Tuesday, July 31, 2007

NSPD 51 and Bush Plan for Continuity

In case you don't already know about this, here's the heads up about NSPD 51, the secret Bush plan for continuity of government:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NSPD_51

Quote: The unclassified portion of the directive was posted on the White House website on May 9, 2007, without any further announcement or press briefings.

And...
(via Froomkin:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/blog/2007/07/23/BL2007072300799_5.html)



Continuity Plans?

Jeff Kosseff writes in the Oregonian: "Oregonians called Peter DeFazio's office, worried there was a conspiracy buried in the classified portion of a White House plan for operating the government after a terrorist attack.

"As a member of the U.S. House on the Homeland Security Committee, DeFazio, D-Ore., is permitted to enter a secure 'bubbleroom' in the Capitol and examine classified material. So he asked the White House to see the secret documents.

"On Wednesday, DeFazio got his answer: DENIED."


Is this just Democrat, left wing paranoia? No, the Heritage Foundation and other conservatives are also concerned:
(from Boston Globe, June 2, 2007)

The unanswered questions have provoked anxiety across ideological lines. The conservative commentator Jerome Corsi , for example, wrote in a much-linked online column that the directive looked like a recipe for allowing the office of the presidency to seize "dictatorial powers" because the policy does not discuss consulting Congress about when to invoke emergency powers -- or when to turn them off.

In addition, specialists at both the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank, and the American Civil Liberties Union said they have taken calls and e-mails from people who are worried about what the new policy may portend.

James Carafano , a homeland security specialist at Heritage, criticized the administration for failing to inform the public that the new policy was coming, and why it was changing.

He said the White House did not recognize that discussion of emergency governmental powers is "a very sensitive issue for a lot of people," adding that the lack of explanation is "appalling."



The Globe article points out that in the past, such plans existed but no part was made public, and suggests the Administration did us all a favor by making some parts public. But I think the net effect could be that in the future, the Administration could point to this fact and thus make implementation all the more palatable ("we told you about this, so it should come as no surprise"). I fear that the average citizen would be greatly swayed by such a rhetorical trick.

Bush the Needler

Via Froomkin:

Washington Monthly blogger Kevin Drum notes this Bush comment about Brown yesterday: "He's a problem solver. He's a glass-half-full man, not a glass-half-empty guy, you know. Some of these world leaders say, 'Oh, the problems are so significant, let us retreat, let us not take them on, they're too tough'."

Drum's question: "Where does he come up with this stuff? Who are these foreign leaders who are so overwhelmed with their jobs that they want to go hide in a closet? I want names."



src: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/blog/2007/07/31/BL2007073100944_5.html?nav=rss_opinion/columns

Honk to Impeach

See http://www.democrats.com/honktoimpeach

Monday, July 30, 2007

Hillary Rodham

Hillary seems to have written better than her daughter did at the same age, based on the one piece of writing I've seen from Chelsea.

From the NY Times:

July 29, 2007
In the ’60s, a Future Candidate Poured Her Heart Out in Letters
By MARK LEIBOVICH
WASHINGTON, July 28 — They were high school friends from Park Ridge, Ill., both high achievers headed East to college. John Peavoy was a bookish film buff bound for Princeton, Hillary Rodham a driven, civic-minded Republican going off to Wellesley. They were not especially close, but they found each other smart and interesting and said they would try to keep in touch.

Which they did, prodigiously, exchanging dozens of letters between the late summer of 1965 and the spring of 1969. Ms. Rodham’s 30 dispatches are by turns angst-ridden and prosaic, glib and brooding, anguished and ebullient — a rare unfiltered look into the head and heart of a future first lady and senator and would-be president. Their private expressiveness stands in sharp contrast to the ever-disciplined political persona she presents to the public now.

“Since Xmas vacation, I’ve gone through three and a half metamorphoses and am beginning to feel as though there is a smorgasbord of personalities spread before me,” Ms. Rodham wrote to Mr. Peavoy in April 1967. “So far, I’ve used alienated academic, involved pseudo-hippie, educational and social reformer and one-half of withdrawn simplicity.”

Befitting college students of any era, the letters are also self-absorbed and revelatory, missives from an unformed and vulnerable striver who had, in her own words, “not yet reconciled myself to the fate of not being the star.”

“Sunday was lethargic from the beginning as I wallowed in a morass of general and specific dislike and pity for most people but me especially,” Ms. Rodham reported in a letter postmarked Oct. 3, 1967.

In other letters, she would convey a mounting exasperation with her rigid conservative father and disdain for both “debutante” dormmates and an acid-dropping friend. She would issue a blanket condemnation of the “boys” she had met (“who know a lot about ‘self’ and nothing about ‘man’ ”) and also tell of an encounter she had with “a Dartmouth boy” the previous weekend.

“It always seems as though I write you when I’ve been thinking too much again,” Ms. Rodham wrote in one of her first notes to Mr. Peavoy, postmarked Nov. 15, 1965. She later joked that she planned to keep his letters and “make a million” when he became famous. “Don’t begrudge me my mercenary interest,” she wrote.

Of course, it was Hillary Rodham Clinton who became famous while Mr. Peavoy has lived out his life in contented obscurity as an English professor at Scripps College, a small women’s school in Southern California where he has taught since 1977. Every bit the wild-haired academic, with big silver glasses tucked behind bushy gray sideburns, he lives with his wife, Frances McConnel, and their cat, Lulu, in a one-story house cluttered with movies, books and boxes — one of which contains a trove of letters from an old friend who has since become one of the most cautious and analyzed politicians in America.

When contacted about the letters, Mr. Peavoy allowed The New York Times to read and copy them.

The Clinton campaign declined to comment.

The letters were written during a period when the future Mrs. Clinton was undergoing a period of profound political transformation, from the “Goldwater girl” who shared her father’s conservative outlook to a liberal antiwar activist.

In her early letters, Ms. Rodham refers to her involvement with the Young Republicans, a legacy of her upbringing. In October of her freshman year, she dismisses the local chapter as “so inept,” which she says she might be able to leverage to her own benefit. “I figure that I may be able to work things my own way by the time I’m a junior so I’m going to stick to it,” she writes.

Still, the letters reveal a fast-eroding allegiance to the party of her childhood. She ridicules a trip she had taken to a Young Republicans convention as “a farce that would have done Oscar Wilde credit.” By the summer of 1967, Ms. Rodham — writing from her parents’ vacation home in Lake Winola, Pa. — begins referring to Republicans as “they” rather than “we.”

“That’s no Freudian slip,” she adds. A few months later, she would be volunteering on Senator Eugene McCarthy’s antiwar presidential campaign in New Hampshire. By the time she delivered her commencement address at Wellesley in 1969, she was citing her generation’s “indispensable task of criticizing and constructive protest.”

But in many ways her letters are more revealing about her search for her own sense of self.

“Can you be a misanthrope and still love or enjoy some individuals?” Ms. Rodham wrote in an April 1967 letter. “How about a compassionate misanthrope?”

Mr. Peavoy’s letters to Ms. Rodham are lost to posterity, unless she happened to keep them, which he doubts. He said he wished he had kept copies himself. “They are windows into a time and a place and a journey of self-discovery,” he said in an interview. “This was what college students did before Facebook.”

The letters are Mr. Peavoy’s only link to his former pen pal. They never visited or exchanged a single phone call during their four years of college. They lost touch entirely after graduation, except for the 30-year reunion of the Maine South High School class of 1965, held in Washington to accommodate the class’s most famous graduate, whose husband was then serving his first term in the White House.

“I was on the White House Christmas card list for a while,” Mr. Peavoy said. Besides a quick receiving-line greeting from Mrs. Clinton at the reunion, Mr. Peavoy has had just one direct contact with her in 38 years. It was, fittingly, by letter, only this time her words were more businesslike.

In the late 1990s, Mr. Peavoy was contacted by the author Gail Sheehy, who was researching a book on the first lady. He agreed to let Ms. Sheehy see the letters, from which she would quote snippets in her 1999 biography, “Hillary’s Choice.” When Mrs. Clinton heard that Mr. Peavoy had kept her old letters, she wrote him asking for copies, which he obliged. He has not heard from her since.

“For all I know she’s mad at me for keeping the letters,” said Mr. Peavoy, a pack rat who says he has kept volumes of letters from friends over the years. A Democrat, he said he was undecided between supporting Mrs. Clinton and Senator Barack Obama.

Ms. Rodham’s letters are written in a tight, flowing script with near-impeccable spelling and punctuation. Ever the pleaser, she frequently begins them with an apology that it had taken her so long to respond. She praises Mr. Peavoy’s missives while disparaging her own (“my usual drivel”) and signs off with a simple “Hillary,” except for the occasional “H” or “Me.”

As one would expect of letters written during college, Ms. Rodham’s letters display an evolution in sophistication, viewpoint and intellectual focus. One existential theme that recurs throughout is that Ms. Rodham views herself as an “actor,” meaning a student activist committed to a life of civic action, which she contrasts with Mr. Peavoy, who, in her view, is more of an outside critic, or “reactor.”

“Are you satisfied with the part you have cast yourself in?” she asks Mr. Peavoy in April 1966. “It seems that you have decided to become a reactor rather than actor — everything around will determine your life.”

She is mildly patronizing if not scornful, as she encourages her friend to “try-out” for life. She quotes from “Doctor Zhivago,” “Man is born to live, not prepare for life,” and signs the letter “Me” (“the world’s saddest word,” she adds parenthetically).

Ms. Rodham becomes expansive and wistful when discussing the nature of leadership and public service, and how the validation of serving others can be a substitute for self-directed wisdom. “If people react to you in the role of answer bestower then quite possibly you are,” she writes in a letter postmarked Nov. 15, 1967, and continues in this vein for another page before changing the subject to what Mr. Peavoy plans to do the following weekend.

Ms. Rodham’s dispatches indicate a steady separation from Park Ridge, her old friends and her family, notably her strict father. She seethes at her parents’ refusal to let her spend a weekend in New York (“Their reasons — money, fear of the city, they think I’ve been running around too much, etc. — are ridiculous”) and fantasizes about spending the summer between her sophomore and junior years in Africa, only to dismiss the notion, envisioning “the scene with my father.”

While home on a break in February of her junior year, Ms. Rodham bemoans “the communication chasm” that has opened within her family. “I feel like I’m losing the top of my head,” she complains, describing an argument raging in the next room between — “for a change” — her father and one of her brothers.

“God, I feel so divorced from Park Ridge, parents, home, the entire unreality of middle class America,” she says. “This all sounds so predictable, but it’s true.”

Ms. Rodham has been described by people who knew her growing up as precocious, and in the letters she is scathingly judgmental at times. She spent the bulk of one letter on a withering assessment of dormmates.

“Next me,” Ms. Rodham says wryly. “Of course, I’m normal, if that is a permissible adjective for a Wellesley girl.”

In other notes, she speaks of her own despair; in one, written in the winter of her sophomore year, she describes a “February depression.” She catalogs a long, paralyzed morning spent in bed, skipping classes, hating herself. “Random thinking usually becomes a process of self-analysis with my ego coming out on the short end,” she writes.

Another recurring theme of Ms. Rodham’s musings is the familiar late-adolescent impulse not to grow up. “Such a drag,” she says, invoking the Rolling Stones, a rare instance of her referring to pop culture.

Her letters at times betray a kind of innocent narcissism over “my lost youth,” as she described it in a letter shortly after her 19th birthday. She wrote of being a little girl and believing that she was the only person in the universe. She had a sense that if she turned around quickly, “everyone else would disappear.

“I’d play out in the patch of sunlight that broke the density of the elms in front of our house and pretend there were heavenly movie cameras watching my every move,” she says. She yearns for all the excitement and discoveries of life without losing “the little girl in the sunlight.”

At which point, Ms. Rodham declares that she has spent too much time wandering “aimlessly through a verbal morass” and writes that she is going to bed.

“You’ll probably think I’m retreating from the world back to the sunlight in an attempt to dream my child’s movie,” she says.

The letters contain no possibly damaging revelations of the proverbial “youthful indiscretions,” and mention nothing glaringly outlandish or irresponsible. Indeed, she tends toward the self-scolding: “I have been enjoying myself too much, and spring and letter-writing are — to the bourgeois mind — no excuses!”

She reports in one letter from October of her sophomore year that she spent a “miserable weekend” arguing with a friend who believed that “acid is the way and what did I have against expanding my conscience.”

In a previous letter from her freshman year, she divulges that a junior in her dorm had been caught at her boyfriend’s apartment in Cambridge at 3:15 a.m. “I don’t condone her actions,” Ms. Rodham declares, “but I’ll defend to expulsion her right to do as she pleases — an improvement on Voltaire.”

Ms. Rodham’s notes to Mr. Peavoy are revelatory, even intimate at times, but if there is any romantic energy between the friends, they are not evident in Ms. Rodham’s side of the conversation. “P.S. thanks for the Valentine’s card,” she says at the end of one letter. “Good night.”

Her letters contain no mention of any romantic interest, except for one from February 1967 in which Ms. Rodham divulges that she “met a boy from Dartmouth and spent a Saturday night in Hanover.”

Ms. Rodham skates earnestly on the surface of life, raising more questions than answers. “Last week I decided that even if life is absurd why couldn’t I spend it absurdly happy?” she wrote in November of her junior year. She then challenges herself to “define ‘happiness’ Hillary Rodham, acknowledged agnostic intellectual liberal, emotional conservative.”

From there, she deems the process of self-definition to be “too depressing” and asserts that “the easiest way out is to stop any thought approaching introspection and to advise others whenever possible.”

The letters to Mr. Peavoy taper off considerably after the first half of Ms. Rodham’s junior year; there are just two from 1968 and one from 1969.

“I’m sitting here at a stolen table in a pair of dirty denim bell-bottoms, a never-ironed work shirt and a beautiful purple felt hat with a purple polka-dotted scarf streaming off it,” she writes in her final correspondence, March 25, 1969. A senior bound for law school, she betrays exhaustion with the times, a country at war and a culture in tumult. “I’m really tired of people slamming doors and screaming obscenities at poor old life,” she says, and describes the sound of chirping birds amid the “soulless academia” that she will inhabit for just a few more weeks as an undergraduate.

Capitalism is a Male Preoccupation

See percentage of males on list:
30 Under 30: The Coolest Young Entrepreneurs in America
http://finance.yahoo.com/career-work/article/103284/30-Under-30

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Another Famous Account of Government Waste was a Lie

If you grew up in the '80's, the story of the $600 toilet seat probably did more than anything else to form your opinion about the supposed inefficiency of government. Unfortunately, the story was a crock.


In 2004 Senator Chuck Grassley (R Iowa) said: "I exposed the spending scandal in the ‘80s when federal bureaucrats saw no problem in spending $600 for a toilet seat . . .". Some now claim that neither that nor his also famous revelation of the Pentagon spending $400 for a hammer actually ever happened. Others say the prices paid were fair and justifiable.

The $600 dollar toilet seat was determined to be "fair and reasonable" by a Naval Contracting Officer, based on his detailed knowledge of the manufacturing processes and degree of effort known to be required from the vendor, to manufacture this item.

The United States military services are often in the position of making equipment last decades longer than originally designed. For example the B-52 bomber is more than 50 years old and expected to be useful for another 20 years. The famous toilet seat came about when about twenty Navy planes had to be rebuilt to extend their service life. The onboard toilets required a uniquely shaped fiberglass piece that had to satisfy specifications for the vibration resistance, weight, and durability. The molds had to be specially made as it had been decades since the planes original production. The price of the "seats" reflected the design work and the cost of the equipment to manufacture them.

The problem arose because the top level drawing for the toilet assembly referred to the part being purchased as a "Toilet Seat" instead of its proper nomenclature of "Shroud". The Navy had made a conscious decision at the time, not to pay the OEM of the aircraft the thousands of dollars it would take to update their top level drawing in order to fix this mistake in nomenclature.

Later some unknown Senate staffer combing lists of military purchases for the Golden Fleece Awards found "Toilet Seat - $600" and trumpeted it to the news media as an example of "government waste." The Senate then wrote into the appropriations bill that this item would not be purchased for anything more than $140.00. The shroud has never been purchased since, as no one can make the shroud at that price.

President Reagan had actually held a televised news conference, where he held up one of these shrouds. During the press conference, he explained the true story. The media of the time, and still today, incorrectly reports that the Pentagon was paying $640.00 for a $12.00 toilet seat.

George W. Bush: Most Unpopular President in U.S. History?

The wisdom of the masses is slow, but there. I'd love to see a poll showing the popularity of Gore vs. Bush today.

From today's Washington Post:

With 18 months left in office, [George W. Bush] is in the running for most unpopular president in the history of modern polling.

The latest Washington Post-ABC News survey shows that 65 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush's job performance, matching his all-time low. In polls conducted by The Post or Gallup going back to 1938, only once has a president exceeded that level of public animosity -- and that was Richard M. Nixon, who hit 66 percent four days before he resigned.
...
The current president, though, has endured bad numbers longer than Nixon or his father did and longer than anyone other than Truman. His disapproval rating has topped 50 percent for more than two years. And though Truman hit 65 percent once, Bush has hit that high three times in the past 14 months.

Arlen Specter

Arlen Specter once again shows himself to be one of the few Republicans I have any respect for:

"I do not find your testimony credible, candidly," said Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who became visibly angry at several points during his exchanges with Gonzales. "The committee's going to review your testimony very carefully to see if your credibility has been breached to the point of being actionable."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Gonzales

A must-read about the Gonzales testimony:

http://blog.washingtonpost.com/benchconference/2007/07/post_39.html

Response to Republican YouTube

I really like Biden's presentation. I think he would make a fantastic candidate in the general election.

USA Today on Income Taxes

Wow, this is a USA Today editorial:


Our view on income inequality: Wealth money managers make more, get taxed less Mon Jul 23, 12:22 AM ET



As many business executives, doctors, lawyers and other skilled professional know, the top income tax rate is 35%. The top rate on dividends and long-term capital gains is 15%.


Whether it makes sense to tax the output of expertise and hard work at more than twice the rate of investment returns is debatable. But, for better or worse, that's the way it is.


Except, that is, when it isn't. Owners of companies, ranging from small real estate partnerships to multibillion dollar hedge funds and private equity firms, have devised a way to erase this distinction. Their managers pay 15% on their income by dressing it up as investment returns — even though they bear no investment risk or put none of their own money in play.


Nice work if you can get it. But in this case it constitutes a frontal assault on fairness. Why should such people pay only 15% when senior corporate executives pay 35% for making many of the same types of business decisions? More to the point, it's hard to see the logic (or the justice) in a school teacher or bus driver with taxable annual family income as low as $63,700 paying 25% when someone like Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman can make nearly $700 million on the day his firm went public and pay at most 15%.


Congress is rightfully re-examining the issue. Reps. Sandy Levin, D-Mich., and Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., have a proposal. In the Senate, Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, have a useful, if narrower, bill.


The practice they are seeking to ban or limit is a transparent ruse. Here's how it works using the example of a private equity firm: The partners raise capital from banks, pension funds and other large investors, which they use to buy companies and resell them. Their investors give them some direct compensation, which is taxable as income.


But most of the compensation comes in the form of an investment vehicle known as "carried interest," which gives them a right to a portion of the profits they generate (typically 20%). That portion of the profit is taxed 15%, just as if they supplied 20% of the capital at the outset.


It's a creative practice, but with a result that says the rich get to write their own rules. That's not a new problem in the American tax system, but it is nevertheless repulsive. Income is income, or so you'd think.


Supporters of this scam argue that these money managers actually are risking their own investments. It's just not money, in their case, but their "sweat equity," their time, their expertise. But the same could be said of the lawyer who takes a case on a contingency fee, the movie actor who negotiates a cut of the box office receipts, the financier who chooses to work for a firm known for paying enormous bonuses during good years. In most, if not all, of such cases, these people pay income taxes.


And so should partners in these exotic investment firms. More so because the tax they avoid paying is money that has to be made up by people of lesser means — or borrowed from later generations by adding to the budget deficit.


These schemes add insult to injury at a time of increasing wealth concentration. It is time to end them.

Rove's PowerPoint Presentation to Diplomatic Agencies

Via Dan Froomkin:

Paul Kane writes for The Washington Post: "White House aides have conducted at least half a dozen political briefings for the Bush administration's top diplomats, including a PowerPoint presentation for ambassadors with senior adviser Karl Rove that named Democratic incumbents targeted for defeat in 2008 and a 'general political briefing' at the Peace Corps headquarters after the 2002 midterm elections.

"The briefings, mostly run by Rove's deputies at the White House political affairs office, began in early 2001 and included detailed analyses for senior officials of the political landscape surrounding critical congressional and gubernatorial races, according to documents obtained by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. . . .

"In a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), the Foreign Relations Committee chairman, asked whether the briefings inappropriately politicized the diplomatic agencies or violated prohibitions against political work by most federal employees.

"'I do not understand why ambassadors, in Washington on official duty, would be briefed by White House officials on which Democratic House members are considered top targets by the Republican party for defeat in 2008. Nor do I understand why department employees would need to be briefed on 'key media markets' in states that are 'competitive' for the president,' Biden wrote."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

John D. Bates: From Whitewater to Plame

What a scum.

Here's an Editorial Cartoon Friendly image for you, have at it:



Judge Bates spent two years working for Kenneth Starr and the Independent Counsel's office during the investigation into President Bill Clinton's sex life.

In 2001, Bates was appointed by Bush as the Federal Judge for the important D.C. circuit.

Then, shortly thereafter, now District Court Judge Bates dismissed the GAO's effort to learn with whom Cheney's energy task force conferred.

And today:
Judge Dismisses Plame Lawsuit Washington Post, July 19, 2007.


Reprinted from: On Lisa Rein's Radar


Tainted Judge Gives Cheney A Break
Comments on the Judge Rebuffs Effort to Obtain Records on Cheney Task Force By David Stout for the New York Times.
(Quote below from William Rivers Pitt for Truthout)



Federal Judge and Bush appointee John D. Bates has thrown out the case, based on a separation of powers argument that claims the GAO "had not suffered any personal injury and had no genuine stake in the outcome of the litigation." Judge Bates spent two years working for Kenneth Starr and the Independent Counsel's office during the investigation into President Bill Clinton's sex life. Section 455 of Title 28 of the United States Code stipulates that a judge "shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned." That, and the incredible narrowness of the legal parameters of this decision, almost guarantees this case a contentious trip before the United States Supreme Court.


Here is the full text of the article in case the link goes bad:

http://www.truthout.org/docs_02/12.11A.bates-cheney.htm

Print This Story E-mail This Story

(*Editors Note [1] -- William Rivers Pitt | When crafting the energy policy for America, Dick Cheney went behind closed, locked doors with the moguls of the energy industry. On at least six different occasions, those moguls belonged to the Enron Corporation, the company that is now the gold standard for corporate fraud. Enron stands accused of a variety of crimes, including the gerrymandering of the California energy grid; they darkened the state on several occasions to line their pockets. The General Accounting Office sued Cheney to try and get to the bottom of these meetings, so as to determine whether or not Enron and the others sought to bend American energy policies around their own profit motives, in defiance of the needs of the people.

Federal Judge and Bush appointee John D. Bates has thrown out the case, based on a separation of powers argument that claims the GAO "had not suffered any personal injury and had no genuine stake in the outcome of the litigation." Judge Bates spent two years working for Kenneth Starr and the Independent Counsel's office during the investigation into President Bill Clinton's sex life. Section 455 of Title 28 of the United States Code stipulates that a judge "shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned." That, and the incredible narrowness of the legal parameters of this decision, almost guarantees this case a contentious trip before the United States Supreme Court.

(*Editors Note [2] -- Jennifer Van Bergen | D.C. District Court Judge Bates dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Comptroller of General of the United States brought in furtherance of an investigation by the Government Accounting Office (GAO), which Judge Bates referred to as "an agent of the legislative branch." The suit sought "to require the Vice President to produce information relating to the President's decision-making on national energy policy." Bates dismissed the suit because "the Comptroller General has suffered no personal injury as a private citizen, and any institutional injury exists only in his capacity as an agent of Congress -- an entity that itself has issued no subpoena."

The decision is puzzling given that, according to Bates, "[u]nder statute, the Comptroller General is granted broad authority to carry out investigations and evaluations for the benefit of Congress," and is specifically authorized under the same statute "to enforce these investigatory powers by bringing a civil action ... to require 'the head of [an] agency to produce a record." Bates claims, however, that the court does not need to reach the issue of GAO's powers, since the Comptroller has suffered no injury.

The decision stands in stark contrast to statements made by Bates during his tenure as Deputy Independent Counsel during the Whitewater investigation from 1995 to 1997. He declared that the special prosecutors intended merely to "diligently and properly follow[] relevant leads in an attempt to discover the truth.")

Go To Original:
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/09/politics/09CND-CHEN.html

Judge Rebuffs Effort to Obtain Records on Cheney Task Force
By David Stout
New York Times

Monday, 9 December, 2002

WASHINGTON, Dec. 9 -- In a case involving bedrock constitutional issues, a federal judge today threw out a lawsuit brought by an agency of Congress against Vice President Dick Cheney over the formulation of the administration's energy policy.

Judge John D. Bates of Federal District Court found that Comptroller General David M. Walker, the head of the General Accounting Office, did not have sufficient standing to sue the vice president.

Mr. Walker had asked the judge to order the White House to reveal the identities of industry executives who helped the administration develop its energy policy last year.

In declining to do so, and in dismissing Mr. Walker's suit, Judge Bates said that granting the G.A.O. chief's request "would fly in the face of the restricted role of the federal courts under the Constitution."

When arguments were held before Judge Bates on Sept. 27, lawyers for Mr. Cheney argued -- successfully, as it turned out today -- that the comptroller general lacked standing because he had not suffered any personal injury and had no genuine stake in the outcome of the litigation.

In deciding for Mr. Cheney on relatively narrow grounds, Judge Bates said the Supreme Court has made it clear over the years that a would-be party to a case involving constitutional separation of powers must meet "especially rigorous" standards just to have standing to bring such a suit.

This, Mr. Walker has simply failed to do, the judge said, because he has suffered no personal injury and was merely acting to aid Congress.

The issues raised in the suit are so important that an appeal, perhaps to the Supreme Court eventually, would not be surprising. But Mr. Walker said he would confer with Congressional leaders "on a bipartisan basis" before deciding what to do next.

"We are very disappointed with the judge's decision," Mr. Walker said in a statement. "We are in the process of reviewing and analyzing the decision to fully understand the bases for it and its potential implications."

Over the years, the General Accounting Office, the auditing arm of Congress, has conducted thousands of investigations and evaluations of government programs and activities, submitting stacks of reports to the lawmakers.

But the case of Walker v. Cheney marked the first time in the 81-year history of the G.A.O. that the comptroller general had asked a court to order a member of the executive branch to turn over records to Congress.

The development of the Bush administration's energy policy has been marked by deep differences between the White House and Democratic lawmakers. Numerous energy executives, including some from the Enron Corporation, met on several occasions in 2001 with Mr. Cheney and the energy task force that he headed.

The comptroller general, with the backing of some Democrats in Congress, wanted Mr. Cheney to reveal the names of industry executives who helped the administration develop its policy. The administration argued that such an order would be an unprecedented and unwarranted intrusion into executive branch powers and would hobble an administration's essential, legitimate ability to receive frank information and advice.

Judge Bates, who was appointed to the bench last year by President Bush, noted that neither House of Congress and no Congressional committee had authorized the comptroller general to file the suit. Rather, the judge noted, the suit was filed as the result of a G.A.O. investigation begun at the request of Representatives John D. Dingell and Henry A. Waxman, both Democrats.

Mr. Dingell was the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, while Mr. Waxman was the ranking minority member on the Government Reform Committee.

"Plaintiff is not an independent constitutional actor," Judge Bates said of Mr. Walker. Rather, the judge said, the comptroller general is "subservient to Congress."

Significantly, Judge Bates said, the full Congress had issued no subpoena for the information sought in the suit. The absence of full Congressional backing leaves to "the realm of speculation" whether there is any need, or justification, for the court to try to exercise its power by ordering the executive branch to do something, the judge said.

(Judge Bates's ruling can be read online by clicking onto the Web site of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia: www.dcd.uscourts.gov/.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Liberal Baiting

From BoingBoing.net:

Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Conversations with neocons on a cruise

Johann Hari of the Independent (UK) paid $1200 to take a cruise with 500 "straight-talking, gun-toting, God-fearing Republican" readers of the conservative National Review magazine. His mission: to "find out what American conservatives say when they think the rest of us aren't listening."

I lie on the beach with Hillary-Ann, a chatty, scatty 35-year-old Californian designer. As she explains the perils of Republican dating, my mind drifts, watching the gentle tide. When I hear her say, " Of course, we need to execute some of these people," I wake up. Who do we need to execute? She runs her fingers through the sand lazily. "A few of these prominent liberals who are trying to demoralise the country," she says. "Just take a couple of these anti-war people off to the gas chamber for treason to show, if you try to bring down America at a time of war, that's what you'll get." She squints at the sun and smiles. " Then things'll change."

Link

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Libby Commutation Hypocrisy

Bush's leniency for Libby doesn't jibe with administration's push to enforce mandatory minimum sentences

Bush: Making the World Safe for Hypocracy

Health Care, Government, Trust

Gotta hand it to Michael Moore for knowing how to put it. I got a great e-mail from him today. Here's an excerpt:


And all of the media should start saying how much it costs to go to a doctor in these other top industrialized countries: Nothing. Zip. It's FREE. Don't patronize Americans by saying, "Well, it's not free -- they pay for it with taxes!" Yes, we know that. Just like we know that we drive down a city street for FREE -- even though we paid for that street with our taxes. The street is FREE, the book at the library is FREE, if your house catches on fire, the fire department will come and put it out for FREE, and if someone snatches your purse, the police officer will chase down the culprit and bring your purse back to you -- AND HE WON'T CHARGE YOU A DIME FROM THAT PURSE!

These are all free services, collectively socialized and paid for with our tax dollars. To argue that health care -- a life and death issue for many -- should not be considered in the same league is ludicrous and archaic. And trust me, once you add up what you pay for out-of-pocket in premiums, deductibles, co-pays, overpriced medicines, and treatments that aren't covered (not to mention all the other things we pay for like college education, day care and other services that many countries provide for at little or no cost), we, as Americans, are paying far more than the Canadians or Brits or French are paying in taxes. We just don't call these things taxes, but that's exactly what they are.


And when he was on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart had a zinger about how Americans are find about trusting the Government when it comes to killing people (Military), but not when it comes to Health Care.

It also occurs to me a similar comparison could be made about how Republicans stress that those "Evil" Corporations are in fact run by us, the people, since so many Americans own stock (never mind that the 50% level reached after 401k's took off is deceptive because something like 99% of the dollar value of all stock is owned by 1% of the people. That is, 49 out of that 50% own miniscule amounts of stock that has comparatively no voting power in the corporation). Whenever a Republican mentions that factoid (it resembled a fact), quickly point out that the same is true with our Government, although in that case we all have EQUAL say, not based on how much money we inherited.

Related: More Americans May Own Stock, But Many Live On Financial Edge by Froma Harrop

August Vacation

Civil Disobedience Idea #437: To protest both Bush's vacations and the Iraqi Parliament's, let all good war protesters go on strike for the month. You know, in Phoenix it gets to 118 degrees F very frequently in July and August.


Excerpt from Dan Froomkin today:

About That August Vacation


Fury continues to mount in Washington over the Iraqi parliament's plan to take the month of August off. Such a vacation would be a PR calamity for the Bush administration, one that Vice President Cheney tried to avert in May when he traveled to Iraq and urged members not to take a summer recess.

As I wrote in my May 10 column, several House Republican moderates turned on the president in a highly unusual White House meeting, warning Bush that his credibility was shot and that Republican defections were in the offing.

Here is video of Tim Russert describing the meeting to Brian Williams on NBC: "One congressman said, 'How can our daughters and sons spill their blood while the Iraqi parliament goes on vacation?' The president responded, 'The vice president is over there to tell them: "Do not go on vacation." ' "

Apparently, not everyone does what Cheney tells them to do.

At Friday's press briefing, Snow tried to make excuses for the parliament. "You know, it's 130 degrees in Baghdad in August," he said. That led ABC News's Martha Raddatz to point out that "it's 130 degrees for the U.S. military also on the ground."

But White House Watch reader Dan Flowers e-mailed me with a meteorological "fact check": " Weather Underground says the highest temperature last August was 118 F, and mean high temp was 112F. Not cool by any means, but not 130 F."

Republican Filibuster

The Last Time Republicans Filibustered

Rick Perlstein says:
"History buffs, and those with long memories, will recall the last time conservatives found something important enough to stand up and obstruct all night long: the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The one that outlawed discrimination in public accomodations."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Michael Abramowitz Calls Bush a Liar

About time, huh? Thank you, Michael Abramowitz, for taking the iota of a statement Bush made and making some real news out of it:


Bush Acknowledges Administration Link in CIA Leak


By Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 12, 2007; 4:38 PM



President Bush today acknowledged for the first time that "somebody" in his administration leaked the name of an undercover intelligence officer but declined to say whether he was disappointed in such an action and contended it was time to move on.

Asked during his news conference this morning whether he was disappointed that his advisers revealed the identity of undercover operative Valerie Plame to the news media, the president did not answer directly. But he offered perhaps his fullest discussion of a case he has generally refused to address because it was in the courts.

Bush described as "fair and balanced" his decision to commute the prison term of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former aide to Vice President Cheney who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice for his role in the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity.

Bush went on to say he had not spent "a lot of time" talking with people in his administration about court testimony in the Libby case. But he added: "I'm aware of the fact that perhaps somebody in the administration did disclose the name of that person, and I've often thought about what would have happened had that person come forth and said, I did it. Would we have had this, you know, endless hours of investigation and a lot of money being spent on this matter?"

It was not exactly clear who Bush was referring to in his comments, because several officials other than Libby discussed Plame's identity with reporters, including senior White House adviser Karl Rove and former press secretary Ari Fleischer.

But the comment seemed aimed at former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who was the first person known to have mentioned Plame's name to a journalist, in a June 2003 conversation with Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward.

Armitage also mentioned Plame to columnist Robert Novak in what the columnist described as an "offhand revelation." Novak was the first to disclose Plame's identity and CIA affiliation publicly in July 2003.

Actually, Armitage did tell senior State Department officials what he had done after he realized he might have been the source for Novak's column. One of them called then-White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales to report that State Department possessed information relevant to the leak investigation and already had contacted the Justice Department.

The aide, former State Department lawyer Will Taft, asked Gonzales if he wanted to know the details and Gonzales said no, according to "Hubris," a book on the case by journalists Michael Isikoff and David Corn.


Also today, Bush's statement that he had commuted Libby's 30-month prison sentence because it was "excessive" drew a quizzical response from the trial judge in Libby's case, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton. In an opinion ordering Libby to begin serving supervised probation, Walton noted that the prison term was "consistent with the bottom end" of federal sentencing guidelines.

"The court is somewhat perplexed as to how its sentence could accurately be characterized as excessive," Walton wrote.

Bush did not discuss his reasoning in great depth today. "It's been a tough issue for a lot of people in the White House, and it's run its course and now we're going to move on," he said.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Thoughts on the FDA

China executes the former head of its food and drug agency

This reminds me of the common academic economist's stance on the FDA. The idea is that the FDA is unnecessary, because food and pharmaceutical companies have enough incentive to produce quality goods due to their reputation. This idea is so mainstream in academic economics, that in 1994 while sitting in on a graduate Economics class at Emory University, taught by the chairman (Emory's term) of the department, the uselessness of the FDA was a foregone conclusion.

While I do see the value in "name brands", I think the practicality of reliance on "brand reputation" falls apart when you consider the huge amount of sub-contracting, mergers and acquisitions, short time horizons of corporations (one or two fiscal quarters), and bankruptcy that is prevalent in industry. On top of that, in a global economy, the value of reputation can be even more elusive.
See NPR story on global food supply:

Heinz makes this meal by combining more than 50 industrial food ingredients. Each ingredient has probably changed hands a dozen times on its way from the farm or the sea. Each one is sold and then resold to a chain of distributors, exporters, importers, and wholesalers before finally reaching Heinz. The 50 ingredients in this one tiny meal could easily have gone through 500 different suppliers, spread all over the globe.


Then, there is the question of equity. Poor people who buy cheap stuff from dollar stores won't be able to afford protection from bad food and medicine. How does abolishing the FDA solve that issue?
Also from Adam Davidson's NPR story linked to above:

As a rule, experts say, such suspicious products go to cut-rate restaurants and deep discount stores. They rarely go to established brand-name companies. And that means the food in any brand-name supermarket is very likely safe to eat — at least in the short run. Of course, shoppers still have to worry about all that sodium and fat.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

On Ron Paul and Libertarianism

I've recently noticed that Ron Paul seems to be gathering a following of some sensible folks on the web. It will not surprise me if the Daily Show demographic really takes to his message of libertarianism. Contrary to any "liberal" or "conservative" bias across the entertainment spectrum, I think libertarianism is really the over arching and binding philosophy. To the extent our cultural media is still eminently focused on males, this is especially so (if you indulge me my reliance on conventional evolutionary psychology's take on the nurture instinct, and the nuance that libertarianism is not very nurturing). Libertarianism is hip, it is cool. It co-exists with humor and post-modern sensibilities. All late night comedy is Libertarian.

Here is my concern about libertarianism: It is not consistent with its cynicism. At its core is a distrust of politicians and the political process (in that way it is so fundamentally American and yet anti-democratic at the same time). I have no qualms about that. But I think libertarians are very naive about the similar corruption that takes place in the marketplace (although I use corruption hesitantly, because I see the dynamics of the marketplace to be naturally tending in this direction). If political power tends to corrupt, in economic systems we see that the strong get stronger. Over time, wealth tends to accumulate. And the equilibrium in free markets seems to be that they naturally tend toward conglomeration (in Industrial Organization, look at market share distribution, which is very concentrated and exponential). Libertarians have a panglossian view of all this, just as one could say Communists have such a naive view of political power.


I'm suprised to reach the conclusion that Libertarianism resembles Communism in many ways...especially if you view communism as a more extreme and fundamentalist version of socialism. And any idealogy that is more black and white, and thus simpler to understand and apply universally, will have more ardent supporters. And interestingly, both are eminently humanistic (by that I mean...atheist). Given my cultural sympathies to communism (I have a nostalgia for the efforts of radicals in the first half of the 20th century), I must confess that this view of Libertarianism as occupying such a similar role in the landscape of ideas is very eye opening to me. Well, I'm glad I've had this little discussion with myself.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

An Economist's Take on Free Trade

All economists are taught the beauty of Ricardo's demonstraton of the benefits of free trade. In a nutshell, if countries would just focus on producing what the produce the most efficiently (compared to other countries...see comparative advantage), and trade freely, all countries would be better off.

There are qualifications to this theory, of course. Generally, in the public dialogues, these finer points get truncated. But the most simple to understand is that, since in the short term there will be economic losers as a result of free trade (just about any labor intensive industry in the west, but I think in Ricardo's 1830's example, it was Wine Makers in Britain), it is the Responsibility of the government (sorry Libertarians, you'll have to add that to the list) to smooth such economic transitions. In fact, although not very publicized (on purpose, I would say, under cynical administrations), the United State government does provide programs for workers displaced by foreign competition. My take on this is that the United States government does not do enough (even if it is just a matter of publicizing the programs), and this is probably the result of ideological messiness and lack of clear vision on the matter. Furthermore, I find that Republicans are reluctant to even acknowledge this as a government responsibility, not to mention a priority. They irresponsibly minimize the effects of economic dislocation, just as they do with all policy decisions.

Olbermann Asks Bush and Cheney to Resign, Libby Commutation

Nixon had more respect for the country than Bush.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Bob Dylan - Hattie Carroll

Very appropriate today, in reflection of the disservice to Justice served by Bush's commutation of Libby. After all the events of Fitzgerald's investigation, after a verdict had been established and some meager amount of justice seemed to have been served....NOW is the time for your tears.

Comparing Lewis Libby and Victor Rita

Comparing Lewis Libby and Victor Rita


http://www.typepad.com/t/trackback/26673/16641056

Kudos to Biden for bringing this to the nation's attention.

You've got to love this:

" Rita served 24 years in the Marine Corps, had tours of duty in Vietnam and the first Gulf war, received over 35 military metals and awards. Libby's pre-conviction resume is (equally?) impressive. "

33 month prison sentence for Victor Rita

Last year, the Bush administration filed this friend-of-the-court brief to uphold the 33 month prison sentence for Victor Rita who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice:
=========

No. 06-5754
In the Supreme Court of the United States
VICTOR A. RITA, PETITIONER
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

...See the rest...



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