Saturday Mashup (10/27/12)

October 28, 2012
  • As we all await “Frankenstorm,” I think it’s important to recall the fact that, as Atrios sez here, our weather satellite capabilities are in a bit of disrepair.

    One root cause? Well, as noted here

    The Obama Administration included a sizeable increase for NOAA to get started on JPSS in the FY2011 budget. Unfortunately, that request was swept up in congressional turmoil as Republicans regained control of the House. Decisions on the FY2011 budget were delayed until half way through that fiscal year and many programs — including JPSS — were held to their previous year’s level. Since the FY2010 level reflected the NPOESS program where NOAA and DOD were sharing the costs, it was less than half of what NOAA needed for JPSS.

    The program fared better in FY2012, receiving $924 million of the $1.07 billion requested, but the damage was done. NOAA is concerned that there is very likely to be a “data gap” when existing satellites expire before the first JPSS is launched. Kathy Sullivan, Deputy Administrator of NOAA, said yesterday that there may still be a data gap even if Congress agrees to the funding level for JPSS included in the FY2013 request.

    Take a bow, Teahadists.

  • Also, it looks like the long Italian arm of the law has finally caught up with former Prime Minister “Uh-Oh” Silvio Berlusconi, as noted here

    (Berlusconi) has been handed a jail sentence and barred from office after being found guilty of tax fraud.

    The Milan court sentenced him to four years but later cut it to one year because of an amnesty law.

    Mr Berlusconi condemned the sentence as “intolerable judicial harassment”. He will remain free pending appeals.

    There was a time when I kept a close watch on Berlusconi because I thought, to use a trite phrase from our “dead tree” media, he made “good copy.”

    Here, Berlusconi sought immunity from prosecution while in office (Italy’s constitutional court repealed it). Here, he once compared himself to Jesus, made headlines with a “fishy” entrepreneur (keeping in mind that, in Europe generally, male politicians are looked upon favorably if they engage in multiple romantic liaisons – don’t know if that’s changing or not), and pledged not to have sex until after an election (and Berlusconi took a “page,” more or less, out of former Bushco Attorney General John Ashcroft here).

    Berlusconi also claimed here that those who lost their homes in the tragic Abruzzo earthquake should consider their time in aid camps “a weekend of camping.”

    And as I always say, you can always tell something about someone by their choice of friends (here).

  • Continuing, this tells us the following…

    In an unusual cascade of events Thursday, three state legislators who sponsored a bill that would limit welfare benefits to women who became pregnant from rape but failed to alert authorities and name their attacker removed their names from the bill.

    The primary sponsor of the bill, State Rep. RoseMarie Swanger (R., Lebanon), defended the bill early in the day, only to repudiate portions of it within three hours.

    The bill attempted to put a “family cap” and, as a result, “withhold extra money to welfare recipients who gave birth while receiving cash assistance known as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or TANF” (such caps were passed in 23 states in the ‘90s, including New Jersey, as the Inquirer tells us).

    Continuing with the story…

    One part of Swanger’s proposal would exclude from the cap any woman who gave birth to a child as the result of rape or incest.

    But to qualify for that exclusion, the woman must prove she reported the crime and identified her attacker, if he was known to her.

    That provision is a deviation from most cap bills.

    “A rape victim won’t get a benefit if she doesn’t report the rape,” Swanger said early Thursday afternoon, defending the bill. “Isn’t that reasonable? Why wouldn’t you report rape?

    But about three hours later, after The Inquirer had interviewed several people about the legislation, Swanger called the newspaper to say the bill would not go forward as written.

    “The rape part is not what I requested,” Swanger said.

    She went on to say that she had asked the House research staff to help draft the proposal, and to base her bill on existing New Jersey legislation.

    Um…it sound to me like an actual grownup in her party (which one, I wonder?) got to Swanger and told her that the attempt at excluding welfare recipients from the cap this way was an incredibly, horribly, bad idea (the Inquirer story by Alfred Lubrano also tells us the following)…

    Experts on rape said that the bill’s authors don’t understand the nature of sexual assault. Most women don’t report being attacked, and are often victimized by partners or husbands, making them loath to tell authorities.

    By trying to create a cap, Pennsylvania is actually bucking trends, according to Rochelle Finzel, program director at the National Conference of State Legislatures, a bipartisan group that assists legislators.

    By the way, it should be noted that this is hardly the first moment of nuttiness from Swanger. Here, she tried to ban Sharia law from being enacted in Pa, which, last I checked, has no chance of being enacted anywhere in this country. Swanger also sponsored English-only legislation here, and here, she was one of 37 (!) state representatives who introduced legislation to make 2012 the “Year of the Bible” (and I suppose they planned to make 2013 the “Year of the Koran” as well?).

    Also, the Inquirer notes that Teahadist “Janet” Stefano (I think they’re referring to Jennifer) has latched onto this issue in much the same way a leech attaches itself to a human host and creates scar tissue (and you can thank Stefano for helping “Mikey the Beloved” Fitzpatrick to lurch ever further into wingnuttia also, as noted here – fourth bullet).

  • Next, I give you something truly shocking (or at least they think so) from The Daily Tucker here (still in need of a copy editor, apparently)…

    In a 1999 legislative vote, then-Illinois State Senator Barack Obama was the sole state senator to not vote for for (sic) a bill that would protect sexual assault victims from having the details of their cases revealed publicly.

    On May 11 of that year, Obama voted “present” on a bill, ultimately made law, that allows victims of sex crimes to request that their cases be sealed from public view following a criminal conviction. Illinois Senate voting records show that Obama was the only senator who did not vote in favor of the bill.

    Obama’s unique objection to voting for a bill meant to protect victims of sex crimes is a substantial departure from the picture he has attempted to paint for women voters.

    (And once again, The Daily Tucker completely obliterates the line between “hard news” and “opinion.”)

    Actually, it isn’t a “unique objection” and “a substantial departure” at all; as noted here from four years ago…

    In a January 22 “Analysis” article about the previous night’s Democratic presidential debate, the Associated Press purported to provide Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-IL) response to criticism over the number of “present” votes he took in the Illinois legislature, but left out a part of his answer in which he responded to a specific point in the AP article. The AP quoted Obama saying: “[O]n issue after issue that is important to the American people, I haven’t simply followed, I have led.” But the AP did not note that Obama also responded specifically to the issue of his “present” vote on a particular bill that the AP mentioned having to do with sexual abuse. The AP omitted the part of the exchange in which Obama said, “I actually sponsored the bill” on sexual abuse, but that “after I had sponsored it and helped to get it passed, it turned out that there was a legal provision in it that was problematic and needed to be fixed so that it wouldn’t be struck down.”

    So Obama voted “present” to keep the bill alive so it could be fixed later (as opposed to throwing a hissy fit over something he found objectionable like most politicians do and killing the bill outright).

    Lather, rinse, repeat (sigh)…

  • Finally (and speaking of Number 44), Kathleen Parker of the WaPo performs some rather typical corporate media jujitsu here, blaming President Obama for responding to crap initiated by his opposition political party…

    It is no accident that the war of competing economic theories has devolved into the same old culture war, beginning with the debate about the contraception mandate under the Affordable Care Act.

    Oh yes, the “debate” over the so-called contraception mandate, begun in part by PA U.S. House Rep Mike Kelly, who compared it to 9/11 and Pearl Harbor here (not President Obama, but Republican U.S. House Rep Mike Kelly).


    Ever since, the Obama campaign has strategically tried to push the Republican Party and Mitt Romney into a corner by advancing the war-on-women narrative.

    That Obama has had ample help from certain outspoken players (Missouri and Indiana Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, respectively, to name the most notorious) has only made Romney’s challenges greater. But the war against women has always been a red herring.

    Random comments by a couple of outliers provided wind for Obama’s sails.

    “A couple of outliers”? Seriously (including RoseMarie Swanger, as noted earlier)?

    This from Think Progress tells us that at least 9 Republican politicians have banned abortions for victims of rape or incest, in true Mourdock-ian fashion. Even more than that, this tells us that the ban is part of the Republican 2012 campaign platform!

    What exactly was that Pulitzer for again?

  • A “Wowie” Of An AP Gaffe on Moussaoui

    November 18, 2009

    Sarah Palin’s expert fact-checking service gives us a real doozy today (here)…

    ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Zacarias Moussaoui was a clown who could not keep his mouth shut, according to his old al-Qaida boss, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. But Moussaoui was surprisingly tame when tried for the 9/11 attacks — never turning the courtroom into the circus of anti-U.S. tirades that some fear Mohammed will create at his trial in New York.

    And that wasn’t the only surprise during Moussaoui’s six-week 2006 sentencing trial here — a proceeding that might foreshadow how the upcoming 9/11 trial in New York will go.

    Really? This tells us the following (from the conclusion of Moussaoui’s trial in May 2006)…

    The twelve anonymous jurors who sentenced Zacarias Moussaoui to life in prison Wednesday showed that it is possible to reconcile prosecution of terror with the rule of law. Three of the jurors went to the trouble of writing into their report that Moussaoui, despite his fealty to Al Qaeda, had but “limited knowledge” of the September 11 conspiracy. Nine of them agreed that the extraordinary violence of his childhood weighed against a death sentence. Ordinary citizens, in the shadow of a unique and heinous crime, were still capable of telling the difference between justice and blood vengeance.

    For defense lawyers Moussaoui was the client from hell, for four years alternatively denouncing the court and his legal team and demanding his own execution. Yet even Moussaoui’s raving could not disguise the fundamental flaw of the government’s execution demand, which defense lawyers emphasized so tirelessly even against the wishes of their megalomanic client: Whatever his malignant intent, Moussaoui was in jail on 9/11, and even before that was peripheral to the plot.

    Some jurors clearly understood that the Ashcroft-Gonzales Justice Department’s decision to press for the death penalty against Moussaoui turned a legitimate criminal prosecution into a show trial. Five years and tens of million dollars in prosecution costs were exhausted to make sure that someone would get the needle for September 11– never mind if he was only marginally culpable.

    On one level, the Moussaoui trial has been so exceptional in every way that it would be misleading to read into it too many broader implications. Yet if you strip away the extraordinary circumstances represented by 9/11 and the extraordinary challenge represented by Moussaoui himself, there was much in this trial in common with standard capital trials: an emotional but factually sloppy case for execution; a volatile defendant with a family history of mental illness and extreme violence; survivor families divided by the prospect of a death sentence.

    And commenting on the events preceding the trial, Dahlia Lithwick of Slate told us the following in March 2003 (before Iraq War II started – hard to remember such a time existed, but it did)…

    The Moussaoui trial, a shambles almost from the first bang of the gavel, is on indefinite hold, postponed for the third time now, pending a Justice Department appeal of a ruling by the trial judge. Part of the problem is that in the year and a half since the war on terror began, the Bush administration has been unable to determine how it wants to treat captured terrorists. Legal analysts have struggled to discern a pattern in the government’s inconsistent treatment of suspects, and finally one has begun to emerge: The truly dangerous criminal masterminds are interrogated indefinitely, the insignificant bumblers are tried as dangerous criminal masterminds, and the rest are left to rot in military jails. It’s an interesting approach, but one can hardly call it justice.

    And as ABC News told us here in 2007…

    An apparent breakdown in communication at the CIA caused its analysts to submit inaccurate declarations in the case against convicted al Qaeda terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, keeping taped interviews with enemy combatants from being reviewed in the case.

    That admission came in the form of a highly redacted letter, classified Top Secret, sent from the federal prosecutors to the trial and appeals judges on the case.

    The prosecutors noted that a CIA attorney informed them in September that the agency found one tape pertaining to the case, and after the prosecutors requested a more extensive review, the CIA found an additional video tape and one audio tape.

    “The fact that audio/video recording of enemy combatant interrogations occurred, and that the United States was in possession of three of those recordings is, as noted, inconsistent with factual assertions in CIA declarations,” the letter noted.

    The CIA had submitted declarations from 2003 to the court, stating that no recordings of interrogations existed. “The existence of the video tape however is at odds with statements in two CIA declarations submitted in this case,” the letter states.

    Still, though, a trial in Federal court is the way to go against KSM and the other defendants; as Jonathan Alter of Newsweek noted here on Monday, “this will bring a faster conviction than in the military tribunals because the tribunals are uncharted waters. There’s much more room for appeal. Remember, after tribunal, there’s an appeal up to the Supreme Court and those appeals will take longer than the appeals in this case.”

    And as Alter also told us, if Rudy 9iu11ani were still a prosecutor instead of a politician, he would be chomping at the proverbial bit to try the suspects in question instead of fear-mongering about why they should be locked up forever without having their day in court (and does it really need to be pointed out that NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg supports having the trials in NYC?).

    So all that remains is for our intelligence services and our system of justice to work in concert and bring convictions against the alleged 9/11 plotters. And since we now have grownups in charge who are interested in recognizing the rule of law here, as opposed to incompetent grandstanders interested only in political outcomes, I feel much better about our prospects.

    Update 11/19/09: In response to this, I have a question for Rudy! – how do you feel about using the words “stupid” and “demagogue” in the same sentence, then?

    Some “Stugots” By The Murdoch Street Journal On Corzine (updates)

    July 28, 2009

    corzine_smI have to tell you that William McGurn’s editorial rant today about the New Jersey governor’s campaign conjures up some odious ethnic stereotyping, so be prepared; God forbid that you criticize the rich as far as Rupert and his minions are concerned, though, lest you engage in “class warfare.”

    And the timing of such propaganda definitely favors McGurn, given the recent revelations here about the 44 individuals swept up in a corruption probe centered in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Deal, N.J. (how apropos); and Israel (they include three mayors, two state lawmakers and several rabbis…and apparently, a whole bunch of black market kidneys hawking $160G apiece – Gail Collins of the New York Times had an uproarious column about this last Saturday…and yes, I know it really isn’t funny).

    Here is some of what McGurn said ostensibly about New Jersey (in a column written in Rome, thus giving him an excuse to compare the “Garden State” machinations to that which currently embroil Italian Prime Minister “Uh Oh” Silvio Berlusconi…note: I used to track the “ups and downs” of Italy’s most famous – and probably most notorious – politician, but my time grew short and his excesses grew too large, so I gave up).

    Much depends on (Corzine’s Repug Gubernatorial challenger Chris) Christie. As a U.S. Attorney, Mr. Christie put scores of dirty New Jersey officials behind bars. And his lead in the polls—one of them puts it at 12 points—is bound to widen with the indictment of so many officials from his opponent’s political party in an investigation he initiated.

    Really? Christie supposedly got this ball rolling, as they say? Well then, he should have been featured prominently in the MSNBC story (if you search for his name in the story, though, you’ll find Christie isn’t featured – or even mentioned – at all).

    And by the way, as noted here, the Christie Campaign a Christie ally is facing bribery allegations; we also learn the following…

    You may recall that the corpulent Christie recently hit some head winds with revelations of his authorizing tracking people through their cell phones without first obtaining a warrant when he was district attorney (as the ACLU charges), the $50 million no-bid contract he gave to John Ashcroft (John Ashcroft was the U.S. Attorney General in 2003 when the decision not to prosecute Chris Christie’s brother Todd Christie for insider trading was made, though everyone else in the scandal was prosecuted), and the no bid contract he gave to David Kelley, also on the Todd Christie case.

    And that doesn’t even mention Christie’s treatment of Essex County executive James Treffinger, a popular Republican who spent more than six hours in handcuffs and leg shackles allegedly because he made a comment about Christie’s “hulking frame,” as noted here.

    Back to McGurn…

    But even harder than winning an election will be transforming the New Jersey political culture. If he is to succeed as governor, (Christie) will need to use the remaining time in the campaign to build public support for a radical reform agenda. Primarily this requires bringing home to Garden State voters something he does not yet seem to recognize himself: the link between his program to fight corruption and his program to revive the state’s economy.

    And we all know the reason, don’t we, according to McGurn (wait for it)…

    That link has to do with reducing Big Government. Big Government is why New Jersey created only 6,800 private sector jobs from 2000 to 2007—while public sector jobs grew by more than 55,800. Big Government is the reason New Jersey ranks as the worst of 50 states on the Small Business Survival Index. And Big Government is a leading reason New Jersey has a “corruption problem” that an FBI agent at Friday’s press conference characterized as “one of the worst, if not the worst, in the nation.”

    See, as far as McGurn is concerned, Big Government = Fewer Private Sector Jobs = More Crime. Got that?

    However, I think the following should be considered (from here)…

    Adjusted for population, New Jersey’s in the middle of the pack (in terms of private sector job losses). Twenty-six states have had larger declines in private-sector employment than New Jersey’s 3.82% drop over the last 15 months. Twenty-three states and Washington, D.C., are faring better, including three – Alaska, North Dakota, D.C., Wyoming and Louisiana — that have added jobs in that time.

    Since the Democrats took control of the New Jersey governor’s office in 2002 (including the tenures of Jim McGreevey and Dick Codey), the state is down 86,900 private-sector jobs. Only three states have lost more. Six states have had bigger declines than the state’s 2.56% drop since January ‘02.

    Actually, at this point, I very reluctantly have to give McGurn a bit of a nod here, particularly since the bottom line is that only eight states have lost more private sector jobs than New Jersey because the line about only six states losing more private sector jobs is telling indeed.

    I try to avoid posting on the Garden State since it has its own – how shall I put it – peculiar political environment, and what inevitably happens is that voters, probably out of abject disgust more than any other reason, “return to the fold” and vote Democratic come election time.

    However, that is entirely problematic this time around (particularly with Christie leading Corzine here by 12 points, as noted here; again, I have to “give the devil his due” and point out that McGurn is right on that number). Also, Corzine recently signed a stimulus bill of sorts for New Jersey which, as noted here, is opposed by New Jersey Policy Perspective, a Trenton-based liberal think tank, and the Sierra Club of New Jersey (if you’re a Dem seeking re-election, those definitely are NOT groups that you want opposing you instead of supporting you).

    In short, there are legitimate reasons to criticize the job performance of Governor Jon Corzine (who, like all governors, has to deal with the worst economic climate this country has seen in about 70 years – Dubya’s “gift that keeps on giving”…and by the way, I admire the hell out of him for this). However, you’d have to be a real “mook” to blame it solely on some stereotypical, and rather cartoonish, criminal (in all likelihood) behavior.

    Update 8/12/09: Hmmm, Christie and Turd Blossom, huh?

    Update 8/18/09: Christie’s bad week continues.

    Update 8/19/09: Somehow I don’t quite think “oops” covers this on Christie.

    Update 8/22/09: Is it just me, or is Christie’s whole “law and order” facade starting to crumble (here)?

    Update 8/24/09: Is the Christie juggernaut “off the rails” (here)?

    Update 9/5/09: Christie is nothing but a bully and a thug (here – h/t The Daily Kos).

    Update 9/6/09: It’s getting harder to keep up with all of the Christie revelations (here and here…this guy shouldn’t be running for dog catcher, let alone governor of New Jersey).

    Update 9/12/09: And it sounds like Christie’s running mate has a case of foot-in-mouth disease herself (here).

    Update 9/24/09: Not an appearance of wrongdoing by Christie on this, but interesting anyway,

    Burying Bushco’s Brand Of “Civil Rights”

    January 23, 2009

    thernstromA week ago, an Op-Ed column appeared in the New York Times by Mary Frances Berry, the chairwoman of the Commission on Civil Rights from 1993 to 2004, in which she made the following observation…

    The Commission on Civil Rights has been crippled since the Reagan years by the appointments of commissioners who see themselves as agents of the presidential administration rather than as independent watchdogs. The creation of a new, independent human and civil rights commission could help us determine our next steps in the pursuit of freedom and justice in our society. A number of explosive issues like immigration reform await such a commission, but recommendations for resolving the controversies over the rights of gays, lesbians and transgendered people should be its first order of business.

    I thought that was interesting because I haven’t read too many African American leaders speaking of the struggles of LGBT individuals in terms similar to the struggles they faced themselves, and still do today.

    Well, in response (and inadvertently validating Berry’s claim, I think), we have this letter from two members of the current commission, in full-on umbrage mode I should add; it appeared in the Times today…

    In “Gay but Equal?” (Op-Ed, Jan. 16), Mary Frances Berry argues that the United States Commission on Civil Rights should be abolished and replaced with “a new commission” addressing “the rights of many groups, including gays.”

    Ms. Berry’s concern is not with the commission’s lack of jurisdiction over sexual orientation issues, which could be remedied by statutory amendment. Rather, her grievance is that the commission has a conservative majority and will retain that majority until 2010, when President Obama is scheduled to make his first appointments.

    During Ms. Berry’s tumultuous tenure as commission chairwoman, the Government Accountability Office called it “an agency in disarray,” which lacked “basic management controls.”

    In contrast, today it has received three consecutive clean audits, substantially increased the quality and integrity of its reports and has been taken seriously again as an independent civil rights watchdog.

    We trust that President Obama will not look to Ms. Berry for advice on the commission.

    (Berry’s original column is linked from the Times letter today, I should note.), but I didn’t read in Berry’s original column the words “crippled since the Reagan years, though everything was cool when I was in charge during Clinton’s administration and Bush’s first term.” Methinks the authors of the Times’ letter today, Abigail Thernstrom (pic above right) and Gail Heriot (left) doth protest too much (and attacking Berry for her term, aside from being mean spirited – particularly when Berry didn’t mention Thernstrom or Heriot by name in her original column – is hardly the point).

    So as you might expect, this made me curious to learn more about Thernstrom and Heriot and their roles in Dubya’s Commission on Civil Rights, and as former Boston Globe (and current New York Times) reporter Charlie Savage told us here in July 2006 (Savage has been following the doings at Dubya’s CCR for awhile now)…

    …documents show(ed) that only 42 percent of the lawyers hired since 2003 (for the CCR), after the administration changed the rules to give political appointees more influence in the hiring process, have civil rights experience. In the two years before the change, 77 percent of those who were hired had civil rights backgrounds.

    In an acknowledgment of the department’s special need to be politically neutral, hiring for career jobs in the Civil Rights Division under all recent administrations, Democratic and Republican, had been handled by civil servants — not political appointees.

    But in the fall of 2002, then-attorney general John Ashcroft changed the procedures. The Civil Rights Division disbanded the hiring committees made up of veteran career lawyers.

    For decades, such committees had screened thousands of resumes, interviewed candidates, and made recommendations that were only rarely rejected.

    Now, hiring is closely overseen by Bush administration political appointees to Justice, effectively turning hundreds of career jobs into politically appointed positions.

    And when discussing Bushco acolytes in high government positions where they had no business whatsoever, particularly here, the name of Hans von Spakovsky comes to mind, kind of the same way a case of acid reflux attacks you at an unsuspecting moment; as TPM Muckracker’s Kate Klonick tells us here…

    …(von Spakovsky), (t)he former Justice Department official whose nomination to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) was thwarted when Democrats objected to his long record of support for restrictions on voting rights, has been hired as a “consultant and temporary full-time employee” at the ostensibly bi-partisan U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR).

    And in today’s Times letter, Thernstrom and Heriot tell us that the USCCR is being run oh so much more efficiently now than it was under Berry’s tenure, right?

    Well, as Klonick tells us…

    So where is the money (for von Spakovsky’s $125 K salary) coming from? Well it turns out that USCCR is about $400,000 (pdf) under budget, and something had to be done with all that money before December (’08). Although according to a federal source, the agency has other pressing needs — understaffing and out-of-date technology — the commissioners decided instead to spend at least part of that money on four temporary staff assistants.

    And concerning Thernstrom, this Sourcewatch article tells us that she wrote a book highly critical of affirmative action in 1987, vigorously challenged allegations of systematic bias against minorities in the 2000 Florida presidential election, and has called for all Democrats to be removed outright from the board of the USCCR.

    Sourcewatch also tells us that…

    Thernstrom first attracted the attention of conservatives with a thundering denunciation of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in Public Interest magazine in 1978. She “distinguished herself with her hostility toward any method of promoting black and minority representation”. [7]

    And as of last August when Klonick of TPM wrote her story about von Spakovsky, of the eight commissioners on the Civil Rights Commission CCR, it should be noted that only two were Democrats.

    How did that happen, I hear you ask? Well, for more information, we should turn to Gail Heriot, Thernstrom’s fellow CCR member. As Savage tells Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! here…

    (Heriot is) a law professor in San Diego, very conservative, a member of the Federalist Society, (who) had been a delegate to the 2000 Republican Convention and had applied to join the state panel in California, state advisory panel for the US Civil Rights Commission, calling herself a Republican in 2006. But shortly after that, in August of ‘06, she reregistered as an independent, and six months later Senate Republicans installed her as an independent, because there were still four Republicans officially on the panel, as a fifth conservative. She’s still there now. She was just reappointed to a new six-year term yesterday as an independent. She said she just has some policy differences with the Republican Party. I asked her to name one, and she declined.

    So a Repug changing their party affiliation to “independent” is a nice way for them to stack the commission with like-minded right-wing ideologues, huh?

    Well, at least Thernstrom or Heriot didn’t refer to Berry as “black and bitter,” as John Tanner, former chief of the CCR, did (noted here, with Tanner apologizing profusely after he was caught saying that in an Email – idiot).

    To conclude, I should note again that the authors of today’s letter state that “they trust that Obama will not look to Ms. Berry for advice on the commission.”

    I don’t know about that. But I can guarantee you that he won’t look to Thernstrom or Heriot for “advice” either.

    Of Mice And Men (And Soda Bottles)

    December 12, 2008

    ladyjustice1This New York Times story from yesterday tells us about Javaid Iqbal, a Muslim man from Pakistan who used to be a cable television installer on Long Island, who…

    …was among thousands of Muslim men rounded up after the Sept. 11 attacks. Some of them were considered to be “of high interest,” and they were held in a special housing unit of the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.

    While there, Mr. Iqbal said, he was subjected to daily body-cavity searches, beatings and extreme temperatures. He said he was kept in solitary confinement with the lights in his cell constantly on, that he was called a terrorist and a “Muslim killer,” and that he lost 40 pounds during six months in the special unit.

    He eventually pleaded guilty to identity fraud and was deported to Pakistan.

    As a result, he sued former Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller on the grounds that they “implemented the policies that led to the abuse and condoned it,” and the case is now being argued in front of The Supremes (with the predictable denials from Ashcroft and Mueller)…

    The two officials say that they are immune from suit, a contention rejected by the federal appeals court in Manhattan last year, at least at the most preliminary stage of the case. In the Supreme Court, the officials argued that Mr. Iqbal’s assertions that they were responsible for any abuses he suffered were speculative and lacked supporting factual allegations.

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested that a 2003 report from the Justice Department’s inspector general may “lend some plausibility” to Mr. Iqbal’s claims. The report found serious abuses by the (detention center’s) personnel.

    (Solicitor General Gregory G. Garre, representing Ashcroft and Mueller) urged the justices to ignore the report, saying it was outside the scope of the litigation. But he said the report had made findings helpful to his clients’ contention that their own actions, at least, were lawful.

    So…ignore the bad stuff in the report, but remember the good stuff that helps my clients, huh? Typical Bushco…

    But not to worry – this is the high court of Hangin’ Judge J.R., let’s not forget (we hear from Justice Breyer first, though)…

    Justice Stephen G. Breyer asked a hypothetical question: would a plaintiff be allowed to pursue a lawsuit against the president of Coca-Cola on the bare accusation that the president had personally put mice in soda bottles?

    Uhh….come again?

    Other justices engaged the question, considering whether such a lawsuit would be subject to sanctions on the grounds that it was frivolous and whether the company’s president would have to submit to questioning under oath at a deposition.

    “How are we supposed to judge whether we think it’s more unlikely that the president of Coca-Cola would take certain actions,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asked Mr. Iqbal’s lawyer, Alexander A. Reinert, “as opposed to the attorney general of the United States?”


    I don’t recall that the president of Coca-Cola has ever authorized “extraordinary rendition” or full body cavity searches of his competitors and then depositing them in a holding cell before they were eventually flown halfway around the world for God knows what kind of treatment.

    And apparently, the fog spread elsewhere in the court…

    Justice John Paul Stevens suggested that he was uneasy about lightly letting claims against high officials proceed, mentioning his majority opinion in Clinton v. Jones, the 1997 decision that allowed Paula Jones’s sexual harassment case against President Bill Clinton to go forward. A prediction in that decision about the burden the suit would place on the president — “it appears to us highly unlikely to occupy any substantial amount of petitioner’s time” — turned out to be incorrect.

    Ugh…so Stevens thinks that siding with the appeals court would entail “occupy(ing) (a) substantial amount of (Ashcroft and Mueller’s) time,” and that is the issue at hand, as opposed what could possibly represent a violation of Javaid Iqbal’s rights?

    Excuse me, but I hardly see the equivalency, particularly when you have stories such as this where the FBI has settled with a Muslim man accused in an attack in Spain to the tune of $2 million, and a German national sued the CIA for rendition and torture here (unpleasantly surprised that I have to point this out to someone like Stevens).

    Actually, I think Ashcroft and Mueller could help move this case to some kind of settlement (as opposed to the cost of arguing before the high court) and thus save valuable tax dollars if they made a simple gesture (particularly given the fact that the defendant’s name is apparently a common one, hence this mixup).

    How about an apology for starters?

    Tuning Into America

    December 1, 2008

    I thought this was an interesting New York Times article, which basically tells us that, while the image of this country abroad has suffered mightily under President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History, it seems that the rest of the world just can’t get enough of what gets churned out by the entertainment biz in the U.S., regardless of who’s in charge.

    And I thought this excerpt was kind of funny, though perhaps inappropriately so…

    Hilary Rosen, the former chairwoman of the Recording Industry Association of America, who was also present at the post-9/11 meetings, said that (Karl) Rove and other White House officials were looking for the kind of support Hollywood gave the United States during World War II.

    “They wanted the music industry, the movie industry, the TV industry to produce propaganda,” she said. “Rove was putting a lot of pressure on us.”

    I say “inappropriately” because of what had happened prior to that, of course, but when you realize how much of our corporate media (the Beltway “chattering classes” in particular) were totally “in the tank” for our ruling cabal of crooks, to the point where they were nothing but ciphers for Rove and company anyway…yeah, it’s kind of laughable (also considering how much conservatives routinely demonize Hollywood as some sort of hot bed of liberal subversion – oh, and by the way, I wonder if “An American Carol” is out on DVD yet? Any shot at turning a profit?).

    Well, the answer seems plainly obvious, even to a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger such as yours truly; we need to turn our political-media culture (such as it is) into entertainment (aside from the low farce that it often is anyway, I mean).

    And here are some ideas…

    “GOP Survivor: Washington, D.C.” – Freshmen Republican U.S. House members gather at a “watering hole” in nearby Georgetown to plot, form alliances, and generally belittle each other in private interviews prior to participating in a series of competitions, with the winner to be awarded the position of House Minority Leader. Contestants must compete to see who can stand on perches mounted inside the Capitol rotunda for the longest period of time, conduct the longest interview on C-SPAN without a “bio break,” and see who can come up with the biggest list of pejorative words to describe the Democratic Party opposition (spoiler alert; no one wins because, at the end, the current minority leader, John Boehner, refuses to give up his position).

    (Update 12/3/08: Just for the record, I messed up some things in that prior writeup that I fixed a few minutes ago.)

    “The Harry And Mitch Variety Hour” – This week’s show features comedian Rush Limbaugh introducing a home video he made after popping too many OxyContin pills before flying down to Puerto Rico looking for hookers. Future episodes will include the song stylings of former Attorney General John “Lost An Election To A Dead Guy” Ashcroft, a re-enactment of his misadventure in the Minneapolis, MN airport men’s room with Larry Craig, and a film tribute of President-Almost-Gone George W. Bush and his most memorable malaprops. And as always, the show closes with the theme song “No, Harry,” describing all the ways Harry bargains, cajoles and occasionally sells his soul to pass legislation in the Senate, only to have Mitch defeat it in the end. Brought to you by Geritol.

    “Barack!” – The creators of “CSI” bring us this cutting-edge drama starring the first African-American President of the United States, meeting with key Cabinet secretaries in the morning, flying out on Air Force One to resolve an international terrorist crisis – sometimes while brandishing an assault rifle or shoulder-fired rocket launcher – in the afternoon, and returning to our nation’s capital to resolve a family conflict in the evening (the “blaxploitation” genre lives again, with a healthy dose of the Huxtables and a dash of “The ‘A’ Team”).

    And in this week’s episode, the Speaker of the House comes down with a case of “jungle fever.”

    (Hey, compared to what most of the world thinks of us at this moment, how could this NOT be an improvement?)

    I Wish We Could “Trade” Asscroft

    October 16, 2008

    (I couldn’t get to this earlier due to technical difficulties…sorry.)

    I’ll try to check back with the “Get Off My Lawn Variety Hour – The Sequel” (loved that one) soon between “Straight Talk” McBush and Barack Obama (look for “noun, verb + William Ayers Jeremiah Wright ACORN John Lewis Jesse Jackson Michael Pfleger etc. etc. etc” all over the place – and of course, McBush has really been trying hard to rein in the crazies at his little revivalist show of bigots on parade campaign rallies, as we know).

    But since this is finally, MERCIFULLY the last debate (I know this election REALLY WILL END one of these days, but let’s keep working to make sure it all ends up being worth it), the New York Times today asked a panel of “experts” here what they would ask tonight (some legitimately know what they’re talking about I believe, but others don’t, IMHO).

    And of course, I’m focusing on someone in the latter category, and that would be pre-Gonzo Dubya AG John (“Lost An Election To A Dead Guy”) Asscroft. And here is his question…

    Colombia has worked to eliminate terrorist activity and drug production within its borders, yet it has seen its efforts rewarded by having prominent members of the House and Senate lobby against a free trade agreement with us. What message does this send to other countries, like Afghanistan or Pakistan, that are working at our behest to eliminate security threats to both our nation and theirs?

    To begin, as Jonathan Tasini of HuffPo notes here, the Columbia Free Trade Agreement would…

    … at the very least, push thousands of farmers off their lands. And, as likely, empower the paramilitary death squads that have flourished, in part through the U.S. financing of the “war on drugs, but also via the strengthening of the powerful business interests who fund some of the most violent political forces in Colombia.

    And given the current abysmal state of Afghanistan, somehow I don’t think free trade is currently ranking very high on its agenda (unless you count the drug trade, which of course is a whole other story). And since we’re giving so much damn money to Pakistan to fight the “war on Terra! Terra! Terra!,” why should they care about becoming a trading partner?

    O, to be governed by adults again (96 days and counting, people)…

    But if all else fails, at least we could hang out with him and other neocons on a cruise (h/t Atrios); huh?

    Update 10/17/08: More on the Columbia deal here…

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