Thursday, June 28, 2007

State of the Bush Presidency

McClatchy has a good piece on the state of the Bush Presidency. It is basically right in claiming that Bush will be able to get little, if anything done, for the rest of his term. He might well be able to stave off major losses, but he will not be able to push through any new measures. The tax cuts will expire and NCLB will have a major overhaul or be abandoned. Little will be left of his main legislative efforts. It is still a big question, however, whether or not he will be able to stonewall investigations into his various power grabs. There are occasional grumblings of Republican disaffection (Sen. Lugar being the latest) but Atrios is consistently right. None of these folks (Lugar, Voinavich, anyone) are actually willing to do anything. So maybe the dam will burst over the next year, but history gives us little reason to believe that it will.

One thing in the article was both amusing and frustrating. The conventional wisdom, at least as represented by the likes of David Broder, has it that the Democrats have killed the immigration bill, in spite of the fact that Democrats largely supported the President's bill and Republicans opposed it. Right in keeping with this analysis we have McClatchy saying
In the Senate, 37 Republicans — including both senators from Bush's home state of Texas — joined 15 Democrats and one independent in blocking the immigration plan.
So the 15 Democrats and on independent blocked the bill, with a little help from the greater than twice than number of Republicans who joined them? I don't think so. Rather, 37 Republicans moved to block the bill and succeeded with the aid of some 15 Democrats and one independent. Note that the 37 Republicans needed only three more votes to block the bill.

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Libby Defenders

Mark Kleiman makes a very good observation about the motives and principals of those who are defending Scooter Libby and calling for his pardon.

If you had any doubt that the fuss about Libby's sentence is largely a matter of Washington insiders, political and journalistic, rallying to the defense of one of their own, consider the contrasting silence about the Siegelman case. A highly popular Democratic Governor of Alabama was indicted by a highly political U.S. Attorney's office, which is now seeking a thirty-year sentence. He was convicted of appointing someone to a state board that the same man had been appointed to by three previous governors, in return for a contribution in support of a referendum campaign. If that's a crime, then what are we to say about the system of rewarding campaign contributors with plum Ambassadorships?

Look into the Siegelman case in more detail and the contrast becomes much starker. Our national defenders of Scooter Libby are ready to declare Patrick Fitzgerald to be an out of control prosecutor. But consider this from the Siegelman case
But Siegelman's case differs from the usual pattern in some ways. For example, former Gov. Guy Hunt, a Republican, was found guilty in state court of personally pocketing $200,000. And state prosecutors sought probation, not jail time, in the Hunt case.

To support their call for the lengthy prison term for Siegelman, federal prosecutors gave Fuller a list of additional alleged illegal activities, including material from the counts on which the former governor had been acquitted by the jury.
So, to justify their call for a thirty-year sentence they made reference to the activities for which he was acquitted. This produces no outrage for a prosecution out of control. Can anyone seriously believe that the support of Scooter Libby is due to any principals based on law or justice?

I see now that Siegelman has been sentenced to seven years and four months. Sure makes Scooter's two years and six months seem outrageous, doesn't it?

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Some Progress

While the White House continues to stonewall on the NSA wiretapping issue and the firing of the USAs, Rep. Henry Waxman has succeded in striking a deal on his efforts to investigate how the Executive Branch (and Dick Cheney) have been handling classified information. Recall that the whole "fourth branch of government" came to a fore, in part, over Dick Cheney's refusal to comply with an executive order on handling classified information. It seems that there have been even larger problems with how the White House handles classified information.
The heads of the office[White House Security Office or WHSO], just-departed director James Knodell and deputy Ken Greeson, took no action when presented with charges that aides to President Bush and Vice President Cheney left classified documents strewn throughout hotel rooms and across their desks, and they themselves took cellphones and Blackberries into secure facilities in violation of protocol.
Waxman's House Government Oversight Committee has been pursuing this issue for some time now, with little cooperation from the White House. The committee had gotten to the point where unless they got access to interview
current and former White House officials who could speak to the alleged pattern of abuse, the committee would issue subpoenas. Apparently Fielding and Waxman have agreed on terms for the interviews. Interestingly
The White House has consented to "transcribed interviews" with Alan Swendimen, director of the Office of Administration; Mark Frownfelter, an ex-security officer; and former WHSO head Jeff Thompson.
So for this investigation the White House will agree to transcription of the interviews. The perjury trap question isn't relevant here. Why? Why then are they opposed to even transcripts for the interviews with Harriet Miers and with Sara Taylor? What is it that makes these two so much more likely to commit perjury if they have their comments transcribed.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Dick Cheney's fourth branch

Just another though I had on the surreal argument about Dick Cheney's assertion that he constitutes a separate, independent branch of government. Apparently, Dick Cheney's theory is that because he has some legislative functions, as VP, he is outside the authority of either the legislative or the executive branch. I'm just waiting for someone to notice that the President signs bills into law, thus completing the legislative function, and starts to argue that he is outside the authority of the Executive branch.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Testing Bush

So Kagro X over at Kos has a lengthy post up about the running story of Dick Cheney (and now amazingly George Bush) are exempt from Bush's executive order defining how classified information is to be handled. The major points are noted in the post. For one thing, while Bush and Cheney are now claiming that the order doesn't apply to them, that is no where indicated in the actual order. In fact the order makes specific mention of the role of the President and Vice President at numerous places. To claim now that they have nothing to do with it, is absurd.

But I think the order, and the current response of our chief executives, says a great deal about their competence. One overriding feature of the Bush/Cheney administration is the refusal, under any circumstances, to allow a set of standards to be defined ahead of time, standards by which they might be judged a success or a failure. They are incompetent. Should any standard be defined ahead of time, they would invariably fail to meet it. Their only chance of being viewed by anyone as a success is if the standards of success can be defined after the fact.

We see that again in the current dispute. Even when they have a standard set by themselves, they have to exempt themselves from it. If they were to be held to adhere to any standard, they would demonstrably fail.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Close the Carbon Cycle

This is part of my general musings on the environment.

I have come across a lot of proposals for what to do about greenhouse emissions. There is also a lot of debate the relative merits of different options trying to consider how every aspect of the technology will impact greenhouse gas emissions. Ethanol, for example, burns quite cleanly, but you have to use a lot of energy to produce it, and if that energy comes from fossil fuels itself, you need to take those emissions into consideration. There are other proposals like putting chalk in asphalt making it gray instead of black. This is actually a good idea, as it will increase the amount of solar radiation reflected back into space, and so reduce surface warming (this is known technically as increasing the earth's albedo). In the discussion that I've seen, however, (although I must say my research to date has not been extensive) what I think the central objective of our efforts must be, is being missed.

The ultimate objective, with regards to greenhouse emissions, needs to be to close the carbon cycle. That is, we need to get to a point where the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere in the form of CO2 each is less than or equal to the amount of CO2 drawn from the atmosphere each year. Plants growing, oceanic algae, a host of other activities, pulls CO2 from the atmosphere each year. Great. Respiration from animals and human activities like burning fossil fuels adds CO2 to the atmosphere. Currently we put a lot more in than gets taken out. So keep in mind that we won't solve the greenhouse gas problem, until we close the carbon cycle.

The upshot is that nuclear power, which I'm not opposed to, is an aid to the greenhouse gas issue only to the extent that it replaces the burning of fossil fuels. It does not help the issue if it simply adds capacity and people simply use more power. Likewise, the chalk in the asphalt, or other techniques to raise the earth's albedo, will put off the day that increasing CO2 levels will have devestating effect. And that is a good thing. However, it does not help close the carbon cycle, which ultimately we must do.

More on these ideas in a future post.

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This would be great

It looks like maybe the Democrats might actually play hardball with Mr. Cheney. Rahm Emmanuel has put forth an amendment to cut funding for the Office of the Vice President from the bill that funds the executive branch. Given Cheney's recent claims that he comprises his own branch of government this is exactly the kind of action the Democrats need to be doing. Go, Rahm.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Green Thoughts

Just a Kos diary I wanted to keep a record of. I'm getting interested in learning more about various energy options and have come across a number of sources which indicate that it should be possible to produce a considerable amount of bio-diesel from waste material. This seems to me to be a very promising route, but more on all that later.

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Well, I've got to mention the latest on Dick Cheney's new grab for power. He seems to be asserting authority outside of any branch of government now. Check out The Reality Based Community for some good commentary. Also, this at Daily Kos.

The Kos article is particularly valuable as Progressive American Patriot hits on the obvious problem with Cheney's claim. Cheney claims to be part of both the executive and legislative branches, therefore rules applying to the executive branch don't apply to him. That makes no sense. Even if we accept his two branch position, then that would simply imply that the rules of both branches apply, not that neither rules apply. If I own land that stretches across the boarder between Maryland and Pennsylvania, I would then be subject to the laws of both states, not subject to the laws of no state. The fact that such obvious absurdity is taken seriously by anyone is disturbing.

The article over on TRBC is good satire, although I find the argument that the Vice President's office is not executive neither right on the merits nor particularly amusing, but maybe I'm missing some subtle humor. He does make good points on the relationship between Dick Cheney's "fourth branch of government" and Bush's claim to a unitary executive (totally contradictory) and between Cheney's fourth branch and strict constructionalism (totally contradictory). Furthermore, the idea of simply defunding the Vice-Presidency is a very good idea.


Giuliani again

I basically have to agree with Mark Kleiman here
Of course, I also don't believe that he selflessly decided to forgo the opportunity to burnish his national security cred in the run-up to the election lest his presence "politicize" a process run largely by Jim Baker. But if I had to guess which of Giuliani's ruling vices was on display, my money would be on ambition and cowardice, not greed.
with particular emphasis on the cowardice. We have an unfortunate tendency to try and pick one reason for criticizing our opponents, when multiple reasons are available. Settling on "Rudy skipped the ISG meetings just to make money" is not sufficient.

I think, though, that Mark misses some of Rudy's character in his analysis. Mark suggests
Maybe he was quick enough — I never claimed the man wasn't shrewd — to figure out before the rest of us that the ISG would come down on a position that Bush, and more important the Republican primary voting base, wouldn't swallow.
But then why not stay on the commission, go to the meetings and fight for a set of recommendations that the Republican base would love. He could then quit the commission, publicly and openly, and be in great shape. The reason is the cowardice. Rudy is not going to take a stand on anything that might cost him down the road. Rudy is a perfect example of where the Republican party is today, someone who is all about appearing tough and decisive, but who is completely opposed to actually ever being tough and decisive.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Giuliani and Iraq

Although the mainstream press has ignored it for the most part, folks on the left have kind of taken notice of the report in Newsday on Monday that Rudy Giuliani was booted off the Iraq Study Group commission for failing to attend any meetings. Apparently, he had more lucrative speaking engagements to attend. For the details see Fred Kaplan's piece in Slate, or Kos, or TPM. One thing about ditching the ISG, coupled with another recent comment of Rudy's, has struck me as particularly ironic, but I haven't seen anyone highlight this particular irony.

Recently Rudy released his "12 Commitments" to highlight the issues he will consider most important. It was noted that among those commitments there was no mention of Iraq and his response when asked about this omission was
“What I was trying to do was to look at the things, as best as you can predict it now, that are going to be there a year and half from now,” he said. “iraq may get better. Iraq may get worse. We may be successful in Iraq. We may not be. I don’t know the answer to that. That’s in the hands of other people. But what we do know for sure is the terrorists are going to be at war with us a year, a year and half from now.”
Now many others have commented on the callousness of any presidential candidate simply dismissing the most important issue facing this nation, the war in Iraq, as somebody else's problem. But what strikes me is that when Giuliani agreed to be on the ISG it became, to some extent, his problem as well. It has since become "somebody else's problem" only because he didn't bother to show up for meetings to address the issue. Why would any sensible person expect that he will ever take the responsibility for this war seriously, whether he becomes President or not.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

More Thoughts on Richard Cohen

Check out the conversation with Richard Cohen over at the Washington Post blog.

One point that I have to comment on. Cohen, like a lot of folks on the right, make comparison to Bill Clinton, a comparison which superficially makes some sense, but which falls apart upon reflection. Yes Clinton was accused of perjury and obstruction of justice, as was Scooter Libby. The argument from the left was that there was no underlying crime, which the right is echoing with regard to Libby. But there is no mystery why Clinton lied to the country and misled the court and later the Grand Jury. He was covering up a personal and politically embarrassing, but in no way criminal, affair. So, not only do we not have a specific crime that Clinton was supposed to have committed, and was covering up. We have abundant evidence that there was a perfectly plausible, non-criminal reason for his dishonesty.

The case of Scooter Libby is different. We have clear evidence, indeed sufficient evidence to return a verdict of guilty in a court of law, that he had systematically lied to the FBI and a Grand Jury and acted to obstruct justice. No one on Libby's side of this debate has put forth any plausible reason for him doing so. There is no embarrassing, but non-criminal, affair that he was covering up, no non-criminal reason to lie offered up at all. From Richard Cohen we get the likes of
In Libby's case, I don't know the reason for the crime. I don't know whether or not he was telling the truth and simply forgot he leaked this information -- it's a remote possibility, but I don't buy it. I don't know if he was covering up for someone else's political embarrassment. But I don't think that's the same thing as actually committing a crime.
If he lied to a grand jury it wasn't because he made money illegally or took bribes or some other crime, it was because he was covering up for embarrassment or because he mistakenly thought he had committed a crime.
In which he admits that he does not know why Libby committed his crimes, but offers up some absurd possibilities. Libby lied because he thought he had committed a crime. Libby himself was a lawyer and did not check with any other lawyers before he entered into a long series of perjuries and acts obstructing justice because he thought he might have committed a crime. I don't think so. Alternately, he simply forgot and did not make sure what was what before testifying before the Grand Jury. Again, this is a silly explanation. Libby systematically lied to the Grand Jury and obstructed justice. One simple, straight-forward and typical reason for doing this is to cover up actual criminal activity. And in spite of the claims from the likes of Richard Cohen the systematic effort to get the name of a covert CIA operative to the press is very likely to involve breaking the laws of the United States of America. It is also perfectly plausible that, as Fitzgerald has indicated, Libbey's perjury succeeded in thwarting the investigation into that illegal activity. Being successful at obstructing justice is not a reason for leniency in sentencing.

Beyond the silly reasons given by Richard Cohen, he does also express his belief that Libby was covering up some vague and unspecified "political embarrassment", but he cannot specify what exactly that might be. His dismissal of criminal reasons for Libby's obstruction of justice is just so much hand waving. Arguing that Libby did not commit the underlying crime, in no way discounts the possibility that he was covering for those who did commit the crime. Given the CIA referral, the recusal from the case by Ashcroft, the appointment of a prosecutor, the court's support of jailing Cooper and Miller and the general background of the case (a covert CIA operative's name was made public) it is very likely that some laws were broken and very likely that Libby's perjury protected the criminals from prosecution.

So in the Clinton case we have abundant evidence that his dishonesty was to cover up non-criminal behavior. In Libby's case we no non -criminal reason for his dishonesty and substantial reason to believe that he was dishonest in order to cover up serious criminal acts. These are the reasons for treating the two cases differently.

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What Greenwald said

Read Glen Greenwald, it's good for you.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007


The fourth circuit court of appeals has handed down a ruling thoroughly eviscerating George Bush's theory of the unitary executive and upholding our constitutional protections and the rule of law. This is very good news. The conservative view of the unitary executive is completely at odds with our constitutional system and it is counter-productive to any security interests we citizens have. Granting the President nearly unlimited power to seize and detain American citizens does not serve to protect us in any way whatsoever. It can only serve to protect the personal interests of the person of the President, not of the nation or its people.

I recommend reading more detail about the case at Kos, and Hullabaloo.

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Richard Cohen on Scooter Lilbby

Another embarrassing mis-analysis from Richard Cohen, this time on the Scooter Libby case, has been discussed already at Talk Left, Kos and Glen Greenwald. Excellent commentary in each case, read them all. I had just a few more comments myself to make. As the others have pointed out, the piece is full of rank errors, but the following paragraph struck me as particularly absurd, in a very absurd piece:

As Fitzgerald worked his wonders, threatening jail and going after government gossips with splendid pluck, many opponents of the Iraq war cheered. They thought -- if "thought" can be used in this context -- that if the thread was pulled on who had leaked the identity of Valerie Plame to Robert D. Novak, the effort to snooker an entire nation into war would unravel and this would show . . . who knows? Something. For some odd reason, the same people who were so appalled about government snooping, the USA Patriot Act and other such threats to civil liberties cheered as the special prosecutor weed-whacked the press, jailed a reporter and now will send a previously obscure government official to prison for 30 months.

Those who were opposed to the war and who applauded Fitzgerald's investigation did indeed think, they thought that crimes might well have been committed, hence the criminal investigation. It is what we do in this country when there is reason to believe that a crime has been committed. I am struck too by Mr. Cohen's questioning whether those who disagree with him on this matter even think, by writing a piece so intellectually vacuous. The irony is impressive. Then he is puzzled at what might be shown if the tread on "the effort to snooker an entire nation into war" got pulled. It might show how the effort was done and what, if any, crimes were committed. Again, this is why we have criminal investigations, Mr. Cohen.

He then wonders that people who are appalled at government snooping would approve of the Fitzgerald investigation. Among sane people at least, it is not generally felt that there are exactly two states, either the government should always be investigating anything it wishes on a whim, or that government should never investigate anything ever. Rather, those of us on the left at least believe that in the absence of something called 'probable cause' the government should not be investigating individual citizen, but when there exists probably cause of criminal activity, the government should investigate. I understand that the whole if/then concept is a little confusing, but as most ten year-olds kind of get it, I think we can expect Mr. Cohen to have the basics down, at least. Given the above 'probable cause' thing, and the fact that Fitzgerald had probably cause that Libby had committed crimes, I think the behavior that so puzzles Mr. Cohen is perfectly understandable.

At the very end of the paragraph, Mr. Cohen seems disturbed by the mere facts that a reported got jailed and that a previously obscure government official was sent to prison for 30 months. This seems odd. Beyond the fact that these things happened, he gives to reason to be bothered by them. So unless he feels that reporters should never be jailed, ever, for any reason and that being an obscure government official should likewise preclude every serving time in jail, his list of Fitzgerald outrages is without substance.

And this is just one paragraph. Who has the time to review all of this drivel.

But read the other folks too (Greenwald in particular), for they get into the underlying issues that make it possible for one of our nation's top papers to have this kind of nonsense on its editorial pages. What Cohen is writing is a defense of the privileged society. Scooter Libby, like the rest of the Washington press corps and the current political leadership, is part of a privileged class of people. (Or at least they should be privileged according to themselves. They are currently rather irked that their privileges are limited.) Being part of the privileged class means that Mr. Libby should be free of any concern of imprisonment or indeed any criminal liability. Indeed the list of outrages that Mr. Cohen provides are, as I said, substance free, unless you consider the role that privilege plays. for they are all acts against the privileged, and that, to someone like Richard Cohen is the true outrage.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Criticising the Military

Tony Snow at today's press briefing:

MR. SNOW: Remind me when he comes here, and I'll make proper comments about him at the time.

The President today met with, as you know, with General Martin Dempsey, where they talked about ongoing efforts in Iraq. We are a little bit concerned about some reports on the Internet that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in a conversation with liberal bloggers, had referred to General Pete Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, as incompetent, and apparently, again according to the reports, had said disparaging things also about General David Petraeus. We certainly hope it's not true, because in a time of war, for a leader of a party that says it supports the military, it seems outrageous to be issuing slanders toward the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and also the man who is responsible for the bulk of military operations in Iraq.

Indeed, Senator Reid has, at some point, declared the war lost, and also has declared the surge a failure, even though it has not yet been fully enacted. I don't know if it's true or not. If it is true, I certainly hope he does apologize.

Now this whole issue of Harry Reid commenting on General Pace has gotten a lot of play on the blogs today. See here, here and here, just for starters (I could write here about a dozen times just from what I've seen, and I've not looked hard). So others have covered well the background and significance of Reid's actual remarks. Given the state of Iraq under Pace's command and the unceremonious manner in which the Bush administration has dumped Pace as a commander, describing him as incompetent is hardly surprising.

But another thing strikes me about the comments by Tony Snow, something that stands out from his comments alone. Snow at no point defends Pace's competence. He does not, at any point, describe Pace as an excellent, successful, competent General who is being grossly mischaracterized by the term incompetent. The closest Tony Snow comes to doing so is to describe Harry Reid's comments as "slanders", but Tony Snow never explains why they should be considered wrong, let alone deliberately dishonest.

So the upshot of Snow's comments are that it is bad for political leaders to describe a General as incompetent, whether or not the General is actually competent. That there is less of a concern as to the actually ability of these leaders as to how people in Washington discuss them. Let us make clear too, that that is a sharp point of disagreement between Mr. Snow and his fellow conservatives, and myself. The central requirement is that these leaders actually be able to perform their duties at a very high level of competence. If Mr. Snow and Mr. Bush want to have the country, and the opposition party, refrain from naming as incompetent their choice for military leaders, it is incumbent upon them to put competent leaders into those positions.

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Do not pass go, do not collect $200

Well Scooter will get to prepare his appeals from behind bars. U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton has ruled against the defense motion to have Scooter out on bail pending his appeals. Like most people convicted of crimes such as his, he will start serving his sentence while his appeals are in progress. There will be an emergency appeal filed by the defense to the court of appeals to block Walton's ruling. But if that fails, Scooter will be reporting to jail in the next 40-60 days. Walton was not convinced that Scooter stood much chance of having his conviction reversed on appeal, hence the requirement that he start serving his sentence. Walton was also not favorably swayed to Scooter's position by the volume of threatening mail sent to the judge by supporters of Libby.

Now the right wing will no doubt go crazy over this, even more than they already have. All those who are beside themselves with wrath over thought of people gaining citizenship who have broken the law to get here are equally beside themselves over the thought of a man who they like, and who obstructed justice to cover up potentially very serious crimes, serving a term in prison. The conservative mind is a strange place. Also, the pressure will now be on Bush to pardon Mr. Libby. Well I've said that Bush will pardon him, but when I'm not sure. Once Scooter actually starts serving his term in jail the pressure on Bush to pardon will be very great. As I said, I'm on record expecting the pardon, but many others think that Bush will happily let Scooter rot. I have to admit that with this administration, it is a tough call. They might well let him sit in jail. We'll see.


Saturday, June 09, 2007

Bush Iraq Policy

Josh, at TPM, points up the central contradiction in the Bush Administration policy toward Iraq at this point, and this contradiction should get a great deal more airing and discussion. Current policy toward Iraq rests on two central points. On the one hand the Administration insists that to leave Iraq is to hand the terrorists a victory that would threaten western civilization. On the other hand, when confronted with the failures of the Iraqi government to get their own control over security, Bush or Rice will insist that our patience is not unlimited. However, the former point precludes the later. Our patience running out has no meaning unless it is followed by our withdraw of our military forces from that country. Alternately, if staying in Iraq is the only hope we have of staving off the terrorist threat, then our patience must be quite without limit.

The fact that George Bush specifically, and conservatives in general, cannot seem to even perceive this contradiction, let alone resolve it, speaks volumes as to the inability of conservatism to even approach foreign affairs and national security. Furthermore, of the two options I listed for resolving the contradiction
  • Our patience will some day run out and we leave Iraq
  • Leaving Iraq will destroy us so we will stay indefinitely
I contend that the later option is absurd. The notion that there exists absolutely no policy for containing and combating terrorism and Islamic extremism other than staying in Iraq, is beyond ridiculous. Even if we pull out of Iraq, no terrorist organization or group will achieve such dominance as to be able to put the United States in any danger much greater than we currently face. By rebuilding our alliances, relying more on international cooperation and police efforts and by rebuilding our military forces we can, in fact, improve our ability to defend ourselves against terrorist attack. This leaves to the obvious conclusion that our best strategy with regards to Iraq is to use the treat of our actual departure to motivate the Iraqi government to achieve something along the lines of stability and, if they cannot, to begin departure immediately.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007


From Daily Kos some good news.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act (S. 185) this morning, with no amendments and no debate, 11-8. Specter was the sole Republican supporting the legislation. The bill should head to the full floor this month.
Restoration of full Habeas Corpus should be considered one of the more important things this nation should do. While it is not an issue that, in normal times, many of us would notice on a typical day, it is fundamental to out freedoms and to the successful operation of our government. A government unrestricted by a requirement to respect Habeas Corpus is one that will eventually go the way of tyranny, and ultimately utter failure.

One of the most frustrating things to me has been the extent, even in these modern times, to which people accept that abandoning rights such as this will improve our security. This is not true, and the overwhelming experience of mankind shows that there is little reason to believe that it might be true. Officials granted the power to arbitrarily seize and imprison people will not use that power to better protect the citizenry, rather the powers inevitably are used to protect officials from their growing failure to protect the citizenry. The current policies do nothing to protect the security of the American citizen, it serves only to protect our current elected officials.

The long term health and safety of the United States of America requires that we repeal the current policy suspending Habeas Corpus. The current bill is a good step in that direction. It still faces challenge in the Senate, and, of course, from the current President. Note that Arlen Specter was the only Republican on the committee to vote yes on the bill. Nonetheless, any move to start pointing America back in the direction of her traditional values of freedom and liberty will pay back benefits in the long term.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

More Monica

Hat tip to ThinkProgress.

Monica Goodling's situation is growing ever more interesting. She, you will recall is the Justice Department Official who was unable to tell Congress about her work in the Justice Department as it might incriminate her. She has since resigned, received immunity from prosecution and testified before Congress. During that testimony she made the unforgettable comment while being questioned by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) during her testimony before Congress
“I don’t believe that I intended to commit a crime," she said at first. Then, when he pressed, “I know I crossed the line of civil service rules."
Did that mean she crossed the line of breaking the law, he asked? "I believe I crossed the line, but I didn’t mean to," she said.
"I crossed the line, but didn't mean to." My teenager is past those kinds of excuses. I would expect more from a high-ranking Offical of the Justice Department.

Now, though, we get release of emails that are quite interesting (see here). So while she may have gone over the line but didn't mean too, she was quite consciously arranging to do these things "outside the system." Look, it isn't an innocent, inadvertent slip-up when you make special arrangements to keep it secret. You arrange to work "outside the system" specifically because you know what you are doing is against the rules. And when you are an official of the Justice Department, against the rules is quite serious.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Scooter Gets Jail

So Scooter Libby gets two and half years in jail and a quarter million dollar fine. About fair enough for purjury and obstruction of justice in the outing of a covert agent.

At this point the speculation is on whether or not Bush pardons Libby. Given the character of this White House, it could go either way. But just to make a prediction, I'm guessing that Bush will pardon Libby, certainly if Libby actually does go to jail. I really suspect that they will ignore the firestorm of criticism to keep Libby out of jail and to make sure that he stays quiet.


Justice Department

Does anyone in the Justice Department of the United States of America actually know anything?

I'm just asking because there would appear to be no one who can recall anything that has ever been done, even in their areas of expertise. It just seems that it would be a good idea if the people in the Justice Department had some idea, and recollection, about what they did. The administration of justice might better be served that way.

The other amazing thing about this Justice Department is what it has resource for and what it does not. For example
Things got testy when Leahy questioned Schlozman on his indictment of four voter registration workers one week before the November 2006 elections, despite a department policy that discourages politically sensitive indictments close to an election.

Schlozman testified that he brought the indictments against the employees of ACORN, a liberal community activist group that registers poor people and minorities to vote, "at the direction of the Public Integrity Section," the Justice Department unit that oversees voter-fraud prosecutions.

So in spite of a department policy against bringing indictments close to an election, they were able to find the time and resources to bring an indictment against the liberal ACORN organization.

On the other hand
Schlozman also testified that his office was too overwhelmed in the fall of 2004 to fully investigate a complaint from a U.S. attorney that Native Americans were facing voter discrimination because of a decision by Minnesota's Republican secretary of state.

Rather than giving the chief of the Voting Rights Section full authority to investigate the complaint, Schlozman limited him to contacting the office of Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer.

"Anytime we're doing anything in a pre-election situation ... we want to make sure we don't go off half-cocked," Schlozman said.

They were just too overwhelmed to fully investigate Native Americans were facing voter discrimination. Amazing how that works out, huh?

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Military Tribunals Derailed, Again

This story is telling on the general ineptitude of this administration. They have had five years of near complete control of the government and a largely free hand to create their special system of Military Tribunals that they claim are so vital for this War on Terror. Nonetheless they still cannot get them organized and placed on a solid footing. Two cases were dismissed today because under the system the Administration has set up, the defendants were not under the Tribunal's jurisdiction. Now I am certainly of the opinion that the entire Gitmo/Military Tribunal system is a cruel joke profoundly at odds with the basic principals upon which this country was founded. We can readily survive, indeed we are stronger and more secure, if we afford people the basic rights of a fair trial. Such a system assures everyone that we are pursuing the guilty and leaving the rest undisturbed. And that combination is essential to any state of long lasting security. It is also clear to me that the system the Administration is creating at Gitmo is at odds with both those objectives.

But having said that, if the Administration really believes that these Tribunals are needed for our security they should certainly by now have been able to match the state of the prisoners to the jurisdiction of the courts. They have had five years. It should not be that hard. The reason for this outcome though is of one with the rest of what this administration does. There is no system, no set of prinicipals guiding their decisions. Everything is done in an ad hoc manner that all but prevents coordination and a successful outcome. They simply are not capable of competent function.

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Jefferson Indicted

Well, I was wondering when that shoe was going to fall. A United States Congressman with $90,000 hidden in a freezer should certainly face an indictment. I'm glad that has finally come down. Let's see the trial now and, unless there is one damn good explanation, a conviction. Corruption needs to be pursued wherever it is found.

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