Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Correct Way to Hang the Confederate Flag

Uproar hits Fla. Confederate flag show

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Got the lying son of a bitch!

So far the most we've gotten out of Alberto Gonzales has been a string of bland assurances that yeah, he's responsible because he's the Attorney General, but he didn't have anything to do with the purge, and he certainly never discussed the firings or had any meetings about it.

Now we know that this was a demonstrable lie.

The first two paragraphs in the story in today's Times make that perfectly clear:

WASHINGTON, March 23 — Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and senior advisers discussed the plan to remove seven United States attorneys at a meeting last Nov. 27, 10 days before the dismissals were carried out, according to a Justice Department calendar entry disclosed Friday.

The previously undisclosed meeting appeared to contradict Mr. Gonzales’s previous statements about his knowledge of the dismissals. He said at a news conference on March 13 that he had not participated in any discussions about the removals, but knew in general that his aides were working on personnel changes involving United States attorneys.

. . .

Mr. Gonzales then repeated: “I never saw documents. We never had a discussion about where things stood. What I knew was that there was ongoing effort that was led by Mr. Sampson, vetted through the Department of Justice, to ascertain where we could make improvements in U.S. attorney performances around the country.”

Is this the beginning of the end for Gonzo? Has he now committed the unforgivable crime? Not obstruction of justice, lying to Congress, or subverting the Constitution, but getting caught?

Stay tuned for more.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

It's about time

This may be the meme of the week, but all of a sudden the MSM are paying attention to Josh Marshall. First, we had a story in the L.A. Times about TPM and how they work.

Then, on my way home from work today I heard this story on All Things Considered.

I know there is no Pulitzer category for internet reporting, but maybe there should be. Josh made a great story of Bush's plan to kill Social Security by enlisting his readers across the country to find out their Congressman's position on the plan. He was all over the Duke Cunningham story, and now he almost singlehandedly made the U.S. Attorney purge a big, national story.

I read TPM multiple times a day. I often comment that he must keep the same hours I keep, because no matter how late I'm up and surfing the Net I find new stories on TPM. It is absolutely indispensable to understand what's going on.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Edwards for President?

Of all the candidates for president, the one I am most strongly attracted to has been John Edwards. He is clear, articulate, and committed on the centrality of the need to attack and eliminate poverty, both in the United States and around the world. He has an articulated plan for universal health care. Although he was wrong on Iraq, he has admitted that he was wrong, something that Clinton has not done.

There is a big issue, though, and I'm not at all sure I can get past it, at least not in the primaries. One of my biggest public policy concerns has been the tendencies of the United States to move towards theocracy. It's most prominent in the Republican Party, and you see it in tons of Bush's policies, not only his giveaway programs to church groups, but also his reflexive description of the need to launch a "crusade" against our enemies.

The Democrats are afraid of this trend nationally. Unfortunately, it's not that they're afraid that the trends will continue, it's more that they don't want to get on the wrong side of the religious voters, and they fall all over themselves to avoid it. This is why Pete Stark's announcement last week was such a big deal.

That's the problem I have with Edwards. Here's what he says on

Would it be your hope that a John Edwards Supreme Court would allow public schools to encourage more prayer in schools?

What I'm not in favor of is for a teacher to go to the front of the classroom and lead the class in prayer. Because I think that by definition means that that teacher's faith is being imposed on children who will almost certainly come from different faith beliefs. Allowing time for children to pray for themselves, to themselves, I think is not only okay, I think it's a good thing.

And there's more:

So the answer is I think is that in an Edwards presidency faith-based groups, I believe, could be used. But I think it is also tricky business. I think you have to be careful about how you implement it for all of the separation of church and state issues, because you don't want discrimination. You don't want federal money going to any organization, including a faith-based group, that's discriminating. So, you have to be very careful about that.

. . .

But, the bottom line is, if you can work through these problems, I think there is a great potential delivery system there.

It has always been true that people's religious beliefs have influenced their political positions and actions, and that's not going to change. You can't even say that it's necessarily a good or a bad thing, since religious beliefs have supported everything from Martin Luther King's activism for social justice to the bigotry and repression excmplified by Jerry Falwell or the racism of Bob Jones University.

The problem is that people want power, and they will use religion to get it, and to insulate themselves from the normal political checks on their activities. In this interview Edwards is not only demonstrating a lack of appreciation for fundamental constitutional principles, but also a level of naivete that would make me very concerned about him for president.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Still more on Gonzales

I just got done posting on the Gonzales affair and I find something new: Dahlia Lithwick, a great legal reporter for Slate, has this column about what would have happened if things had gone slightly differently: we'd be looking at a Supreme Court with Chief Justice Alberto Gonzales and Associate Justice Harriet Miers.

Gonzales death watch, March 15

There are a couple of new developments.

First, Gord Smith is the second Republican senator to call for Gonzales to resign:

Second, Josh has a memo from Sampson with this interesting line in it: "Bush41 even had to establish that Reagan-appointed U.S. Attorneys would not be permitted to continue on through the Bush41 administration". It also says, "In 2001 Bush43 fired the Clinton-appointed U.S. Attorneys, some of which were in the midst of a four-year term . . ."
Now what was that about how bad Clinton was when he put his own people in?

Third, that same memo makes clear that Rove and Gonzales were directly involved in the firings, disproving previous claims by the administration.

Finally, Snow ran into heavy sledding at the gaggle this morning.

It's hard to believe Gonzales can hold on much longer, isn't it?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Giuliani on independence and integrity in the Justice Department

I used to have a high opinion of Rudolph Giuliani. It was a long time ago, but it's true, and this is a good time to write about it.

Back in the 1980's when Reagan was president, one of the things he did was embark on a systemic practice of illegally denying and terminating Social Security disability benefits. It was universal across the country. One of their most egregious practices was a policy they called nonacquiescence, which meant that when a federal court decision went against them on some legal principle, they would simply ignore it, refusing to apply the same legal principle to other cases in which it applied. What was probably even worse, though, was "Bellmon review". This was a policy they adopted in which the administrative law judges who decided appeals would be pressured and subjected to close scrutiny if they ruled against the government too often. Let me repeat that: the administrative law judges were supposed to be independent, but if they ruled against the administration they would be punished for it. The association of administrative law judges sued the Social Security Administration over that one, and won.

Here's how Giuliani fits in: Social Security has a series of steps of administrative review, in which a denied or terminated applicant or recipient can seek to have the initial decision changed, and after the appellant exhausts all the steps of administrative review they can sue the Administration in federal court. I don't know how many cases are filed now, but it used to be tens of thousands. Like most other cases filed against the federal government, when a case like this is filed it is up to the local U.S. Attorney's office to defend the government. In these cases, though, most of the actual work is done in Social Security regional counsels' offices around the country. They would review the record, including the transcript of the hearing and all the medical and vocational evidence, research the law, and write the brief, and then ship the whole thing down to the local U.S. Attorney, who would have one lawyer assigned to handle these cases. That lawyer would sign it all and file it in the U.S. District Court,, and would then have to argue the case when it was ready.

As time went on the positions the Social Security Administration was taking in court grew increasingly outrageous, just without any legal, factual, or moral justification. Things got so bad that when Giuliani was U.S. Attorney in New York he announced that his office would no longer sign off on the briefs they were sent by the Social Security Administration without doing their own independent review of the merits of the case. This may seem like a small thing, but it really isn't, because it meant that he was standing up not only to the Social Security Administration but also to the whole Department of Justice. (This was in the days of the "Experts Agree: Meese is a Pig" t-shirts.) In other words, he was saying that as a U.S. Attorney, confirmed by the Senate, he was not going to put his name and reputation behind the court filings prepared by his superiors until he could satisfy himself that they were justified. The credibility and integrity of his office, and his personal integrity, were too important for him to simply fall into step behind the bosses.

Turn the clock forward twenty-five years or so to another scandal affecting the U.S. Attorneys. Eight of them are fired for political reasons, whether it's because they won't persecute--oops, did I say persecute?--the political enemies of the Bush Administration, or just to give Bush cronies a boost onto one of the stepping stones to a federal judgeship down the road. You would think that someone concerned about the integrity and independence of U.S. Attorneys would have something very negative to say about that, wouldn't you?

So would I, so I'll bring you Rudy Giuliani's official position on the U.S.Attorney purge: there will be no statement. That's right, no comment.

So much for Giuliani's integrity.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Gonzalez Must Go

Every time there is a new constitutional crisis, or, to be more accurate, every time there is a new abuse by the Bush Administration, they trot out Alberto Gonzalez to paper it over, to put up his bland, seemingly open and forthright, countenance, to cover over the latest outrage his boss has perpetrated. One of his more striking public performances lately was his defense of the Bush abolition of habeas corpus. "There is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution."

Now the Times says enough is enough: Mr. Bush should dismiss Mr. Gonzales and finally appoint an attorney general who will use the job to enforce the law and defend the Constitution.

This is clearly right.

Time to contact our congressional delegation and get them to push for Gonzalez to be fired:

Bernie Sanders: 1-802-862-0697 - or - 1-800-339-9834 (In State Only)

Pat Leahy:

Peter Welch

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Inequality in America

You should definitely check out this column by Paul Krugman in Rolling Stone. He thoroughly dispatches many of the myths we hear from the Right about income inequality. As usual, the only people who are criticized for class struggle are those who point out which side is winning.

Here's a great image that helps to capture the realities of today's economy:

The widening gulf between workers and executives is part of a stunning increase in inequality throughout the U.S. economy during the past thirty years. To get a sense of just how dramatic that shift has been, imagine a line of 1,000 people who represent the entire population of America. They are standing in ascending order of income, with the poorest person on the left and the richest person on the right. And their height is proportional to their income -- the richer they are, the taller they are.

Start with 1973. If you assume that a height of six feet represents the average income in that year, the person on the far left side of the line -- representing those Americans living in extreme poverty -- is only sixteen inches tall. By the time you get to the guy at the extreme right, he towers over the line at more than 113 feet.

Now take 2005. The average height has grown from six feet to eight feet, reflecting the modest growth in average incomes over the past generation. And the poorest people on the left side of the line have grown at about the same rate as those near the middle -- the gap between the middle class and the poor, in other words, hasn't changed. But people to the right must have been taking some kind of extreme steroids: The guy at the end of the line is now 560 feet tall, almost five times taller than his 1973 counterpart.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.

This just in: Scooter Libby has been convicted of four of the five counts against him. Two counts of perjury, one count of lying to a federal officer, and one count of obstruction of justice for lying to the grand jury.

UPDATE:  A jury speaking to the press says that frequently during their deliberations the jury members were asking each other, "What are we doing to this guy? Where's Rove?" He specifically says that they thought Libby was the fall guy.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Republican version of political discourse

In case you've missed it, here's that vile harpyAnn Coulter on John Edwards.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Do we know who our friends are?

Here's the news. I saw it on TV tonight, but I just found it in the Times.

You've probably heard part of this story already. Cheney was over in Pakistan earlier this week, apparently to kick Musharraf's ass about cooperating with us on tracking down terrorists. He then gave an interview--correction, "a senior administration official"--gave a group interview talking about Cheney's meeting with Musharraf. The senior administration official seemed pretty well informed about the private meeting between Cheney and Musharraf, and seemed very interested in pointing out inaccuracies in press reports of this meeting.

For instance, did Cheney have this meeting to beat up on Musharraf?

A: That's not the way I work. I don't know who writes that, or maybe somebody gets it from some source who doesn't know what I'm doing, or isn't involved in it. But the idea that I'd go in and threaten someone is an invalid misreading of the way I do business.

So whoever the senior administration official is, he is apparently in a position to use the first person singular when referring to Vice President Richard Cheney.

Okay, so far it's just ridiculous, a story of a little charade Cheney and the press agreed to.

Now, here's the good part. Cheney goes over to demand that Musharraf do a better job at rounding up terrorists, and the same day, what happens? Pakistani forces pick up a terrorist, a really big one.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, March 1 — The former Taliban defense minister was arrested in Pakistan on Monday, the day of Vice President Dick Cheney’s visit, two government officials said Thursday. He is the most important Taliban member to be captured since the American-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

The man, Mullah Obaidullah, was a senior leader of the Afghan insurgency, which has battled American and NATO forces with increasing intensity over the last year.

He is one of the inner core around Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban leader. The leadership is believed to operate from the relative safety of Quetta, Pakistan, where Mullah Obaidullah was arrested.

This is good news, right? After all, this is almost the top guy over there, bigger than anyone else we've picked up.

So what's the problem? Well, to hear Bush tell it, the Pakistanis are our stalwart allies, standing side by side with us, fighting terrorists and building democracy (okay, that part may not be that important). But what happened on Monday? Cheney went over, demanded that they start handing over some terrorists, and that just happens to be the day they pick up one of the biggest targets of all.

I don't think so. If they could pick him up Monday, they could pick him up Sunday. Isn't it obvious that they have known where this guy was all along, but they weren't sufficiently motivated until Vice President Senior went over and threw his weight around?

And if I'm right about that, doesn't that also mean they've been protecting him?

And if they're protecting this guy, what are the odds they aren't protecting bin Laden?

Good thing we let al Qaeda out of Tora Bora so we could invade Iraq, isn't it?