Archive for May 18th, 2009
Just back from my first visit. Lots of very fresh produce, organically grown, at good prices. I’m delighted. Now to cook my enormous artichoke and some baby potatoes.
Ali Frick of ThinkProgress reports:
Today, ThinkProgress’s Matthew Yglesias (who is celebrating his birthday today) wrote a column for the Daily Beast arguing that the right wing’s sideshow on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) only furthers the case for a full investigation into torture. When host Norah O’Donnell asked him about Newt Gingrich’s call for Pelosi’s resignation, Yglesias reminded her who was ultimately responsible for Bush’s torture policy:
YGLESIAS: You know, Newt Gingrich knows a lot about saying stupid things and being forced out of the job as Speaker. … But one way or the other — I mean, I wasn’t in the room, you weren’t in the room, Newt Gingrich wasn’t in the room. None of us know exactly what happened there. But whatever it is Nancy Pelosi knew about, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, they knew more. And ultimately, when we have a thorough investigation of what happened, the bulk of the blame has to lie with the architects of the policy, not with a member of the opposition party.
O’Donnell insisted, “There’s not going to be an investigation,” in part because — according to O’Donnell — Pelosi doesn’t want one. In fact, Pelosi repeated her calls for a full accounting for Bush’s torture policies as recently as Thursday: “Until a Truth Commission comes into being, I encourage the appropriate committees of the House to conduct vigorous oversight of these issues.”
Via John Cole of Balloon Juice, this post by Radley Balko:
In 1992, a Phoenix man named Ray Krone was convicted of murdering a cocktail waitress named Kim Ancona. The crime was brutal. Ancona had been sexually assaulted, stabbed multiple times, and bitten on her breast and neck. Krone was indicted after a local dentist named John Piakis, who had received all of five days of forensic training, told police and prosecutors that Krone’s crooked teeth created the marks on Ancona’s body.
At trial, a more experienced bite-mark analyst from Las Vegas named Ray Rawson confirmed Piakis’ findings: The bite marks on Ancona’s neck could only have come from Krone. Rawson included a 39-page report with his testimony. It must have been convincing, because the jury convicted Krone despite no other physical evidence linking him to the crime. He was sentenced to death.
In 1995, Krone was given a new trial after an appeals court threw out his conviction over an unrelated legal technicality. Rawson testified again. And Krone was convicted again. After the second trial, however, the judge refused to sentence Krone to death, writing, "The court is left with a residual or lingering doubt about the clear identity of the killer."
The judge’s misgivings proved prescient. Over the strenuous objections of prosecutors, who maintained that Rawson’s testimony was in itself sufficient to affirm Krone’s conviction, Krone’s attorney Christopher Plourd succeeded in getting a court to force the state to turn over biological evidence from the crime for DNA testing. The testing proved Krone was innocent. It also provided a match to Kenneth Phillips, a man who arguably should have been a suspect from the start. Phillips lived less than a mile from the crime scene, was already on probation for assaulting a female neighbor, and was arrested three weeks after Ancona’s murder for sexually assaulting a seven-year-old girl. Several witnesses had described a man fitting Phillips’ height, weight, and complexion to police near the crime scene the night of the murder.
After 10 years in prison, including two spent on death row, Ray Krone was exonerated and released from prison in 2002.
But Krone’s lawyer wasn’t quite finished.
The investigation into disgraced financier Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme is taking a new turn, as the Securities and Exchange Commission begins investigating whether some of Madoff’s biggest “victims” actually were in on the scam, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Some of the victims apparently were able to state the size of the annual returns they wanted from Madoff. Their accounts soon would reflect those returns, some of which regularly reached as high as 100 percent. The Journal cites people familiar with the investigation as its source.
That’s not quite the way investing works for most of us, which is why the SEC must be interested.
Here are some of the victims — who may not be victims after all — according to The Journal:
Jeffry Picower and Stanley Chais, two philanthropists who invested heavily with Mr. Madoff, and Carl Shapiro, one of the money manager’s oldest friends, are among at least eight Madoff investors and associates being scrutinized by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan.
Lots of people have wondered how Madoff got away with his scheme for so long. If these allegations are true, it gives a clearer picture of how it happened. And, if proven, it also means that Madoff wasn’t the only criminal behind the scheme.
Over at TWI’s sister site, The Michigan Messenger, Todd Heywood caught up with House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.), who had some surprising things to say about the potential nomination of Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-Mich.) to the Supreme Court.
U.S. Rep. John Conyers told a gathering of progressive activists gathered at the Cobo Convention Center on Saturday that he has withdrawn his support for Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Obama.
“[Obama] had no doubt she would make a good Supreme Court justice and I don’t either. But I am not supporting somebody who is — especially when she is waiting to be considered as a possible nominee for the highest court in the land — she can write a letter telling us some U.S. attorney has done a good job when everyone in the state knows that he hasn’t,” Conyers said in an interview with Michigan Messenger following his address at Cobo.
And just who is this failed federal prosecutor?
The attorney is question is a current U.S. attorney, but Conyers could not recall his name. Calls to members of the congressman’s staff to clarify which of Michigan’s two U.S. attorneys Conyers was referring to were not immediately returned.
Sounds like a pretty solid case against Granholm.
The markup session for the landmark Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill is underway in the House Energy and Commerce Committee (live webcast from C-SPAN). And it’s sure to be one hell of a show.
Ranking member Joe Barton (R-Texas), who promised to wage “sneaky,” “crafty” “guerrilla warfare” on the legislation, just delivered his opening statement. He said of the bill, “We know the cost is significant; we know the environmental benefit is practically nonexistent.”
And so he’s offering a Republican substitute bill, which he said “wouldn’t wreck the economy, would have some economic benefits and wouldn’t do any environmental harm.” If that language seems less than aggressive in combating global climate change, that’s because it is. Says Joe Romm, “You can’t really call it an alternative climate bill, since it doesn’t stop US greenhouse gas emissions from rising and the words “climate change” and “global warming” hardly appear in it at all — except to strip any authority from the EPA to address the problem.”
Barton also pledged to introduce a number of amendments to improve the legislation. In fact, he’s got 450 amendments up his sleeve, and I’ll give you a sense of their general thrust. Numbers 10 to 148 take this form:
- #30: “Suspends the act should more than 1,000 jobs in Indiana be lost due to the implementation of this Act.”
- #31: “Suspends the act should more than 2,000 jobs in Indiana be lost due to the implementation of this Act.”
- #32: “Suspends the act should more than 5,000 jobs in Indiana be lost due to the implementation of this Act.”
- #33: “Suspends the act should more than 10,000 jobs in Indiana be lost due to the implementation of this Act.”
- #34: “Suspends the act should more than 50,000 jobs in Indiana be lost due to the implementation of this Act.”
Swap in the names of 19 other states (no idea why the remaining 30 are excluded), and you get the general idea. You also start to understand Barton’s remark to Politico last week: “This is not going to be one of those gentlemanly, pro forma markups. We’re prepared for it to take weeks or months.”
OK, maybe it won’t be THAT fun to watch. Fortunately, TWI will provide updates and save you the trouble. Stay tuned.
Be sure to read the entire post. It begins:
Based on its transcript — here at the Washington Post site, oddly not yet in any obvious place at WhiteHouse.gov — Barack Obama’s Notre Dame commencement speech was another extraordinary performance. "Extraordinary" meaning that it was like his speech last year in Philadelphia about race relations, his speech last month in Prague about nuclear weapons, and, only slightly less impressive, his speech last month at Georgetown University laying out his long term economic plan. Or, on a small scale, his answer in Strasbourg about "American exceptionalism."
What made these presentations extraordinary was not any single phrase or sentence, nor any paragraph-long flight of fine language. Indeed, I can hardly remember any phrase or sentence from any speech Obama has ever given. (Phrases or sentences are to be distinguished from campaign slogans, like "Yes we can" or "not ‘red states’ or ‘blue states’ but the United States of America.") Instead the power of those speeches comes from the quality of their thought — from the ideas and truths the speaker is trying to grapple with.
In the case of the race speech, the different burdens and resentments Americans of all background held, and why we had to face and work through them. In the nuclear speech, the dangers that remained long after the Cold War had ended, and America’s special opportunity and responsibility to find a solution. In the Notre Dame speech, the difficulty of resolving, in an open democracy, differences of moral certainty that are fiercely held on all sides. And so on.
This kind of eloquence is different from what I think of as rhetorical prettiness — words and phrases that catch your notice as you hear them, and that often can be quoted, remembered, and referred to long afterwards. "Ask not…" from John F. Kennedy. "Blood, toil, tears, and sweat" from Winston Churchill. "Only thing we have to fear is fear itself" from FDR. "I have a dream," from Martin Luther King. Or, to show that memorable language does not necessarily mean elevated thought, "segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!" from the early George C. Wallace.
At rare moments in history, language that goes beyond prettiness to beauty is matched with original, serious, difficult thought to produce the political oratory equivalent of Shakespeare. By acclamation Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address is the paramount American achievement of this sort: "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right…"
The reason to distinguish eloquence of thought from prettiness of expression is that the former tells you something important about the speaker, while the latter may or may not do so. Hired assistants can add a fancy phrase, much as gag writers can supply a joke. Not even his greatest admirers considered George W. Bush naturally expressive, but in his most impressive moment, soon after the 9/11 attacks, he delivered a speech full of artful writerly phrases, e.g.: "Whether we bring our enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done." Good for him, and good for his staff.
Rhetorical polish, that is, can be a staff-enhanced virtue. The eloquence that comes from original thought is much harder to hire, or to fake. This is the sort of eloquence we’ve seen from Obama often enough to begin to expect.
The passages that struck me from this speech were the same ones Andrew Sullivan just highlighted: …