Thursday, July 05, 2007

Gevalt! The most annoying thing about “Scoot out of jail free.”

Today, Tony Snow responded to criticism from the Clintons about the Scooter commutation thus:

“I don’t know what is Arkansan for chutzpah [1] but this is a gigantic case of it."

We have reached a sad time when goyishe [2] Tony Snow is speaking Yiddish from the White House. Don’t we Jews have enough tsouris?[3]

Apparently, in this latest iteration of the “Bill Clinton did it, too” excuse, the White House is seeking to evoke the recollection of the Mark Rich pardon. Gay gezinteh heit. Chub a gutten yur. [4]

On Bill Clinton’s last day in office, he pardoned a refugee from the Nazis, Mark Rich, M.O.T., [5] a financier and philanthropist who had been falsely accused of tax evasion by Rudy Giuliani.

I say falsely accused because such is the opinion of U.S. tax professors Bernard Wolfman of Harvard Law School and Martin Ginsburg of Georgetown University Law Center. It was also the opinion of a panel of distinguished Republican lawyers including I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby. Be that as it may, these kinds of disputes are not unusual, and they are normally resolved in civil suits.

In the Republican orgy of recriminations against the Clinton administration that was the hallmark of the early days of the Bush administration, it was alleged that President Clinton pardoned Rich in return for favors paid to him. Indeed, the Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Barak, who had worked so hard with President Clinton to secure a lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem, had made a clemency plea on behalf of Rich, as had numerous other Israeli officials.

Grasping at straws, Clinton-haters pointed out that Rich's former wife and the mother of his three children, socialite Denise Rich, had made large donations to the Democratic Party and the Clinton Library during Clinton's time in office. A Federal Prosecutor was appointed to investigate whether or not a crime was committed by Clinton’s exercise of the plenary pardon power. The conclusion arrived at by James Comey, who was to later become the Acting Attorney General under George W. Bush, was that there were no grounds to present to a Grand Jury.

Nobody, not even the most rabid Republicans ever suggested that the pardon of Mark Rich was a part of a conspiracy to protect members of the administration. Never was it suggested that Bill Clinton had a political motive for his decision to right a wrong committed by an over-zealous prosecutor, who now happens to be running for the Republican nomination for President.

Still want to talk about Mark Rich? Gai kakhen afenyam. [6]

“… and tell ’em Menachem Mendel [7] sent ya!”

Footnotes for the Yiddish challenged:
[1] lit. Nerve. Colloq: balls, as in “He had the chutzpah of a blind burglar.”
[2] Non-Jewish, and (when used in an otherwise English sentence) non-Jewish in a stereotypical way.
[3] troubles
[4] “Go and be healthy. Have a good year.” The equivalent to the dismissive “Knock yourself out,” you should pardon the expression.
[5] Member of the Tribe, (e.g. Rich, Libby)
[6] Go shit in the ocean.
[7] Big Mitch

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Need a good argument for universal health care?

Here’s one:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed …
(h/t to Thom. Jefferson)

Call me crazy but to me the right to life includes the right to health. Governments are instituted to secure this right. That means keeping the environment healthy. It means keeping our food supply safe. It means regulating the drug industry and the medical community. And yes, it means universal, single source, not-for-profit health insurance. And since you just called me crazy, let me just add that it means parity for mental health protection.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Do they have Fourth of July in England?

No? So you think that they go straight from the third to the fifth? Sure, it’s an old joke, but try it out at the picnic tomorrow and you might find someone young enough to think it’s funny.

In fact, the mother country is the birthplace of the English common law, which provides the underpinnings of our own legal system. Today they celebrate the ascension of Mr. Gordon Brown to the office of British Prime Minister.

It has been a rough start for him. His first day in office revealed a plot that included car bombs and driving an exploding vehicle into an airport terminal. The plot was hatched and carried out by five physicians. They still have a better health care program than we do.

In Britain the Prime Minister is obliged to appear in Parliament periodically and to answer questions from M.P.s on all sides of the aisle. Here’s my own transcript of an excerpt from Mr. Brown’s opening statement at his first appearance as P.M. in Parliament:

All members of this house and all the people of this country have a shared interest in building trust in our democracy. And it is my hope that by working together for change in a spirit that takes us beyond parties and beyond partisanship, we can agree a new British constitutional settlement that entrusts more power to Parliament and to the British people.

Change with a new settlement is in my view essential to our country's future for we will only meet the new challenges of security, of economic change, of communities under pressure, and forge a stronger shared national purpose by building a new relationship between citizens and government that insures that government is a better servant of the people.

So I now propose that in twelve important areas of our national life the Prime Minister and the executive should surrender or limit their powers, the exclusive exercise of which by the government of the day should have no place in a modern democracy. These are:

  • The power to declare war;

  • The power to make key public appointments without effective scrutiny;
  • The power to restrict parliament oversight of our intelligence services; …
  • Power in the appointment of judges;
  • Power to direct prosecutors in individual criminal cases;

  • And the executive powers to determine the rules governing entitlement to passports and the granting of pardons.
  • I now propose to surrender or limit these powers to make for a more open 21st century British democracy which better serves the British people.

    It’s quite a striking contrast to the current administration on this side of the pond, eh what?

    Enjoy your Independence Day.

    … and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!

    Friday, June 29, 2007

    A guest editorial from my in-box

    My in-box contained this little note from one of the smartest guys I know. He said exactly what was on my mind.

    Hey Mitch,

    Let's see --

    1. Dozens found beheaded in Baghdad -- daily -- with dozens more, including precious American lives, blown to pieces around Iraq in a civil war with no rational or reasonable political or combat end in sight -- but Bush tells us that "the surge" is making progress, really, it just needs more time;

    2. Bush's recent Supreme Court appointees help roll back affirmative action, freedom of speech, women's reproductive rights, electoral/voting rights, church-state separation, a century-old rule against price-fixing (gouging) by manufacturers, and they are ready, willing and able to roll back any other social or economic advance made in the last 50 years;

    3. Despite the new Democratic majority in Congress, the Republican minority successfully blocks immagration reform, all rational efforts to bring the troops home and end the Iraq madness, and any other "liberal-leaning" legislation -- effectively reducing Congress to a powerless Bush lap-dog. Of course, even when Congress musters the votes, Bush vetoes the bill and his vetoes are bullet-proof;

    4. Our beloved Vice President announces that he is above the law -- whether those laws apply to the executive branch, the legislative branch, or the you-name-it branch. He is perched on his own special branch of his own and has no obligation to reveal anything to Congress about anything -- whether it's his secret negotiations with oil company representatives, or his vindictive efforts to reveal the identity of a CIA agent, or his decision to politicize the appointments of U.S. Attorneys around the country, dumping any with the temerity not to do as they're told and prosecute Democractic candidates regardless of the facts, or his involvement in (control over?) unauthorized wiretaps, secret policies on torture, "rendition," or the ongoing violation of the Geneva Convention at Gitmo and elsewhere, etc.

    5. Alberto Gonzales -- say no more;

    6. Our own Ted Stevens and Don Young -- we are truly blessed;

    All in all, the news just can't get any better. And just think, Mitch, virtually all of these lovely developments can be boiled down to one key thing -- the fervent religious beliefs of the majority of Americans residing in all of those pretty "red" states (plus Florida, or Ohio, when needed) -- who would far rather vote Republican in order to ensure that homosexuals never marry or obtain equal rights, that women be forced to bear unwanted children, that African-American children remain in segregated schools, and that creation "science" be taught alongside (or instead of) evolution in our schools, than bring themselves to elect social or political progressives --let alone (dare I say it?) liberals. What a country.

    Wednesday, June 27, 2007

    For those who missed it.

    On August 25. 2006, I blogged about Ann Coulter in The very definition of crazy. Here’s an excerpt:
    Think back, if you are old enough, to the time when they showed a cartoon before the movies. Sure, Betty Boop had some creative horsepower behind it, but it was not what brought people into the theaters week after week. What the cartoons did was this: they shifted the boundaries of reality. Theater, including cinema, requires that the folks in the audience willingly suspend disbelief. For something like a cartoon, it is an easy sell, because they are comedic. Then, when the main feature comes on, the shift is toward a more real representation, and so, the feature movie is more emotionally engaging.

    Ms. Coulter is the Daffy Duck of political discourse. When she speaks, you shake your head and wonder if you really heard what you thought you heard. Then when someone on Faux News comes on and says, “we must fight the terrorists in Iraq, so we don’t fight them here,” it sounds like the voice of sweet reason. Compared to daffy Ann Coulter, it is so much easier to accept the talking head, who in this analogy might be compared to, say, Orson Wells’ War of the Worlds.

    Why the War of the Worlds? Because some people believe it and do batshit crazy stuff.
    Today, on Chris Matthews’ Hardball we see the proof of what I was saying.

    Armstrong Williams was talking about Ann Coulter’s appearance yesterday on the show. For those who missed it, she was confronted by Elizabeth Edwards, who gently rebuked her for hateful speech. Ms. Coulter had alleged that John Edwards has a bumper sticker which says, “Ask me about my dead son.” As the mother of that deceased boy, Mrs. Edwards found it offensive.

    Armstrong Williams, for those who missed it, used to be on the White House’s payroll as a propagandist, which is criminal. Chris Matthews asked Williams if thought it was “over the line” to attack the Edwards for having a bumper sticker that says, “Ask me about my dead son.” Armstrong said, “no.” Why? Because he believed the Edwards actually had such a bumper sticker.

    That was my point when I said, “some people believe it and do batshit crazy stuff.” For those who missed it.

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Monday, June 25, 2007


    Today, we see why the next presidential election is so important. It will decide who gets to appoint the next Supreme Court Justice.

    In Morse v. Fredrick, Chief Justice Roberts delivered the opinion of the court:

    Morse [the principal who confiscated the banner and suspended the student] later explained that she told Frederick to take the banner down because she thought it encouraged illegal drug use, in violation of established school policy. Juneau School Board Policy No. 5520 states: “The Board specifically prohibits any assembly or public expression that … advocates the use of substances that are illegal to minors … .” Id., at 53a.


    We agree with Morse. At least two interpretations of the words on the banner demonstrate that the sign advocated the use of illegal drugs. First, the phrase could be interpreted as an imperative: “[Take] bong hits …”—a message equivalent, as Morse explained in her declaration, to “smoke marijuana” or “use an illegal drug.” Alternatively, the phrase could be viewed as celebrating drug use—“bong hits [are a good thing],” or “[we take] bong hits”—and we discern no meaningful distinction between celebrating illegal drug use in the midst of fellow students and outright advocacy or promotion. See Guiles v. Marineau, 461 F. 3d 320, 328 (CA2 2006) (discussing the present case and describing the sign as “a clearly pro-drug banner”). Ibid.
    I don’t get it. I see nowhere in the sign is there either an implicit or explicit message that the bong-hits must be illegal. How can the court distill the message that illegal drug use is being advocated? Those who follow Jesus, who believe he stood for relieving suffering and healing the sick, could just as easily understood the message to support medicinal marijuana use.

    Justice Stevens, with whom Justice Souter and Justice Ginsburg join, dissenting touched upon this theme, but only in a foot-note.
    The Court’s opinion ignores the fact that the legalization of marijuana is an issue of considerable public concern in Alaska. The State Supreme Court held in 1975 that Alaska’s constitution protects the right of adults to possess less than four ounces of marijuana for personal use. Ravin v. State, 537 P. 2d 494 (Alaska). In 1990, the voters of Alaska attempted to undo that decision by voting for a ballot initiative recriminalizing marijuana possession. Initiative Proposal No. 2, §§1–2 (effective Mar. 3, 1991), 11 Alaska Stat., p. 872 (Lexis 2006). At the time Frederick unfurled his banner, the constitutionality of that referendum had yet to be tested. It was subsequently struck down as unconstitutional. See Noy v. State, 83 P. 3d 538 (Alaska App. 2003). In the meantime, Alaska voters had approved a ballot measure decriminalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, 1998 Ballot Measure No. 8 (approved Nov. 3, 1998), 11 Alaska Stat., p. 882 (codified at Alaska Stat. §§11.71.090, 17.37.010–17.37.080), and had rejected a much broader measure that would have decriminalized marijuana possession and granted amnesty to anyone convicted of marijuana-related crimes, see 2000 Ballot Measure No. 5 (failed Nov. 7, 2000), 11 Alaska Stat., p. 886.
    Justice Thomas said that schools should be allowed to do just about anything to students that parents can. Yep, no freedom of speech for students.

    Today, students have less freedom than they did yesterday.

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Tuesday, June 19, 2007

    Rudy, Rudy, Rudy

    We read here that Thomas Ravenel was indicted today on federal cocaine charges. He is the South Carolina state chairman for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign.

    Here is a video of him endorsing Rudy.

    So, it was a bad day for Rudy. After all, Newsday carried an article under the headline:

    Rudy missing in action for Iraq panel
    Giuliani's campaign fundraising kept him from commitment to panel studying Iraq.
    Rudolph Giuliani's membership on an elite Iraq study panel came to an abrupt end last spring after he failed to show up for a single official meeting of the group, causing the panel's top Republican to give him a stark choice: either attend the meetings or quit, several sources said.

    Giuliani left the Iraq Study Group last May after just two months, walking away from a chance to make up for his lack of foreign policy credentials on the top issue in the 2008 race, the Iraq war.
    He tried to explain that one away by saying that once he became a “potential presidential candidate” he didn’t want his presence on the panel to be a distraction. Of course, he was a potential presidential candidate when he accepted the appointment, as documented on Talking Points Memo, so his excuse is total B.S.

    Meanwhile, on Tucker, David Shuster interviewed Giuliani spokesman, Rep. David Dreier, (R. Calif.) The questions were about Rudy’s association with Bernie Kerick and Rudy’s estranged children. With respect to the former, Dreier said that he found Giuliani’s willingness to admit to a mistake “refreshing” and with respect to the latter, he thinks that makes Rudy more like Saint Ronald Reagan.

    Don’t forget: Rudy is the Republican front-runner.

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Wednesday, June 13, 2007

    The Puke State

    In March of 2006, U.S. Attorney for Arkansas’ Eastern District Bud Cummins was investigating Missouri Governor Matt Blunt’s scheme to award franchises for satellite state licensing fee offices. The scheme was carried out by Mark F. “Thor” Hearne’s law firm, Lathrop & Gage. You may wonder why a U.S. Attorney from Arkansas was handling a Missouri investigation. Good question.

    From Hidden we learn:
    The U.S. Attorney for Missouri's Western District, who would have otherwise overseen the investigation, was Todd P. Graves, who would also end up being replaced. Graves’s wife, as it turns out, “had been given a no-bid contract to run the second most lucrative motor vehicle fee office in Missouri, [in Gladstone.]” The contract to the wife of the U.S. Attorney was said to be worth some $2.6 million. Further, Graves’s brother-in-law had received a similar no-bid contract from Blunt for $1 million, and two staffers of Graves’s brother, Congressman Sam Graves, had also been given two similar contracts.

    “[T]his situation amounts to $3.6 million in corruption insurance for Blunt,” the Missouri Democrats would later write in a petition drive calling for an investigation.
    The Talking Points Memo reported that Sen. Kit Bond (R-Missouri) personally went to the White House and requested that Graves, (brother of right wing wacko Congressman Sam Graves) be removed from his position due to “his direct role in the Fee Office Scandal in Missouri.”

    And so it was that Bud Cummings of Arkansas came to be investigating Missouri Governor Matt Blunt and Republican operative Thor Hearne.

    Who is this Thor Hearne? Again, according to Hidden
    Hearne had been both Blunt's right-hand legal man for some time; as well as a GOP point man in Florida in 2000 (but who wasn’t?); as well as the Bush/Cheney ’04 general counsel in Missouri (at the specific, personal request of Dubya’s uncle, Bucky Bush, according to Thor himself in Missouri Lawyer’s Weekly); before he then became the Bush/Cheney ’04 national general counsel; and after the election, he became the founder of the scam “non-partisan” GOP front group calling itself “American Center for Voting Rights” (ACVR); which was, in turn, behind virtually every report, initiative, claim, piece of legislation, Congressional testimony, legal case, “official commission,” or public statement concerning the cooked-up case for the mythical epidemic of Democratic “voter fraud” that has been at the heart of the GOP/White House/DoJ attempts at vote-shaving via politicization and suppression at the ballot box since at least 2004.
    Nobody knows who put Bud Cummings on the DoJ hit list, but it is pretty clear that Thor Hearne had the juice to do it if he wanted to. But of course, he would have to take care to keep his fingerprints off of it.

    Enter the powerful white-collar criminal defense attorney William B. Mateja of the D.C./Dallas law firm of Fish & Richardson. You can read about his extensive connections to the White House and the Department of Justice, (e.g. Senior Counsel to James Comey) on Hidden For now, the thing that is important is that Mateja, repeatedly called Cummins to inquire if his client, Blunt, was the target of an investigation. And then, in June of 2006, Cummings was informed that his resignation was being requested.

    On October 4, 2006, Cummings issued a press release which stated: “The matter has been closed with no indictments sought, or returned. Second, at no time was Governor Blunt a target, subject, or witness in the investigation, nor was he implicated in any allegation being investigated.”

    Sure, it looks like Cummings was fired to interfere with an on-going investigation of Governor Matt Blunt, son of House Minority Whip Roy Blunt. But don’t overlook the fact that his investigation was also very uncomfortable for Thor Hearne. And the Rovians had a special fondness for Hearne because, as we have seen, he was the pointman on the phony voter fraud issue.

    Remember Todd Graves, the U.S. Attorney from Missouri, who was also dismissed? He was replaced by none other than Bradley Schlozman. In a letter to Schlozman dated May 7, 2007 from Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), we read:
    Recent news accounts have suggested that Todd Graves, the former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri and the person you succeeded as an interim United States Attorney, may have been on a list for replacement because of his refusal to endorse a lawsuit against the State of Missouri alleging voter fraud before the 2006 election. This is a lawsuit you approved while Acting Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division and then filed soon after you were interim appointed as Mr. Graves’ successor by Attorney General Gonzales. Several weeks ago, a federal judge ruled in favor of Missouri in that case, finding “no evidence” of major voter fraud in the state.
    In 2006, Claire McCaskill won the Senatorial election in Missouri with just 49.6% of the vote, compared to 47.3% for incumbent Jim Talent. (The Democratic candidate for State Auditor won by a margin of almost 10%) Just a little more voter suppression in St. Louis, fired up by claims of voter fraud, could have turned the election, and the Senate, towards the Republicans.

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Home-spun charm

    Fred Thompson was on Jay Leno last night. He’s an actor, but a lot of folk, including him, think that he ought to be President of the United States. These are people who remember Ronald Reagan was an actor, but who forget that Reagan sold arms to our enemies to fund terrorists and cut deals with hostage takers.

    Anyway, Reagan left acting to become a politician. Fred Thomson left politics to become an actor. Ole Fred does have a certain home-spun charm, as for example when he explained his career path, thus:
    After eight years in Washington, I longed for the realism and sincerity of Hollywood.
    By the way, “home-spun charm” is my term for high-gloss bullshit.

    Before he was elected to the Senate, Thompson spent nearly two decades in Washington as a lawyer-lobbyist, representing such entities as Westinghouse, the deposed leader of Haiti, the Teamsters Union pension fund and the Tennessee Savings and Loan Association. And when he left office, he continued his lucrative career representing foreign corporations.

    Think back to that 2005 State of the Union address when King George the Incompetent said, “Justice is distorted, and our economy is held back by irresponsible class-actions and frivolous asbestos claims -- and I urge Congress to pass legal reforms this year.”

    It seemed out of place at the time, but no more so than Fred Thompson in a red pick-up truck. You see, back in 2005, Fred Thompson was using his connections to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to extract information about goings-on inside Congress and selling it to a British company that had a good reason to worry about liability for asbestos claims. For this he got paid $760,000. Not bad work if you can get it.

    It is not surprising therefore that Fred Thompson’s first policy initiative should garner such approval from the National Association of Manufacturers, his natural constituency. They cite with approval this bit of home-spun charming wisdom from Fred's appearance on CNBC:
    We have, you know--if you include state taxes--the highest corporate tax rate in the world. That makes us less competitive. All those things have to be looked at. And all those--especially as far as the corporate tax rate is concerned, need to be clearly reduced.
    As David Sirota points out:
    [T]he Government Accountability Office reported in 2004, 94 percent of corporations pay less than 5 percent of their income in taxes, and corporate tax payments are at their second lowest level in 60 years - lower than in every other industrialized country other than Iceland.
    Stay tuned for more of Fred Thompson’s home-spun charm.

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Thursday, June 07, 2007

    Republican Debate: The highlight reel

    Imagine “American Idol” recast as “America’s Biggest Dope.” and you can get an idea of what the Republican Presidential Candidate’s Debate on CNN last night looked like.

    The first question was the predictable “Knowing everything you know right now, was it a mistake for us to invade Iraq?

    After fumferring around about non sequitors Mitt Romney offered up this whopper:
    [I]f you’re saying let’s turn back the clock and Saddam Hussein had opening up his country to IAEA inspectors and they’d come in and they’d found that there were no weapons of mass destruction, had Saddam Hussein therefore not violated United Nations resolutions, we wouldn’t be in the conflict we’re in.

    But he didn’t do those things, and we knew what we knew at the point we made the decision to get in.

    I supported the president’s decision based on what we knew at
    that time.
    To review: On March 16, 2003, the U.S. advised the UN to pull its inspectors out of Iraq. Three days later, President George W. Bush addressed the American people at 10:15 p.m. to announce the beginning of a “broad and concerted campaign” to disarm Iraq, called Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    But it is hard to stand out as the biggest knucklehead on a dais full or Republicans. Consider Senator Sam Brownback from Kansas:
    On Iraq, I think we need to talk with them. I think we have to confront them aggressively for what they are, which is the lead sponsor of terrorism in the world.
    It’s like I always say, “Iran, Iraq. What’s the big difference?”

    As usual, Biggest Shmuck honors go to Rudy. On the question of whether or not he would pardon Scooter Libby:
    GIULIANI: I think the sentence was way out of line. I mean, the sentence was grossly excessive in a situation in which, at the beginning, the prosecutor knew who the leak was...

    BLITZER: So, yes or no, would you pardon him?

    GIULIANI: ... and he knew a crime wasn't committed. … I think the sentence was way out of line. I mean, the sentence was grossly excessive in a situation in which, at the beginning, the prosecutor knew who the leak was...

    BLITZER: So, yes or no, would you pardon him?

    GIULIANI: ... and he knew a crime wasn't committed.
    Put aside the fact that an undercover CIA agent was outed, bringing to an end her career in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Division and endangering the lives of everyone who worked with her. Since when are Obstruction of Justice and Perjury not crimes?

    Giuliani also wants to reduce everyone’s taxes by $15,000 so that people can buy their own health insurance. In 2004, the middle fifth of American’s paid 18.6% of their income in taxes. In other words, if your taxable income was $80,640, you paid about 15,000 in taxes, which is the amount Giuliani wants to reduce your taxes so that you can afford health insurance. Don’t worry: the government doesn’t really need to collect taxes from anyone who makes less than 80 grand.

    From a member of the audience came this intelligent queston:
    My question is whether you believe that a conservative platform can also include a conservationist agenda. And, if so, how?
    This question produced this thoroughly moronic answer from Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore:
    The question was whether or not a conservative agenda can also have a conservation agenda. And I think that it can.

    Certainly, when I was governor of the state of Virginia, we worked very hard in order to make Virginia a beautiful place and a place where we could in fact be welcoming to people, and that it would be a nice community for people to visit.

    But at the end of the day, this is going to come down to the question of whether or not conservatism can match up with energy independence, which is a national security issue and it is a fundamental part of conservatism.

    Conservatism means empowering people. It means cutting taxes and controlling government spending. It also means national security. And national security means a lot of different elements right at this time. And we're discussing some of them tonight.

    And I can assure the people who are families here tonight, their young people, young men and women who are on the battle lines, and people who are committing their lives, they are in fact serving the national interests of this country in a time of major crisis.
    I presume he was talking about people serving in the Civilian Conservation Corps.

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Friday, June 01, 2007

    Dan Bartlett quits. Oh, that’s just great!

    Dan Bartlett quit the White House today. The news media are describing him as “the one person who could give George Bush bad news.” The example given is that it was he that broke through the bubble surrounding King George the Incompetent to let him know that things weren’t going well in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit.

    Michael Wolf of Vanity Fair says that he smells a rat. Specifically, a rat jumping a sinking ship.

    If it is Bartlett’s job to break bad news to Dumb Dubya, I can imagine that his job is going to get a lot tougher The Democrats control congress, and there are 11 candidates running for the Republican nomination, all or almost all of whom are trying to distance themselves from Bush. The scandals just keep coming, and Big Mitch predicts that we are going to hear a lot more about “caging” in the weeks to come. His base is turning on Dubya, and immigration is merely the most conspicuous issue.

    But the really scary part is that there will be nobody around the president who can say anything other than, “Oh, that’s just great, Mr. President.”

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Thursday, May 31, 2007

    Enough is enough! I have had it with these mother-effing Mycobacteria tuberculosis on this mother-effing plane!

    The lead story on all the networks was about the guy who got on an airplane with a highly drug resistant type of tuberculosis. The CDC warned him not to travel.

    The case has called into question the ability of the CDC to respond to emergencies and the Department of Homeland Security has been unable to explain how the TB-infected man was able to simply drive into the United States on his return trip from Canada when “all border crossings had been given his name and told to hold him if he appeared.

    Think Progress explains all you need to know about this disturbing story.

    Bush has repeatedly proposed slashing the CDC’s budget:

    2002: Proposed a $174 million cut.

    2003: Proposed a $1 billion cut, with no new funding for preventive health divisions working on TB.

    2004: Proposed an increase of “less than 1 per cent.”

    2005: Proposed a $263 million cut, while simultaneously proposing a $270 million increase in abstinence education.

    2006: Proposed a $500 million cut which would have slashed grants to state and local health departments like the Fulton County Health and Wellness Department involved in this week’s TB-scare.

    2007: Proposed a $179 million cut, in addition to unspecified plans for more CDC “savings.”

    2008: Proposed a $37 million cut, including “massive funding cuts in proven health protection programs.”

    In a report submitted to the House Appropriations Committee earlier this year, CDC Director Julie Gerberding warned that a TB outbreak could result from the administration’s proposed cuts. She noted that “emerging plagues such as drug-resistant tuberculosis represent ‘urgent threats that have become more prominent in the dawn of the 21st century.’”

    Additionally, Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, points out that the full scale of the “erosion of [CDC’s] traditional disease control activities has been ‘masked’ by infusions of cash earmarked for spending on bioterrorism and pandemic activities.”

    … and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!

    Sunday, May 27, 2007

    Big Mitch gets one right

    In Class of ’71 reads the news, I set forth my reasons for being skeptical about what the government tells us. In particular, I urged a skeptical attitude toward the headline, “U.S. military believes al Qaeda has missing soldiers.”

    Here’s what I said,
    What evidence is there that it was al Qaeda in Iraq that kidnapped our soldiers? If there were any at all, I would expect that the government and its stenographers would be less mealy-mouthed in its description of the perpetrators than “al Qaeda or others associated with the militant group.”

    I want to know what is the relationship of al Qaeda in Iraq to the group of Saudis that attacked our country on September 11, 2001. Do they take their orders from Osama Bin Laden? Do they have ambitions beyond the establishment of a Sunni Islamic government in Iraq? How do we know?
    Today, the Boston Globe carried an article entitled “GOP rivals embrace unproven Iraq-9/11 tie.” Quoting Michael Scheuer , the CIA's former chief of operations against bin Laden in the late 1990s, and others, the Globe reports:
    Al Qaeda in Iraq is not overseen by bin Laden.
    [T]he enemy the military calls "Al Qaeda Iraq" is a combination of Iraqi jihadists and an unknown number of fighters from countries throughout the Middle East. "AQI" came together after the US invasion. And while there is evidence that AQI members coordinate attacks among themselves, there is little evidence that they coordinate closely with bin Laden.
    The take-away message from the article is that the G.O.P. candidates are intentionally conflating the war in Iraq with our response to the threat of Islamic terrorists, in the deceitfull tradition established by King George the Incompetent.

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Threatening chaos

    We are told that if the U.S. withdraws from Iraq, there will be chaos there. Put aside for the moment the fact that the people who are telling us this have a nearly perfect record for being wrong about everything. Let’s assume that they are correct.

    If it’s true, then we must also assume that there is intelligence to support this conclusion. We must also assume that the leadership of Iraq knows the truth, and even if it is not evident to them, the U.S. can show them the intelligence, which has been so persuasive to King George the Incompetent.

    Now, chaos is a bad thing. I assume that the leadership in Iraq likes being in the leadership, and chaos is directly threatening to them. That’s a good thing, and I will explain why.

    What it means is that the threat of us leaving and the chaos which is to follow is something with which the U.S can exert leverage against the leadership in Iraq.

    What shall we exert pressure upon the Iraqis to do? Get up an army, get a working police force, get some oil production on line, get an agreement on oil revenue sharing, work out a federal system for Iraq. The list could go on, but it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure out where we want to be and what it is going to take to get there.

    There’s another question: what can we do to leverage the leadership in Iraq. And this is not a tough question, either. The answer is to give the Iraqi leadership timetables and enforce them with the threat of leaving.

    Really, the only thing it takes is a congressional democratic leadership whose knees don’t go all wobbly when someone threatens to call them a wussy. Instead, we have a bunch of wussies.

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Thursday, May 24, 2007

    Monica Goodling and Thomas Heffelfinger

    U.S. attorney Thomas Heffelfinger (Minnesota) was one of the U.S. Attorneys who appeared on Kyle Samson’s firing list. Monica Goodling mentioned him briefly during her testimony this week. She said that she'd heard he “spent an extraordinary amount of time” on his work relating to his position as Chairman of the Native American Issues Subcommittee (NAIS) of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee.

    Heffelfinger appeared on the list in January 2006, and a month later he voluntarily resigned. When he heard of Ms. Goodling’s testimony he had this to say:
    I did spent a lot of time on it... That's what I was instructed to do [by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft].

    If it’s true that people within the Department of Justice were critical of the amount of time I was spending on Indian issues, I’m outraged. … Are they telling me I spent too much time trying to improve public safety for Native Americans, who are victims of violent crime at a rate 2 ½ times the national population? If they are, then shame on them.
    Who could object to the fact that a U.S. Attorney from Minnesota was devoting his time to improving the lot of American Indians? Well, that would be whoever is victimizing a lot of American Indians.

    Does the name Jack Abramoff ring a bell?

    Admittedly, none of Jack Abramoff’s Indian client/victims were up in Minnesota. But after his guilty plea, also in January of 2006, the investigation into his nefarious activities widened. Disrupting the subcommittee of U.S. attorneys that dealt with American Indian issues at that crucial time probably didn’t help the investigation.

    Or it could just be a coincidence.

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Wednesday, May 23, 2007

    Two negatives for the Bushies

    There were two negative pieces of news for loyal Bushies today. The first was Monica Goodling’s testimony.

    Big Mitch predicts that the Republican spin-meisters will be pushing a story that goes like this: Monica Goodling testified and was obviously very sincere, careful and honest. She was subjected to long, arduous, penetrating questioning. In spite of this, no wrongdoing has been uncovered.


    First of all, we still don’t know how the list of U.S. Attorneys to be sacked came about. We can safely conclude that someone is withholding information. But let’s focus on the specific crimes that she testified about.

    Monica Goodling testified today about a meeting she had with Alberto Gonzales shortly before she left the department. She stated that the conversation took place on the Thursday or Friday of the week before she left the department. She left on March 23rd -- so the conversation occurred on March 14th or 15th. Congress had already requested to interview Goodling about what she knew.

    Goodling came to Gonzales to request a transfer because of the scandal. Gonzales did not immediately agree. He then began discussing what he remembered about the firing process. He asked her if she had "any reaction" to his recollection. The conversation made her “uncomfortable,” she testified. One can surmise that Gonzales was trying to shape her testimony.

    On May 10th Gonzales testified in the House Judiciary Committee as follows: “I have not gone back and discussed this investigation with Sampson and others to protect the integrity of this investigation. I have not asked these specific questions.” General Gonzales appears to have been lying to Congress.

    Ms. Goodling testified that she used political considerations in the hiring of non-political officials, in an apparent violation of the Hatch Act. On her behalf she admitted to “crossing the line,” but she said, she didn’t “mean to.” She also testified that McNulty was inaccurate and misleading in his testimony.

    Regardless of what you hear Republicans saying, Ms. Goodling’s testimony today did nothing to restore confidence in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

    The second negative -- call it a double negative if you will -- is this little item from Roll Call today, reprinted in it’s entirety:
    Vice President Cheney isn’t not on the phone records of the alleged D.C. Madam, who is accused of running a high-price call-girl ring in Washington, the accused madam’s lawyer said on Tuesday.
    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Friday, May 18, 2007

    Republican Talking Points

    David Brooks of the New York Times has a weekly gig on The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, with Mark Shields. Here’s Brooks discussing the hospital visit by then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales to ailing John Ashcroft:
    There was nothing illegal that happened. There was a disagreement over this FISA statute. Nonetheless, the way it went about was so disrespectful of the institution: that’s what leaves a bad taste.
    Give me a break.

    A review of the facts is in order. Shortly after 9/11, the administration ordered up a vast program of domestic spying that was in apparent violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The White House had obtained assent of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, led by John Yoo, to proceed with this program of illegal wiretapping. In October of 2003, Jack Goldsmith was confirmed as the head of the OLC. Goldsmith undertook a review of some of the more controversial opinions of Mr. Yoo.

    It became obvious that the legal and factual underpinnings of the so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program did not pass constitutional muster. In March of 2004, Attorney General Ashcroft and Deputy Attorney General Comey discussed the matter and decided that the program was illegal, and that therefore, they could not sign off on it. Shortly thereafter, Ashcroft became ill, and was hospitalized. DAG Comey became the acting Attorney General.

    The details of the hospital visit are well-known. On March 10, 2004, Ashcroft and Comey informed Gonzales and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card that the program –which had been in effect for over two years -- was illegal.

    The White House went ahead with it anyway, though two days later the President gave Comey authority to suggest changes to address his concerns. For the next two or three weeks the program went forward, without any changes even though Ashcroft, Comey, FBI Director Mueller, and others (Goldsmith?) had threatened to resign over it.

    Later, Alberto Gonzales testified that there was no serious disagreement about the program. Several senators have suggested that this testimony may have been false, and they gave the Attorney General a chance to revise it. He declined to do so.

    Get out your score sheets. There was a two year period when the government was engaged in an illegal program of spying on Americans without a warrant in direct violation of the FISA law. In their defense, they had found a partisan lawyer to give them his okay, but reliance on mistaken legal advice is not generally a defense. Then there was a period of two or three weeks, where the Justice Department had explicitly told the White House that the program was illegal, but they went forward with it anyway. And then there is “Fredo” Gonzales’ crime of perjury.

    The Republicans have managed to lower the standard of conduct for this White House to “as long as no crimes were committed.” We saw this in the Scoter Libby affair, too. (In that case, it is urged by Republicans that since no crime was committed, it was okay for him to lie to a Federal Grand Jury.)

    “There was nothing illegal that happened.” That’s a pretty low bar. But it is a break with reality to suggest that the White House cleared it.

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Thursday, May 17, 2007

    Yesterday’s news

    As I reported in Scandal Fatigue, Democrats in the Senate asked the Attorney General if he stood by his earlier testimony in which he stated that there no substantial disagreements within the administration about the probity of the warrantless wiretapping program.

    The Washington Post reports today:
    The Justice Department said yesterday that it will not retract a sworn statement in 2006 by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales that the Terrorist Surveillance Program had aroused no controversy inside the Bush administration, despite congressional testimony Tuesday that senior departmental officials nearly resigned in 2004 to protest such a program.
    Big Mitch thinks he knows what the defense will be. Generalissimo ‘Fredo’ Gonzalez was very specific in his testimony in Congress. He said, “let me just say that I think the differing views that have been the subject of some of these stories does not – did not deal with the program that I am here testifying about today.”

    My bet is that what he will say when this is explored further is that the program that he was testifying about at that time, was the program after it had made the changes obtained by the intervention of Comey and Mueller. After it was changed, it was a different program, the one that the President had confirmed, and about which there is was no substantial disagreement.

    Of course, that’s yesterday’s news. Today, we learn (again from the Washington Post):
    The Justice Department considered dismissing many more U.S. attorneys than officials have previously acknowledged, with at least 26 prosecutors suggested for termination between February 2005 and December 2006, according to sources familiar with documents withheld from the public.

    Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales testified last week that the effort was limited to eight U.S. attorneys fired since last June, and other administration officials have said that only a few others were suggested for removal.
    Will Gonzalez stand by his testimony, again? Is this yet another scandal?

    Stay tuned for tomorrow’s news.

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Scandal Fatigue

    James Comey testified that for a period of time – two or three weeks – the warrantless interception of electronic communication continued although the Department of Justice had opined that it was illegal. That’s scandal number one. But it is only coming to light because of the fired U.S. attorneys. We’ll call that scandal number two.

    Marie Cocco, of the Washington Post Writer’s Group has a good post on Truth Dig:
    It is time to stop referring to the “fired U.S attorneys scandal” by that misnomer, and call it what it is: a White House-coordinated effort to use the vast powers of the Justice Department to swing elections to Republicans.

    In a fledgling democracy, we would consider this shocking corruption. The chilling truth is that it can happen here—and apparently it did.
    Meanwhile, the Senate Democratic Caucus has sent a letter to Alberto Gonzales in which they contrast testimony from Deputy Attorney General James Comey to his testimony in which he stated “that the disagreement that occurred was not related to the wiretapping program confirmed by the President in December 2005, which was the topic of the hearing.” The letter concludes: In light of Mr. Comey's testimony yesterday, do you stand by your 2006 Senate and House testimony, or do you wish to revise it?”

    That’s a different scandal: the Attorney General committed perjury in Congress.

    Monica Gooding asserted a privilege against self-incrimination and received limited immunity so that she will testify in Congress. Ms. Goodling moved to block the hiring of prosecutors with résumés that suggested they might be Democrats, even though they were seeking posts that were supposed to be nonpartisan, two department officials said. That’s a violation of the Hatch Act, which is yet another scandal. See, Bush’s Monica and the Plot Against the Hatch Act.

    In its efforts to investigate the goings-on at the Department of Justice we learned that the White House was using Republican National Committee servers for email. It looks like a violation of the Presidential Records Act. But we can’t say for sure because apparently Karl Rove deleted the emails that Congress is seeking. Is that one or two more scandals?

    So many scandals. But they lack the sex appeal of a good-old fashioned Clinton scandal. That is, unless you buy into the thread at Wayne Madsen Report where he is flogging the D.C. Madam story. He reports, “The net may also ensnare two 2008 GOP presidential candidates, one declared and the other, as yet, undeclared.”

    If that doesn’t pique your interest consider this May 14, 2007 posting: “WMR has received additional credible information on the patronage of Vice President Dick Cheney, while he was President and CEO of Halliburton in the mid to late 1990s, of the DC Madam's escort service.”

    Keeping track of all these scandals makes a person tired.

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Wednesday, May 16, 2007

    For the record

    From James Comey’s testimony yesterday:
    “Can you give us an example of an exercise of good judgment by Alberto Gonzales?” Republican Senator Arlin Specter asked.

    “Let the record show a very long pause,” Specter said.
    This exchange sent my mind back to August 24, 1960, when Nixon was running for President against JFK. President Dwight Eisenhower was asked if he could give an example of a major idea of Vice-president Nixon’s that was adopted by the administration.

    “If you give me a week, I might think of one,” Ike replied.

    But that was not the only thing redolent of Tricky Dick in Comey's testimony yesterday.

    Comey testified that Gonzales and Card visited Ashcroft to “take advantage of a very sick man,” and get him to authorize a program that the Department of Justice had decided was illegal. To Comey’s great surprise, Ashcroft was able to forcefully resist.

    A few minutes after the bedside confrontation, Card called the hospital. He "demanded that I come to the White House immediately," Comey testified. "I responded that, after the conduct I had just witnessed, I would not meet with him without a witness present."

    "He replied, ‘What conduct? We were just there to wish him well.’"

    What? Comey knew what he had just witnessed. Did Card think that he was going to convince Comey that there was no other reason for them to be there?

    I’ve seen this type of conversation before. It occurs when one party knows that it is being tape-recorded.

    You may think that the White House, having been burned by Nixon’s taping system would never repeat that mistake. It would be too stupid or too corrupt. But you would be wrong.

    There is nothing too stupid or too corrupt for this White House.

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    A shocking account of White House lawlessness.

    If you had any doubt about what kind of people are running the government, you should watch the video below. In it, James Comey testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the efforts of Alberto Gonzalez to take advantage of a very sick man, Attorney General John Ashcroft.

    So thuggish were the behaviors of then-White House Counsel “Fredo” Gonzalez, that the Director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, had to order his G-men to protect Comey from Gonzalez and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card. When the administration went ahead with the spying program without Department of Justice approval, Comey, Mueller, and several other Justice employees considered resigning. Comey was persuaded to stay on until Ashcroft was well enough to resign with them.

    This is the testimony that the Washington Post said described as “an account of Bush administration lawlessness so shocking it would have been unbelievable coming from a less reputable source.”

    A must-read analysis of this shocking testimony appears on Salon. I urge you to read it.

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Tuesday, May 15, 2007

    March 10, 2004

    The current crop of crooks that is installed in the White House continues to embarrass us, violate our rights, and generally screw up at every turn. So steady is the stream of scandals that older ones are pushed off the screen to make room for new ones.

    A case in point is the Department of Justice. The firing of the eight U.S. Attorneys (or is it nine?) reveals the operations of this dysfunctional agency, leading to calls for the resignation of Attorney General Gonzales. It’s hard to take your eyes off this train wreck long enough to gaze back at the last DOJ scandal. Nevertheless, our recollection was refreshed today when former Deputy Attorney General James Comey testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    Think back to when it was revealed that the government was engaged in wholesale spying on Americans in violation of the FISA law.

    The story is not new. You may recall that the program was initiated at some time soon after 9/11, and that the president and his spokespersons defended it on the basis that it had to be re-certified by the Attorney General every 45 days or so. Back in January of ’06, I indicated that there was a disagreement between constitutional scholars about the validity of the defense that the Bush administration had offered for its domestic spying program. See, Horsefeathers vs. Poppycock: Constitutional Scholars weigh in.

    Be that as it may, on March 10, 2004, Attorney General Ashcroft was in the hospital, and so the duty of re-certifying the program fell upon James Comey. He declined to do so.

    The White House decided to visit Ashcroft in the hospital and seek his approval for the dubious program. Back in January of ’06, the NY Times reported that it “It is unclear whether the White House ultimately persuaded Mr. Ashcroft to give his approval to the program after the meeting or moved ahead without it.”

    It is no longer “unclear.”

    Here’s how Firedoglake summarized Comey’s testimony on the matter:
    Office of Legal Counsel had told Comey there was no legal justification for parts of the NSA Domestic Spying Program. Comey briefed Ashcroft on it, and they agreed that they could not reauthorize the program in its current form. When Comey told that to Andrew Card, Card got pissed. That night, Comey got a call from his Chief of Staff, saying Mrs. Ashcroft had gotten a call at the hospital, saying Card and Gonzales were on their way over. Comey rushed to the hospital to try to prepare Ashcroft for what was about to occur. And then, in his drug induced state, Ashcroft refused to reauthorize the program, and said he wasn't AG anyway, Comey was acting AG.

    The program was "reauthorized" anyway, w/o DOJ's blessing. For two weeks, according to Comey, it operated outside the rule of law (though one day after the hospital visit, Bush told Comey to "do what's right," so they started to put it in line with the law).

    That night, Comey and a number of other DOJ staffers prepared their resignation, refusing to stay after they had been overridden.
    You may be forgiven for thinking that on March 10th 2004, the Attorney General signed off on the program. After all, it had been in place for over two years, and we are told that it had been reviewed and approved by DOJ every 45 days. Why, you might wonder, did Ashcroft refuse to re-certify it in his hospital bed?

    One reason might be that Comey had only recently convinced him that the program was not legal. Not very likely that Ashcroft would sign off on a program for two years, and then Comey would undertake to persuade him that it was illegal.

    Another possibility is that Ashcroft felt that Comey was the Acting A.G. and that it was therefore Comey’s call. But Comey testified that in spite of his illness Ashcroft gave a cogent explanation of why he would not certify the program.

    A third possibility exists. Could it be that when George W. Bush told us that the program required a sign-off by the Attorney General every 45 to 90 days, he was playing a little fast and loose with the facts? Who woulda thunk?

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Monday, May 14, 2007

    Class of ’71 reads the news

    In the late nineteen-sixties, there was an unpopular war being conducted by a corrupt president.

    Opposition was so strong to the war, that colleges conducted moratoria and there were mass protest marches on Washington, D.C. Protest marches on campuses and elsewhere were common, too, and violence was not unheard of. Police rioted in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention, and in May of 1970, National Guard Troops shot and killed 4 protesters at Kent State University in Ohio.

    I was a political science major at the State University of New York at Binghamton, which was also known as Harpur College. It was a very liberal campus in those days, and damn proud of it.

    Yes, the hippie ethic was fully embraced. Drug use was common, although in those days hashish was more common than marijuana. (These drugs have the same active ingredient, and the same potential for abuse.)

    Someone noticed that whenever there was a scheduled moratorium there seemed also to be a surfeit of opium-laced hash on campus. Hash came to the U.S. from the mid-East, mostly Lebanon. Opium came from the Far East. The theory at the time was that only the CIA had contacts in both areas and that only they were capable of importing sufficient amounts of opium-laced hashish to influence the market. The theorized motive was to make the campuses too stoned to protest. So widespread was acceptance of this conspiracy theory that the ethic of the time disapproved of getting high during a moratorium.

    Was the CIA involved? I don’t know. What I do know is that distrust of the government was so strong, that a conspiracy theory like that was widely accepted, and belief in it shaped our actions.

    Also in those days, there was a government agency called the ICC – the Interstate Commerce Commission. It was their duty to regulate, among other things, trucking and transportation on the interstate highway system.

    In 1968, there was a moratorium scheduled and a march on Washington. Students from Harpur College had hired several buses to transport protesters to the nation’s capital. The night before the protest the ICC pulled the licenses of the bus companies. The plan backfired for the government. Before the ICC actions, there were several apathetic or apolitical students who had no intention of participating in the protest. Afterwards, nearly 100% of our college community traveled to Washington, where the protest devolved into a riot.

    It is against this backdrop that I read today’s news. I am not a conspiracy nut, but I think that it is the duty of a citizen to maintain a healthy skepticism about anything that the government tells us. And the current administration has been so deceptive that skepticism serves us well.

    Take today’s news. A Reuters headline tells us: “U.S. military believes al Qaeda has missing soldiers.” Oh, really?

    The article begins by stating, “The U.S. military said on Monday it believed that three U.S. soldiers missing after an attack south of Baghdad on Saturday had been taken by al Qaeda or others associated with the militant group.” Now which is it—al Qaeda or others associated with it?

    It’s not merely a rhetorical question, because a different group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. The group, Islamic State of Iraq, is described by AP as “a coalition of eight insurgent groups, including al-Qaida in Iraq.” The same article informs us that, “Late last month, the group named a 10-member “Cabinet” complete with a “war minister,” an apparent attempt to present the Sunni coalition as an alternative to the U.S.-backed Shiite-led administration of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.”

    Let’s accept for the moment that one of the eight insurgent organizations under the mantle of Islamic State of Iraq is an insurgent organization called “al Qaeda in Iraq.” What evidence is there that it was al Qaeda in Iraq that kidnapped our soldiers? If there were any at all, I would expect that the government and its stenographers would be less mealy-mouthed in its description of the perpetrators than “al Qaeda or others associated with the militant group.”

    I want to know what is the relationship of al Qaeda in Iraq to the group of Saudis that attacked our country on September 11, 2001. Do they take their orders from Osama Bin Laden? Do they have ambitions beyond the establishment of a Sunni Islamic government in Iraq? How do we know?

    We have a duty to be skeptical. The administration’s protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, it has conflated our mission against Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda with our war in Iraq at every turn.

    If I distrust the latest pronouncements of the government, it’s only because I was paying attention in the ‘60s. I guess some good did come from putting down that hash pipe.

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Friday, May 11, 2007

    Mitt Romney’s religion

    According to Time Magazine, 29% of American voters say they would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate. Back in November, a Rasmussen poll, had 43% saying they would never consider voting for a Mormon and only 38% said they would even consider casting such a vote. Nineteen per cent were not sure.

    This is disgusting in a country founded on religious liberty and bound together by a Constitution which states “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

    Growing up in New York, I had never met a Mormon, until I happened to sit next to one on the bus from my upstate college town to New York City. I continued in ignorance of what the LDS church believes and practices for many years, and it was not until the mid-1970’s that I got to count a member of the church among my friends.

    When Jimmy Carter became President, there was a sudden upsurge of interest in the Southern Baptist church, which theretofore had been vaguely foreign to most northerners like me. Perhaps we will see a similar spurt of interest in the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints with the ascendancy of Mitt Romney and Senate Majority leader Harry Reid. For example, the Frontline/American Experience shows on PBS aired a four-hour series on The Mormons.

    There is much to be admired in the culture of the Mormons, and plenty that is troubling in the history of this uniquely American church. (In the latter category consider the Mountain Meadows massacre and polygamy.)

    But let us focus on that which is to be praised. One cannot learn about the Mormons and not be impressed with their devotion to the family. Consider the advertisements that the Mormons run on TV. The tagline is, “Family: isn’t it about time?” It is a Mormon practice to set aside Monday evenings for family home activities. The Mormon attitude to family is also reflected in the practice of genealogy and posthumous baptism. Mormons don’t get married “until death do us part,” but rather, for all eternity.

    I am all in favor of family values and I love my family. But when I watched the Frontline series on The Mormons I realized that they have a different appreciation of the role of family. If I may be forgiven my presumptuousness, I would say that Mormons believe that the family provides for the individual and the individual should look primarily to the family to have his or her material and spiritual needs met.

    It is insulting to Mitt Romney to acknowledge that he is a Mormon but deny that he is moved by the basic values of Mormonism. In any event, he gives us no reason to doubt that he is guided by his faith. For example, on his website he states: Americans are “a purpose-driven people founded on the family unit.” (Union Leader, March 19, 2006)

    As I say, this may be laudable in a person’s personal life. Clearly, family is a great source of strength to the members of the LDS church. But what does it mean for a candidate for the office of the presidency?

    It means that government doesn’t need to help people: that’s what families are for.

    It means that government doesn’t need to provide a safety net for individuals because they can and should rely on their families when life deals them a harsh hand.

    It means that government doesn’t need to create opportunity for individuals because people have unlimited opportunities in the context of their families.

    It means that people who don’t share in the values of the conventional family don’t share in the values our national government, and therefore, it is not the role of government to protect their civil rights.

    Mitt Romney is a conservative and as that term has come to be understood in the 21st century that means he is openly hostile to the institutions of government. Of course, he won’t come out and say that in so many words. He would like to see the role of government reduced as far as possible. And the way he sells this idea is to propose that the functions of government be performed by “the family.”

    I take a back seat to no one when it comes to love of my family. But we are part of a greater society. Which is why I would never vote for Mitt Romney, or for that matter any of the buffoons I saw standing on the podium at the Reagan Library last week.

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Wednesday, May 09, 2007

    A flash of insight

    This 30-second video got me to thinking.
    In the past, Big Mitch has argued that George W. Bush ought to be impeached for a variety of reasons. He lied us into a war. His use of signing statements is contemptuous of the Constitution. He illegally snooped on Americans. He is ultimately responsible for turning the Department of Justice into a wing of the Republican National Committee. The list goes on.

    Looking at this video made me think of the real reason he ought to be impeached. To borrow a phrase from retired Major General John Batiste, he has “placed our country at peril.”

    That’s the real reason why he ought to be impeached: he has violated his oath to preserve and protect the Constitution.

    “... and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Tuesday, May 08, 2007

    From the Last Frontier: More Republican corruption

    Rich Mauer reports in the Anchorage Daily News (McClatchey):
    Bill Allen, a welder who took the Veco Corp. from a small Kenai oil-field company to a billion-dollar international contractor and a major political force, pleaded guilty Monday to bribing at least four Alaska legislators, including former Senate President Ben Stevens.
    Also pleading guilty was Rick Smith, Veco’s vice president for community and government affairs.

    Lat Friday, former Representatives Pete Kott, (R-Eagle River) Bruce Weyrauch (R-Juneau) and current Representative Vic Kohring (R-Wasilla) were indicted for extortion and bribery in related matters.

    Ben Stevens is the son of Ted Stevens, the most senior Republican in the United States Senate.He received more than $200,000 in phony “consulting” contracts.

    There was a time when Alaska was a reliably Democratic state. Problems are mounting for Ted Stevens and Don Young (see, here and here.) Indeed, the problems for all Republicans are on the rise. Could it be that the past is prelude to the future?

    Memo to Democrats: Prepare to take back Alaska.

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Sunday, May 06, 2007

    Word for today: “Hagiography”

    From the recent hagiography of Ronald Reagan:
    “Those are the things that Ronald Reagan taught us. You lead from optimism. You lead from hope. And we should never retreat in the face of terrorism.”

    -- Rudy Giuliani, May 3, 2007 at a GOP debate held at the Reagan Library.
    On April 18, 1983, the US embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, was bombed by a suicide truck attack, killing 63 people.

    Then, on October 23, 1983, 241 United States services members were killed when suicide bombers attacked a U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut. The Marines were part of a multi-national peacekeeping force during Lebanon’s civil war. President Ronald Reagan called it a despicable act.

    The radical militant group Islamic Jihad took credit for both attacks. This group was led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, who later became the number two leader in al-Qaeda, (or so we were told.)

    There was little or no retaliatory military response to the attack on the American troops. The Marines were promptly moved offshore so that they could not be targeted any further. On February 7, 1984, President Reagan ordered the Marines to begin withdrawal from Lebanon. By February 26th, the retreat was completed.

    The Beirut bombings inspired Osama bin Laden to believe that the US can be defeated by suicide attacks. In a 1998 interview, which was reported on ABC on May 28, 1998, bin Laden stated:
    “We have seen in the last decade the decline of the American government and the weakness of the American soldier who is ready to wage Cold Wars and unprepared to fight long wars. This was proven in Beirut when the Marines fled after two explosions.”
    One thing we didn’t learn from Ronald Reagan is that the truth matters.

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Wednesday, May 02, 2007

    Giuliani. Thank God.

    The New York Observer has a nice take on Bob Kerry’s thoughts about Rudy Giuliani.
    “When he turned and said to Bernie Kerik, ‘Thank God George Bush is President,’” said Mr. Kerrey, echoing one of Mr. Giuliani’s favorite (but now retired) 9/11 anecdotes. “What he should have said was, ‘Why the fuck didn’t George Bush call us and tell us this was going to happen?’ That was a more appropriate response.”
    Anyone who watches Chris Matthews on Hardball knows that he has a man-crush on Rudy Giuliani. It is going to be quite a challenge for him to keep it under wraps when he moderates the “Reagan Library GOP Debate,” as it is being billed. Here’s a telling moment to watch for.

    Big Mitch predicts that amid the soft-balls that Matthews tosses to Rudy, there will be a question about one of his most famous whoppers. At the 2004 Republican National Convention, Rudolph Giuliani told the audience that while standing in the rubble of the World Trade Center, he spontaneously grabbed Bernie Kerik’s arm and said, “Bernie, thank God George Bush is our President.”

    That’s a powerful story and better than the one he told during a 2003 GOP fundraiser. In the earlier iteration, Kerik is missing: “I remember that day saying a little prayer of thank-you that George Bush was our president.” Well, you could see why that story needed a little punching up. But still, it is an improvement on the original rendering.

    On December 23, 2001, Giuliani appeared on Meet the Press. He told of the days following the attack. According to this first edition of the story, Rudy did, indeed, utter the words to his police chief. But it was not on September 11th. Rather it was on September 14th, by which time George Bush had finished My Pet Goat and found his way to Ground Zero. It was in this context that Giuliani stated, “Thank God he [Bush] is here [i.e., in New York.]”

    The ironic thing is that Giuliani embellished and prevaricated to show a fabricated devotion to President Shit-for-brains. It’s not like people needed another reason to not vote for the guy. But watch Chris Matthews give him a chance to clean it up.

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Tuesday, May 01, 2007

    Deconstructing the veto message

    The President said that he vetoed the Emergency War Spending Bill because it “mandated a rigid, and artificial deadline for American troops to begin withdrawing from Iraq.” Moreover, he claimed that the bill imposed “impossible conditions on our commanders in combat.”

    Here’s what he is really saying: He wants to wage the same old war, which doesn’t have the support of the American people. He fails to understand that the people have spoken and that elections have consequences. Congress was elected to end the war, and it is completely appropriate to set a timeline for doing so.

    The bill ends the war and describes a new and different mission. The bill would require that by the autumn of 2008 however many U.S. troops remain in Iraq may only be used for diplomatic protection, counterterrorism operations, and training of Iraqi Security Forces. Unless certain benchmarks are met, this re-deployment may be required to start earlier.

    I suppose you could call that imposing impossible conditions on the commanders in combat. Congress wants to make it impossible to persist on the same course of conduct that isn’t working and which has lost the confidence of the American people.

    Just so that we are clear: The President says that we need to stay in Iraq to fight terrorism. The bill that he vetoed allows him to keep troops in Iraq indefinitely for counterterrorism operations.

    For as long as I can remember, all presidential speeches have ended with some version of “May God bless America.” A favorite formulation of this president has been “May God continue to bless America.” Tonight, in announcing that he was flouting the will of the American people, he concluded with a new twist: “May God bless our troops.” He may as well have said, “May God help our troops.” President Bush surely won’t.

    The president vetoed a bill that prohibits the deployment of troops who are not “fully mission capable” as defined by the Department of Defense – in other words, troops who are fully trained, equipped and protected. The bill that he vetoed provided funding for the Veterans Administration. And the bill refocused the mission of our military on a job for which it is well suited: defeating al Quaeda and terrorists in Afghanistan. Once again, we see that it is the Democrats in Congress who care about the troops.

    The president thinks that he has support for the current ill-defined mission in Iraq, and that support extends to stubborn perseveration into the fall of 2008. He’s wrong. As if to prove the point, he vetoed a bill to protect troops and care for veterans.

    “... and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Monday, April 30, 2007

    Welcome back, Tony Snow.

    On this morning’s edition of Good Morning America we all were delighted to see that you are back, and apparently you haven’t lost any of your game. [fn.]

    I especially liked the part where you said,
    The President made it clear before the State of the Union in 2002 that there was no link between Saddam Hussein and September 11th. So, I am afraid that what is happening there is that George Tenet may be have been referring to something that has been misreported or at least twisted by people who may have political motives in recent years, but there has been no attempt to try to link Saddam to September 11th. So, uh, yeah.
    Whoa, Tony! We get the point! Anyone who would suggest that the administration linked Saddam to 9-11 is a worthless liar.

    Consider this letter from King George the Incompetent to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, available on the White House website.
    March 18, 2003

    Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

    Consistent with section 3(b) of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public Law 107-243), and based on information available to me, including that in the enclosed document, I determine that:

    (1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will neither (A) adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq nor (B) likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and

    (2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.

    I am glad we have Tony Snow back to clear that up.

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    [fn.]View the video: QT WMV Courtesy of Media Matters.)

    The case against George Tenet is an easy lay-up.

    George Tenet says that he deeply resents the fact that his “slam dunk” remark has been taken out of context.

    We have seen the Vice President on Meet the Press saying that the administration was convinced that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. It is Cheny who quotes the CIA chief as saying that the evidence is conclusive, using the slam-dunk metaphor of Georgetown basketball-loving Tenet.

    According to others, notably Bob Woodward, the comment came when King George the Incompetent listened to the evidence and questioned its sufficiency. My sense of it is that Dubya is a guy who likes a one-page memo, and likes a one-line summary even more. It is hard to imagine him saying that he needs more texture in his intelligence reportage.

    For his part, Tenet says that he didn’t mean that the evidence was a slam-dunk case against Iraq. His story is that Dubya heard the evidence, and accepted it for decision-making purposes. The problem for Dubya was that he felt that the American people would demand a more persuasive case. “This is the best we’ve got?” one George asked the other.

    Tenet, if he is to be taken at his word, understood this to mean, “Could you punch it up a little bit for Joe Public?” The other George told the president that would be no problem. “Slam dunk,” he said.

    This is breathtaking, but we’ve seen this kind of excuse offered before by the Party of Bush.

    When Cheney tried to excuse himself for not anticipating the level of violence in Iraq, I pointed out in Cheney admits guilt that this is not an excuse – it is an indictment of his lack of foresight. Remember when King George the Incompetent explained that he didn’t want to let the voting public know that he was about to shit-can Donald Rumsfeld because “didn’t want to inject a major decision about this war in the final days of a campaign?” So, he lied. As I said at Truth and Consequences,
    Only one with total disdain for the electoral process would not be ashamed to admit that he had tried to mislead the public on this crucial matter. Someone with disdain for the electoral process like King George the Incompetent.
    Again, the excuse offered is an admission of a greater offense.

    At the risk of stating the obvious, the job of the Director of Central Intelligence is not to sell policy to Joe Public. That’s a slam dunk.

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Sunday, April 29, 2007

    The scoop on Don Young

    On April 23, I wrote a note about Don Young in which I said, “The Jack Abramoff/Tom Delay scandal relating to the Northern Mariana Islands, has Don Young’s fingerprints all over it,” and then I went to sleep.

    The next morning, I woke to learn that “one of Young’s aides will be pleading guilty to Abramoff related corruption charges,” and I duly reported it in a note called Who knew? giving credit to the Anchorage Daily News.

    Today, the Anchorage Daily News took up the challenge of linking Young to the Abramoff/Saipan scandal. Hats off to their reporter, a guy named Richard Mauer, pictured, who recently returned from Baghdad.

    There’s another story here, one which is percolating up on Bill Moyers Journal. Why are we reading this kind of story in McClatchy papers but not in the the New York Times and the Washington Post?

    In a nutshell, the New York Times and the Washington Post are hugely influential newspapers because every decision maker in the nation’s capital reads these papers. But this influence has a price. All of the Washington bureau reporters for these papers know that their subjects will read what they write. The cost of pissing off these insiders might be paid in restricted access. And so, the nation goes to war based on the uncritical reporting of folks like Judith Miller.

    But McClatchy (f/k/a Knight-Ridder) doesn’t have to play that game. John Walcott, a skeptical reporter of the run-up to the war explains it this way on Bill Moyer’s Journal:
    Our readers aren’t here in Washington. They aren’t up in New York. They aren’t the people who send other people’s kids to war. They’re the people who get sent to war.
    And so, they can afford to dig deeper and question the official line.

    Or it could just be that the McClatchy chain has reporters with shoe leather and balls. Guys like this Rich Mauer. Go get ’em Rich!

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Saturday, April 28, 2007

    How to help ‘our candidates’

    Back on April 23rd, I wrote a little piece about Don Young. I stated at the time:
    The thing that made me think of Don Young recently is that over on TPM Muckraker they are reporting that 25 senators have demanded that the administration give some answers about GSA chief, Lurita Doan. Seems she has been trying to find a way to use the considerable buying power of the federal government to “help our [Republican] candidates.” In this effort, she employed a PowerPoint presentation which you can see here. (pdf)
    I thought about it a little more since then, and here’s the question that I keep coming back to: How can the GSA help Republican candidates?

    There are a couple of possibilities. One is by steering business into districts where the party has determined to make a stand because their incumbent candidate is vulnerable. By doing so, they can enable their candidate to point to his or her ability to bring home the bacon. As I pointed out in my Don Young piece, bringing home the bacon will win you votes. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it can be overdone. Witness the “Bridge to Nowhere.”

    A more subtle variation on this text is that by spending money in a particular district, the GSA can improve economic circumstances there. Improved economic circumstances translate to increased satisfaction with the status quo, which in turn inures to the benefit of the incumbents. The problem here is that it is too subtle, too slow-working and too unreliable. This sort of program doesn’t get done at the management level that Ms. Doan was addressing with her PowerPoint presentation.

    Here’s the real deal: If you want to engage in pork barrel politics, the way to do it is to get an earmark in some Christmas tree bill, and then show up at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. That’s the way to improve a local economy. But more importantly, that’s one way to make people feel good about their local incumbent. Notice that this does not involve the GSA.

    So, how then can the administrator of the GSA help “our candidates?”

    Let’s say you are a manufacturer of ballpoint pens in one of those districts that the Republicans need to defend. A contract for $20 million dollars worth of ballpoints can have a pronounced effect on your bottom line. So much so, that you might be grateful to the congressman or woman who steered the contract your way. It may even be enough to encourage you to make a big donation to that Congress member’s re-election campaign.

    You know, a big donation would enable a candidate to pay for a media campaign. That’s another way to make people feel good about their local incumbent. Come to think of it, this technique works even if the candidate is a challenger.

    So why is this a scandal? The answer is that if you are steering business to a company in order to get contributions to your Republican campaign committee, or even to the candidate’s campaign, and there is an explicit quid pro quo, then it starts to look a lot like you are shaking down local businesses for bribes.

    And there’s a law against that.

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Thursday, April 26, 2007

    Another brilliant philippic from Keith Olbermann

    countdown-sc-giuliani.jpg  Crooks and Liars had the following links to Keith Olbermann’s scathing Special Comment last night about the rank partisan fearmongering speech Rudy Giuliani gave before a New Hampshire Republican meeting Tuesday (CSPAN stream).

    video_wmv Download | Play video_mov Download  | Play

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Tuesday, April 24, 2007

    Who knew?

    Who knew when I posted about Don Young last night that I would wake up to find the Anchorage Daily News reporting that one of Young’s aides will be pleading guilty to Abramoff related corruption charges. Of course, the article states that Young is not implicated. I wonder if it would be more accurate to state “Congressman Young is not implicated yet.

    Anyway, here’s the lede:
    A former aide to a committee chaired by Alaska Rep. Don Young is expected to plead guilty today to a federal conspiracy charge in connection with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

    Mark Zachares, who was part of Young’s Transportation Committee staff between 2002 and 2004, was named in charging documents Monday alleging a pattern of rewards and favors that he and Abramoff termed their “two year plan.”
    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Monday, April 23, 2007

    Don Young

    When the next congressional elections occur, Don Young will have been a member of the House of Representatives for 35 years, representing Alaska, a state where the average age of residents is below 34. He, himself, will be 75.

    In 2008, he received 57% of the vote, down somewhat from his previous performances, but hardly anything to make him worry, or even campaign. Diane Benson, his Democratic opponent, ran a good campaign, which some regarded as the first significant challenge to the man who calls himself the “Congressman for all Alaskans.” The activist playwright, actress and poet received roughly 40% of the vote.

    Big Mitch feels that she didn’t hit hard enough. The Jack Abramoff/Tom Delay scandal relating to the Northern Mariana Islands, has Don Young’s fingerprints all over it. In 2000, the Senate unanimously passed Sen. Frank Murkowski’s (R-AK) Northern Mariana Islands worker rights reform bill. Basically the bill was intended to address the slave-like working conditions in Saipan, where garment manufacturers produce clothing labeled “Made in America.” Don Young blocked the bill and so it was never considered in the House of Representatives. Given the working conditions there – which included forced abortions for women pressed into prostitution – this could have been a good issue.

    Lately, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that records show that Young’s campaign paid a $25,000 retainer to a law firm because the feds are looking into new truck-hauling rules that Young helped push through in 2005 as part of a major transportation spending bill. Dennis Troha, a Wisconsin businessman who personally benefited from the measure gave the Young $20,000 and he, too, has lawyered up.

    All of which would make you think that Young is vulnerable in 2008. But you would be overlooking the fact that he brings home the bacon, and that counts for a lot in Alaska. After all, we are talking about a guy who in 1995, during the controversy relating to the homoerotic art of Robert Mapplethorpe, told an assembly of high school students that he opposed federal funding for any art that portrayed people doing “offensive things.” Pressed for an example by an inquisitive student, Young quickly answered, “Butt-fucking.” It’s pretty hard to defend his choice of words, but he gave it the old college try: He said that his answer would have lacked impact if he had used milder words.

    The thing that made me think of Don Young recently is that over on TPM Muckraker they are reporting that 25 senators have demanded that the administration give some answers about GSA chief, Lurita Doan. Seems she has been trying to find a way to use the considerable buying power of the federal government to “help our [Republican] candidates.” In this effort, she employed a PowerPoint presentation which you can see here. (pdf)

    Interestingly, said PowerPoint presentation indicates that Don Young may be vulnerable, and more importantly, that he may decline to run. It’s time for a Democrat to start gearing up to run for Congress.

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

    Everyone knows…

    Everyone knows that the Congress is going to cave in to the President and send him an emergency spending bill without a deadline for withdrawing from Iraq. That’s because the Congress doesn’t have the spine to stand up to him, even though Big Mitch gave them a roadmap about how to do it.

    By now, everyone knows that Harry Reid said, “I believe myself that the secretary of state, the secretary of defense — and you have to make your own decision as to what the president knows — that this war is lost, and that the surge is not accomplishing anything, as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday.”

    Everyone knows that Harry Reid is correct. Even William F. Buckley is saying the war has failed. The generals who say that are promptly fired, but everyone knows King George the Incompetent is not sending in 20,000 more troops because things are going so well. Everyone knows that our military is stretched beyond its limit. And deep within our hearts, everyone knows that this won’t be the last surge that Dubya proposes.

    Want to know what the GI's in Iraq think? Look here:
    Everyone knows that el Generalissimo Gonzales embarrassed himself last week. His testimony was incredible, incomplete, and internally inconsistent. His defense was that he takes responsibility for mistakes that were made, but no mistakes were made. He says he was in charge, but he didn’t know where the plan to fire 8 U. S. Attorneys came from. He says he thought it was a bad idea, but his chief of staff went forward with it anyway.

    CORRECTION: Not everyone knows. Incredibly, the man Bill Maher calls “President Shit-for-brains” took the time today to tell us that Gonzo “is an honest, honorable man, in whom I have confidence.” He went on to say that Gonzales’ testimony “increased my confidence” in his ability to lead the Justice Department. He also said that he hadn't heard the testimony: he's relying on staff reports.

    Congress’s power is in the power of the purse. If they are to stop this war, that is how it must be done. Congress can’t de-fund Alberto Gonzales, and impeachment is too disruptive. But everyone knows that he must go.

    Someone in Congress needs to stand up and say that if King George the Incompetent has complete confidence in el Generalissimo Gonzo, then he can’t be trusted to run the war without some restraint imposed by Congress.

    Memo to POTUS: You want an emergency spending bill to fund your war? Show Gonzales the door.

    “… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”