As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, November 04, 2005

Seriously, Impeach This Guy

The Vice President is now lobbying for torture on Capitol Hill:

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney made an unusual personal appeal to Republican senators this week to allow CIA exemptions to a proposed ban on the torture of terror suspects in U.S. custody, according to participants in a closed-door session.

Cheney told his audience the United States doesn't engage in torture, these participants added, even though he said the administration needed an exemption from any legislation banning ``cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment in case the president decided one was necessary to prevent a terrorist attack.

Shorter Cheney - we don't torture anyone, but we have to be ALLOWED to do so.

And to believe we don't torture anyone, you'd have to ignore your lyin' eyes.

This is what the highest levels of our government is advocating, after they've expressly said over and over again that they had nothing to do with authorizing these procedures. You have to be a fool to believe all of that.

And the one member of the Senate who's felt the sting of torture is fighting back.

The U.S. Senate added language barring inhumane treatment of enemy combatants to legislation that sets military policy, the second major defense measure the chamber has amended with this provision.

The amendment sponsored by Arizona Republican Senator John McCain passed by a voice vote. It was attached to the Senate's fiscal 2006 defense spending bill Oct. 6 by a vote of 90-9. That bill is being negotiated with members of the U.S. House, including Republicans whose support is in question.

McCain said his intent is to prevent abuses such as those at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. He vowed today that his measure would be "on every vehicle that goes through this body" until it's enacted into law. "It's not going away," he said on the Senate floor. "This issue is incredibly harmful to the United States of America and our image throughout the world."

Amen. If these guys in the White House had any shame, I'd suggest this is the time for some self-reflection. McCain and the "Gang of 90" in the Senate give me hope that we haven't lost our way in this country.


Office of the Vice President

I actually heard this story on NPR yesterday, and was mildly shocked by it, but, being without a Blackberry or a Treo while I was shaving, I never blogged it. Then Dan Froomkin refreshed my memory when he reported on it in the Washington Post. It is quite remarkable:

On NPR yesterday, the former chief of staff to the secretary of state (Lawrence Wilkerson) said that he had uncovered a "visible audit trail" tracing the practice of prisoner abuse by U.S. soldiers directly back to Vice President Cheney's office[...]

Mr. WILKERSON: What happened was that the secretary of Defense, under the cover of the vice president's office, began to create an environment -- and this started from the very beginning when David Addington, the vice president's lawyer, was a staunch advocate of allowing the president in his capacity as commander in chief to deviate from the Geneva Conventions. Regardless of the president having put out this memo, they began to authorize procedures within the armed forces that led to, in my view, what we've seen.

INSKEEP: We have to get more detail about that because the military will say, the Pentagon will say they've investigated this repeatedly and that all the investigations have found that the abuses were committed by a relatively small number of people at relatively low levels. What hard evidence takes those abuses up the chain of command and lands them in the vice president's office, which is where you're placing it?

Mr. WILKERSON: I'm privy to the paperwork, both classified and unclassified, that the secretary of State asked me to assemble on how this all got started, what the audit trail was, and when I began to assemble this paperwork, which I no longer have access to, it was clear to me that there was a visible audit trail from the vice president's office through the secretary of Defense down to the commanders in the field that in carefully couched terms -- I'll give you that -- that to a soldier in the field meant two things: We're not getting enough good intelligence and you need to get that evidence, and, oh, by the way, here's some ways you probably can get it. And even some of the ways that they detailed were not in accordance with the spirit of the Geneva Conventions and the law of war.

The harshest critics of this policy of torture (which now is alleged to be emanating not from the Pentagon, but from the civilian office of the Vice President) are military men: John McCain, Lindsay Graham (former JAG lawyer), Wesley Clark, and now Wilkerson. They understand how the military operates, how the blowback to our own troops makes it not at all worth the risk, and most important, why such a policy will not yield positive intelligence results:

If you're a military man, you know that you just don't do these sorts of things because once you give just the slightest bit of leeway, there are those in the armed forces who will take advantage of that. There are those in the leadership who will feel so pressured that they have to produce intelligence that it doesn't matter whether it's actionable or not as long as they can get the volume in. They have to do what they have to do to get it, and so you've just given in essence, though you may not know it, carte blanche for a lot of problems to occur.

By the way, the chief architect of this policy, if we are to believe Wilkerson, is David Addington, who he mentions as the Vice President's lawyer. Guess who replaced Scooter Libby as Cheney's new Chief of Staff?

Plus ca change, plus ca la meme chose. (I knew he hated Amurica, he speaks French!)

It's time for the White House to drop the fiction that "a few bad apples" committed the torture that is now revealed to be systematic, globally reaching, and remarkably similar everywhere the United States holds prisoners. It was policy, and I've gone on at length about why I believe it was as harmful as any policy this Adminstration has enacted in their short and brutal history. And now there's credible evidence that it came out of Dick Cheney's office.

Well, he's got to answer that question. And this will not end until he does. The American people deserve nothing less.


Another Crony Bites the Dust

So the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, appointed by President Bush, was so worried about an upcoming finding by a CPB Inspector General that he resigned.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting Board of Directors said Thursday that embattled former board chairman Ken Tomlinson has resigned.

The board has been reviewing a CPB Inspector General's report--called for by a pair of congressmen--on Tomlinson's relationship with the board stemming from Tomlinson's attempts to add more conservative programming.

Tomlinson came under heavy fire for adding conservative shows to balance what he saw as liberal bias, and for hiring an outside consultant to gauge the bias in shows, particularly Now with Bill Moyers.

By the way, this outside consultant ended up using appearances by people like Chuck Hagel and Bob Barr as proof of liberal bias. I guess in that context, "liberal" means "anyone who disagrees with me." And Tomlinson hired the consultant in secret, with taxpayer money.

So out Tomlinson goes. But he'll remain on the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which fits with the most recent GOP strategy of staying out of the limelight and doing the dirty work behind the scenes. Indeed, there are still Republican operatives all over the CPB. I'm all for balance in public broadcasting, but when the CPB President, Patricia de Stacy Harrison, is a former chairwoman of the Republican Party, I don't think "balance" is the goal. I'm sure the core mission has remained unchanged, only the highest-profile player has been shunted to the side. But Representatives like David Obey, Ed Markey and John Dingell have been great on this issue, and I'm sure they'll continue to keep the pressure on.


What the Wacko Strategy Did

I should give some context to that memo written by former DeLay aide Michael Scanlon where he called Christian conservatives "wackos." Scanlon was attempting to whip up opposition to a ballot measure in Louisiana that would have allowed the Jena Indian tribe to operate casinos in the state. Scanlon and his lobbying firm successfully played upon concerns about the immoral nature of gambling, and the ballot measure failed.

The catch? Scanlon was working for the Coushatta Indian tribe, who was already operating casinos in Louisiana, and didn't want their market share eaten into by any other tribes. The ballot measure was really about protecting Coushatta casino revenues. So they were using money from one Indian gambling interest to decry the immorality of Indian gambling. They were also vastly overcharging the Coushatta, taking $66 million dollars from them and other tribes, using it to fund their own pet projects as well. The whole sordid tale is in this Salon piece, and it provides a textbook example of how the culture of corruption operates in Washington.


The Wacko Strategy

It's not too amazing that the Republican strategy depends on whipping up visceral passions in an uninformed electorate. It's amazing that they can't help but put it down in writing:

Consider one memo highlighted in a Capitol Hill hearing Wednesday that Scanlon, a former aide to Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Tx., sent the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana to describe his strategy for protecting the tribe's gambling business. In plain terms, Scanlon confessed the source code of recent Republican electoral victories: target religious conservatives, distract everyone else, and then railroad through complex initiatives.

"The wackos get their information through the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet and telephone trees," Scanlon wrote in the memo, which was read into the public record at a hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. "Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them."

This memo suggests that the GOP holds the entire electorate (particularly their base) in contempt, as nothing more than a tool to let them make money and wield power. I don't know how much more plain it can be made to the religious conservatives that vote, volunteer, and stump for their party: the suits in Washington think you're wackos. In a way this is the flip side of what conservative columnists always accuse the Democrats of doing: taking their base for granted because they have nowhere else to go. Have Democratic memos calling African-Americans "wackos" ever made it into the public record of a Senate investigation? I don't think so.

Simply put, the strategy outlined by Abramoff and Scanlon depends on a boisterous Republican noise machine, a quiet and unchallenging press, and an electorate that is not inspired to make any kind of informed decision. Keep half of 'em ignorant and the other half angry. And the saddest part of this is that both the ignorant and the angry will likely never bother to find out what these scoundrels think of them. It certainly won't penetrate the Fox News/talk radio/direct mail filter.

What this country needs is an alternative communication system which opens up the marketplace of ideas, allows anyone with a voice to participate, and gives citizens a choice of ideas from which to choose and make their judgments about the kind of society in which they want to live. Perhaps a series of interconnected networks that opens up the national conversation...

Oh wait, that bill (The Online Freedom of Speech Act) failed in the House the other day. And it did so because of a lot of Democrats got whipped up by lobbyists repeating boogeyman screeds about campaign finance loopholes. They were wrong. Citizen media should be welcomed and allowed to flourish, with the same kinds of protections that traditional media has.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Incompetent's Incompetent

The Los Angeles Clippers look at Brownie and think, "Dude, you suck."

Newly-released e-mails show former FEMA director Michael Brown discussing his wardrobe during the crisis caused by Hurricane Katrina [...]

The e-mails show that Brown, who had been planning to step down from his post when the storm hit, was preoccupied with his image on television even as one of the first FEMA officials to arrive in New Orleans, Marty Bahamonde, was reporting a crisis situation of increasing chaos to FEMA officials.

"My eyes must certainly be deceiving me. You look fabulous — and I'm not talking the makeup," writes Cindy Taylor, FEMA's deputy director of public affairs to Brown on 7:10 a.m. local time on Aug. 29.

"I got it at Nordstroms," Brown writes back. "Are you proud of me? Can I quit now? Can I go home?" An hour later, Brown adds: "If you'll look at my lovely FEMA attire, you'll really vomit. I am a fashion god."

A week later, Brown's aide, Sharon Worthy, reminds him to pay heed to his image on TV. "In this crises and on TV you just need to look more hardworking ... ROLL UP THE SLEEVES!" Worthy wrote, noting that even President Bush "rolled his sleeves to just below the elbow."

I'm surprised he didn't leaflet the Convention Center with instructions on how to roll up the sleeves. That's all those starving people needed to do to survive; look hardworking.

By the way, let me answer Brownie's question: yes, you can quit now, you can go home. Need I mention that he is STILL taking taxpayer money by being on FEMA's payroll. Can I get a rebate for that? Like an idiot deduction or something?


Take That

It's getting a little ridiculous down in Texas. First, Tom DeLay's lawyers demanded that the presiding judge in his money-laundering trial be removed from the case because he's made political donations to Democratic-leaning causes and candidates in the past. And the courts go along with it. So the DA, Ronnie Earle, fights fire with fire:

In an unprecedented move, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, forced a Republican presiding judge from naming a new trial judge in the conspiracy case against U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land.

Taking a page from the playbook of DeLay's lawyers, Earle filed a motion Thursday arguing that Judge B.B. Schraub, R-Seguin, and presiding judge for the 3rd Administrative Judicial Region, should step aside because of campaign donations he made to Republican candidates. The candidates included Gov. Rick Perry, who was a central player in DeLay's 2003 attempt to redraw Texas congressional districts.

Within three hours, Schraub stepped aside, asking Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson, a Republican, to name a trial judge for the DeLay case. Perry appointed Jefferson to the court in 2001 and promoted to chief justice last year.

I think Earle's move was pretty funny, but I don't see where this is getting anybody. Two wrongs don't necessarily make a right, and just as DeLay was wrong to assume an elected judge with a history of impartiality would take personal THIS ONE CASE, Earle fell prey to the same beliefs. In a legal setting, I don't think who you've given money to over the course of your lifetime has any bearing on your ability to interpret the law, and if it does, you ought to be impeached.

Based on Earle's statements in court (where he directly claimed he was taking this step because of the DeLay motion), I think he gets this:

Saying he was using the same rationale employed by DeLay's lawyers, Earle wrote that Schraub, like Perkins, is a fair and impartial judge with a "sterling reputation" of honesty and integrity. But Earle wrote that's "unfortunately no longer the standard in our state for the judiciary." He argued that Schraub could be personally biased for DeLay and against Earle because of his political donations.

But that didn't make it right to do, for either side. I cannot believe the judge ruled in favor of the original DeLay motion (which kind of forced his hand to do the same on the Earle motion, it was the same argument). The lawyers for the Congressman have succeeded in putting a political cast on what looks to me like a clear case of laundering corporate money from Texas through the RNC and back into the local races. It increases the chances he'll get off, as well.

Lawyers exist to defend their client, so fine. But enough with this notion that absolutely nobody can be an impartial judge anymore. On both sides.


I'm going to be on the BBC

I'm a little speechless. A producer over there read the blog and contacted me, I'm on in 45 minutes. The show is called World Have Your Say, and it's a production of the BBC World Service.

All my British friends (and everyone else around the world), tune in!

UPDATE - Dammit, bumped! Knew I shouldn't have posted this before confirmation. Ah well. They said they may use me at a later date.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Fresh Start

Rove's toast?

Top White House aides are privately discussing the future of Karl Rove, with some expressing doubt that President Bush can move beyond the damaging CIA leak case as long as his closest political strategist remains in the administration.

While Rove faces doubts about his White House status, there are new indications that he remains in legal jeopardy from Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's criminal investigation of the Plame leak. The prosecutor spoke this week with an attorney for Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper about his client's conversations with Rove before and after Plame's identity became publicly known because of anonymous disclosures by White House officials, according to two sources familiar with the conversation.

Fitzgerald is considering charging Rove with making false statements in the course of the 22-month probe, and sources close to Rove -- who holds the titles of senior adviser and White House deputy chief of staff -- said they expect to know within weeks whether the most powerful aide in the White House will be accused of a crime.

But some top Republicans said yesterday that Rove's problems may not end there. Bush's top advisers are considering whether it is tenable for Rove to remain on the staff, given that Fitzgerald has already documented something that Rove and White House official spokesmen once emphatically denied -- that he played a central role in discussions with journalists about Plame's role at the CIA and her marriage to former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, a critic of the Iraq war.

"Karl does not have any real enemies in the White House, but there are a lot of people in the White House wondering how they can put this behind them if the cloud remains over Karl," said a GOP strategist who has discussed the issue with top White House officials. "You can not have that [fresh] start as long as Karl is there."

Sounds like Karl could be getting some payback for the strategy he's mastered over the last few decades. I wonder if we can get it on tape the moment Bush sidles up to him and says "Karl, it's politics."

And here's confirmation of my suspicions about "Official A":

Fitzgerald made it clear to Rove's attorney in private conversations last week that his client remains under investigation. And he signaled the same in his indictment of Libby on Friday, in which he identified a senior White House official who had conversations related to the Plame leak as "Official A." White House colleagues say Rove is clearly "Official A," based on the detailed description.

That kind of pseudonym is often used by prosecutors to refer to an unindicted co-conspirator, or someone who faces the prospect of being charged. No other administration official is identified in this way in Fitzgerald's indictment.

Not over. Not over at all.


Secret Prisons... in Poland

The bombshell story today comes from Dana Priest at the Washington Post, who uncovers a secret network of worldwide, off-the-books prisons run by US intelligence to illegally hide, interrogate, and torture detainees:

The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement.

The secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, according to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents.

The hidden global internment network is a central element in the CIA's unconventional war on terrorism. It depends on the cooperation of foreign intelligence services, and on keeping even basic information about the system secret from the public, foreign officials and nearly all members of Congress charged with overseeing the CIA's covert actions.

The existence and locations of the facilities -- referred to as "black sites" in classified White House, CIA, Justice Department and congressional documents -- are known to only a handful of officials in the United States and, usually, only to the president and a few top intelligence officers in each host country.

I haven't heard it yet, but I'm sure the reaction to this on the right will be something along the lines of "What's wrong, you lefties love the CIA now," or some such statement that misses the point. Our tax dollars are paying for secret prisons, dedicated to terrorizing and torturing people who have never had a trial, have never had the right to an attorney, have never been granted due process. We have no idea who these people are, and given that the Red Cross has determined that 70 to 90 percent of the detainees at Abu Ghraib had no connection to international terrorism or the homegrown insurgency, the government doesn't have such a good track record on this. Their past history includes beatings, sexual abuse, murders, hiding bodies from international inspectors, mass detainee suicides, denying due process despite a year-old Supreme Court decision mandating it, charging nobody above staff sergeant for the crimes, refusing to release evidence despite two judge's orders, lobbying on the floor of the Senate to keep torture as an option, and now this revelation.

By the way, you'll never guess where the prisons might be:

Hungary, Slovakia and Bulgaria rushed to issue denials of their involvement.

But Frantisek Bublan, the Czech Interior Minister, said last night that the US had approached his Government a month ago about holding suspects on Czech territory, but Prague had refused.

Human rights groups point at Poland and Romania as two eastern European countries that have taken in America’s “ghost detainees”. They also claimed that the US was running out of countries willing to host its terror suspects.

Boy, did we ever forget Poland. We forgot the legacy of Poland. Home of concentration camps. Home of Soviet-era gulags. We've refashioned them, slapped on a fresh coat of paint and welcomed the new batch of prisoners.

This is not only illegal but immoral and indefensible. As a taxpayer I'm as implicated as everyone else in this country. One year ago today there was an election. The participants neglected the horrors of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Bagram. The neglected the fact that viable intelligence cannot possibly be extracted by torture. They neglected our national loss of pride in our own humanity. They neglected the ceding of the moral high ground in favor of feeling good about "kicking some terrorist ass." They neglected how this all made us so much less safe: our soldiers are now subject to the same kinds of humiliations should they be captured, our citizens are increasingly at risk from the hundreds of thousands of more terrorists created as a result of this heinous series of acts.

All of it was neglected, swept under the rug. I was screaming last year, wondering why nobody was talking about Abu Ghraib. Not one mention of prisoner abuse in nearly 5 hours of debates. Not one advertisement about prisoner abuse. Not one mention in any stump speech.

And yet this is the issue that has destroyed our dignity and debased our country. Oh yeah, and it's completely illegal, by all federal and international writs of law.

I had to laugh, but wanted to cry, at Steven Hadley's response to these allegations:

National security adviser Stephen Hadley would not comment on the accuracy of a Washington Post report that top al Qaeda suspects were being held for questioning "at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe."

But he said President Bush has demanded that U.S. agents treat prisoners "in a way that is consistent with our values and principles."

In other words, "I'm not saying we're not doing it, but if we are, we're certainly NOT torturing anyone."

Real credible.

John McCain and those other 89 senators (all 45 Democrats, 45 Republicans) are taking a stand to take our country back from these brutes who would much rather throw out every principle this country holds dear. Unfortunately, it's too late; the damage has been done. I only hope we can recover from this great national wrong.


Nominee for the worst person in the world

Dave Neiwert at Orcinus has a remarkable post up on his site which does a thorough debunking of Michelle Malkin, who has a new book out and is subsequently back in the public eye. Her last book was the insane "In Defense of Internment," making her the only Asian-American to wholeheartedly support the baseless detaining of other Asian-Americans. Neiwert

As I've explained previously, I have something of a history with Malkin. I edited her column at the Bellevue Journal American in the early 1990s, while she was syndicated through the Los Angeles Daily News. The LADN only ever employed her as a columnist. Likewise, when Malkin moved to the Puget Sound to go to work for my friend Mindy Cameron at the Seattle Times, it was only as a columnist.

Now, it's true that while at the Times, Malkin did make the occasional foray into providing original reporting within her columns. Indeed, she was rather eager to write various exposes -- but unfortunately, she had trouble doing the requisite legwork to make those exposes actually stick.

First, there was the attempt to question a bit of local "corporate welfare" that turned out to be factually wrong. (Note the correction at the top.)

Then Malkin unleashed a tirade against city officials that explicitly called them prostitutes. Even readers recognized it as crudely libelous, not to mention devoid of basic ethical standards.

There were other instances that raised questions about her judgment as displayed in her columns: one, a column on "envirocrats" that was full of false facts and dopey assertions.

In another piece, she touted the film Waco: Rules of Engagement, which was later thoroughly debunked -- not to mention that its chief promoters and admirers were the Patriot/militia crowd.

Similarly, another column [which has since been strangely removed from the Times' archives] touted the later-debunked "statistical analysis" of John Lott regarding gun control.

The capper, perhaps, was a hit piece accusing the state's Democratic attorney general of manipulating prosecutions in drug cases. A key problem, as the victim pointed out, was that Malkin never bothered to contact the AG's office to get its side of the story -- and moreover, Malkin was once again simply wrong on the facts.

Shortly afterward, she announced she was "moving on."

Neiwert sources every single one of these in his post, too. Because he's a journalist.

Incidentally, Malkin did it again today. She writes a screed (no need to link to it, go see it yourself, I'm not giving her traffic) against Boots Riley of the Coup, who's part of this whole World Can't Wait thing today (which I don't support). She posts The Coup's infamous album cover (which features the WTC blowing up) and says it's "from 2001."

The album cover was made before September 11, and subsequently pulled after the attack. Does she mention that? No, a journalist would do that. She deliberately gives the impression that an "unhinged" lefty would see the attack on September 11th and then glorify it in an album cover, precisely the opposite of what happened.

Strangely, Malkin does consider herself a journalist, depsite the fact that her facts are often wrong and her opinions often overwhelm the story. Hunter posits it as a "facts v. punditry" liberal-conservative schism, where the opposite of journalism is Fox News.

The countermeasures that the Right demanded of the "mainstream" media, in outrage at the terrible liberality of a New York Times or Big Three network, is that factual journalism include conservative opinions about the story at hand, as "balance" to the presumed slant of each article. And they got it, in spades: there are few stories in today's press that don't include a conservative talking point from a conservative think-tank-based talking head to balance even a patently obvious and accepted fact. In the years of the Bush administration, much of factual "journalism" has positively devolved into a Monty Pythonesque Argument Sketch, with few scientific or other unambiguously factual stories that do not contain at least a token conservative figure to proclaim an unsupportable "No it isn't."

And it's not just limited to the bottom-rung, ambiguously moral ideologues that have historically populated the farthest fringes of the movement. The Bush administration itself has taken up the practice, as well, simply rewriting scientific and other government reports that contradict stated administration opinions about the issue at hand. Facts, now, are optional things in the national debate. Facts are explicitly liberal things in the national debate, in fact, and in that the movement sees facts everywhere, they therefore also see liberalism absolutely everywhere, threatening to rain down on them from every conceivable vantage point and profession.

That is why the most vocal figures of the right are even now continually infuriated with the mainstream media in general, and why there is literally nothing which will satisfy them that no, the press is not actually out to get them. What the press sets out to do on its best days -- expose uncomfortable facts, question government statements and authority, and report meticulously on hidden problems or issues -- are exactly the behaviors that sets the right on edge.

I think this is a crucial issue for the country. Because of the discounting of facts, politics has become professional wrestling, debates have become nothing but gainsay, and the two-party system has become as rigid as Catholicism and Protestantism. I think there are those of my friends on the left who are unnecessarily angry, who see conspiracies in everything, and who are generally unworthy of debate. But the right has succeeded in lumping those who value facts with that lot. Facts=liberalism to this group. The facts hate America, and therefore they cannot be trusted.

Look, facts are facts, and as much as conservatives push back against them, the best way to counteract it is to continue to push facts out into the light of reason. It's no longer interesting to me to argue dogma. Show me some facts (and not ones you made up, either, a la Miss Malkin).


Weak Knees

It seems the only thing Democrats can manage to muster a united front on is Social Security. It certainly isn't judges:

A centrist Democratic senator complimented Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito Wednesday as a jurist who won't "hammer away and chisel away" existing law.

While Sen. Ben Nelson did not endorse President Bush's latest nominee for the high court, he did say he was impressed by what he heard from Alito during his introductory visit.

The Nebraska Democrat, who was Alito's first senatorial host Wednesday, told reporters that he got assurances that Alito would not be "judicial activist" or "take an agenda to the bench" if confirmed to succeed Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is retiring.

"He assured me that he wants to go to the bench without a political agenda," said Nelson, one of the founding members of the centrist "Gang of 14" senators who earlier this year worked out a compact aimed at avoiding judicial filibusters except in the direst of circumstances.

Ben Nelson represents one of the most conservative states in the Union and is up for re-election next year (although he got a break when none of the big-name challengers jumped into the race). I understand that he's compromised. But I'd call his answer disingenuous at best. I wouldn't judge a judge by his words but his actions. And his actions clearly portray an ideological agenda.

With each defection on Scalito, we're one step closer to a filibuster-proof majority. If that happens, so be it. But right after the Democrats united to stand on principle about a stalled pre-war intelligence investigation, Ben Nelson comes along and chisels this united front away. Apparently Dianne Feinstein confidently predicted that there'd be no filibuster. What are we, two days removed from the nomination? How could you possibly make a statement like that?

I'm not arguing for ideological purity here. But from a political standpoint, making predictions and pronouncements at this stage of the game is crippling for the minority.


CA Special Election - No on 75

Proposition 75, on next Tuesday's ballot in California, would force public employee unions (teachers, nurses, cops, firefighters) to check every year in writing whether or not they can use their members' dues in political campaigns. Sounds simple; it's even called paycheck protection. Problem is, it's already the law.

Public employees can already opt out of having their dues used for political advocacy (1 in 4 do). All this does is set up an unwieldy bureaucratic standard for unions in an effort to silence them. Shareholders have no say in what political campaigns corporate dollars finance. This sets up an unequal playing field. Unions are Gov. Schwarzenegger's fiercest critics. He wants to shut them up. Prop. 75 is union-busting, plain and simple. Vote NO.

[UPDATE] Absolutely great in-depth analysis by Jennifer Ancona about why we must support unions and defeat this measure. I'll excerpt a short bit:

Why is limiting labor's contribution in California politics so dangerous to those who care about social justice?

Not only do labor unions fight for protections and benefits for the workers they represent, they have been on the forefront of larger movements for social change throughout history, from ending child labor to bringing basic human rights to farm workers.

Unions have helped to reduce wage inequality in the workplace because they raise wages for low- and middle-wage workers, blue-collar workers and for workers who do not have a college degree. Over time, unions have fought for wages that are now on average about 20% higher than their non-union counterparts. Unionized workers are also up to 28% more likely to have health care provided by their employers, and up to 54% more likely to be in employer-provided pension plans.

And yet somehow, Democrats over the last 40 years have run away from this core constituency. It's shameful.

Go read the whole thing, she's really done her homework.


Inside Joke


In a briefing with Latin American journalists on Tuesday before his trip to Argentina, Brazil and Panama this week, Bush was asked a question about Argentina and the International Monetary Fund by a reporter quoting sources.

"Please don't tell me that the government leaks secrets about conversations to the ..." Bush said.

"Well I have my sources," the journalist replied.

"You do? Well I'm not going to ask you who they are of course," Bush said, adding with a chuckle, "Inside joke."

Ha ha ha! We leaked the name of a CIA agent! Ha ha ha! We got rid of one of the few agents working on WMD issues! Ha ha ha! Our actions caused an untold number of spies abroad to be uncovered, captured or killed! Ha ha ha! One of the members of my inner circle, the top aide to the Vice President, could get 30 years in jail for it! Ha ha ha!

This guy lives in a dreamworld.


Republicans and Sex

There's a Gallup poll out today that claims if Judge Scalito is a pro-life candidate, Americans would vote not to confirm him, by 53% to 37%. There is a clear majority in this country to allow women the Constitutional right to make their own decisions about medical care. If you don't like it, leave. (Isn't that what people said last November 2?)

But this brings me to a larger point about how a great deal of Republicans, certainly the most vocal ones, have a big problem with sex. This Puritanical strain doesn't mix well with the rugged individualism and social libertarianism of contemporary society. And it can produce a shocking mix of policy beliefs.

Cervical cancer is a killer, taking the lives of close to 4,000 women annually in this country, and it's typically contracted through HPV, the human papilloma virus. There's a vaccine with a 100% success rate that is nearly ready to be brought to market. But a large segment of social conservatives value abstinence and piety over human life:

A new vaccine that protects against cervical cancer has set up a clash between health advocates who want to use the shots aggressively to prevent thousands of malignancies and social conservatives who say immunizing teenagers could encourage sexual activity.

Because the vaccine protects against a sexually transmitted virus, many conservatives oppose making it mandatory, citing fears that it could send a subtle message condoning sexual activity before marriage. Several leading groups that promote abstinence are meeting this week to formulate official policies on the vaccine.

The jockeying reflects the growing influence that social conservatives, who had long felt overlooked by Washington, have gained on a broad spectrum of policy issues under the Bush administration. In this case, a former member of the conservative group Focus on the Family serves on the federal panel that is playing a pivotal role in deciding how the vaccine is used.

There's a twinge of "you get what you deserve for having sex" in this debate, the idea that impure sexual thoughts should be punished with vigor and reckless abandon. That such a notion could trump medical science, that it could be wielded to KILL people, is unbelievable.

It all goes back to a discomfort with sex and sexual thoughts. One way to sublimate these thoughts is apparently to write about them perversely. How many dirty little sex novels have sprung from the loins of the conservative movement? William F. Buckley, Lynne Cheney, Bill O'Reilly, and now Scooter Libby:

It took Libby more than twenty years to write “The Apprentice,” which is set in a remote Japanese province in the winter of 1903... like his predecessors, Libby does not shy from the scatological. The narrative makes generous mention of lice, snot, drunkenness, bad breath, torture, urine, “turds,” armpits, arm hair, neck hair, pubic hair, pus, boils, and blood (regular and menstrual). One passage goes, “At length he walked around to the deer’s head and, reaching into his pants, struggled for a moment and then pulled out his penis. He began to piss in the snow just in front of the deer’s nostrils.”

Homoeroticism and incest also figure as themes. The main female character, Yukiko, draws hair on the “mound” of a little girl. The brothers of a dead samurai have sex with his daughter. Many things glisten (mouths, hair, evergreens), quiver (a “pink underlip,” arm muscles, legs), and are sniffed (floorboards, sheets, fingers)...

There is, for example, Yukiko’s seduction of the inexperienced apprentice:

"He could feel her heart beneath his hands. He moved his hands slowly lower still and she arched her back to help him and her lower leg came against his. He held her breasts in his hands. Oddly, he thought, the lower one might be larger. . . . One of her breasts now hung loosely in his hand near his face and he knew not how best to touch her."

Other sex scenes are less conventional. Where his Republican predecessors can seem embarrassingly awkward—the written equivalent of trying to cop a feel while pinning on a corsage—Libby is unabashed:

"At age ten the madam put the child in a cage with a bear trained to couple with young girls so the girls would be frigid and not fall in love with their patrons. They fed her through the bars and aroused the bear with a stick when it seemed to lose interest."

And, finally:

"He asked if they should fuck the deer."

Hey, Scooter, more power to ya if you want to write about bestiality rather than act out on it (unlike the anti-abortion activist Neal Horsley, who just digs fucking mules). Just don't serve an agenda that loves to moralize and tell me how to live my life. Were I a psychologist, I would submit that the conservative deviancy is just classic repression, a denial of sexuality that leads to a perversion of it. The problem is that when the repressed are in positions of power, they can create entire legions of fucked-up kids who are taught that denying natural human instincts and desires (with abstinence-only education) is holy writ. They can create a permanent underclass by writing laws (as Judge Scalito does) which basically turn married women into chattel, property of the husband. They can in essence elect themselves the purveyors of morality when, in the deepest (and unfortunately, not-so-darkest) recesses of their mind they are as perverse as everybody else, more so even, since they've denied themselves for so long.

What's dangerous is that these are the people that toss the word "freedom" around so cavalierly, yet have no idea what the word means or how to bestow it.


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Just Wild About Harry

Today's fireworks proved who the man and who the mouse is in the Senate. Harry Reid struck without warning and demanded that the American people learn about how their country was taken to war. He had public opinion at his side and he knew he could do it. Plus it's completely within the Senate rules. And most important, it shows the Dems are ready to come out swinging. Bill Frist, sounding like a petulant child, exclaimed "Tom Daschle wouldn't have done this."

No shit. Tom Daschle was an accomodator who rolled over on Iraq when it counted. Harry Reid refused to make the same mistake that has cost the Democrats election after election after election. There's no point in rolling over. There's certainly no votes in it.

And what's more, it worked. It's amazing what you can do if you stand up for yourself. John Thune's victory over Daschle in South Dakota last year may have been the best thing to happen to the Democrats in over a decade.

Here's the other great thing about this from a political standpoint. This particular shutdown was about Iraq. And Phase II of the intelligence investigation will move forward in a bipartisan way. But what this is about just as much as anything else is the nuclear option. With the nomination of Scalito yesterday, we've already heard rumblings of breaking the filibuster. Harry Reid showed that there is plenty an opposition party can do to ensure the rights of the minority in the consensus-building chamber of Congress. There's no chance Fristy and the GOP can pull off the nuclear option. They're tactically outgunned by Sen. Reid. He basically just said "You want a war? Here's a preview." That's hardball politics, friends. And you don't have to endanger national security and leak CIA agent's names to do it.


Not Over

It was bittersweet to be suddenly out of town the day indictments came down in the ongoing CIA Leak Investigation. Good because I didn't have to hear the mountainous thunder of spin from the punditocracy; bad because I wasn't able to weigh in right away. My first thought is that this is only the beginning. Scooter Libby is innocent until proven guilty, and his lawyer claims that he's mounting a "vigorous defense" of his client. That has to be the worst news the White House has heard in months. Just such a defense would force all sorts of officials to testify, from Ari Fleischer to David Addington to John Bolton to the Vice President himself. That's a lot of lids to keep covered, and a lot of opportunities for the press to continue digging. What did in Watergate were not indictments (though there were many), it was the reporting that finally roused the House of Representatives to investigate independently. In the hands of a grand jury all of this information about who knew what, when and where will remain sealed, as it ought to for a reasonable trial by jury. The House can throw some sunshine on the matter and put all the gory details up for public display. Fitzgerald has cautioned against it but these scandals typically roll downhill, and if the Dems retake the House in '06, you can bet that subpoena power they'll get will come in handy.

Second of all, I'm stunned that people seem to think this is over, and everyone should just move on to the next thing. Hardly. Patrick Fitzgerald, if we are to look at his record, is methodical and deliberate, and tends to indict in drips and drabs. In his case against the Illinois state government, Gov. George Ryan was the 66th person he indicted, after years and years, and it was achieved once he got someone to flip and testify against him. The notion that Karl Rove, or anybody in the White House, is out of the woods is ridiculous. Just because the investigation is nearing closure doesn't mean the indictments are. Hell, Rove's own lawyers and confidants know that to be true:

Rove remains a focus of the CIA leak probe. He has told friends it is possible he still will be indicted for providing false statements to the grand jury.

"Everyone thinks it is over for Karl and they are wrong," a source close to Rove said. The strategist's legal and political advisers "by no means think the part of the investigation concerning Karl is closed."

Cooper's attorney, Dick Sauber, said Fitzgerald certainly meant it when he told Luskin last week that Rove remains in legal jeopardy and under investigation. "It wouldn't surprise me knowing how careful he is and how much he doesn't want to be seen as trigger-happy, that he is going through each of those things [that Rove presented] and seeing if they can be verified or not," Sauber said.

"But no prosecutor wants to be embarrassed in court by something he didn't know. And no prosecutor, especially Pat Fitzgerald, wants to be seen as unfair -- especially in this kind of matter with so much at stake."

Rove is definitively named in the indictment as leaking information to Robert Novak. However, he is titled "Official A" in the relevant section. This has been confirmed as Rove, yet he's the only one in the entire indictment who isn't named explicitly. Why do you think that is? One can only speculate. What we do know is that the reference to Official A contradicts everything Rove has been saying about the affair since Day 1:

On or about July 10 or July 11, 2003, LIBBY spoke to a senior official in the White House ("Official A") who advised LIBBY of a conversation Official A had earlier that week with columnist Robert Novak in which Wilson's wife was discussed as a CIA employee involved in Wilson's trip. LIBBY was advised by Official A that Novak would be writing a story about Wilson's wife.

Rove has been saying he mentioned Plame as an afterthought, and he forgot to mention that he said it to Cooper because it wasn't material to their conversation. But this says definitively that "Novak would be writing about Wilson's wife." That's intent to injure right there. This bit about Rove is in an indictment about Libby for a reason. Fitzgerald appears to be setting the table to bring in additional information about the leak itself.

The notion that the Libby indictment is "only" perjury and obstruction of justice is ridiculous on its face. This has everything to do with the leak, since the perjury and obstruction are the only reason the leak couldn't be prosecuted. It's like saying "You're saying I lied to you about spilling milk on the carpet, therefore you're not busting me for spilling milk on the carpet." I mean please.

The point is that what we have here appears to be a cover-up of a smear that was intended to cover up a lie. That's a lot of layers to peel off to get back to the original lie. If there's a man able to do it, it's Patrick Fitzgerald. And he has all the time in the world to peel. This isn't over for a second.

UPDATE: Looks like Harry Reid is going for the jugular:

Democrats forced the Republican-controlled Senate into an unusual closed session Tuesday, questioning intelligence that President Bush used in the run-up to the war in Iraq and accusing Republicans of ignoring the issue.

"They have repeatedly chosen to protect the Republican administration rather than get to the bottom of what happened and why," Democratic leader Harry Reid said.

Taken by surprise, Republicans derided the move as a political stunt.

"The United States Senate has been hijacked by the Democratic leadership," said Majority Leader Bill Frist. "They have no convictions, they have no principles, they have no ideas," the Republican leader said.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Reid demanded the Senate go into closed session. The public was ordered out of the chamber, the lights were dimmed, and the doors were closed. No vote is required in such circumstances.

This is inextricably linked to the leak investigation. It's a window into the Big Lie about prewar intelligence. Frist and the GOP Senate Leadership can scream and cry all they want, but Reid is absolutely right. America has turned against the war and believed the White House lied its way into it without any help from the media or the government. We had to figure it out all on their own. Now Reid is demanding some action on behalf of the majority of the American people.

I'm glad he's singling our Pat Roberts, too. Roberts turned the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation on Iraq into a whitewash and a sideshow. It came out on Friday that Libby and Cheney withheld documents to that committee's investigation. You never heard a peep from Roberts about that.

Like I said, not over for a second.


Proposition'd to Death

There's a new Field Poll out on next week's special election in California. Arnold's initiatives are all polling behind, but the No votes are all in the 40s. In other words, it's going to come down to GOTV, especially given that this is an election that nobody wants, and turnout is bound to be low. This is made all the more important by the fact that it's basically the kickoff of Arnold Schwarzenegger's re-election campaign.

Because if he wins on any of these, he wins in 06. At least I'm going in with that thought process in mind. He'll be called "The Comeback Kid" by the political press, and his campaign will have momentum, and he'll ride it right through to next November. Already he's leaking reports of focusing on traditional progressive issues like education and health next year to win back moderates. A win next Tuesday will put the sheep's clothing over this wolf and give him the aura of being unbeatable. It is imperative that we GOTV and force this maroon to be exposed for the anti-worker Republican that he is.

I've given out capsule endorsements on a couple proposals in the past few weeks. I'm against the first 6 on the ballot, for the last 2 (albeit tepidly). However, I think this guy from the LA Times has it right: enough with the propositions already.

IF GOV. ARNOLD Schwarzenegger really wants to "blow up the boxes" in Sacramento, he should sponsor one two-line initiative:

"There shall be no further initiatives. All previous initiatives may be modified by a majority vote of the Legislature."

When asked after the Constitutional Convention in 1787 what kind of government the new American nation had adopted, Benjamin Franklin famously replied, "A republic, if you can keep it." In a republic, there is no monarch. More important, representatives elected by the people enact laws on their behalf.

Direct democracy is a noble idea. But the process has changed from a progressive attempt to overrule the powerful corporate (particularly railroad) interests controlling the legislatures, to a back-door attempt by corporate interests to overrule the legislature by tossing money at ballot measures designed to confuse an unwitting public. Direct democracy was reviled for decades by conservatives, who feared a tyranny of the majority. It was championed by progressives as a corrective to the legislature to be used sparingly. Here's how that turned out:

California voters generally acted according to this view. From 1912 to 1978, they passed 46 initiatives, about two every three years. Proposition 13 changed this pattern.

The 1978 proposition slashed property tax rates and limited increases on the assessment at the time of sale. It also transformed the state's political landscape in two other critical ways. Since 1933, California law had required a two-thirds supermajority in the Legislature to approve a budget. Proposition 13 applied the supermajority threshold to all tax increases. Thus a small, unified opposition party could paralyze the budget process and block efforts to raise revenues.

The success of Proposition 13 marked the beginning of a new trend. The initiative was no longer viewed as a means to correct the Legislature. Rather, it became an instrument to govern. Between 1982 and 1988, voters passed 22 measures. In the 1990s, they passed 24 more. In the 20 years since Proposition 13, Californians passed more initiatives than in the preceding 6 1/2 decades.

Many of these measures further limited the Legislature's ability to govern. Proposition 4, approved in 1979, imposed limits on the growth of state spending. Proposition 98, passed in 1988, mandated that 40% of the state's general fund be spent on public schools and community colleges.

We've propositioned ourselves into a corner in this state. The legislature pretty much can't do its job unless we're in some sort of boomtime economy. Both sides don't compromise because there's always an out of "bringing the issues to the people." I vote for state assemblymen and state senators because I want them to do the job. If I'm voting for everything, I don't understand what they do for a living.

A "No" vote is demanded on strictly that assumption.


Monday, October 31, 2005

More on Scalito

Somehow, there's this notion, pushed by Drudge and his willing co-conspirators on the right, that using the very word "Scalito" is offensive to Italian-Americans.

Please. The judge nominated for the Supreme Court's name is Alito. That's 5/7th of Scalito. The "Sc" is for his resemblance in judicial philosophy to Scalia. On what planet is that offensive?

What is offensive is this nomination itself. But I can't say that it's surprising. This White House is in complete turmoil. A top staffer and member of the inner circle has been indicted, the first indictment that high up the executive ladder in 150 years. Bush's initial choice for the Supreme Court was smacked around like a wet noodle, and eventually withdrawn. This has been the deadliest month in Iraq since January, and we're no closer to stability there. FEMA still can't get its shit together in Florida any more than it did in New Orleans. Approval ratings are at record lows.

The strategy has to be to nominate a radical conservative, and pick a fight. Matthew Yglesias proposed this about a week ago, though he got the judge's name wrong:

I don't know how many readers we have at the White House, but if George W. Bush wants to save his flagging presidency, he needs to do what he should have done in the first place and submit Michael McConnell's name to the Senate as associate justice of the Supreme Court. That will unleash just the dynamic the GOP needs. Liberal interest groups will throw a fit. Some Senate Democrats will issue shrill condemnations. Then they'll be stabbed in the back by prominent liberal law professors who respect the man's work. Republican senators will rally 'round and accuse his opponents of hating baby Jesus. He'll be confirmed by a comfortable margin, but Bush will still get a partisan fight. Jonah Goldberg will write a column mocking quota-loving liberals who think Bush should have picked a woman.

I'm waiting for the Jonah Goldberg column (wait, no I'm not). But essentially, that's what's happened. Bush has shown himself completely beholden to the most far-right portion of his base with this pick. But the idea is to distract and raise the noise level so that everything else, all the incompetence and cronyism and scandal, can be easily forgotten. The GOP base can't wait to raise the noise level and display their full-throated ascendancy. Of course, the White House is issuing blanket denials that Alito even believes what he believes. But we all know what we'll find in Samuel Alito's America:

ALITO WOULD OVERTURN ROE V. WADE: In his dissenting opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Alito concurred with the majority in supporting the restrictive abortion-related measures passed by the Pennsylvania legislature in the late 1980’s. Alito went further, however, saying the majority was wrong to strike down a requirement that women notify their spouses before having an abortion. The Supreme Court later rejected Alito’s view, voting to reaffirm Roe v. Wade. [Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 1991]

ALITO WOULD ALLOW RACE-BASED DISCRIMINATION: Alito dissented from a decision in favor of a Marriott Hotel manager who said she had been discriminated against on the basis of race. The majority explained that Alito would have protected racist employers by “immuniz[ing] an employer from the reach of Title VII if the employer’s belief that it had selected the ‘best’ candidate was the result of conscious racial bias.” [Bray v. Marriott Hotels, 1997]

ALITO WOULD ALLOW DISABILITY-BASED DISCRIMINATION: In Nathanson v. Medical College of Pennsylvania, the majority said the standard for proving disability-based discrimination articulated in Alito’s dissent was so restrictive that “few if any…cases would survive summary judgment.” [Nathanson v. Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1991]

ALITO WOULD STRIKE DOWN THE FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE ACT: The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) “guarantees most workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a loved one.” The 2003 Supreme Court ruling upholding FMLA [Nevada v. Hibbs, 2003] essentially reversed a 2000 decision by Alito which found that Congress exceeded its power in passing the law. [Chittister v. Department of Community and Economic Development, 2000]

ALITO SUPPORTS UNAUTHORIZED STRIP SEARCHES: In Doe v. Groody, Alito agued that police officers had not violated constitutional rights when they strip searched a mother and her ten-year-old daughter while carrying out a search warrant that authorized only the search of a man and his home. [Doe v. Groody, 2004]

ALITO HOSTILE TOWARD IMMIGRANTS: In two cases involving the deportation of immigrants, the majority twice noted Alito’s disregard of settled law. In Dia v. Ashcroft, the majority opinion states that Alito’s dissent “guts the statutory standard” and “ignores our precedent.” In Ki Se Lee v. Ashcroft, the majority stated Alito’s opinion contradicted “well-recognized rules of statutory construction.” [Dia v. Ashcroft, 2003; Ki Se Lee v. Ashcroft, 2004]

The White House responds to this with "You're misrepresenting the record!" The conservative base responds to this with "Damn right, and what are you going to do about it?" That's a dichotomy that will have to be understood in the coming weeks.

Those that are leaping to Alito's aid are making one big mistake. The conventional wisdom now is that conservatives nominate judges who are "restrained," whereas liberals favor "judicial activists." Which would be fine if it weren't completely false:

Here is the question we asked: How often has each justice voted to strike down a law passed by Congress?

Declaring an act of Congress unconstitutional is the boldest thing a judge can do. That's because Congress, as an elected legislative body representing the entire nation, makes decisions that can be presumed to possess a high degree of democratic legitimacy. In an 1867 decision, the Supreme Court itself described striking down Congressional legislation as an act "of great delicacy, and only to be performed where the repugnancy is clear." [...]

We found that justices vary widely in their inclination to strike down Congressional laws. Justice Clarence Thomas, appointed by President George H.W. Bush, was the most inclined, voting to invalidate 65.63 percent of those laws; Justice Stephen Breyer, appointed by President Bill Clinton, was the least, voting to invalidate 28.13 percent. The tally for all the justices appears below.

One conclusion our data suggests is that those justices often considered more "liberal" -- Justices Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and John Paul Stevens -- vote least frequently to overturn Congressional statutes, while those often labeled "conservative" vote more frequently to do so. At least by this measure (others are possible, of course), the latter group is the most activist [...]

Thomas: 65.63%
Kennedy: 64.06%
Scalia: 56.25%
Rehnquist: 46.88%
O'Connor: 46.77%
Souter: 42.19%
Stevens: 39.34%
Ginsburg: 39.06%
Breyer: 28.13%

There's a lot of record-scanning and document-reading left to go in this nomination, but it appears to me that Judge Alito is TOO activist to occupy a position on the nation's highest court. This is the nuclear fight that the Republicans have wanted since November 3, 2004. It's especially perfect right now to change the subject from the White House's other troubles. But Democrats are able to oppose Alito while continuing to highlight the scandals and ethical failings of this Administration, along with their plans for the future. This should be a busy rest of the year.



Fairbanks was very cold. Interesting trip, however. I saw rampant civil libertarianism everywhere (like when we walked into a random bar and were treated to a live burlesque show as raunchy as anything you'd see in New York City). Alaska is famous for asking the government to stay out of their personal business.

Speaking of which, welcome to the days of Scalito. I'll be addressing this in the days to come.