Thursday, May 25, 2006

Professor Feith

The Times reports today that newly hired professor Doug Feith is having trouble fitting in at Georgetown. You know, little things like they think he's a war criminal, he was hired without a faculty vote, he lied us into war, stuff like that. Of course, being a war criminal has never been an impediment to academic office before. (See Kissinger, Henry A. "Chancellor of the College of William and Mary from February 10, 2001 to the Summer of 2005.")

Still, one might think that a major university would want to avoid hiring "the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth."

Of course, that's just me.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Can the President Be Torturer-in-Chief?

Harold Hongju Koh is the dean of the Yale Law School and a leading expert on human rights law. Can the President Be Torturer-in-Chief? is the title of his new article, the keynote lecture from a symposium issue of the Indiana Law Journal on the limits of governmental power at the time of a war on terror. The symposium is sponsored by the American Constitution Society and you can get the paper here.

Exxon-Mobil loses

If you spend any time around high school debaters or their coaches, or in lots of online debates you are familiar with this rule: "Whoever mentions Hitler first loses." Maybe it seems arbitrary, but I think not. If your position is so weak, so lacking in merit, that the only possible advantage you can gain is to accuse your opponent of being a Nazi, or of arguing for a proposition that will lead inevitably to turning power over to people like Hitler, then you've admitted that you are out of ideas.

That's what happened this afternoon on Fox "News". H. Sterling Burnett, an Exxon-Mobil apologist at the National Center for Policy Analysis, was on talking about Al Gore's global warming movie. Devoid of any argument against the content of the movie, here's what he said about Gore:

That’s the problem. If I thought Al Gore’s movie was as you like to say, fair and balanced, I’d say, everyone should go see it. But why go see propaganda? You don’t go see Joseph Goebbels’ films to see the truth about Nazi Germany. You don’t go see Al Gore’s films to see the truth about global warming.

You can see the video at Think Progress, but it really is as bad as it looks: Gore is a Nazi, and is no more to be believed than Goebbels.

As they say, the first one to mention Hitler (and I think it applies equally to Goebbels) loses.

For more on Exxon-Mobil, take a look here.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Here's the kind of candidate we need

The rap on the Democrats is that we're pusillanimous. From what we see happening in Congress there is some justice to that. We'll never get anywhere unless we stand up to the power, even if we pick up a majority in Congress in November. As I've said before, the function of the opposition party is to oppose, and we need to be electing candidates who will do that.

In New Jersey's Fifth Congressional District, where I grew up, there is an important primary race to decide who will oppose incumbent Republican Scott Garrett. The party bosses in the county have annointed Paul Aronsohn, who seems to take pusillanimity to a new level. He likes to describe himself as a “pro-defense, pro-business, moderate Democrat.” He says he would have voted for the so-called PATRIOT Act if he'd had the chance, and his idea of solving health care is to have a little sit-down with the insurance companies and drug companies that are the problem, not the solution.

Oh yeah, he's also used his muscle to squeeze his political opponents off the Democratic Party line on the ballot all across the county, although when he was caught doing it he backed down.

His opponent is Camille Abate, a civil rights lawyer who is committed to standing up to the lies and illegallity of the Bush Administration. In the interest of full disclosure I should say that my brother Mark is her campaign manager, so you can take this comment for what it's worth. Still, I think she's worth a look, and any support you can provide.

This is their view of integrity

It may be a foregone conclusion that Michael Hayden will be confirmed as the next director of the CIA. This is obviously one of those occasions where the president is almost certain to get his way, even though his judgment in personnel matters has been shown to be questionable at best.

Still, it's a little alarming that the best that can be said about his character is that he's not a liar, he's only a prevaricator.

And he's the one who said it.

At the confirmation hearing yesterday he was talking about his speech to the National Press Club, and how he discussed the government spying program. Here's what he said:

HAYDEN: That's what I did while I was speaking in front of the National Press Club. I chose my words very carefully because I knew that some day I would be having this conversations.
I chose my words very carefully because I wanted to be honest with the people I was addressing. And it wasn't that handful of folks downtown. It was looking into the cameras and talking to the American people.
I bounded my remarks by the program that the president has described in his December radio address. It was the program that was being publicly discussed.
And the key points in my remarks -- I pointedly and consciously down-shifted the language I was using.
When I was talking about a drift net over Lackawanna or Fremont or other cities, I switched from the word "communications" to the much more specific and unarguably accurate "conversations."

See that? He didn't want to tell the truth--that we were spying on millions of Americans by tracing their phone calls--so he quibbled by changing the terms of the statement from "communications" to "conversations".

Here's how the Merriam-Webster On-Line Dictionary defines equivocate:
Main Entry: equiv·o·cate
Pronunciation: i-'kwi-v&-"kAt
Function: intransitive verb
Inflected Form(s): -cat·ed; -cat·ing
1 : to use equivocal language especially with intent to deceive
2 : to avoid committing oneself in what one says
synonym see LIE

Isn't that exactly what he just admitted to doing?

We've learned to our great cost that the CIA director has to be prepared to tell the truth, both to the President and to Congress. If he's admitting to equivocating, prevaricating (I think they call it "quibbling" at West Point), I don't think that's a good thing. If the highest standard he is willing to hold himself to is that he's not a liar, he's just a prevaricator, what can we expect when it's important for him to go to Congress and tell the truth?

The Post has the full transcript here.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

"Will no one rid me of this meddlesome ambassador?"

Check this out.

Constitutional Crisis

I remember during the last days of the Nixon regime when people were talking about the United States being in a “constitutional crisis”. I didn’t believe it. The president and his hold on power were unstable, but I never thought the presidency was. Things were taking their prescribed constitutional course, widespread presidential criminality had been exposed, and we were happily on the road to impeachment.

Consider the contrast to today. The only president we have has authorized a massive program of spying on Americans’ phone calls while continuing to lie about it. He has negotiated bills with Congress, and signed them, while arrogating to himself the power to ignore any legislation he doesn’t like. He lied us into war, continues to lie about the reasons, and blocks the efforts of Congress to investigate it. He prosecutes his political enemies and the rare journalists who dare to expose the illegality of his actions.

We’re now in the middle of the runup to an invasion of Iran. I would like to see Congress pass a resolution right now prohibiting the use of any appropriated funds to initiate hostile actions against Iran without a declaration of war or further authorization from Congress. They’ll never do it, but the bigger problem is that even if they did pass such a resolution Bush would simply ignore it.

Now that’s a constitutional crisis.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Trouble for national Democrats?

Today's Washington Post has a story about Nancy Pelosi and her views on impeachment. Apparently she is afraid that pushing impeachment will be bad politics for the party, so she has told the caucus that impeachment is off the table.

This is very similar to what we've seen in Vermont, with the party base getting way ahead of the party leadership. Finally, after almost every county committee passed resolutions in support of impeachment (and particulary the "Rule 603" option), the State Committee passed a pro-impeachment resolution.

The national party should also realize that standing up to the Criminal in Chief is actually good politics.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Job satisfaction

If you're like me, you've had a lot of jobs. Some good, some bad; some great, some just a paycheck. And still, whatever the job is, as you think back you can see the highs and the lows. All jobs have them; part of the process is to have more highs than lows, and to end the day, the week, or the year with a sense of accomplishment. It doesn't happen every day, but in almost any job if you do it right you can look back with the feeling that comes from a job well done.

Your job may be more mundane, but President Bush has the same outlook toward his job. He has a few years left, so he may not have reached the pinnacle of success, but he already has some pretty big accomplishments to celebrate. And the best moment? Catching a 7 1/2 pound perch in his lake.

Yup, you got it right, that's what he said.

And guess what: 47% of the people responding to a poll on MSNBC agree!

Maybe it's not fair, because that's how I voted too, but I can't think of a single accomplishment that comes close.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Remember this?