Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Ashcroft Recuses Himself

Special counsel to investigate leak of CIA agent's identity

It's about damn time. In JULY, a senior White House official violated federal law by disclosing the name of an undercover CIA agent to the press. In SEPTEMBER, the news finally broke and the CIA forced the President was forced to ask the Justice Department to investigate. Now, in DECEMBER, we finally see action independent of the political beast that created the problem in the first place.

Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself from the Justice Department's investigation of the unauthorized disclosure of an undercover CIA officer's identity, which will be overseen by a special counsel, Ashcroft's deputy announced Tuesday.

Of course, Ashcroft originally insisted and Bush covered for him that there was no conflict of interest. One of the main suspects, supposedly "cleared" by the White House, Karl Rove, used to work on Ashcroft's campaigns in Missouri (and was "one of the main forces behind getting Ashcroft the AG job in the first place), but that's neither here nor there, since he's been "cleared" of wrongdoing.

What a mess. Still, this timing seems very odd, unless it was coming for awhile, and they just wanted low media coverage since it's New Year's Eve tomorrow...

This isn't cool

Army admits it has deliberately shortchanged Guard on gear.

The deployment to Iraq of a combined Illinois-Iowa National Guard Chinook unit without required anti-missile defenses did not reflect an oversight or lack of coordination between the Guard and the Army.

Rather, it was the consequence of decisions made years ago by the Army to buy only a portion of the Guard's air defense equipment, senior Guard leaders say.

"A conscious decision was made not to buy as many as we need," said Lt. Gen. Roger C. Schultz, director of the Army National Guard. "It's a decision that has some level of risk with it."


One would think that with $400 billion dollars, there would be enough to ensure the safety of our Reservists along with the regular Army troops, but apparently that isn't the case.

Now this is cool

A young woman here in St. Louis is recycling old computers and donating them for free to disadvantaged folks to help bridge the digital divide.

At age 29, Haas could be pursuing a lucrative high-tech career. Instead, she shuns a paycheck to pursue her high-tech vision. This young entrepreneur wants to bridge the digital divide by providing every needy family in the St. Louis area with a working computer and the training to use it.

Haas' fledgling nonprofit organization - Web Innovations and Technology Services, at 4660 West Florissant Avenue - will take any donated computer - even a broken-down model several years old - and recycle the useful parts into working systems. Only Pentium II-grade and better models are given away.


Sounds like a home for this old machine when I finally get around to getting a new one.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

L'Affaire de Plame

Dana Milbank and Mike Allen update us today in the Washington Post on the Justice department's investigation into the White House's alleged violations of federal law when they allegedly outed the name of an undercover CIA agent for political reasons.

You tell me what's wrong with these two paragraphs:


White House officials profess to be unconcerned about the outcome of the investigation. Some administration officials said they believe charges will eventually result, although it could be as long from now as 2005. A Republican legal source who has had detailed conversations about the matter with White House officials said he "doesn't get any sense at all that they're worried or concerned, or that they're covering up."

Still, the White House is eager for the findings to emerge soon, or wait until after the November election. "The only fear I've heard expressed is that the investigation will be too slow or too fast and will kick into a visible mode in a way that is poorly timed for the election," the Republican said. "If they prosecuted someone tomorrow, I don't think the White House would care. And they can do it in December 2004. They just don't want it to become an issue in the election."


CIA undercover agent who works on issues relating to WMD is exposed. Her ability to work undercover is blown. The White House cares not about bringing the people who did this to Justice, only the scheduling of it around the election. Does anyone have any sense in government anymore?

Thanks to Melanie for the heads up.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Hot Dog meet Haute Cuisine

It's not every day you find a kindred spirit less than 300 miles away. Today was such a day for me, when I discovered what Doug Sohn has been up to in Chicago.

At Hot Doug's, a hot dog is a fine-dining experience. As Doug Sohn, the 41-year-old owner, says, it's "the finest in encased meats, my friend." Opened two years ago, Hot Doug's is part of a national trend to make hot dogs the new sushi.

The coup de grâce, though, is his selection of gourmet sausages from all over the world. There are kangaroo hot dogs from Australia, smoked Cajun alligator hot dogs from New Orleans, plus ostrich, rabbit, and pheasant dogs. The Mountain Man Sausage hails from Colorado and combines different meats to give the flavor of a smoky country barbecue.

One of the best specialty items on the menu is actually not a hot dog but its humble accompaniment: french fries. But these french fries are cooked in duck fat. This, Doug explains, is an homage to the rustic French restaurant La Tupina, located in the city of Bordeaux. Doug visited about seven or eight years ago and ate pommes frites and tripe cooked in duck fat on a wood-burning stove. "Duck fat just tastes better" than vegetable oils, he says.

One hopes he has time to visit Hot Doug's before too long.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Yahoo = The Onion?

Bush declares: "We must get rid of Arafat"

Bush's comments came in a brief exchange with the paper's correspondent during a Christmas drinks party in Washington, several hours after a keynote speech by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Thursday in which he outlined plans for unilateral disengagement from peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

Saddam was held by Kurdish forces, drugged and left for US troops

Saddam came into the hands of the Kurdish Patriotic Front after being betrayed to the group by a member of the al-Jabour tribe, whose daughter had been raped by Saddam's son Uday, leading to a blood feud, reported the Sunday Express, which quoted an unnamed senior British military intelligence officer.

The newspaper said the full story of events leading up to the ousted Iraqi president's capture on December 13 near his hometown of Tikrit in northern Iraq, "exposes the version peddled by American spin doctors as incomplete".


I don't know what to say.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Baseball

Thanks to Kos for drawing my attention to baseball-related blogs.

I know it's not baseball season, but I've added Redbird Nation to the blogroll since it's pretty much always baseball season in St. Louis.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

WaPo "Journalism"

They could have led the front page with Tom Kean's story from yesterday, but no. They had to lead with an article beating up on Howard Dean.

Dean's Remarks Give Rivals Talking Points
His Readiness to Lead Is Questioned


The problem here is that the article doesn't address his readiness to lead at all. At all. Yet that's what someone who glances at the front page of today's Post reads. Ridiculous.

Here's the article, in its entirety, with interspersed comments from your's truly which have not been proofread, and probably won't.

Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, December 18, 2003; Page A01

BURLINGTON, Vt. -- Howard Dean's penchant for flippant and sometimes false statements is generating increased criticism from his Democratic presidential rivals and raising new questions about his ability to emerge as a nominee who can withstand intense, sustained scrutiny and defeat President Bush.


> True. Well, kind of. Dean is drawing increased criticism from his rivals. If this article is any demonstration, the media will have no trouble finding bad things to say about Dean.

Dean, for instance, recently spoke of a "most interesting theory" that Saudi Arabia had "warned" Bush about the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Although Dean said he does not believe Bush was tipped off about the assaults that killed nearly 3,000, he has made no apologies for raising the rumor.

> It is an interesting theory. It might be true. It might not. How come no planes scrambled that morning? How come Bush sat in that school for over 5 minutes after the second plane hit without doing anything?

"How is what I did different from what Dick Cheney or George Bush . . . did during the time of the buildup of the invasion of Iraq?" the former Vermont governor said Tuesday night aboard his campaign plane. "There were all these theories that they mentioned. Many of them turned out not to be true. The difference is that I acknowledged that I did not believe the theory I was putting out."

Bush this week called the theory an "absurd insinuation."


> Yes, after it took him off guard a bit. Watch this video.

Dean's remarks, his critics say, are in keeping with his history of making statements that are mean-spirited or misleading. He has distorted his past support for raising the retirement age for Social Security and slowing Medicare's growth. He has falsely said he was the only Democratic presidential candidate talking about race before white audiences. And he made allegations -- some during his years as governor -- that turned out to be untrue.

> This comes straight from Gephardt. Just because I said something off the cuff 8 years ago doesn't mean I ought to be held to it today. Of course it makes sense to fix Medicare - it's horribly bloated and doesn't work. What allegations? This story is filled with allegations that aren't backed up by facts. Okay, on second glance, I see this is addressed below with the growth lessened from 10% to 7%. I don't agree with this, but I don't fault Dean for saying it. He's been fighting it on semantics - if you have to approve increases every year, and in year 1 it's 100, and in year 2 it's 110, before you approve it, if you change it to 107, it's not being cut, it's still being raised from 100. It might be technically correct, but it's eight years old, and it's not relevant to Dean's new healthcare plan, so I don't know why it's still around other than Gephardt likes to say it.

After saying at his last gubernatorial news conference that he was sealing his official records to avoid political embarrassment, Dean now says he was joking and is not sure what is in the files.

> This is a non-story. Look for Bush's records. They're even more sealed than Dean's.

When Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) unveiled his health care plan in April, Dean, through his campaign, belittled the lawmaker's record on the subject. Dean later walked away from the statement, saying it did not reflect his views. But this fall, in debates and TV ads, Dean has resurrected the criticism, accusing his congressional rivals, including Gephardt, of producing only rhetoric on health care in comparison to his record in Vermont.

> Which, since the federal government, which employs most of these candidates, has done nothing to actually improve health care, is true. Dean actually improved healthcare for Vermonters. Gephardt, Kerry, Edwards & Lieberman have not.

In recent days, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said Dean lacks the "credibility" to be president and accused him of misleading voters about past remarks on Iraq. One example cited by Kerry's campaign: Dean recently said, "I never said Saddam was a danger to the United States. Ever." But in September 2002, Dean told CBS's "Face the Nation": "There is no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat to the United States. The question is: Is he an immediate threat?"

> Threat does not equal danger. I can threaten someone without really being a danger to them.

With polls suggesting Dean is pulling away from his rivals, they are stepping up their criticisms on several fronts, including foreign policy, government experience and credibility. Dean spokesman Jay Carson, asked about the challenges to his boss's veracity, said Wednesday: "That's all they do now: attack Howard Dean."

> Which only makes them look more partisan and only does Bush's homework for him. On the other hand, if the stuff gets out early enough, it'll be forgotten by November. Remember Clinton?

Last week, after Dean denied providing a tax break as governor that benefited Enron Corp. -- which a published report showed he did -- Gephardt said: "Once again, Howard Dean refuses to admit the truth. You can't beat George W. Bush if you can't tell the truth about your own record."

Tricia Enright, a Dean spokeswoman, called the quarrel a difference of "interpretation." Dean, she said, restructured the Vermont tax code for scores of companies and did not provide a specific break to Enron.


> Sounds reasonable. Not something I would support, but reasonable. If we're talking about Enron, is Ken Lay in jail yet? Not indicted? What? Oh, isn't he good friends with Bush?

To be sure, plenty of presidential candidates have bent facts and stretched figures to sharpen a point or blunt criticism. And interviews this year suggest that many voters give Dean high marks for speaking his mind.

"To a great extent, the public does not give a damn" about the claims against Dean, said former representative Tony Coelho (D-Calif.), chairman of Al Gore's 2000 campaign. Voters want straight-talking leaders, he said, and former governors such as Dean have "a tendency to say what they think without having everything checked out before they do things."

On Tuesday, when several rivals criticized him for saying America is not safer after Hussein's capture, Dean did not back away. "You know me; if I think something's true, I say it," he told reporters. But critics note he sometimes says things that are not true.

In January, Dean told an abortion rights audience about a young patient he believed had been impregnated by her father. He was explaining why he opposes parental notification requirements for girls and young women seeking an abortion. But Dean later told Jake Tapper of Salon.com that he learned several years ago that "her father was not the father of her child; it was more complicated than that."

Carson said Wednesday that Dean's January anecdote "wasn't misleading at all. The story illustrates the downside of [mandatory] parental notification, and is an example from the life experience of the governor."


> And the story fails to clear this up - was it true? Was it a lie? Was it misleading? The point was that the girl's father COULD have been the father of her baby, and that was what worried him about parental notification. Poorly researched and written, Jim and Jonathan.

Some of Dean's opponents in his gubernatorial campaigns say he was prone to misleading statements then.

In a 1998 debate, Dean and GOP candidate Ruth Dwyer argued over new regulations for large farms in Vermont. Dwyer told of Bristol farmer Bob Hill, who struggled to build a barn for his 600 cows while complying with the state's strict permit requirements.

The next day, Dean told the Associated Press he had "done a little research on that farmer. He's in violation of the natural resource conservation service laws." Dean later acknowledged he was wrong and apologized to Hill.


> This is what we WANT our elected officials to do. Of course they will make mistakes - Dean apologized. Wouldn't it be nice to hear Bush apologize, or maybe attend a funeral of one of the soliders he sent to Iraq to die?

Several Vermont legislators from both parties who served while Dean was governor said they rarely found cause to question his honesty and chalked up his controversial comments to misspeaking. "He could be trusted and knew better than to lie to us," said Cheryl Rivers, a former Democratic state senator who sometimes clashed with Dean. "Yes, he would shoot from the hip, but it was not deliberate or malicious."

But lately, as he courts liberal Democrats nationwide, Dean has distorted portions of his record as governor, when he was generally considered a centrist. He has repeatedly denied siding with Republicans such as then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) in 1995 in calling for slowing Medicare's annual growth from 10 percent to 7 percent, even though he told a Vermont newspaper he "fully subscribed" to the idea.

Vermont Abenaki Indian leaders said they were outraged last month to see Dean onstage at a Native American conference in Albuquerque. For more than a decade, they said, his administration vigorously opposed their quest for state and federal recognition, contending the Indians might make land claims and bring casinos to Vermont.

Dean drew raucous applause from his New Mexico audience when he endorsed the benefits of tribal gambling establishments. "Needless to say, to hear him say onstage in Albuquerque that he was in favor of gaming for federally recognized tribes came as a big shock to a lot of people in Vermont," said Jeff Benay, a Dean appointee who heads the Vermont Governor's Advisory Council on Indian Affairs and who has advised Dean's campaign.

> Let's break this down. Tribe in Vermont wants land and gaming casinos. Tribe isn't recognized by federal government. Dean supports tribe in New Mexico that is federally recognized and has gaming casino.

Carson, responding Wednesday to the Abenaki issue, said: "It would be inappropriate for the state to recognize them before the federal government does."

> Considering tribal sovereignty is recognized at the federal level, this is absolutely true. Should Dean have supported the Abenaki's federal claims? Perhaps - I don't know the details.

The dust-up over the Saudi question began Dec. 1, on WAMU-FM's nationally syndicated "Diane Rehm Show," when Dean was asked why Bush was suppressing information from a commission looking into the Sept. 11 attacks.

"The most interesting theory that I've heard so far -- which is nothing more than a theory, it can't be proved -- is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis," Dean replied. "Now who knows what the real situation is? But the trouble is by suppressing that kind of information, you lead to those kinds of theories, whether they have any truth to them or not, and they get repeated as fact."

> Yes. Show us the briefings, Mr. Bush.

When asked a few days later on Fox News why he said it, Dean said, "because there are people who believe it. . . . I don't believe it . . . but it would be nice to know." A campaign aide said Dean heard the rumor from various people on the campaign trail.

Staff writer Dan Balz and researcher Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report


> What a piece of garbage. Do these people actually have journalism degrees? Does a journalism degree require a class in fact-checking or in objectivity, or in English? How does this is any way relate to his "readiness to lead." It doesn't.

Oh, by the way - unelectable.


And check out www.unelectable.com

Soros on American Imperialism

The Bubble of American Supremacy

While I realize George Soros is hardly nonpartisan, he also lays out the neoconservative plan fairly well in this article, and I think it's worth reading. It compares the Bush doctrine to a stock market bubble, built on misconceptions and self-actuating results.

September 11 could not have changed the course of history to the extent that it has if President Bush had not responded to it the way he did. He declared war on terrorism, and under that guise implemented a radical foreign-policy agenda whose underlying principles predated the tragedy. Those principles can be summed up as follows: International relations are relations of power, not law; power prevails and law legitimizes what prevails. The United States is unquestionably the dominant power in the post-Cold War world; it is therefore in a position to impose its views, interests, and values. The world would benefit from adopting those values, because the American model has demonstrated its superiority. The Clinton and first Bush Administrations failed to use the full potential of American power. This must be corrected; the United States must find a way to assert its supremacy in the world.

The quest for American supremacy qualifies as a bubble. The dominant position the United States occupies in the world is the element of reality that is being distorted. The proposition that the United States will be better off if it uses its position to impose its values and interests everywhere is the misconception. It is exactly by not abusing its power that America attained its current position.


And that's what Howard Dean means when he talks about going back to a foreign policy consistent with American values. What we have now is consistent with the European values of the colonial period. Freedom and democracy mean what they mean in their own context. Imposing our brand of freedom upon the rest of the world isn't just foolish, it's untenable, as we see in Iraq.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

9/11/2001. Preventable. People who failed still in charge.

Unbelievable.

[T]he chairman of the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks is saying publicly that 9/11 could have and should have been prevented.

Appointed by the Bush administration, [Thomas] Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey, is now pointing fingers inside the administration and laying blame.

"I don't think anybody could have predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile," said national security adviser Condoleeza Rice on May 16, 2002.

"How is it possible we have a national security advisor coming out and saying we had no idea they could use planes as weapons when we had FBI records from 1991 stating that this is a possibility," said Kristen Breitweiser, one of four New Jersey widows who lobbied Congress and the president to appoint the commission.


Oh, the other big story, featuring prominent display on most other news sites is that there's going to be a terrorist attack at the Vatican on Christmas. Fear, fear, fear. And in related fearmongering, John Hinckley is allowed to visit his parents without supervision.

Facts vs. Lies

2003: A Year of Distortion for the American People

Just read it. No teasers.

Well, alright, just one. Because I think this is an issue that Democrats ought to be shouting from the top of their lungs (along with all the other issues, but I don't hear enough about this).

VETERANS

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "Honoring Our Commitment to Veterans: America owes veterans and those on the front lines of freedom a great debt of gratitude."

FACT: The Administration is pushing a cut of $1.5 billion in military housing/medical facility funding, despite the fact that UPI reports “hundreds of sick and wounded U.S. soldiers including many who served in the Iraq war are languishing in hot cement barracks here while they wait - sometimes for months - to see doctors." - Wash Post, 1/17/03, UPI, 10/17/03

FACT: “One million children living in military and veteran families are being denied child tax credit help" in President Bush’s tax cut. “More than 260,000 of these children have parents on active military duty." - Children’s Defense Fund, 6/6/03

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "President Bush was pleased to sign legislation that resolved the issue of concurrent receipt in a fair and responsible manner."

FACT: In the fiscal year 2003 defense authorization bill, Congress stipulated that veterans with disabilities would no longer have to give up part of the retirement pay they have earned. In other words, they would receive retired pay and disability pay concurrently. Bush threatened to veto the bill if it includes concurrent receipt. - Baltimore Sun, 12/1/02, Wash. Post, 10/7/02

Medical Marijuana okay (for now)

Raich v. Ashcroft, No. 03-15481, was handed down today by the 9th Circuit. The panel, by a 2 to 1 vote, ruled the federal Controlled Substances Act unconstitutional when applied to patients growing their own medical marijuana.

This makes sense of course - Congress passes most of its laws under the "Commerce Clause" - Article 1, section 8, paragraph 3.

The Congress shall have power ... [t]o regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes"

In a nutshell, the 9th Circuit is saying that while the CSA is valid as to 99.9% of its application to drug trafficking cases, in this instance - where someone grows marijuana in their house, and it never enters the stream of commerce - Congress can't prohibit that. Since California passed the Compassionate Use Act in 1996 to allow seriously ill Californians to obtain and smoke marijuana for medicinal purposes, this type of case is outside of Congress's authority. And compassion we ought to have for the two plaintiffs in this case.

Appellants Angel McClary Raich and Diane Monson (the “patient appellants”) are California citizens who currently use marijuana as a medical treatment. Appellant Raich has been diagnosed with more than ten serious medical conditions, including an inoperable brain tumor, life-threatening weight loss, a seizure disorder, nausea, and several chronic pain disorders. Appellant Monson suffers from severe chronic back pain and constant, painful muscle spasms. Her doctor states that these symptoms are caused by a degenerative disease of the spine.

Raich has been using marijuana as a medication for over five years, every two waking hours of every day. Her doctor contends that Raich has tried essentially all other legal alternatives and all are either ineffective or result in intolerable side effects; her doctor has provided a list of thirty-five medications that fall into the latter category alone. Raich’s doctor states that foregoing marijuana treatment may be fatal. Monson has been using marijuana as a medication since 1999. Monson’s doctor also contends that alternative medications have been tried and are either ineffective or produce intolerable side effects. As the district court
put it: “Traditional medicine has utterly failed these women . . . .”


There's several ironic points to be made here. One is that the circuit judge who dissented, C. Arlen Beam, is actually a senior circuit judge from the Eighth Circuit (which sits in St. Louis about five miles from here). He was sitting by designation in this case, which just strikes me as odd (usually judges sitting by designation are district court judges from the same circuit).

The second, and more important one, is of course that this is what Republicans have been preaching for eons. They want less federal power in every manner of government, and got their way at the Supreme Court level at least twice in the 1990s, once by overturning a federal law prohibiting guns on school grounds and the other overturning a law which gave women who were victims of violence a cause of action against their attackers in federal court. Of course the Circuit judges know this and pointedly cited both of these cases in their opinion. You can read the opinion for more detail on these points.

Put that together with the fact that John Ashcroft really is the defendant in this case, and it's good for a nice laugh.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Ex Libris

My mother lent me this book over the summer and it sat on a shelf until yesterday. I picked it up for my balcony reading breaks, and was pleasantly surprised.

One of the essays therein contains an essay called "The Joy of Sesquipedalians." Probably quite a few of you are where I was in thinking that a sesquipedalian is a six-legged animal. It's actually not.

Main Entry: ses·qui·pe·da·lian
Pronunciation: "ses-kw&-p&-'dAl-y&n
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin sesquipedalis, literally, a foot and a half long, from sesqui- + ped-, pes foot -- more at FOOT
Date: 1656
1 : having many syllables : LONG
2 : given to or characterized by the use of long words


Ms. Fadiman's point in the essay was that perhaps we have a much less substantial vocabulary today than our ancestors did. She was reading a book written in 1920 and found no less than twenty-two words that not only didn't she know, but that she had never seen before. And this is a professional author and literary scholar.

So, I offer the list for you to read and digest. I knew a few, but I'd be lying if I said a few meant more than five.

Adapertile, Adytum, Agathodemon, Alcalde, Apozemical, Aspergill, Calineries, Camorra, Cupellation, Diapason, Goetic, Grimoire*, Ithyphallic, Kakodemon, Monophysite, Mephitic, Opopanax, Paludal*, Perllan, Retromingent, Sepoy*, Subadar

I have to agree - I think our vocabularies nowadays suck.

The asterisked words are the ones I knew definitions for - I've heard Alcalde before, but that's because there was a Mr. Frank Alcalde who was the defendant in a California case dealing with the limitations of the hearsay rule, ruling that the victim's statement that she was going out with Frank on the evening of the crime was admissible to show that she intended to do so.

Okay, you know where my head is. I'll be heading back there now.

A week ago

I'm still behind swamped in exams, but I'll get to pressing matters next week. I just had to share this piece from The Left Coaster which pretty much sums up how I feel about Howard Dean.

I know he isn't perfect - I don't agree with all his policy points, but I want someone to represent me in this presidential election who will fight George Bush and who will fight to get the truth out.

And not because Howard Dean is some god given saint of rectitude, humility, and service to the greater good. But because he is not some punch drunk greedy little faux cowboy born with a silver spoon and no shred of self-respect and humility, unfamiliar with the true concept of responsibility. But because he is not controlled by a bunch of greedy power mad crony corporatists determined to preserve and control their overlarge portion of the pie from the pitiful peasants more concerned with their kids college fund, their two weeks a year vacation, their healthcare, their mortgage or rent payments, then with sharpening their pitchforks and fueling their torches. Howard Dean may not be perfect. He may not be a Saint. He may be an arrogant prick for all I know. So what. He is a fighter, an opponent, not an ass kissing sanctimonious twit. He’s a sober and experienced executive not afraid to call George W Bush on his lies and his disastrous policies. And that, my friends, is why Al Gore is backing him.

And that's pretty much why I'm backing him.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Are you with us or with the Terrorischts?

Everyone is talking today about the latest directive out of the Pentagon that restricts who can bid for prime contracts in the reconstruction process in Iraq. It seems pretty obvious that this is either petty spite, or just more cronyism at work. And of course, it can't help James Baker, consigliere, in his quest to get our "allies" to forgive Iraq's debts.

As Josh Marshall points out, the reasoning behind this is, well, the justification for this is, well, the rationalization for this is, well the politically correct sounding language in the authorization is, uh:

4. It is necessary for the protection of the essential security interests of the United States to limit competition for the prime contracts of these procurements to companies from the United States, Iraq, Coalition partners and force contributing nations. Thus, it is clearly in the public interest to limit prime contracts to companies from these countries.

My question then, as was asked at today's White House press briefing:

"[O]ne of the reasons for the decision is to ostensibly protect U.S. security. Could you explain what security threat Canada poses, and why would countries like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Colombia be allowed to bid on contracts?"

Oh, but after reading it all, Atrios was right. There's a lot of good stuff in there.

In re: this link from Steve Gilliard.

Q One more on Canada, Scott?

MR. McCLELLAN: Dana hasn't had a question.

Q The Vice President on Monday shot 70 pheasants and an unspecified number of ducks. And I'm wondering how many of these were Canadian. (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: Ask the Vice President's office. Next question


In re: stupid naked greed:

Q Congressional Democrats looking into Halliburton in Iraq have found that they're charging about $2.64 a gallon for gas, and that's U.S. taxpayer money, I assume, that's going through the Halliburton contract. Do you have an explanation for taxpayers as to why it's costing so much for them to buy gas?

MR. McCLELLAN: Those are contract decisions that are made by the Pentagon and Coalition Provisional Authority. So you ought to direct those questions to the appropriate authorities, to the appropriate authorities there.

Q Doesn't it seem absurdly high for a gallon of gas?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that the ones who make the decisions on the contracting could discuss that with you.


In re: Canada.

Q Paul Martin, who becomes the new Canadian Prime Minister tomorrow, said that he cannot fathom this decision because Canadians are in Afghanistan dying alongside Americans, and because Canada has pledged $300 million to the reconstruction effort in Iraq. Are you not concerned that this is getting things off to a bad start with the new Canadian Prime Minister?

MR. McCLELLAN: First of all -- first of all, let me back up. We look forward to working with Mr. Martin as he becomes the new Prime Minister in Canada. Second of all, we appreciate the contributions that Canada has been making in the war on terrorism. And we appreciate the commitments that they have made through the international donors conference in Madrid. And we will look forward to visiting with Canadian officials about concerns that they have and talk to them about these decisions and talk to them about additional ways that they may be able to participate. And, as I said, in regards to all countries, if there are additional countries that want to participate in our efforts, then the circumstances can change. But again, there are some very appropriate and reasonable reasons why this decision was made. And this is relating specifically to U.S. taxpayer dollars.

Q One thing a lot of us are having trouble understanding is how, for example, a Canadian company, were it allowed to bid on one of these contracts, would pose a security risk to U.S. interests. Could you address that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, you're referencing a specific comment within a memo, which I referred to the broader memo which talked about what we are trying to do in terms of expanding international cooperation and also encouraging those coalition countries that are participating to continue participating in the efforts in Iraq.


And, last, in re: obfuscatory statements exactly like the ones right above this.

Q Scott, Howard Dean said today that this was an example of the way the President crafts foreign policy based on how he feels personally about different world leaders, whether he likes them or dislikes them. Is that the way the President looks at the world?

MR. McCLELLAN: The way the President looks at this decision is the way I described it to you earlier. There's a lot of politics going on in the Democratic primary. They've got a lot of differences to work out amongst themselves. It's a nice way to try to engage us in a primary. But I think the American people see through the political comments that are being made in the context of a primary campaign.


I think we see through your bulls*** just fine, Mr. McClellan. I almost feel sorry for you having to stand up and defend the garbage that goes on in this administration.

Nobel Prize Winner Slams U.S. (but not by name)

This year's Nobel Peace Prize winner says the September 11 attacks have been used as an excuse to violate international law and human rights.

Well. Yes, that's true.

"Regulations restricting human rights and basic freedoms ... have been justified and given legitimacy under the cloak of the war on terrorism," she said

And that's just in the United States. You don't want to know what we're up to in Iraq, or, for example, what we do with Canadian citizens who we send to Syria to be tortured.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

A Dean Cabinet

Meteor Blades, guestwriting for Kos, started a post this morning to discuss possible VP nominations on a Dean ticket - it's a pretty interesting read with some real good choices, especially the comments section. If I were to make a pick now, I'd probably go with New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who has legislative experience with 15 years in the House, foreign policy experience as ambassador to the United Nations and experience in an area that is going to be critical going forward as President Clinton's Secretary of Energy.

I thought it would be entertaining to discuss other cabinet slots. All of this is incredibly premature, but it can't hurt to get the discussion rolling, since even if Dean is not the nominee, many of these choices would be applicable in a Clark or even a Gephardt administration. Here are four choices - discuss.

Secretary of State: I think this is the slot that Wes Clark is actually best suited for. I'm rereading The Power Game by Hedrick Smith, which is of course incredibly dated, but he makes a convincing argument that the Secretary of Defense ought to be from the civilian side, and I fear Clark's long military experience actually makes him less qualified for that position.

Secretary of Defense: I'd like to see someone with management experience here, as well as experience in dealing with Congress (or being in Congress). Ironically, this might be a good fit for John Kerry. But I think a better choice would be Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed. Reed has the right policy credentials, and an impeccable education - West Point, Harvard Law, etc. I'm not sure he has the quality of management experience that would be ideal, but he has served on the Senate Armed Services committee, and travelled to Iraq/Afghanistan with Hillary Clinton over Thanksgiving, actually visiting the country instead of just the airport.

Environmental Protection Agency: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. This choice needs no comment.

Attorney General: Eliot Spitzer. We don't need a tough-on-crime fearmongerer like Ashcroft. We need someone who will use the power of the federal government to straighten up corporate America and make boards responsive to shareholders, and not to their own pockets. Spitzer's tough as nails, and would be an excellent attorney general.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Gore to endorse Dean

A friend of mine just called to let me know that according to the Associated Press:

Former Vice President Al Gore plans to endorse Howard Dean for the Democratic presidential nomination, a dramatic move that could tighten Dean's grip on the front-runner position.

Obviously, this is huge. I felt out of the loop since I hadn't heard this or read it, but it apparently just broke moments ago.

Gore, who won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote in the disputed 2000 election, has agreed to endorse Dean in New York City's Harlem neighborhood on Tuesday and then travel with the former Vermont governor to Iowa, site of the Jan. 19 caucuses that kick off the nominating process, said a Democratic source close to Gore.

And, also quite as obviously, it's the nail in Joe Lieberman's coffin.

The Lieberman campaign issued a terse statement Monday, saying, "I was proud to have been chosen by Al Gore in 2000 to be a heartbeat away from the presidency," and added, "I have a lot of respect for Al Gore — that is why I kept my promise not to run if he did. Ultimately, the voters will make the determination and I will continue to make my case about taking our party and nation forward."

This is silly - he should drop out now and return to fighting for the citizens of Connecticut in the Senate, where contrary to assertions that he's a Republican in disguise, he's actually compiled a strong liberal voting record (aside from the war resolution ...)

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Looting

Back in August, when I was watching Al Gore's speech in New York (RealMedia content)about the multitude of false assertions that George Bush's administration has made, I was struck by his quotation of a Nobel Prize winning economist, George Akerlof, that what the Bush administration was primarily engaged in was a "form of looting."

Paul Krugman's op-ed piece in the New York Times Friday mentioned this quote and as noted by several bloggers already, like Kicking Ass and Josh Marshall, quotes Akerlof as well, and explains the theory a little more completely.

The new Medicare bill is a huge subsidy for drug and insurance companies, coupled with a small benefit for retirees. In comparison, the energy bill — which stalled last month, but will come back — has a sort of purity: it barely even pretends to be anything other than corporate welfare. Did you hear about the subsidy that will help Shreveport get its first Hooters restaurant?

And it's not just legislation: hardly a day goes by without an administrative decision that just happens to confer huge benefits on favored corporations, at the public's expense. For example, last month the Internal Revenue Service dropped its efforts to crack down on the synfuel tax break — a famously abused measure that was supposed to encourage the production of alternative fuels, but has ended up giving companies billions in tax credits for spraying coal with a bit of diesel oil. The I.R.S. denies charges by Bill Henck, one of its own lawyers, that it buckled under political pressure. Coincidentally, according to The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Henck has suddenly found himself among the tiny minority of taxpayers facing an I.R.S. audit.


The prevailing theory among grown-up Republicans — yes, they still exist — seems to be that Mr. Bush is simply doing whatever it takes to win the next election. After that, he'll put the political operatives in their place, bring in the policy experts and finally get down to the business of running the country.

But I think they're in denial. Everything we know suggests that Mr. Bush's people have given as little thought to running America after the election as they gave to running Iraq after the fall of Baghdad. And they will have no idea what to do when things fall apart.


That sounds about right.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Exams

As some of you know, I'm in my second year of law school and it is exam season. Blogging will be infrequent at best for the next two weeks (as well as the last two weeks).

Taxes and Semantics

With the GOP's economic policy reduced to its lowest demoninator it really only has two purposes: cutting taxes and rewarding its financiers.

If that weren't bad enough, the GOP now is equating not giving a tax cut with raising taxes.

Michigan is trying to eliminate its budget deficit. So let's see how the common sense test would work. You have to do one of two things to resolve the budget (this is actually unfair, you could do a million different things, but in the GOP's world - they like these black and white questions).

1. You can eliminate a $15 million grant to Detroit public schools, cut funding for hospitals, health and family agencies, job training and transportation programs.

or

2. You can stall a proposed tax cut from 4% to 3.9% temporarily. This would amount to a savings of about $11 per family (again, this is probably overly simplistic, but the GOP likes using "averages" to imply largesse for its tax cuts that actually largely go to the wealthy).

I think about 90% of Americans would choose 2, as would I.

Well, what did the Michigan GOP pick?

See if you can guess from this quote:

"Tax hikes are not an option, and let's be clear: slowing a scheduled tax cut is a tax hike," State Republican Chairwoman Betsy DeVos said in a statement.

And one of our favorite governors' response?

"I am not going to stand for cutting out the legs from the social safety net, balancing the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable citizens because they (Republicans) don't have the guts to pause a rollback in an income tax that equates to $11 a person," [Governor Jennifer] Granholm told reporters.

Granholm is a rising star in the Democratic party. Her only weakness is that she was born in Canada. Not that I have anything against Canada of course (I am actually quite fond of our northern neighbors); but she would be ineligible as a VP or presidential candidate down the road.