts and minds this way. Ed goes on to say we need to find room for more detainees but an increase in detainees certainly should have been expected. Wouldn't you think they would have made some plan for this before the surge started?

I'd remind the good Captain that not so long ago, we released thousands of captives without charge, all of whom had been held for months, if not years. It's easy to counsel patience when you're not the innocent victim of overbroad sweeps, rotting away in an overcrowded jail cell. It's exactly this "round em all up and let God sort em out" mentality that lost the hearts and minds of the Iraqis in the first place.

If after four years of fighting, we still can't tell friend from foe well enough to avoid mass incarcerations of innocent civilians, I'd say it's a pretty good indication that's it's time to go home and let the Iraqis sort it out for themselves. It's like teaching a kid to ride a two wheeler. If you never let go of the seat, they're never going to learn to balance on their own.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Did Gonzales cover up teen sex scandal in Texas?

Jebus. When Gonzales recently announced that he was going to fight to keep his job for the children, who knew he meant for the children. It appears Mr. "War on Porn" Gonzales, who vigorously pursues adult pornography, had
no interest in prosecuting pedophilies
in Texas.
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.
The official reason given by the assistant US Attorney in Texas for the failure to prosecute was that none of the children complained of pain while enduring systematic sexual abuse perpetrated upon them by their keepers at juvenile detention facilities. In the old days we would have called them reform schools. He goes on to suggest that the children may well have been willing participants in the abuse because none of the of the victims could describe acts of retaliation for failing to engage in the orgies.

I'd note we're talking about inmates who are felony-level offenders between the age of 10 and 17 at the time they are sentenced to these facilities. Anybody know a teenage boy willing to admit he's afraid of anything? Neither do I and there certainly was evidence that sentences were arbitrarily extended for reasons unknown.

So what does this have to do with Gonzales? The federal Texas office had actually prepared indictments but never served them and rejected the case only after they heard from DC. Coincidentally, the scandal arose in the middle of the Republican governor's re-election campaign. They dumped the case on the local DA instead, as if they were going to pursue it during the campaign. Meanwhile the feds actively pursued minor voter fraud issues, leaving these young boys subject to further abuse. It was only after Perry won his election that the case was finally pursued and gratefully resulted in some badly needed reforms within the system.

Draw your own conclusions, but I'd say the circumstantial evidence points very clearly to yet another subversion of our justice system for political reasons.

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Kathy Sierra and the roots of death threats

Technodope that I am, I don't know Kathy Sierra from Adam's cat. She's apparently a tech blogger who posts about code. It seems hard to believe her content could generate death threats, but nonetheless she has been subjected to a series of such vile and violent commentary that she was frightened enough to cancel a public appearance. As someone who lived for too many years under death threats coming from an abusive husband, (who damned near killed me more than once), I understand her fear. And although I haven't been similarly threatened by my legion of critics, as a woman who blogs under her real name, to some extent I share it. Predictably, most of Blogtopia has responded with outrage and support. You can add my name to that list.

But many have attributed the threats to anti-feminist thuggery and while I'd agree the sexualized nature of the threats are limited to women bloggers, I have to disagree that this is a women's issue. The seething cauldron of incivility where such hateful rhetoric is brewed isn't confined to gender or even to any specific blogger. The calls to condemn such an egregious abuse of free speech should by rights include the rejection of all such threats, whether made specifically against one person, or as all too often happens on the internets, against groups of people whose ideology differs from the group think of any opposing clique.

When we allow content such as this, an allegedly satirical piece by a high ranking blogger, to pass without equal condemnation, then we shouldn't be surprised when the culture of casual hate bred on these blogs inures society to violent imagery and thus spills over into individual threats. I urge you to read the whole post and the comment section to understand my point, but let me illustrate with a couple of quotes from this piece by the popular blogger Misha, where he is mocking a group of elderly Jews who went into therapy after the 04 election.
Venting of Idiotarians is a Good Thing?. Particularly if the venting is accomplished by poking them repeatedly with sharp, pointed instruments.

Sadly, they won’t give up on breathing, but we hope that that might be the next stage.

Heck, we’ll offer our own Imperial Free Therapy as well, we’ll even pay for the bullets. But the patient has to agree to us passing the gun on to the next one after they’re, er, “healed”.
The commenters then vie to outdo themselves in "clever" comebacks, perhaps best embodied in this one.
I congratulate, my American brothers and sisters in driving the fuckwits so close to the edge.

But now is not the time to rest. Indeed you must actively engage in pushing as many of them over the edge as humanly possible. I want to hear about these leftist wank….sorry…therapy sessions becoming mass suicide sessions.
When we allow such violent and uncivil discourse to pass unchallenged as "humor," then we all share the blame when the unhinged lunatics start acting out these hateful fantasies, and yes I'm mostly talking about the rightwing nuts here and those like the Instapundit who thinks he can keep his hands clean because he only links approvingly to such sites and doesn't voice these sentiments himself or Little Green Footballs who disavow their violent commenters but don't delete them.

There's nothing funny about death threats, in any context, and until the high profile bloggers stop giving hatemongers their tacit approval, we can expect Blogtopia to continue to devolve into a cesspool of incivility that generates real threats to individual bloggers.

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NSLs should be abolished

Nothing really surprising here. Just another doc for the growing pile of evidence that the FBI regularly lies to obtain secret surveillance warrants. This latest revelation has allegedly resulted in tightened controls on obtaining the warrants but considering that's what they told us when they allowed the program to go forward in the first place, I'm not betting the farm that much will change. It is what it is, and I certainly won't ever approve of secret domestic surveillance no matter how many rules they make to "safeguard" our privacy.

But this does provide an opportunity to revisit a related piece that I didn't get to while I was working last week, that being an op-ed by someone who has received a NSL from the FBI. It starts like this.
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.
He fought the NSL in court and never released the information. The FBI eventually decided it didn't really need it after all and dropped the request but not the gag order which still remains in effect.
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.
The author goes on to point out that with the gag orders, citizens like himself who had legitimate misgivings about the abuse of the NSLs were prevented from communicating their concerns to those who had an ability to prevent the abuse, for instance his Congressmen at the time the Patriot Act was being reauthorized. As the FBI's breaches of proper protocol continue to be revealed, one would have to agree.

Today's article in the WaPo references expert agreement that "Congress, the courts and the Justice Department share the blame for not conducting more aggressive oversight of FBI agents." One wonders how they were expected to exercise such oversight when the whole program has, and continues to operate under such unwarranted secrecy. As the op-ed author notes, "At some point -- a point we passed long ago -- the secrecy itself becomes a threat to our democracy."

In fact, isn't compelling a private citizen, under the threat of penalty, to lie to even his own family about the government's conduct a defining aspect of a police state? I remind you again. Fascism doesn't arrive overnight. It creeps in by degrees. The secret warrants clearly need better controls but the NSL program takes us one giant step closer to a totalitarian government and should be shut down completely - before it's too late to save democracy as we know it.

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Senate Republicans back off on Iraq withdrawal objections

Legislative gamesmanship is heating up inside the Beltway with Republican senators indicating they won't block a vote on the military funding bill even if language mandating a target date for withdrawal of troops in Iraq remains in the measure. Capt. Ed reads this manuever as a time-saving strategy and I think he's partly correct. Certainly, with the deadline looming so close, the last thing anyone wants to see is the funding for our deployed troops endangered over political power plays. Better to get it to the President's desk for the promised veto and go on from there.

However, I also think the GOP can read the polling same as the rest of us, and the most recent polls clearly indicate a strong majority of Americans want a firm pull-out timetable for the occupation. It's entirely possible the GOP, who still have to face the voters in 08, are unwilling to hold onto to this hot potato issue and are more than willing to toss it into Bush's hands, whose future tenancy inside DC is not at issue. Besides, it's effectively Bush's personal war at this point, so why shouldn't he be the one to take the heat?

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Althouse gets unhinged over breasts

I haven't done a blog gossip post in a while but Scott Lemieux hooked me on this one. I do usually try to stay out of these things but since I so rarely watch TV, this is the first time I've ever seen Ann Althouse in person and it struck me as funny and worth remarking on briefly.

If you don't know the context of the breast brouhaha in question, the short version is that Ann literally attacked a feminist blogger for daring to appear in a photo with Bill Clinton without leaving her breasts at home. It generated a predictable link from Insty -- which was clearly Ann's goal in the matter -- but also unleashed a vigorous defense of the blogger in question and her right to wear her breasts in public. I don't really blame Ann for being sensitive about the issue. Her lame defense of her remarks would have been embarassing to a thirteen year old, much less a tenured law professor.

Her response in this video segment to a passing reference to the kerfluffle is no less embarassing. It reminded me of nothing so much as myself as a teenager when confronted by my mother over smoking cigarettes. It was like a reenactment of the moment, right down to the over-bleached hair. We both used same imperious and completely false self-righteous indigination in refuting the facts. I asked my mom, who she was going to believe - her own daughter or some gossip-mongering neighbor who was obviously jealous that I was such an outstanding kid.

Amazingly my mother bought it, even though it was probably the third or fourth time I had been caught. Unfortunately for Ann, the Blogtopians aren't as gullible as my mom and her own archives disprove her own spin. Methinks, Ms. Althouse doth protest too much.

Meanwhile, if you can't access the video, Orcinus kindly provides a transcript but it's not nearly as amusing without the hair-tossing.

UPDATE: Shakes has the definitive answer to Ann's whining query about why we don't like her and manages to redefine liberals in the new age as modern conservatives. Brilliant post. It's the must read of the day.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Attorney purge surges forward

In the latest wrinkle to the Attorney Purge Scandal, Gonzales' top aide will be taking the Fifth on the advice of her attorney. The good news, for those of you who tire of these posts is that I've posted on it to the Detroit News blog, where it appears I'm about to engage in yet another blog spat with Henry Payne, so I'm not going to talk about it here tonight except to give you what I thought was my best quote.
Furthermore, the culture of deceit that Gonzales planted has spread throughout the entire Justice Department and the rats are racing from the stinking cesspool of deception. His top aide, on the advice of her lawyer, is refusing to testify and will take the Fifth rather than incriminate herself. It appears her superiors are looking for a scapegoat for their own criminally false testimony.

Okay, so it's not the best thing I've ever written. I might have come up with a better analogy if I didn't just come off 8 days of work without a break but I am fond of the stinking cesspool of deception imagery. I may use that one again someday.

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The media is the mess

If you harbor any doubts about why the average Jake who isn't as obssessed with following politics as we are is so uninformed, you need look no farther than this YouTube segment of the Chris Matthews show. Most Americans get their "news" from these Bozos and we're not talking the B-list nobodies on your local affiliate stations. These are the major opinion makers of the media.

This gossipy, frivolous tripe masquerading as political commentary is coming from Chris Matthews of NBC; Norah O’Donnell, chief Washington correspondent for MSNBC; Richard Stengel, editor of Time magazine; Gloria Borger, national political correspondent for CBS News and a columnist for U.S. News and World Report; and Patrick Healy, a political reporter for the New York Times. You have to watch it to believe it.


As Glenn Greenwald notes, herein lies the root of the evil malaise that has taken over our system.
Really, is it any wonder at all that our government is so fundamentally corrupt and broken when we have a press like this? Why wouldn't top government officials lie continuously when our national press corps finds such lying to be such a source of merriment and humor, and can summon the energy only to attack, mock and condemn those who find the lying objectionable, rather than the liars themselves?
For those who can't watch videos, Steve Benen has the transcript but it's not nearly as strong without the four minutes of incessant giggling going on among these "serious" pundits. They're not concerned about the burgeoning evidence that the administration has engaged in six years of serial lying to the detriment of our national security. But they're outraged that anyone -- namely Democrats -- would call the White House to account for its criminal behavior. It's hard to believe these are the same people who breathlessly covered every phantom scandal the GOP could conjure up during Clinton's term of office. I mean did anyone manage to stay awake during the Whitewater hearings?

As Glenn notes, these media elites care about nothing but maintaining their status and access to the halls of power and they love Republicans. Rather than actually live up to their mission to inform the public, they seek rather to excuse destructive policy and outright criminality in order to preserve their place on the invitation list to the White House Christmas party. It's downright frightening that these are the people that set the tenor of political discourse for our nation.

They're not pundits, they're jesters in the King George's court, distracting the public from serious matters of state with their outlandish pranks. They should be ashamed of themselves.

[thanks to Glenn Greewald for the link]

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The power of planned incompetency

Josh Marshall ponders on the real elephant in the room revealed in light of the Attorney Purge scandal. Josh sees the reality in the President's ongoing and steadfast support of Gonzales.
This isn't a case where Alberto Gonzales has fallen short of the president's standards or bungled some process. This is the standard. The Attorney General has done and is doing precisely what is expected of him.

And the president is fine with all of this. Fine with the fact that the Attorney General has not only repeatedly lied to the public but has also been exposed as repeatedly lying to the public. He's fine with at least two US Attorneys being fired for not giving in to pressure to file bogus charges to help Republican candidates.

Of course he's fine with it. Because it comes from him. None of this is about Alberto Gonzales. This is about the president and the White House, which is where this entire plan was hatched. Gonzales was just following orders, executing the president's plans. This is about this president and this White House, which ... let's be honest, everyone on both sides of the aisle already knows.
Indeed all corruption leads to the White House now that true investigations are being conducted and it becomes increasingly obvious that planned incompetence is the preferred methodology to execute their ongoing plots for obtaining and maintaining power.

[Via Hilzoy]

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Political scandal brewing at GSA

Just as we expect a certain level of patronage to be passed out by the victors of elections, one expects a certain amount of blurring of the line between politicking and governance. Franking privleges comes to mind immediately. Technically, it's to be used to inform a legislator's district but certainly it has some political benefit to an incumbent. However, this administration has gone so far beyond the line between the two, that governance doesn't even enter into the equation. Everything is about political advantage

Witnesses have told congressional investigators that the chief of the General Services Administration and a deputy in Karl Rove's political affairs office at the White House joined in a videoconference earlier this year with top GSA political appointees, who discussed ways to help Republican candidates.

With GSA Administrator Lurita Alexis Doan and up to 40 regional administrators on hand, J. Scott Jennings, the White House's deputy director of political affairs, gave a PowerPoint presentation on Jan. 26 of polling data about the 2006 elections.

When Jennings concluded his presentation to the GSA political appointees, Doan allegedly asked them how they could "help 'our candidates' in the next elections," according to a March 6 letter to Doan from Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Waxman said in the letter that one method suggested was using "targeted public events, such as the opening of federal facilities around the country."
Discussion ensued on how to block Democrats from attending such events and how to include Republicans where Democrats were already scheduled to appear. There was apparently no discussion on such "trivial items" for instance, as anticipated building needs for the future or existing needs for repairs.

Doan is also embroiled in peripheral scandalettes about her awarding of no-bid contracts to cronies and interfering in existing contracts to benefit of her department but to the detriment of the taxpayer. She of course denies any involvement in wrongdoing, but once again existing documents would prove her to be a liar.

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Half human organ transplants?

I'm no Luddite but this creeps me out.
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.

He has already created a sheep liver which has a large proportion of human cells and eventually hopes to precisely match a sheep to a transplant patient, using their own stem cells to create their own flock of sheep.
I'm all for stem cell research but somehow I would be more comfortable with growing new organs in petri dishes. The idea of cross-species research just conjures up visions of half-human movie monsters. I think I prefer a Brave New World scenario to a new Island of Dr. Moreau style uprising of wickedly modified creatures.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Purge scandal post of the day

Far be it that we let a day go by without remarking on the attorney purge scandal. Kevin Drum has the must read post. He lists nine reasons the DOJ's conduct stinks like three day old fish. Number nine is a real doozy.
DOJ has now had weeks to come up with a plausible story for the firings and they still haven't. This is truly remarkable. Why not just tell the truth? That doesn't take weeks to concoct.
That's the really ridiculous part of this whole scandal. If the White House had simply admitted they were playing politics with the USAs and taken their usual stand of - yeah we did it and so what -- chances are the story would have died in three cycles or less. The sheer stupidity of the response suggests an administration in such dangerous disarray it can't even remember its own best tactics.

As Kevin notes, it's difficult to see how anyone outside of the most loyal dead-enders could be defending the White House at this point.

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Persian Gulf - should we stay or should we go now?

I'm trying to make sense of the current crisis in the Persian Gulf over the arrest of British soldiers who allegedly breached Iranian waters. This much we know is true. Ahmadinejad is a madman. However, our western leaders are only marginally more sane in their policies. Given the reckless disregard for international conventions and the ongoing pattern of deceit within our own and the UK government, it is difficult to accept at face value the denials that the British sailors and Marines did not in fact enter into Iran's territory.

And although it's been too easy to forget in the current mania over the attorney purge scandal, the Bush administration has been steadily attempting to build a case for military action against Iran for many months now. Unfortunately, it's not beyond the pale to speculate that Tony Blair, who is on his way out of power anyway, would be willing to provide such a casus belli at the behest of the White House.

As Glenn Greenwald points out, the excitement of such a prospect is palpable among the neo-con warmongers and the rhetoric coming from those quarters is uncomfortably similar to the language that paved the way into this disastrous occupation in the first place. One must never forget that the neo-cons operate under a single minded purpose to make real their nightmare of an endless war that results in world domination. In their rose-colored view there is no middle ground.

The distinct possibility of total annihilation doesn't enter their calculations and as Glenn notes, it's exactly this narrow perspective that allows no contingency plan for failure that puts us in the most danger. For all the debate on the ramifications of leaving Iraq, the single most important point is being ignored and that is the ramifications if we stay.

This latest hostage taking would seem to provide a clue to that danger and Americans would do well to heed it before we allow Bush to quietly sidle into opening a new front in his quest to salvage some meaningful result from the ill-fated invasion that never should have allowed to go forward in the first place.

Update: For more food for thought, see Cernig who, as usual, connects the dots beyond the obvious and comes up with a rather unpleasant picture.

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It's official - the terrorists have won

I've been warning about this since the day after 9/11 and finally the evidence is being revealed. In the shock and panic after 9/11 we allowed our government to create a police state with nary a murmur of protest. How is this even legal?
For at least a year before the 2004 Republican National Convention, teams of undercover New York City police officers traveled to cities across the country, Canada and Europe to conduct covert observations of people who planned to protest at the convention, according to police records and interviews.

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

But potential troublemakers were hardly the only ones to end up in the files. In hundreds of reports stamped “N.Y.P.D. Secret,” the Intelligence Division chronicled the views and plans of people who had no apparent intention of breaking the law, the records show.
No one would argue that the NYC PD doesn't have a legitimate interest in preventing acts of violence but the difference between a group of Quakers and an anarchists bent on vandalism couldn't be more clear. Even more clear is that the NYPD overstepped their boundaries by thousands of miles, apparently under court sanction.
...In its preparations, the department applied the intelligence resources that had just been strengthened for fighting terrorism to an entirely different task: collecting information on people participating in political protests.

In the records reviewed by The Times, some of the police intelligence concerned people and groups bent on causing trouble, but the bulk of the reports covered the plans and views of people with no obvious intention of breaking the law.

...These included members of street theater companies, church groups and antiwar organizations, as well as environmentalists and people opposed to the death penalty, globalization and other government policies. Three New York City elected officials were cited in the reports.
There is a glaring difference between groups organizing to exercise their constitutionally protected right to peacefully protest and the very few radical organizations that intend to cause mayhem, and among those there are even fewer that would seek to hurt innocent citizens. Their brand of violence mostly lends itself towards disruption and vandalism. The difference is easily discerned by historical reference and a cursory look at websites.

The wide net approach taken by the NYPD betrays the bedrock principles of our democracy and smacks more of the intimidation tactics of the Gestapo than a law enforcement unit with a mission to protect and serve. Even more concerning is just how wide a net the NYPD cast.
New York undercover officers were active themselves in at least 15 places outside New York — including California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montreal, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, D.C. — and in Europe.
Again, the NYPD has every right to protect its biggest city, but we are talking about a local law enforcement unit that is operating far outside the limits of its jurisdiction. The NYPD may have rightly felt failed by federal intelligence agencies, but that is not a justification for them to effectively take over a federal function that itself has already run amok in shattering the limits of reasonable domestic surveillance. Even worse, they conducted this operation to "protect" the the ruling political party's convention from having to encounter uncomfortable rhetoric from peaceful protestors. I've seen no indication that the delegates themselves were in imminent danger of physical harm.

If this isn't the definition of a police state, then please tell me how to define it.

[thanks to Cernig, Gun Toting Liberal and Sonia Smith at Slate for the links]

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Say goodbye Gonzales

The latest document dump, tellingly delivered on a Friday, proves rather unequivocally to me, that Gonzales lied to Congress. He said he wasn't involved in the attoryney purge and yet here's a memo that says he chaired a meeting about it. Are we to believe that something that big escaped his attention? That he was out of the loop on the decision? Over 3,000 emails circulated about the matter that we know about. Who can seriously defend the man's veracity?

Certainly not Capt. Ed who wisely notes the longer the White House allows this scandal to build, the more damage it will cause.
One cannot support an Attorney General who misleads Congress, allows his staffers to mislead Congress, and deceives the American people, regardless of whether an R or a D follows his name or the majority control of Congress.
Don't get me wrong. It wouldn't break my heart to see the neo-cons crash into smithereens on the shoals of this scandal, but the last thing I think we need is for the entire GOP to self-destruct in the process. If there's one thing we've learned in the last six years, single party power is not healthy for the republic, no matter which side of the fence you're standing on.

We still need at least two parties to keep the system in balance. One can only hope that common sense conservatives will be able to reclaim theirs once Bush is done dragging it through the neo-con nightmare.

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A trip down memory lane with Peggy Noonan

A double hat tip to my dear friend Jules Siegel for this gem. One might suppose she would like to forget she ever said this.
"It has been established already in this race that Mr. Gore tells a lot of lies, that he lies a lot even for a politician. But I think it has also been established that Mr. Bush not only does not lie but is probably incapable of lying. He is, transparently and simply, not a liar but a plainspoken teller of the truth as he is able to see it. This is a wonderful thing in anyone, and marvelous in a politician. A palpably honest man running for office in the Clinton era!"
So tell me again why anyone is listening to her now? In fact, tell me why she even still has a job at one of the formerly most respected newspapers in the world. It's frightening to see how deeply the White House culture of incompetency has infected our media. No wonder we're in such a mess.

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Legal drugs more lethal than pot and ecstasy

Although I don't speak about it much here, I started my first blog, Last One Speaks, to focus on my pet issue of drug policy reform. So I love this study.
LONDON -- New "landmark" research finds that alcohol and tobacco are more dangerous than some illegal drugs like marijuana or Ecstasy and should be classified as such in legal systems, according to a new British study.

...In research published Friday in The Lancet magazine, Professor David Nutt of Britain's Bristol University and colleagues proposed a new framework for the classification of harmful substances, based on the actual risks posed to society. Their ranking listed alcohol and tobacco among the top 10 most dangerous substances.

Heroin and cocaine were ranked most dangerous, followed by barbiturates and street methadone. Alcohol was the fifth-most harmful drug and tobacco the ninth most harmful. Cannabis came in 11th, and near the bottom of the list was Ecstasy.
And a word of warning to those who enjoy the legal drugs. This could very well be the first salvo in a call for a new prohibition among the nanny government types.
While experts agreed that criminalizing alcohol and tobacco would be challenging, they said that governments should review the penalties imposed for drug abuse and try to make them more reflective of the actual risks and damages involved.

Nutt called for more education so that people were aware of the risks of various drugs. "All drugs are dangerous," he said. "Even the ones people know and love and use every day."
In fact, everything is dangerous if consumed to excess - even water, as those who recall the recent death of a radio show contestant in California will remember. The point is once you start the slide down the slippery slope of allowing nanny government to dictate non-infringing personal behavior, it's extraordinarily difficult to get back up that hill to common sense.

[h/t Tits McGee]

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GOP losing its charm with Americans

It's hardly a death knell for the party, but it is a sign that the permanent majority theory is failing. A new study shows the number of Americans who self-identify with the Republican party is dropping. Not that the Democrats should be popping champagne over it. They're not doing all that much better but still the numbers are telling.
The study, which looks at political views since 1987, shows that the gap between people who identify as Democrats and identify as Republicans is larger than it has ever been...

The study suggests the war in Iraq -- which registers strong opposition in other studies -- has taken its toll on Americans' views of military strength. After the Sept. 11 attacks, 62 percent said they agreed with the view that "the best way to ensure peace is through military strength." Just 49 percent agree with that view today, while 47 percent disagree. That is the lowest amount of support shown for using military strength in the study's 20 year span.

On social values, the study reiterates well-publicized trends in recent years, including greater acceptance of homosexuality, less desire for women to play traditional roles in society and less interest in religion. It also indicated that support has increased for affirmative action.
It looks like those wedge issues that proved so successful for the GOP in the last few years have finally come back to bite the Republicans in the butt. People are gradually becoming sick of the holy-rolling moralizers and their nanny government policies.

Kevin Drum sums it up well.
The GOP isn't dead, and Democratic victories in future years are hardly assured. But there's not much question that Republicans are going to have to find a new schtick. The combination of Grover Norquist and James Dobson had its day, but that day is fading fast. If they want to stay relevant, they're going to need some new ideas.
Ironically, it appears they're going to need to swing back towards the left if they expect to regain any ground.

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Lam complaints a little too convenient

I'm unexpectedly having to work today so just a couple of quick hits before I go. Emptywheel at The Next Hurrah uncovers a really interesting coincidence. A report on terminated USA Carol Lam that supposedly proves there were performance issues on her handling of smuggling cases wasn't released for almost half a year. It apparently didn't become an issue until Lam started investigating corrupt GOP politicians.

But even more interesting, is the letter of complaint from GOP congressmen about her inattention to immigration cases, also being used as "proof" of her poor performance, was signed by Duke Cunningham, Jerry Lewis, Richard Pombo, John Doolittle, Duncan Hunter and Bill Thomas, all of whom would either be indicted or subject to the investigation of GOP fraud.

Funny, but not a joke.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

What's up with Iran?

Between work and my current obsession with purgegate, I haven't had time to really look at this story today but it strikes me as somewhat worrisome. Hell of a bad time for Tehran to get feisty. Fortunately, Michael J.W. Stickings at The Reaction has got it covered and pretty much sums up my intital thoughts on this development.

Check out his excellent analysis here.

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The attorney purge and unitary executive theory

I know this blog is in danger of becoming all purge, all the time but former Nixon counsel John Dean has a must read piece at Findlaw that explains why this scandal is important beyond the ordinary political machinations.
In truth, much more is at stake here for both the Congress and the White House than this bare description of the conflict would indicate. These issues strike at the heart of what post-Watergate conservative Republicans seek to create: an all-powerful presidency. Thus, for the same reason that Vice President Cheney went to extreme lengths to block Congress from getting information about the work of his National Energy Task Force, as I discussed in prior columns such as this one, I expect President Bush to take what will appear to be a similar irrational posture. For both Bush and Cheney, virtually any limit on presidential power is too great.
Dean outlines the history of the unitary executive theory, how it's come to form the lynchpin of the neo-conservative mindset and how they sold it based on invented history. It's longish but really succinct and I think his conclusion is right on target.
This time, it is my belief that Bush -- unlike Reagan before him -- will not blink. He will not let Fielding strike a deal, as Fielding did for Reagan. Rather, Bush feels that he has his manhood on the line. He knows what his conservative constituency wants: a strong president who protects his prerogatives. He believes in the unitary executive theory of protecting those prerogatives, and of strengthening the presidency by defying Congress.

In short, all those who have wanted to see Karl Rove in jail may get their wish, for he will not cave in, either -- and may well be prosecuted for contempt, as Gorsuch was not. Bush's greatest problem here, however, is Harriett Miers. It is dubious he can exert any privilege over a former White House Counsel; I doubt she is ready to go to prison for him; and all who know her say if she is under oath, she will not lie. That could be a problem.
I'm not much for schadenfreude but I'll admit I would love to see Rove finally pay some price for a lifetime of lies.

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Question of the day

Joe Conason at Salon has it.

"Why didn't everybody laugh when he said that?"

I was wondering that myself. I know I did.

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The White House belongs to the people, not the President

Former White House insider Beth Nolan, who served under Clinton, pens an opinion piece for the Washington Post that in general supports the premise Rove and Miers should testify under oath, but I call BS on this quote.
Out of respect for the separation of powers, Congress should not ordinarily call on such officials for testimony but should leave such officials to devote their attention to their duties for the president. This rationale no longer has force for those who have left the White House, such as Harriet Miers, but even then, communications with the president or internal White House communications about the president's decision to dismiss his appointees should usually be shielded from disclosure. Presidents need candid advice from their counselors, and respecting the privilege enhances the likelihood of such candor.
I'm getting really tired of hearing how the advisors won't be able to give candid advice about personnel matters if they're called on to justify it later. This idea that executive privilege covers such a wide scope is what's wrong with our government today. The insiders have forgotten they work for us. We pay their salaries, dammit, and they're answerable to us for their decisions on how they're running the nuts and bolts of our government.

The President doesn't own the White House, or our country. He's our tenant and our property manager. The taxpayer foots the bills and as such is the landowner and boss, with every right to know what our employees in the White House are doing in our name -- and that includes the President and his ministers.

We've allowed both parties to take the concept of executive privilege too far and it must be stopped here and now. There are certainly some matters of state where secrecy is necessary and advisable. The attorney purge is not one of them.

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Looking out for number one - and 43

I'm not a huge fan of David Ignatius but he nails one big problem with the Bush administration in today's op-ed.
The Bush political operatives have become the people the Republicans once warned the country against -- a club of insiders who seem to think that they're better than other folks. They are so contemptuous of government and the public servants who populate it that they have been unable to govern effectively. They are a smug, inward-looking elite that thinks it knows who the good guys are by the political labels they wear.

This contempt has been evident in many of the administration's failures. The disastrous incompetence of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 flowed from its status as a clubhouse for ambitious conservatives eager to punch a political ticket in a country they knew nothing about. The political purges that enfeebled the CIA in 2005 were the work of a conservative former member of Congress, Porter Goss, and a coterie of political aides he brought from Capitol Hill who thought they knew more about intelligence than career professionals. The administration's signature failure, its bumbling response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, was the work of a right-wing political appointee who knew almost nothing about disaster management and who scorned many of the bureaucrats who worked for him.
Amen. For all their sneering about "limo liberals," the leaders in the Bushland set the standard for political elitism and social snobbery. Whoever first called them "materialistic conservatives" was right on target and if one wants to discover the roots of incivility in our political discourse today, you need look no further than this self-absorbed "I got mine - too bad you didn't get yours" crowd.

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Iraq bills move forward in House and Senate

It's hard to know what to make of this exactly, but at least it's progress of a sort. The House is expected to pass a binding measure today that will establish readiness standards and a deadline of Aug. 31, 2008 for withdrawal of the troops. More surprisingly to me, a "Senate committee also passed a spending bill yesterday that included a provision for bringing troops home within a year.
Initial efforts to tie the deployment of combat forces to tough standards for resting, equipping and training the troops have been bolstered by binding benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet. If the Iraqis fall short, troop withdrawals could begin as early as July 1. In any case, the withdrawals would have to begin in March 2008, with most combat forces out by Aug. 31, 2008.

Even the more cautious Senate Democrats have moved toward setting a troop-withdrawal date. The Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday approved a $122 billion version of a spending bill that would require troops to begin leaving Iraq within four months of passage and would set a nonbinding goal of March 31, 2008, for the removal of combat troops.
Both bills appear to contain many avenues for the Bush administration to circumvent the measures and as a practical matter, Bush is likely to either veto the bills because they put any restraint on his recklessness or he could let them pass and simply issue one of his famous signing statements and ignore them, as he is wont to do.

I fear for our troops, this will have no practical effect. They will continue to be deployed, their tours will be extended beyond humane limits and the occupation will continue to bleed out their members and our treasury. But I find it vaguely hopeful that at least the Democrats managed to pull together some kind of consensus.

It's good to remember in a diverse group with varying agendas, that compromise is the key to action and by definition that means that nobody gets everything they want. These bills are at least a sign that the system is beginning to find some kind of balance again.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Judge throws out internet porn law

It seems like everything on the radar screen today is about porn. A federal judge struck down an internet porn law presumably designed to prevent kid's from accessing on-line porn. The judge effectively said in his decision that it wasn't up to the courts to do the parent's job in preventing access to adult content.

He noted, and I'm paraphrasing here, that if parents are too uninvolved to spend enough time with their kids to prevent them from accessing inappropirate material, the technology exists for them to filter it themselves. He rightly ruled that the danger to the First Amendment overrode any practical influence such a law might have on availibilty of the content in question.

Good for him.

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Gonzales won't quit

This is so irritating. Gonzales is fighting to keep his job and pulling the Holy War on Vice card.
GONZALES: I’m not going to resign. I’m going to stay focused on protecting our kids. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done around the country. The department is responsible for protecting our kids, for making our neighborhoods safe, for protecting our country against attacks of terrorism, to going after gangs, going after drug dealers. I’m staying focussed on that.

When all else fails invoke the war on some drugs and porn. And make no mistake, this is what he's talking about.

Gonzales won't resign so he can continue to "protect" our kids by tying up our judicial resources with nanny prosecutions on "crimes" of personal choice between consenting adults. But the administration's drug war has made our children immeasurably less safe from drugs by creating an unregulated black market and the war on porn is just as much a sham.

They're not focusing on child pornographers, they're going after adults and worse yet, our own government is in the porn business itself, even while it indicts other vendors for providing the same titles. If Gonzales thinks calling for more nanny government is going to win me over, he should think again. I'd say it's one more good reason to get rid of him.

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What is the White House afraid of?

Sidney Blumenthal at Salon has an idea and I rather like the way he put it.
In the U.S. attorney scandal, Alberto Gonzales gave orders, but he also took them -- from Karl Rove, who plotted to turn the federal criminal justice system into the Republican Holy Office of the Inquisition.
Rove is up to his eyeballs in this purge. The White House lied when it initially said they weren't even involved in the terminations, and lied again when they blamed Harriet. I would think that alone would be enough reason to compel immediate testimony under oath from the president's minister.

Update: Steve Benen runs down the reasons for oversight.

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Senate joins House in calling Bush bluff

I had to correct last night's post, because an alert reader noticed it was a House committee that approved the subpoenas yesterday, but it turns I was just being a little clairvoyant. The Senate did indeed agree today to also authorize subpoenas." The White House reacted predictably.
Presidential press secretary Tony Snow cast the administration's offer to allow Rove, former White House counsel Harriet Miers and their deputies talk to lawmakers in private as the best deal Democrats are going to get.

"We opened with a compromise," Snow told reporters. "By our reaching out, we're doing something that we're not compelled to do by the Constitution." But, he added, "The phone lines are still open."
Compromise, my foot. It's a dodge, but I rather liked Leahy's response.
"I have never heard the Senate take an ultimatum like that," Leahy said. "I know he's the decider for the White House. "But he's not the decider for the United States Senate."
Nor is he the decider for the American people. Contrary to the loyalist's contention, this is not a private personnel matter. This is our government. We pay the bills, we pay the salaries and we have the right to know how these decisions are made. And the president is most certainly constitutionally required to disclose that information to all of us.

There is no reason not to give this testimony under sworn oath before a public committee and there is a multitude of reasons they should do so. If we're to trust that the president's advisors aren't going to lie in unsworn testimony, then what's the big problem with them swearing in anyway? It only takes a few seconds and if they intend to tell the truth, then why are so reluctant to put it on the public record?

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Cancer recurrence won't stop Edwards' campaign

Needless to say, I join the nation in sending my thoughts and prayers to Elizabeth Edwards, who just discovered a new cancer has manifested in her bones and possibly her lungs. I don't like thinking about cancer. It's taken a few people I know away already and I have three cherished friends who are right now fighting this treatable, yet maddeningly incurable disease.

I find it remarkable they can talk about it so routinely, discussing chemo and other treatment regimes in the same tone as they might discuss dinner plans, and I find it inspiring that they can carry on with their lives as if that death sentence isn't hanging over every waking moment. Their courage sometimes moves me to tears in my private moments and my heart breaks for all of us, because I fear they will be taken from us who love them, too soon.

I'm an extraordinarily empathetic person, but I can hardly comprehend how much more difficult it must be, to be compelled to share such a diagnosis with an entire world of strangers. I'm in awe of John and Elizabeth Edwards in this difficult moment and hope their grace and strength will assist all victims of terminal illness to find the same limitless fortitude as they, and my dear friends, possess.

If you missed the presser, Shakes has the video.
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Signs of real hope in Iraq?

I'm surprised this isn't making more buzz. Cernig uncovers some small reasons to hope for a positive result in Iraq. He notes that Maliki, perhaps goaded into action by rumors of his imminent replacement to be engineered by US overseers, has met with leaders of two very important insurgent groups.

Maliki apparently had fruitful meetings with both Sunni and Shia militia factions, with an eye towards enlisting their support to dismantle the influence of al Qaeda and other foreign factions. This may not be the best news for the Bush administration since both groups still want the US occupation to end, however it does bode well for the potential easing of sectarian violence among the indigineous factions.

I hope Cernig is right. I would love to eat my words about my doubts that Maliki would ever be able to pull this off.

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White House aided Big Tobacco with US Attorney interference

Let's face it. You don't get appointed as a US Attorney because you oppose the administration that appoints you, and you generally don't work for the prosecution side of the justice system because you disagree with the laws or the politics involved, so on some level it's rather astonishing that so many attorneys who didn't get fired are coming forward to chronicle just how widely the Bush administration has politicized the system.
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."

Unsurprisingly, a GOP led investigation found no wrongdoing at the time but that clearly doesn't mean there wasn't any and worse yet it's still going on unabated.
Eubanks said Congress should not limit its investigation to the dismissal of the U.S. attorneys.

"Political interference is happening at Justice across the department," she said. "When decisions are made now in the Bush attorney general's office, politics is the primary consideration. . . . The rule of law goes out the window."

The White House made a crucial error in this purge. They underestimated the loyalty members of the bar have for each other, and apparently didn't figure on the federal prosecutors being willing to speak out now that they finally have a Democratic majority to back up their allegations with meaningful investigations.

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Mystery YouTube creator steps forward

This working for a living thing can really interfere with blogging. My schedule has been so overloaded, I hadn't even heard of this video until this morning. Frankly I didn't think it was that great and I remember the original commericial it was based on.

It seems to me that the big controversy is the creator made in Obama's name without his knowledge, but as he points out, it does demonstrate the power of individually made video spots. It also pretty clearly illustrates how simple it is for opponents to swiftboat each other in the internet age.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Only the porn emails survive...

Josh Marshall continues to drive this story. The collective investigators at TPM have uncovered the latest damning evidence against the White House in the attorney purge scandal.

Nixon had his 18 minute gap. Bush has his 18 day gap in the emails produced by his Justice Department. That about sums up the over the top hubris of this president. He truly believes he is above the law. Interesting the only emails that survived concerned the embarrassing porn case we mentioned last week.

The Salt Lake Tribune picks up on those and spins it to the White House's favor, but only tellhalf the story. It's not that these two weren't willing to prosecute cases. The cases were dogs and appeared to be nearly unwinnable.

Think Progress ponders on why only those emails were released.
In other words, it makes sense that the administration would include this set of emails and apparently virtually nothing else from that 18-day-gap, since the emails from Ward bolster the administration’s case that the firings were based on performance-related concerns.
Except that they don't. Not that the White House won't spin it that way but I really would hate to see them get away with it.

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House calls Bush's bluff on purge scandal

I love it. The House approved subpoenas and compelling of documents in the attorney purge scandal. The Republicans unsurprisingly made a lot of noise about not wanting to issue them until actionable wrongdoing had been uncovered. Please. What little that has come out so far suggests gross wrongdoing and Leahy says the documents have been radically redacted. I'd guess Justice didn't give them nearly half of what they were entitled to see.

Frankly, I'm a little disappointed to hear Conyers suggesting otherwise. Meanwhile, the NYT has the definitive quote of the day.
Responding defiantly on Tuesday, Mr. Bush said he would resist any effort to put his top aides under “the klieg lights” in “show trials” on Capitol Hill, and he reiterated his support for Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, whose backing among Republicans on Capitol Hill ebbed further.
Hard to believe that the man who is ultimately responsible for holding thousands of prisoners incommunicado, and torturing them for "confessions," can deliver a line about show trials with a straight face. And you would think a guy whose family fortune was built on trading with Nazis would want to avoid the mention of klieg lights.

In any event, you know of course that Gonzales is history. The leading indicator being George has given Al the old "heckva job" support. But this time his intransigence may backfire. He doesn't have his rubberstamp majority on tap to sweep it under the rug. If he forces the Committee's hand, he may find there's no ace left up his sleeve to avoid even more uncomfortable investigations.

Here's hoping the Democrats live up to their mandate and keep those "klieg lights" relentlessly trained on the White House. It's about time this administration's shadow government was illuminated.

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