Archive for May 17th, 2007
“The federal government is spending millions of dollars on a publicity campaign that could be used to plug budget shortfalls hurricane forecasters are struggling with, the National Hurricane Center’s director said Thursday. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is spending up to $4 million to publicize a 200th anniversary celebration while the agency has cut $700,000 from hurricane research.”
Via Alert Reader, here’s a good overview of the game plan, which amounted to a completely illegitimate use of power.
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.
This is no botched personnel switch. It is not even a political spat between the fired U.S. attorneys and Bush administration officials who deemed some of them insufficiently zealous in promoting the department’s law enforcement priorities. Connect the dots and you see an insidious effort to corrupt the American electoral system. It’s Watergate without the break-in or the bagmen.
The emerging picture is one in which widespread Republican claims of “voter fraud”—unsubstantiated in virtually every case examined closely by law enforcement officials, local journalists, state elections officials and academics—were used to stymie Democratic-leaning voter registration groups and create a taint around Democrats. The Justice Department’s own statistics show that only a handful of people were convicted of voting illegally since it began a “voter integrity” initiative in 2002. Its top election crimes official, a career prosecutor, has told the U.S. Election Assistance Commission that the proportion of “legitimate to illegitimate claims of fraud” hasn’t changed.
The “voter fraud” claims that White House political adviser Karl Rove promoted before last year’s congressional elections were in battleground states such as New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin with closely contested races. He also has complained about alleged fraud in hotly competitive states such as Washington, Florida and Missouri. Curiously, states where elections often are decided by wide margins—New York, for instance—don’t turn up on his lists.
And, so far as I can tell, he didn’t get the “He did wrong, but so did others” judgment he was after. But (again, so far as I can tell) he does pick up the $400,000 he was to get if he made it to 1 June. Still, he looks all pouty.
So Paul Wolfowitz maintains a proven track record of exercising spectacularly bad judgment. I imagine now that every major corporation in America will be highly recommending him to their competitors.
From the ABC report:
World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz has resigned his post, effective June 30.
An internal panel tasked with investigating the lucrative pay and promotion package Wolfowitz arranged in 2005 for girlfriend Shaha Riza found him guilty of breaking bank rules.
The committee also found that he tried to hide the salary and promotion package from top ethics and legal officials within the bank. The report added that there is a “crisis in the leadership” at the World Bank.
Wolfowitz is the first World Bank president to ever leave the bank under a cloud of scandal.
Local Whole Foods had fresh morels, so of course I had to have them again. So tasty. They were $30/lb, so I got 1.75 oz ($3.30), which (since they’re light) was a nice little portion. Sautéed in butter with a little salt and pepper. Very nice. Too bad they still haven’t been cultivated.
Apparently false morels, highly poisonous if eaten raw, are quite tasty if properly prepared. Let us know if you try them (or have your survivors let us know).
Or, as one so seldom sees, the past perfect imperative: “Do not have done anything wrong.” Here’s the story:
DPA’s [the Drug Policy Alliance - LG] core principle that people should not be punished for what they put into their own bodies absent harm to others has inspired us to get involved in the case of Andrew Feldmar, a Canadian psychologist.
Feldmar has been coming to the U.S. from Vancouver for years to visit his children, both of whom live in American cities. But the last time he tried to cross the border, a guard pulled him aside and searched for his name on the internet. This turned up a journal article Feldmar wrote about his use of LSD in Canada and the U.K. almost 40 years ago.
U.S. government officials have said that because Feldmar admitted drug use, he will never be allowed in the U.S. again unless he obtains an expensive special waiver in which he certifies that he has been rehabilitated.
Speaking to The New York Times, Feldmar asked, “Rehabilitated from what?”
A government spokesperson has pointed to increased security in a post-9/11 world as a reason for using internet searches to unearth information on would-be travelers. The government has not, however, established any link between admitted past drug use and terrorism.
Current federal law allows immigration and customs officials to bar entry to anyone who has ever used an illegal drug. If fully enforced, the law would bar millions of people around the world from visiting the U.S., including David Cameron (head of the British Tory party), former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell, the current Premieres of Quebec and Ontario, actors Colin Farrell and Pierce Brosnan, British billionaire Richard Branson (Virgin Air) and, of course, numerous musicians like Paul McCartney, Keith Richards and George Michael.
DPA has been alerting the media to Dr. Feldmar’s story, with pieces being published in AlterNet and The New York Times. DPA has also begun lobbying Congressional offices to raise awareness of the case in the hopes that this federal policy will be changed.
“100 million Americans have used an illegal drug at some point in their lives, and it’s hard to find a Presidential candidate who hasn’t smoked pot; yet we’re prohibiting people from other countries who have used drugs from visiting our country. It just doesn’t make sense.” said Bill Piper, DPA’s director of national affairs. “Imagine if other countries adopted similar policies. Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, Brad Pitt, Sam Donaldson and millions of other Americans wouldn’t be able to travel.”
The Bush administration today threatened to a veto a House defense spending bill over a 3.5 percent pay raise for U.S. soldiers and a $40/month increase in benefits for military widows, among other provisions. The legislation passed the House today 397-27.
ThinkProgress noted last night that the White House opposed the pay raise for troops:
Troops don’t need bigger pay raises, White House budget officials said Wednesday in a statement of administration policy laying out objections to the House version of the 2008 defense authorization bill. […]
The slightly bigger military raises are intended to reduce the gap between military and civilian pay that stands at about 3.9 percent today. Under the bill, HR 1585, the pay gap would be reduced to 1.4 percent after the Jan. 1, 2012, pay increase.
Bush budget officials said the administration “strongly opposes” both the 3.5 percent raise for 2008 and the follow-on increases, calling extra pay increases “unnecessary.”
The White House says it also opposes:
– a $40/month allowance for military survivors, saying the current benefits are “sufficient”
– additional benefits for surviving family members of civilian employees
– price controls for prescription drugs under TRICARE, the military’s health care plan for military personnel and their dependents
House Minority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) said today he was “shocked and disappointed in the President’s threat,” noting that Bush’s problems with the bill are over measures that benefit “the very people who sacrifice the most in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and who serve at home and overseas.”
UPDATE: VoteVets chairman and Iraq veteran Jon Soltz adds:
Believe me, even with the current benefits that get paid out by the Department of Defense and insurance that many troops buy into, those who lose spouses in Iraq aren’t sleeping in mounds of cash. The increase proposed by Democrats will mean a hell of a lot. At VoteVets.org, we’ve heard absolute horror stories on the type of cutbacks that widows and widowers have had to make because the government doesn’t provide enough to those who lose a loved one in war.
A great flashlight (better than a $95 flashlight) for less than $10. Impossible? Watch.
Man, this is amazing. The United States. It sounds like the Soviet Union. Be sure to click the links. And don’t forget: these people being tortured are only suspects, convicted of nothing. Imagine what they’ll do to you if you’re convicted.
The Warm Republican Embrace of Torture
Don’t let the fast-moving Comey affair distract you from the other outrage of the month — the fact that at the same time high-ranking military leaders are disclaiming torture and abuse in the strongest possible terms, most of the leading presidential candidates of the Republican Party have been tripping over themselves in an effort to be the candidate who will commit to greatest number of war crimes, treaty breaches and statutory violations if he should be so fortunate as to be elected Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy.
Steve Clemons has an excellent post describing Wolfowitz’s chronic failure to plan and strategize. (We saw it in the war in Iraq, we see it again in the World Bank kerfuffle.)
Paul Wolfowitz has all but conceded that he is leaving his perch as CEO of the World Bank. The only question that remains is what gets scribbled in the last paragraph of the story on whether the “blame” for his departure is shared — and whether he resigned under his own steam or was actually, formally fired.
What is odd about this entire encounter is that “Wolfowitz the strategist” seems to be missing — and that may have been the problem all along.
Many officials in the Bank did not like Wolfowitz because of his central role in designing, planning and launching the Iraq War. But had the former Deputy Secretary of Defense come into the Bank with a compelling plan for global economic development that built on the strengths and addressed some of the weaknesses of the Bank’s relative skill sets, a relationship of mutual trust and respect, even if grudging, would have taken root.
Even one of Wolfowitz’s closest friends and the not-often discussed third political appointee (the other two were the more controversial Kevin Kellems and Robin Cleveland) brought in by Wolfowitz, Karl Jackson, has reportedly told numerous World Bank and diplomatic pals of his that “Paul has no plan. Everything is ad hoc, reactive — first we go this way, then we go that.” If his friends are saying that, imagine what Wolfowitz’s enemies think.
And since I got some dried habaneros, this batch should be spicy enough. Have you made this yet? Give it a go.
Later: Okay! Now it has some heat. Still, with the bulk of the dried chiles being mild, it’s not too hot, but the two habaneros (and four chipotles) I added were noticeable. So while it is not so hot as to make you need a glass of water, it is hot enough to ensure a long, slow warmth and the much-prized sweaty head.
My secret? Wash up the food processor as soon as you finish: it’s easiest to clean then, and it’s bulky, so getting to put it away keeps the kitchen uncrowded, and since your hands are washed in the hot, soapy dishwater, they too are cleaned so that you don’t scream when you rub your eyes later.
Hell, they’re great. (Full disclosure: I’m a loner.) But people who are not loners don’t always understand. Here’s a good explanation.
Christine Todd Whitman has on her hands the blood of scores of deaths from workers at the World Trade Center who accepted her assurance that the air was safe to breathe. It wasn’t, and she knew it wasn’t. They died. She refuses to testify before Congress:
Christine Todd Whitman, the former administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency, has refused to testify before a congressional subcommittee, regarding the government’s handling of the air quality at the World Trade Center site following the 9/11 attacks.
In refusing to testify, Whitman’s attorney cited that the former New Jersey governor is named as a defendant in two lawsuits involving her statements on air quality following the attacks.
Her attorney, Joel Kobert, also said in a letter to the subcommittee that Whitman “would be unlikely to assist the Subcommittee on this subject” because she is not a lawyer.
On Sept. 18, 2001, then-EPA head Whitman released a statement declaring the results from air monitoring tests in New York showed “their air is safe to breathe.”
Almost two years later, the EPA’s inspector general released a report concluding the EPA’s assurances were based on preliminary test results. The report also said that EPA press releases were softened under pressure from the White House.
Since then, multiple studies have documented health problems amongst 9/11 emergency responders and workers. One study released last year by Mount Sinai Hospital in New York showed more than 70 percent of Ground Zero workers suffered health ailments or severe respiratory problems.
An appeals court ruled last month that one of the lawsuit’s against Whitman, brought by a small number of government employees, could not go forward because the EPA chief could not be held constitutionally liable for her statements in the wake of the disaster.
“Officials might default to silence in the face of the public’s urgent need for information,” warned Judge Dennis Jacobs. [So it's okay to lie, and call that "information"? - LG]
That recent ruling may also affect a class-action suit that has been brought against Whitman by residents of lower Manhattan.
Marty Lederman over at Balkinization offers a great rundown of the best guesses about what the administration has been up to.
But Comey’s testimony and new details in The New York Times this morning mean that it’s now possible to lay out a timeline of why all of this came to a head in March of 2004 when the program had been going on for more than two years at that point.
A TPM Reader writes in to lay it all out:
We’re starting to see a timeline emerge on the confrontation between the White House and Justice on domestic spying.The first date to mark on your calendar, I think, is October 3, 2003. That’s when the Senate confirms Jack L. Goldsmith as the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel. In June, with Goldsmith’s nomination before the senate, John Yoo had left his job as the deputy at OLC to return to his teaching gig at Boalt.
Fast forward to December 11, 2003, when Comey is confirmed as Deputy Attorney General. He immediately assumes a more aggessive posture than his predecessor, Larry Thompson. The Times reports this morning that “with Mr. Comey’s backing, Mr. Goldsmith questioned what he considered shaky legal reasoning in several crucial opinions, including some drafted by Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo.”
But that was just the beginning. Thompson had not been authorized access to the details of the NSA program. But, reports the NYTimes, “Comey was eventually authorized to take part in the program and to review intelligence
material that grew out of it” (1/1/06). He set Goldsmith to the task of sorting through the program’s dubious legality. Goldsmith’s “review of legal memoranda on the N.S.A. program and interrogation practices became a source of friction between Mr. Comey and the White House,” the Times reports today. And we know from Comey’s testimony that by “the White House,” we mean, principally, Dick Cheney and David Addington.
I’ve been reading comments that the lather from triple-milled hard shaving soaps (such as Truefitt & Hill) is denser than the lather from glycerine-based soaps (such as those from Mama Bear, QED, and Honeybee Spa). So after two days of Mama Bear soap, I tried the Truefitt & Hill this morning, and the lather did indeed seem thicker and denser. It’s hard to be sure, since I used a different brush (today the Rooney Style 1 Small Super Silvertip). So I need to try the contrast again, keeping the brush constant.
Still: great lather, and a very good shave with the Merkur 1904 Classic. Exceptionally smooth, as usual. I guess it’s not an exception anymore, but it still feels exceptional.
Alum block and Dominica Bay Rum aftershave. Looking forward to a great day. (Making a new batch of chile-garlic paste, too.)