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!