Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Congressman Inslee To Get The Ball Rolling on Impeaching Gonzales

Jay Inslee has been one of my favorite Congressmen for a long time. He is one of the best people we've had on conservation and the environment.

Now he gives us one more reason to love him. I got the word first from Kleiman, and many news sources are reporting that Inslee is set to introduce a bill today to open an impeachment investigation into Gonzales.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Impeach Gonzales Now

Needless to say, the House should also begin impeachment proceedings against Gonzales, whether or not he is locked in the basement of the Capital Building (or in the local slammer on Congress's behalf) in the meantime. His lies and perjury give plenty of well-established justification, and his absurd performances in front of Congress and the delapidation of the entire DoJ under his un-leadership should give all the political momentum needed to pull it off. Lots of people should go for this idea.

Congress's inherent contempt power needs to be revived

McClatchy has a nice analysis today on Congress's options for moving forward to enforce its prerogatives in multiple confrontations with the executive branch: action on Gonzales's lies and perjury and Miers and Bolten's contempt, and Rove's subpoena. Basically, their list of options includes:

1. filing a lawsuit for criminal contempt;
2. filing a lawsuit for declaratory judgment;
3. filing a lawsuit for civil contempt;
4. conduct their own trial in the House under Congress's inherent contempt power;
5. pass new legislation.

Obviously, new legislation is a non-starter since it would require veto-proof majorities in both houses. Each of the three court options has different degrees of pros and cons. I like what Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has to say about these - he's against the common idea to keep pussyfooting around:

"My personal feeling is that we should take it as far as it goes and get the question answered so we’re not guessing... If the answer isn’t satisfactory to us, we can change the laws, change the rules and figure out what the best way to address it is. The posturing back and forth has not proven effective or helpful to the American people who want to know what the heck is happening in the Department of Justice."

They also quote a law professor, Steve Vladeck, who is perfectly right, that the option of inaction would debase Congress and erode its powers:
"For Congress to do nothing strikes me as a dangerous precedent itself, because it would suggest in future cases that the executive branch can basically forestall serious oversight through coercion... I don’t like the idea that one branch can basically scare the other one off."

They also quote a former House counsel on the conventional wisdom on Congress's inherent contempt power: that it would be unseemly and cumbersome.

However, what is unseemly, and unnecessarily weak, is for Congress to feel the need to take this to court. Miers and Bolten have committed contempt of Congress; Rove will too if he fails to show up. Gonzales has committed contempt of Congress with his lies and perjury. Congress has the authority, and the compelling need, to enforce its own prerogatives and dignity, on its own. Establishing the offices of Sergeant at Arms (initially under other names) was one of the very earliest acts of both the House and the Senate in 1789. "The Sergeant at Arms is authorized to arrest and detain any person violating Senate [or House] rules, including the President of the United States." The House could and should look no further than their own inherent power to enforce their own rules, and have the Sergeant at Arms arrest and detain Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten, and anyone else who thumbs their noses at a subpoena from the Congress of the United States, until they feel like being more cooperative. If the executive branch has a problem with that, let them file a lawsuit, and see where it gets them.

Any action short of that, including running to the courts, would be an unnecessary surrender of Congress's own power. Congress is the closest branch to the People of the United States; they are Article #1 for a good reason.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Alberto Gonzales is losing it

I already posted about this a while back, but I cannot emphasize this enough: if you have not yet watched the "highlight" (or "lowlights"?) reel of Alberto Gonzales's testimony this week, as put together by Talking Points Memo, you desperately need to watch it right now:

"Highlights" of Alberto Gonzales testimony, July 24

There is so much you miss if you only read about the testimony or only read a transcript. Gonzales literally starts giggling and laughing like a little schoolgirl at several points, in the midst of spouting his endless stream of evasions, claims of ignorance, and plain old lies. He is literally cracking apart, and on the edge of jumping up on the table and singing "I'm a little teapot". Almost sad, to see what the cognitive strain of defending your fairyland universe in front of a skeptical nation will do to a man's mind - or might be sad, if he wasn't criminally complicit in it from the beginning.

Also a necessary read in the damning case against Gonzales, is "The Case Against Gonzales", laid out by Anonymous Liberal, which backs up the irrefutable case that Dr. Gonzo has feloniously lied to Congress. As Anonymous Liberal concludes by pointing out, there is no reason for any other step to be taken at this point other than for the Judiciary Committee to draft articles of impeachment for Gonzales.

Impeaching Gonzales now is a constitutional obligation for Congress just to uphold its dignity and to keep from setting a precedent that such flagrant contempt does not go without consequences. But of course, it also helps that impeaching Gonzales is also politically widely supportable, if not inexorably in demand from all sides; and that it will deprive Bush of one of his most vital retainers and enablers, and ensure that the Department of Justice finally gets the adult supervision it so desperately needs.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Do "New Media" just let us surround ourselves with views we already agree with?

This is a common canard now among people who fret about the terrible polarization ripping our country apart. Aren't people now able to surround themselves with blogs, websites, cable news programs, and/or radio programs filled with views they already agree with, and become incapable of receiving the wisdom of opposing views, thereby propelling partisan division and rancor?

Two things in response:

1. I read things I disagree with all the time. My favorite magazines and bloggers, I find I disagree with frequently. Look at my beef with Mark Kleiman, below. I had an equal beef with The Economist's recent "leader" (British for "editorial") on Murdoch's prospects for the Wall Street Journal. And even aside from these differences - even if I agreed with Kleiman and The Economist in these posts, how can someone getting their info & analysis from both Kleiman and The Economist possibly be isolating himself to a narrow range of views? (Just to pick two at random.) Beyond that, I purposely seek out and read people I know I'm probably going to have big disagreements with. I read every George Will column; Mankiw's blog; Ross Douthat; Christopher Hitchens; and on. There are other factors involved, but I soak up a lot more different angles on issues of the day than I did in the days before Das Internet-Maschine.

2. Sorry, but all sides in this partisanship are not created equal; I try to select my opposing views carefully, because the outlets that still favor pro-Bush opinions are quite frankly, raving idiots. "Aha", David Brooks says, "so it comes down to plain old partisanship after all!" No, it really truly is a case of lots of intelligent, and widely varying, views in the great reality-based majority, in complete imbalance against the small minority of divorced-from-reality, lockstep, shrieking madmen that set the intellectual standards among the extremist pro-Bush propaganda cabal - partly surrounded by a fringe of milquetoast irrationals (yes David Brooks, this is you) who always redefine "moderate" and "bipartisan" to mean exactly halfway between the reality-based and democratically-minded majority and the stark raving lunatics of our current White House.

Exhibit A for the driveling lunatic irrationality that now governs the dwindling Bushies: I bring back, for our common amusement, the Laffer Curve according to the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page (as covered by some hilarious citizens of reality-based America):

* DeLong: Most Dishonest Wall Street Journal Editorial Ever

* Hilzoy: The WSJ: Twenty-Odd Data Points On A Mission

* Cosmic Variance: Best Curve-Fitting Ever

Note to John Kline: your old superior officer from the Marines is using the term "war crimes" to describe the Bush administration. Where do you stand?

I posted about this below, but I can't get over how devastating this is. Think about this: a former Marine Corps Commandant and a national security lawyer from the Reagan administration are bringing up the term "war crimes" in condemning the lawlessness of the Bush administration. (Is this expression of righteous anger, from the solid right wing, enough to penetrate the idiot media echo chamber narrative of "opposition to the Bush administration = left wing, by definition"?)

The image of a senior Marine officer hanging out with Reagan, though, brings one image directly to mind, for those of us in the southern suburbs of Minneapolis: John Kline, our man in the House of Representatives, who never fails to conjure up images of himself in uniform rubbing shoulders with Reagan for his campaigns.

With one of the authors of this incendiary attack on Bush's Waffling On Torture having been the Commandant of the Marine Corps under Reagan, at the same time that Kline was a Marine colonel and aide to Reagan, Kline must be familiar with the Commandant under whom he served.

So the question for Kline is: do you think your hero Reagan's Marine Commandant has a good point, that Waffling On Torture is a disgrace and a betrayal of American values? Or are you going to keep lockstep with Bush in what your former superior officer, appointed Commandant under Reagan, believes to be a danger to our own troops and an open invitation to war crimes under the Geneva Conventions?

Banana Republic of America

George W. Bush may have miraculously converted Maureen Dowd's siblings out of the GOP, but Alberto Gonzales has performed the equally impressive miracle of convincingly portraying the U.S. government as being far behind Nigeria and Tajikistan in its standards of honesty and competence. The completely inevitable documentary evidence that totally contradicts what Gonzo told Congress under oath has taken remarkably little time to surface.

Even after the past six and a half years of outrage fatigue, Gonzo's testimony on Tuesday managed to astonish, with its profound new depths of banal alienation from intelligence, judgment, or American values. Watch the special edition here, thanks to Talking Points Memo.

At this point we all might want to check with our members of Congress and see if they perceive any remaining reason why they should not have Gonzo prosecuted for perjury and contempt, and/or impeached. Preferably both, of course. Congress has a legal and constitutional duty to make that happen.

It's just an added bonus though that this will also mean a new sheriff taking over the reigns of the Justice Department; how many and various are the benefits that would come from that, are left as an exercise for the student.

In other devastating news, the Washington Post is running a tremendous op-ed piece by two former Reagan officials, pouring the wrath of God and Thomas Jefferson all over George Bush for Waffling On Torture. Really, if there is any one thing you would ever not want your leader to waffle over, wouldn't "we shouldn't torture people" come near the top of the list?

The money quote: "Policymakers should also keep in mind that violations of Common Article 3 are 'war crimes' for which everyone involved -- potentially up to and including the president of the United States -- may be tried in any of the other 193 countries that are parties to the conventions."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

From the surreal horror dept.: "Cheney pushes Bush to act on Iran"

The Guardian has the latest word on Cheney's lust for more war. At least Cheney now faces off against a defense secretary who is at least a candidate for the Coalition of the Voice of Reason, and theoretically is more isolated. Or would be, if he did not have a spookily complete hold on Bush's decision-making.

Hat-tip to excellent fellow Minnesotan blogger Mark at Norwegianity for the tip.

Fantastic Filibuster! Get out of Iraq!

Reid and the Democratic Crew in the Senate look like they're finally getting serious about forcing legislation for a withdrawal from Iraq. It's about time.

Anonymous Liberal has more great ideas for finally putting the smack down on the obstructionist Republicans.

There is no excuse at this point for any member of the Senate or Congress to continue supporting the Iraqi occupation, regardless of how much they might have supported it once upon a time. The entire Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously opposed the trickle - er, "surge" - in December. Remember that idea about "listening to our generals"? Bush's idea of "listening to our generals" is shopping around til he finds a general who tells him what he already thinks, and getting rid of any along the way who are too explicit with their disagreements - although I suppose even Bush could not get away with too much reaction against his entire Joint Chiefs at once. And now, in case we didn't know before, and even through the self-serving pablum for which the National Intelligence Estimates (NIE) have become known under Bush & Co., the new NIE makes quite clear that the U.S. occupation of Iraq is actively serving to empower the terrorists and increase the danger to America.

Fred Kaplan has a terrific discussion of this here.

There is simply no rational, honest argument anyone can give at this point for why we are not pulling out of Iraq right now. The administration and its enablers are still offering arguments, but they are dishonest and/or irrational, and based on just trying to toll the clock til Bush leaves office, as a way to possibly make less obvious, among a few dim yokels, the blame he deserves for the catastrophe he created there.

As for how to recover a rational foreign and counterterrorism policy, a lot of intelligent criticism has sprung up lately in response to Anne Applebaum's recent, poorly researched worries about this... while Barack Obama has an interesting take, centered on the idea of recovering the inherent appeal of a moral high ground that can live up to America's finer foreign policy efforts of the past.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Unelectable Republicans Update: McCain and Giuliani campaigns collapsing; Romney and Thompson try to outrace each other to the extreme right-wing

McCain is bleeding more staffers every day and dropping like a stone in the polls (more on exactly why, below). The big unreported story so far though is the collapse of would-be GOP frontrunner Giuliani's campaign following close behind. Get this: according to the Gallup polls, Giuliani has dropped steadily in support the past four months in a row, from 35% of GOP respondents in March to just 21% now.

That leaves Romney, never that popular to begin with, and Thompson, not yet in the race, trying to outdo each other in pandering to the extreme right-wing of the base. Although even there, Thompson is an odd choice as the GOP's savior, being a mere one-term Senator as a one-time side hobby to his full-time careers as a lobbyist and actor; while those among the GOP base who don't have a problem with Romney being a Mormon are now getting treated to an intra-party smear job trying to associate him with pay-per-view porn at the Marriott, where he was on the board. Keep on slinging the mud at each other in the primary, GOP candidates, and keep on scorching each other before one of you emerges for the general election.

More on the obstacle of Romney's Mormonism: if the GOP base were enlightened, they would see that Romney's active Mormonism makes him the most committed of hard-core social conservatives, and their natural ally in the issues they are most fervent about. Take that from me, as someone who was raised Mormon myself. But then again, if they were enlightened, they also would not be in the GOP base. As it is, what they are most fervent about includes the "correct" interpretation of their Christian religion, by which a Mormon is a strange heretic. They will never get over that. Romney has also shown that he's not going to try to face it and deal with it head-on. Instead, more new sensational stories about Mormon arcana are going to keep popping up throughout Romney's run for office, and he's going to keep trying to dodge them, or address them piecemeal and weaselly when he is forced. It is going to stay a millstone around his neck and doom his campaign. Our good professor Mark Kleiman is insightfully correct (as usual) about this effect in general: far-right-wing religious extremists are inherently compromised in their effectiveness by their innate urge to sabotage each other as dire enemies, spoiling their capability to organize in pursuit of their identical social-conservative agenda - and therein lies a great bulwark of democracy.

It's easy to see why Giuliani's campaign was doomed from the start, despite the head start from all the 9/11 afterglow effect among a certain mass of Republican voters who haven't been paying much attention. McCain's downfall though, has been blamed variously on his enthusiastic support for the Iraq war (such as by Arianna Huffington), or, quite the contrary, on his departures from the orthodoxy of the far-right-wing GOP base, as well argued by Glenn Greenwald. I think both effects are working simultaneously though, and it's important not to see this as an either-or situation. McCain was peculiar among GOP candidates in drawing a lot of his support from independents and moderates of both parties, who were drawn to his narrative as a maverick and rare straight-talking politician, although of course this appeal as applied to centrists and independents always depended heavily on their not paying too much attention to what were always his very conservative positions on most issues.

McCain has been really outspoken lately about his enthusiastic support for the trickle - er, the "surge" - in Iraq, and his enthusiastic rear-end-kissing of social conservative extremist hypocrites to whom he used to apply his withering, rare straight-talking. All of this has dramatically alienated the moderates and independents that were his core constituency. Simultaneously, he has been really outspoken about his enthusiastic support for Bush's immigration reform plan, restrictions against torture of detainees, campaign finance reform, and other GOP heterodoxies. All of this has dramatically alienated the core, right-wing GOP base. The result of which, his only remaining supporters are people who haven't been paying attention - but among whom, the story is continuing to diffuse, which is going to continue driving his poll numbers ever closer to zero, no matter what else he tries from this point on.

Think about it: what would a current McCain devotee be like? What kind of person would be inspired by the strange combination of actions and positions listed above? The combination could only have been created by a paradox of half-hearted duplicity, and does not occur in the honest priorities of any constituent. His campaign could only have retained life by now if he had gone all the way with embracing the deranged agenda of today's core GOP orthodoxy. Even if he had tried to stick all the way with his honest, heterodox, straight-talking views, those are crucially different now than they were in 2000, for including his stridency for war and urge to escalate with Iran. Is there anyone at all who would appreciate his moderate positions on immigration and campaign finance who would also love and admire his constant, earnest calls for ever-increasing military escalation?

To recap, that leaves us with a Mormon and a career lobbyist racing each other to the far right for the GOP nomination. Or, given both their fundamental weaknesses, I wouldn't rule out the chance for a late upset by Huckabee or Brownback - who might pull out a win by racing to the far right-wing with better credibility.

No matter what the outcome of that, though, the result is the same - the GOP base is now so extreme and so distant from the large majority of the American people, that anyone who emerges successfully from the GOP primary is going to have done so by riding so far to the hard-right that they are poisonously unelectable in the general election.

While all the GOP candidates try to avoid mentioning Bush, they all respond to the absolute need among the GOP base to embrace and to go even further to the right of all of Bush's positions. Whoever emerges from the GOP primary is going to have done so by promising more escalation in Iraq, aggression against Iran, further erosions in Constitutional freedoms and the rule of law, further explosion in the federal debt and downward pressure on the U.S. dollar, and little if any distinction of illegal immigrants from presumed terrorists. Between now and then, an ever greater majority of Americans is going to develop an ever greater revulsion to the Iraqi occupation and to exactly these positions.

Both primaries are really up in the air at this point, but the general election is going to be a massive landslide. The Republican candidate is simply going to be toxically, pathetically unelectable.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bush and "al Qaeda": perversely symbiotic extremists versus ordinary people

America's new Newspaper (company) of Record, McClatchy, has another story on Bush's increasing rhetoric explicitly identifying Al Qaeda In Iraq with the original Al Qaeda, even though the former is at best a rebellious franchisee of the original Qaeda, does not have a common chain of command or organization with the latter, and did not even exist until well after the U.S. invasion of Iraq and several years after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. This is more of the same of Bush's transparently desperate attempt to exploit 9/11 to his military misadventures.

I don't have the statistics in front of me, but various polls have shown a surprisingly large number of people believe Iraq was directly behind the 9/11 attacks and that we actually confirmed that Iraq had WMDs. Other polls have shown that those who rely primarily on Fox News are among the least knowledgeable about world affairs than those who rely primarily on any of the other news sources polled about (including the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, whose viewers were far more knowledgeable than viewers of Fox News(!)).

I'm going to venture a pretty safe guess: that there is almost perfect overlap between those who rely on Fox News as their primary news source, those who still believe Iraq was directly behind the 9/11 attacks, and those who make up the 26% or so who still actually hold a favorable opinion of George Bush.

(Of course, Bush himself presumably falls in that group.)

The logical corollary being, if Fox News didn't exist and those viewers had instead been relying on a magical fantasy cable news channel that practiced responsible, effective journalism, Bush's current favorability rating would be approximately zero.

A really interesting point can be drawn, though, from both Zarqawi's group renaming itself "Al Qaeda in Iraq" and Bush constantly trying to push the illusory suggestion that Al Qaeda in Iraq had anything to do 9/11. Both of them exhibit a strong interest in inflating each other's importance. The Islamist terrorists depend on the Bush-Cheney cabal to overreact to their terror campaign, and are delighted with the Iraq occupation, and even moreso the abuses of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, for justifying themselves and recruiting new followers among Islamist sympathizers. Meanwhile, the Bush-Cheney regime magnifies the terrorists' power and importance, elevating them to an enemy like no other we've ever faced, who justify more extreme measures than we've ever countenanced. (Oh please... compared with the Soviets or the Nazi-Fascist-Japanese Axis, the entire Islamist collective are a ragtag bunch of misfits.) So here we have two opposed extremist groups, one based on the other side of the world and the other based in our capital, perversely relying on and symbiotic with each other's extremist acts to justify their own, while the unwilling victims are the masses of ordinary people forming the majority in both societies, who would be far happier just to go to work and come home and enjoy being with their friends and families and live their decent ordinary lives, who get duped for the ride.

Not to confuse this with the appropriate responses America should have made in hunting down and destroying the actual terrorist network that attacked us on 9/11. If only we had done that, while holding to American laws and American values. It's everything Bush and Cheney have done beyond that, in exploiting 9/11 to try to justify their military misadventure in Iraq and their autocratic power grab, that has served to alienate our friends and enlarge our enemies and fuel the vicious cycle of extremists versus the ordinary people.

Sara Taylor and Harriet Miers are committing federal crimes - this is not a close legal question

Sara Taylor and Harriet Miers are committing federal crimes by not responding fully to Congress's subpoenas. There is no close legal question about this.

For a nice look at the law, see Professor Lederman.

As Mark Kleiman worries, Sara Taylor is sort of a sympathetic witness to use for vindicating Congress's authority. He suggests Libby instead. Excellent idea.

An even more excellent idea at the moment would be Alberto Gonzales. Who could hold less sympathy at this point from the American public, or even Congressional Republicans, than Gonzales? Now that we have a fresh, obvious, unavoidable new example of his testimony before Congress constituting perjury and obstruction, Congress should immediately subpoena him, and then if he pulls another Terri Schiavo impersonation on the stand, have the Sargeant-at-Arms toss him in Congress's own slammer in the basement of the Capitol Building. Better yet, get Gonzales and Libby in there at the same time, and tell them they can come out when they feel like refreshing their memory. No pardon or commutation is going to help them there.

Then send out a fresh round of subpeonas to Miers and Taylor. Their minds should be suitably concentrated at that point.

The only real option though should be whom to start with in making an example, not whether they should throw anyone in jail to enforce a subpoena. Taylor and Miers's denial of the subpoenas, backed up by their lawyers' and Fred Fielding's letters, constitutes a big slap across Congress's face. They have a Constitutional duty at this point to respond to that slap with a much bigger slap back. Otherwise, if they back down, they establish a new precedent of Congress's subpoenas being a joke, and validating Fielding's strange theory that outrageously unfounded all-pervasive claims of executive privilege can be reasonably weighed against, and even outweigh, a subpoena from Congress.

The wonderful Dahlia Lithwick is among those making the point that Gonzales is actually providing exactly what Bush wants, as an Attorney General whose main job is to obstruct inquiry of any kind into the executive branch and to turn the Department of Justice into an arm of Karl Rove's political reward and punishment machine, while competence is optional and commitment to justice is definitely not wanted.

No wonder Bush actually, shockingly, interrupted a vacation to fly back to Washington to try to keep Terri Schiavo hooked up to the plug. She was probably his first pick for Attorney General.

CIA Calling Earth: We Cannot Fix Iraq

"CIA Said Instability Seemed 'Irreversible'"

Here is your real Iraq progress report. I don't know why anyone would bother reading the White House's latest propaganda on it instead of the CIA's realistic assessment.

There simply wasn't any realistic chance of a successful reconstruction of Iraq without going in with at least a third of a million troops in the first place, as General Shinseki candidly and knowledgeably informed us. (History will remember Eric Shinseki as a rare and brave voice of reason who was tragically ignored and punished.) Since fairly early after the invasion, it has become impossible for us to fix Iraq, given how the occupation has steadily made conditions in Iraq ever more tragically difficult to resolve while bleeding our treasury and steadily wearing down our military readiness. Even the current "surge" is horribly misnamed, both as a euphamism for escalation that no self-respecting journalist should have accepted, and even moreso as an exaggeration of what is actually a "trickle"; even its proponents insisted in the first place that it would have to be many times its actual size to succeed.

Nick Kristof has a nice post on this: ‘Inspiring Progress’ on Iraq?

As we debate what to do in Iraq, here are two facts to bear in mind:

First, a poll this spring of Iraqis — who know their country much better than we do — shows that only 21 percent think that the U.S. troop presence improves security in Iraq, while 69 percent think it is making security worse.

Second, the average cost of posting a single U.S. soldier in Iraq has risen to $390,000 per year, according to a new study by the Congressional Research Service. This fiscal year alone, Iraq will cost us $135 billion, which amounts to a bit more than a quarter-million dollars per minute.

... That poll of Iraqis, conducted by the BBC and other news organizations, found that only 22 percent of Iraqis support the presence of coalition troops in Iraq, down from 32 percent in 2005.

If Iraqis were pleading with us to stay and quell the violence, maybe we would have a moral responsibility to stay. But when Iraqis are begging us to leave, and saying that we are making things worse, then it’s remarkably presumptuous to overrule their wishes and stay indefinitely because, as President Bush termed it in his speech on Tuesday, “it is necessary work.”

...It’s nice that Mr. Bush is still confident about Iraq, telling us on Tuesday: “I strongly believe that we will prevail.”

Apparently, we’re doing almost as well today as we were in October 2003 when he blamed journalists for filtering out the good news and declared: “We’re making really good progress.”

Then in September 2004, Mr. Bush assured us that Iraq was “making steady progress.” In April 2005: “We’re making good progress in Iraq.” In October 2005: “Iraq has made incredible political progress.” In November 2005: “Iraqis are making inspiring progress.”

Do we really want to continue making this kind of inspiring progress for the next 10 years?

One of the great underacknowledged factors with Iraq is the distinction between the extremist terrorists, and the militias who are animated largely by rejecting the American occupation and/or defending their own groups from each other. Bush's rhetoric notwithstanding, evidence indicates the latter groups make up by far the majority of all Iraqi combatants. Those are people who might be more likely to settle down and approach a political compromise if the U.S. was gone. Meanwhile, the actual extremists have no capacity for political compromise under any circumstances, and are not going to be mollified by any amount of political progress by the Iraqi government. In that light, the stated rationale for the "surge", to provide breathing space for the Iraqi government to make political progress, looks pretty counterproductive.

Hello to Skippy the Bush Kangaroo

Skippy likey. Does that mean I'm only two degrees separated from Jon Stewart now?

"The Bush administration has turned the entire government (and the DOJ in particular) into a veritable Augean stable"

In case you haven't seen this yet, a career Department of Justice prosecutor named John Koppel has run an editorial that nukes Bush and Gonzales's handling of the Department of Justice. This confirms every horror you might easily imagine of what DOJ must be like after watching Gonzales's persistent vegetative state in his testimony to Congress.

"Bush justice is a national disgrace" by John Koppel

In case it's been a while since the last time you perused your Loeb Library, the stable of King Augeas is what Hercules had to clean out in one day as the fifth of his twelve labors. Augeas had the most cattle of anyone in the world, and the cattle had the magical power to stay healthy regardless of their environment - so Augeas had never bothered to clean the stable out, letting all the bovine excrement generated by that largest collection of cattle in the world just accumulate for year after year. John Koppel gets awards not only for courage in the service of democracy, but also for delightfully fresh verbal imagery in the service of vibrant language.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The President has authority to commute a sentence, but not to obstruct justice

The President has the authority to commute a sentence - but that is a separate issue from the possibility of obstructing justice. Commuting Scooter Libby's sentence removes the pressure on him to testify about whatever it is he lied about to Patrick Fitzgerald. Evidence indicates that those lies were intended to cover up Cheney's actions, and potentially Bush's own actions, in trying to obscure the facts behind their drumbeat for war. If there was any cooperation or communication behind the commuting of the sentence, or if Bush commuted the sentence with the expectation that it would help prevent his own and/or Cheney's misdeeds from coming to light, that is an entirely separate issue from the mere authority to commute a sentence. Whether this was the case demands further investigation.

The Unelectable Republicans

The surprisingly large disparity, detailed here, that has emerged between Democratic and Republican presidential candidate fundraising, just re-confirms one thing: the Republicans have become simply unelectable. After being twice burned the past two presidential elections, there is just no possibility left that America is going to vote a Republican into the White House in 2008.

The only way out from this is if one of the GOP candidates ran against the Bush-Cheney legacy, in a big, dramatic way. But the current crop of candidates doesn't seem to recognize that. On the contrary, the center of weight of the Republican party has steered so far to the extreme right-wing, and all of the GOP presidential candidates are falling all over each other trying to be the favorite of that extreme right-wing. It's doubtful anyone could win the GOP primary these days without running to the extreme right-wing, but that strategy at the same time ensures absolute unelectability in the general election.

Bush somehow managed to squeek by his reelection in 2004, but it was literally within a month or two of that reelection that his ratings took a nose-dive toward the low thirties to high twenties, from which he has not recovered - with very good reason, of course. All the GOP presidential candidates are running essentially on the Bush platform: they are all aiming for that 28% approval rating, which will be equal to what their draw will be in the general election.

Only, even that is being too generous, because most of them are actually running farther to the right of Bush. Romney, Giuliani and Thompson have all parted sharply with Bush on immigration, including Thompson's astonishingly ignorant and ill-considered suggestion that Cuban immigrants are likely to be dangerous secret agents of Castro. Romney wants to double Guantanamo and make sure habeas rights stay good and dead. Giuliani can't get enough of waterboarding, and thinks it's an awesome idea. Even though McCain has thrown away the only qualities that used to set him apart with many Republican voters to join the rest of the GOP candidates in pandering to the extreme right-wing, at least give him credit for making some noises about waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation being unacceptable. Not much credit though, since he didn't match his words with deeds in helping pass the Military Commissions Act, which purports to immunize officials for torture and make statements gained under enhanced interrogation admissible in a judicial proceeding. And the GOP base has left McCain dwindling into a second-tier candidate for even what half-hearted stabs at American ideals he has made.

At this rate, the GOP candidate in the general election will end up only wishing his share of the vote was as high as Bush's 30% approval rating.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Hiring and firing U.S. attorneys is not illegal... unless it is part of a common plan to pursue malicious prosecution

What is the U.S. Attorneys scandal all about? It is often discussed in terms of a few U.S. attorneys having been fired and a few new ones having been hired, according to political allegiances. Sounds upsetting, but tell us again how that conflicts with the President's prerogative to control the executive branch as he sees fit?

More and more evidence keeps coming out, though, as to what was behind the partisan-motivated hirings and firings: a common plan, orchestrated from the Department of Justice and the White House, to pursue malicious prosecution of Democrats, and to push fraudulent voting restrictions designed to disenfranchise Democratic voters, ironically in the name of cracking down on voter fraud.

We learned that Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic brought charges of corruption against the office of Democratic Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle, throwing one of his career civil servants in jail, before the appeals court found the case so baseless that it took the astonishing step of ordering her released immediately after oral argument.

Then we learned that the Democratic former governor of Alabama, Don Siegelman, who was recently sentenced to over seven years in prison on charges of corruption, was apparently the target of malicious prosecution organized by Karl Rove, according to evidence that includes a sworn affidavit from a Republican lawyer (hooray for the highly endangered conscious of a conservative!). This is just beginning to get notice, including by the editorial board of the New York Times. The U.S. Attorney brought more than 100 charges against Siegelman before most were dismissed, and had asked for a sentence of 30 years in prison and a $25 million fine. Compare this with Republican former Alabama governor Guy Hunt, who was prosecuted for a similar crime: the prosecutors sought probation (and he was later pardoned).

Now, the McClatchy newspapers - rapidly establishing themselves as America's new "newspaper of record" - have a terrific piece on the story behind the firing of U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, due in part to his unwillingness to bow to pressure to prosecute cases of voter fraud where he found the evidence to be without merit. And, lo and behold, the point man for pressuring Iglesias, Patrick Rogers, was heavily involved with the nationwide campaign to pass restrictive voting requirements, a campaign celebrated by Karl Rove last year at a conference of the Republican National Lawyers Association.

The scary part? Patrick Rogers is now a candidate to replace Iglesias.

Bonus scary part: one of Patrick Rogers's colleagues at his pro-disenfranchisment group, Cameron Quinn, was appointed last year as the voting counsel at the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.

David Iglesias happens to have been one of the experts on the subject of voting fraud, and was convinced the evidence did not support any prosecutions for voter fraud, despite Rogers's repeated promptings.

Rogers's group was also responsible for trumpeting allegations that ACORN was engaging in voter fraud in Missouri prior to the 2006 election, in its drive to register poor and minority voters, based on a few workers whom ACORN had already fired - and those allegations were followed up by indictments brought only a week before the election, a blatant violation of the DOJ's policies, by Bradley Schlozman, the interim U.S. Attorney appointed by Alberto Gonzales. This is the same Schlozman who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he did not believe this prosecution could have any possible effect on the election.

So, we have:
1. A Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney in Wisconsin pursued what has been effectively identified by the appeals court as a meritless prosecution, against the Democratic governor of Wisconsin, during a close election;
2. A Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney in Alabama pursued a prosecution against a popular Democratic former governor of Alabama that included over 100 charges that were dismissed by three different judges, and that included sentencing recommendations grossly disproportionate to the alleged crime; the U.S. Attorney also is married to a senior campaign official of the Republican governor who defeated said Democratic former governor, based on a controversial recount; a Republican lawyer signed a sworn affidavit that the prosecution was apparently arranged ahead of time with Karl Rove;
3. A Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney in Missouri opened a voter fraud prosecution against Democratic-leaning campaign workers, a week before a close election; and
4. A U.S. Attorney in New Mexico was fired apparently in part for not bringing meritless prosecutions of voter fraud, and the lawyer who repeatedly prompted him to pursue such prosecutions is being considered as his replacement;
5. Carole Lam, the U.S. Attorney in San Diego, was fired after prosecuting GOP Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham and was preparing to follow that up with prosecutions of his co-conspirators among the Bush administration; etc.

Here is what Congress, the media, and any remaining honest prosecutors need to ask:

Were Karl Rove, Alberto Gonzales, and other officials in Washington organized in a common plan to install U.S. Attorneys who would avoid prosecuting Republicans and who would bring trumped-up, politically timed, or meritless prosecutions against Democrats?

If so, the President's authority to direct the executive branch is irrelevant; anyone involved in such a common plan to break the law would be guilty of a felony.