Monday, November 28, 2005

EU May Suspend Voting Rights of Nations With 'Secret Prisons'

And the U.S. asks for more time.

From the AP:EU May Suspend Nations With Secret Prisons

Monday, November 28, 2005; 12:59 PM

BERLIN -- The United States has told the European Union it needs more time to respond to media reports that the CIA set up secret jails in some European nations and transported terror suspects by covert flights, the top EU justice official said Monday.

Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini also warned that any of the 25 bloc nations found to have operated secret CIA prisons could have their EU voting rights suspended


OK, the underlying story broke on 11/02/05.

Almost a month ago.

Just how much time does it take to "respond" with a "yes," "no," or "We're looking to see if it's true or not?"

The longer the administration takes to respond, the more the perception will be that they are just looking for time to build a cover story, and the less likely that the public (both home and abroad) will believe any story that "exonerates" the U.S.

And the longer the truth takes to come out, whatever the truth *is,* the more that this story will have a negative propaganda impact on how the U.S. is perceived in areas where terrorists are being recruited, and among the groups recruiting. Just adding fuel to the flames.

"Security by obscurity" doesn't work in business, software or statecraft.

And the Bush/Cheney White House (and whoever their successors will be, Democrat of Republican) have to learn that lesson.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

North Carolina and Voting Machines. Again

(NOTE: On monday (11/28/05) Diebold's request to be exempt from the penalties in the law was rejected -- see full details in the full text "Under the fold.")

Having worked in MIS/IT for most of my life, I'm usually aware, when someone claims that "he computer made a mistake" that someone is actually referring to a defect in design, or are attempting to cover up a manual error or deliberate action.

Oh, there certainly are times when there are equipment malfunctions, or sometimes very subtle errors in underlying OS(operating system) or driver design ("Drivers" are the subprograms that actually make hardware pieces like the network card, or modem, printer or keyboard work, and allow the hardware and OS to "talk" to each other).

Those defects are the grand exception, however.

And something that really is absurd is the proclamation that something that is really quite simple, and straightforward, is that "too difficult" or "too expensive" to do in an automated system.**

An infamous example was the claim, during the recent election cycle, that providing a physical audit trail of votes cast would be "too expensive" in terms of equipment and development effort. ANd the further claim that "it wasn't needed." A claim that was put to the test, and failed, when a special election in Florida was close enough to trigger the mandatory recount required by law.

January 2004: Florida. In a special election for the State House District 91 seat, with only one item on the ballot, ES&S electronic voting machines showed a total of 134 undervotes – that is, 134 ballots in which voters did not select a candidate even though it was a single-race election.

The winner received 12 more votes than the runner-up. Florida law requires a manual recount of invalid votes when the winning margin is less than one-quarter of one percent. However, election officials determined that no recount was required because the 134 invalid votes were cast on electronic voting machines, and there is no record of the original votes.

(EFF - Electronic Voting Machine Information Sheet Election Systems & Software — iVotronic)>

Because there was no verifiable audit trail, they could *not* do the recount.

In 2003, in an election in North Carolina, where there was only one issue on the ballot (a bond inititive), 354 undervotes were recorded. In both these cases, the undervotes point to problems with the voting machines, as it is extremely unlikely that hundreds of voters would show up for a single-issue election, and then purposely cast blank ballots.

Long Post -- See the full text, Under the Fold ...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The loss of the old Nightline

I'm sure there is going to be any number of bloggers talking about Ted Koppel's last night on his signature show.

There will be those on the left who will say he didn't really hold the feet of The Powers That Be to the fire either often enough, long enough or close enough to the flames.

There will be those on the right who will say he was just a shill for the "liberal media," and that his whole show was just a means to create more advertising opportunities for the broadcasting conglomerates.

In a way, both sides will be correct -- Koppel, although independent, still had to hew to the line set by the corporate bodies who controlled the funding, so couldn't go hog-wild over some stories that I'm sure would have been the kind that people talk about as inspiring "fire in the belly" instead of "getting ulcers." And, like any other show on commercial television, it lived or died by ratings and the advertising dollars generated.

But Nightline also did something that, for its time, was unique.

It made the habit of watching a news program into the wee hours.

Not just a headline service that recycled the same stories every 30 minutes, but in-depth, researched and well written. And not written to the "we've got 3 minutes of air time for this story so we'll drop everything but the shootout and the chopper crash" standard, but written to the "if we need to, we can spend the entire show analyzing this one nuance, and get the other facets during the week."

And it worked.

Against what would have been the expectation then, once the Iran hostage crisis was past, and arguably that it was no longer the case of "America Held Hostage," America still watched the show.

The nation's viewers watched their local news & weather, figured out if they needed to put an umbrella into the car the next day, and then separated into 4 broad groups -- went to bed, watched Johnny on the Tonight Show, watched a late-night movie or Watched Nightline.

We turned into a nation of News Junkies.

Nightline took an audience that had a passing recognition of Huntley & Brinkley, or Cronkite, or may (or may not) have *heard* of Edward R Murrow, and became engaged about what was happening in the world outside their own cities.

Koppel gave an interview to Charlie Rose that was broadcast on PBS the other evening, and he compared himself to Rose, in that what he saw their jobs to be was not simply to inform, with bald facts, and film and numbers, but to add the context that gives the understanding. And all with their own very personal stamp in the commentary, and the context.

And if that sounds familiar to those of you reading, it should.

It's what Kos, Alexandra, the HeretiK, Joe Gandelman, Atrios and all the rest of us, myself included, are doing when we type these words into our computers, and publish them to the web.

So, here's a Tip-O'-The-Hat, and a raised glass, to the true Uber Blogger, Ted Koppel.

Thanks for the years, and for conditioning the world to think that the personal journalist might actually be something real.

As two of your progenitors said -- "That's the way it is," and "Good night, and Good Luck."

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Schmidt-ty words

It appears that Rep Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) may have put her foot in her moth in more than one fashion, at least according to a story in the Cincinnati Inquirer of 10/22/05:

She first did it by referring to Rep. John Murtha's (D-PA) actions as "cowardly," in an apparent quote from another elected official, Ohio State Rep Danny Bubp (R-West Union). Bubp is himself a long term marine (27 years in reserve, 3 years active duty), and says that he did *not* give the quote of "cowards cut and run" to direct towards Murtha; Bubp says he never mentioned Murtha by name at all.

According to Bubp,
"There was no discussion of him personally being a coward or
about any person being a coward," Bubp said. "My message to the folks in Washington, D.C., and to all the Congress people up there, is to stay the course. We cannot leave Iraq or cut and run - any terminology that you want to use."

"I could just imagine how nervous she must have been on the floor with everyone watching," Bubp said. "I don't want to be interjected into this. I wish she never used my name."

I'd bet money on *that.*

Schmidt's office says that they have received over 3,000 e-mails, and that they have been "75% positive." Of course, Barry Bennett, Schmidt's Chief of Staff also claims that they only read "e-mails from the district."

(I imagine you can screen them if someone is using the House e-mail system to *send* the mail, but how do you "read only from the district" for mail that is sent directly? -- does the house e-mail system refuse direct inbound e-mail?)

Murtha can afford to be gracious about this, and he is --

Murtha, a lawmaker since 1974 and a Vietnam veteran who received a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts, said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he doesn't hold Schmidt responsible

This is a new member, and sometimes they give her something to say that ... they get out of hand. I try not to take this stuff personal," he said .

Unfortunatly for Schmidt's "legacy," her remarks, when she was first sworn into the House on Sept 6 of this year, are also a part of the permanent record, and can be retrieved -- she said:
"I pledge to walk in the shoes of my colleagues and refrain from name-calling or the questioning of character," Schmidt said then. "It is easy to quickly sink to the lowest form of political debate. Harsh words often lead to headlines, but walking this path is not a victimless crime. This great House pays the price."

She still has her supporters, who are glad that she "took a stand," but I wonder how many are shills and how many are kool-aid drinkers.

Much of the GOP establishment are trying to distance themselves from her, and her remarks. It appears that they certainly are "eating their young." And you can't get 'em much younger than three months in office.

Thanks to Holly In Cincinnati at The Moderate Voice for the link to Julien's List, who spotted the article.

The "cowardice" of Murtha?

There is still the absurd nation that Rep Murtha is some kind of turncoat or coward to the cause for the war, among the right-wing sphere, and now there is an imagined claim, among some, that Murtha has somehow united the GOP again into a common purpose.

After the attacks on Murtha on the House floor, both indirectly, by the attempt to rewrite his resolution with a piece of shameless sleaze, with the declaration that "it's not a rewrite -- it's what I see as the essence of the resolution," and directly, by calling him a coward, the GOP has been scrambling to present a united front.

Oh, it's a united front -- it's a circling of the SUVs, not some grand reinvigoration.

And the voters are part of the equation as to why it's a a circle they are showing, instead of a united and purposeful front.

If the neo-cons and the end-timers want to keep the Mideast destabilized by military intervention, the citizens of the U.S. do not -- and they are making their displeasure known to their senators and representatives.

And they are also very unhappy about this attempt to "swift-boat" a congressman who also spent 37 years in the Marine Corps, with his own injuries in combat. A man who has, since the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts began, been visiting wounded troops at Walter Reed every week.

Every week.

And not in some drive-by photo-op, either, but sitting and talking to the troops, and seeing, in full, the cost of this war.

That takes courage.

Maybe it would do some of his fellows in the house good to see these same vets.

For every one of those who refuses to see these men and women, and to see the cost to these people, who deserve our respect and consideration, who calls for continued fighting are themselves cowards.

If they are able to see these soldiers, week after week, and still push for the fighting, is one thing.

But to refuse to see them, to refuse to face the consequences of their actions by putting these men and women into jeopardy, and to still call for this war's continuation, is the very examplar of cowardice that they tried to level at Murtha.

And the voters are starting to realize that as well.

And it appears that they are not happy.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Kansas, the world feels your pain...

... or at least Popular Science magazine does.

In their round-up of the "worst jobs in science, 2005," entry 3 in the countdown
is "Kansas Biology Teacher."

"...On the front lines of science's devolution

"The evolution debate is consuming almost everything we do," says Brad Williamson, a 30-year science veteran at suburban Olathe East High School and a past president of the National Association of Biology Teachers. "It's politicized the classroom. Parents will say their child can't be in class during any discussion of evolution, and students will say things like 'My grandfather wasn't a monkey!'"

First, a history lesson. In 1999 a group of religious fundamentalists won election to the Kansas State Board of Education and tried to introduce creationism into the state's classrooms. They wanted to delete references to radiocarbon dating, continental drift and the fossil record from the education standards. In 2001 more-temperate forces prevailed in elections, but the anti-evolutionists garnered a 6-4 majority again last November. This year Intelligent Design (ID) theory is their anti-evolution tool of choice."


"Alas, for Kansas's educational reputation, the damage may be done. "We've heard anecdotally that our students are getting much more scrutiny at places like medical schools. I get calls from teachers in other states who say things like 'You rubes!'" Williamson says. "But this is happening across the country. It's not just Kansas anymore." "

ALso have a gander at # 9 in the countdown, "NASA Ballerina." The accompaning MPEG is seriously cool.

Kudos to TNH at Making Light for highlighting the artcle in her sidebar

Friday, November 18, 2005

Sometimes It Really *Is* A Poll Tax

There has been some discussion recently about the change to the Georgia Voter ID requirements. With some commentators likening the need to have one of 6 forms of photographic identification (the acceptable list used to have 17 choices. Those who do not have a current driver’s license are required to obtain a special “Voter ID card,” at a cost of $20 and would be valid for 5 years (a $35 fee nets a card valid for 10 years). The legislature effecting the change was passed in March of 2005.

This “Voter ID card” can be obtained at a Georgia Department of Driver’s Services (DDS) -- (formerly known as the Georgia Department of Motor Vehicles).

However, the card can only be obtained in DDS offices in 59 of Georgia’s 159 counties.

The State of Georgia is under extra scrutiny because section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 requires 9 States, including Georgia, to submit any change to their voting procedures, or voting identification requirements to the federal government for review to determine if these changes will affect any minority group’s voting eligibility. The Department of Justice can either halt the changes by issuing an “objection” or can issue a “pre-clearance letter” to allow the changes to proceed.

In August, a team of 5 analysts at the Justice Department’s Civil Right’s division issued a memo with 4 of the 5 recommending that the proposed changes to the voter identification process be blocked by an “objection.” The next day, the chief of the DOJ Voting Rights section sent a letter to the responsible Georgia officials that their changes could go through, and that “The Attorney General does not interpose any objection to the specified changes.”....

See full text Under The Fold

Murtha and Bush's War

I expected that there would be some gnashing of teeth (on the right), alarums and excursions (on the left) and huffery-and-puffery from the White House when I heard about Representative (D-PA) John Murtha's call for the U.S. forces withdrawal from Iraq.

What I did not expect that the right, in blogs, in newspaper editorials and in the halls of the Congress itself, would try to do the best imitation of a rabid weasel since Disney stopped doing nature films.

To see the vitriol being hurled at this man, in so many ways a bastion of the GOP and White House war policy in regards to Iraq, a Marine with multiple decorations, and decades of service with the Corps, is astounding.

I simply cannot believe that this much hatred could be called forth on a critic of the Bush/Cheney administration at this late date.

Maybe it's because Murtha was such a stalwart companion to the Bush policy, until now, and it's a feeling of having your best friend turn on you.

Maybe it's because there is such a feeling of "take no prisoners" that prompted my own response to Alexandra'a attempt (at All Things Beautiful) to see if a civil discourse could be entered into between the opposing poles in the blogosphere.

Indeed, in that same article's comments thread, the bloggers from the Right who commented seemed to be more upset because the "left" didn't just roll over and play dead and (presumably) agree that the Right is the only viewpoint that matters?

Or maybe it's the shock and anger that they are having such a hard time to finally come to terms that the Emperor not only has no clothes, but the tailor has stolen the money and invested it in "beautiful seaside beaches" in Arizona.

As usual, The Moderate Voice has an exhaustive roundup of the voices, both left and right, on the subject.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Background for a failed policy


Alone, the word either has no referent, or presents implications of brutality, sadism and lawlessness in retaliations. Or more chilling, thought brings examples of cold and disinterested violence with no cause but to provide an example to inspire terror and compliance.

For most of us the very word is one that brings repugnance, as being against the very fabric of our civilization, as something that crosses the line of justice in any war.

Acts that, with used against an enemy, serve either to frighten into submission (as intended) or stiffen opposition against all reason, out of the perception that horrific fates will result even in otherwise honorable surrender.

There is a broad historical understanding of the use, utility and consequences of torture. In the "modern" world the basic prohibitions lead back to St. Aquinas and his germinal writings on "just war" itself, and the conduct expected by those waging that war.

But this series of articles are meant to treat the current discussion of torture, as performed or sanctioned by the instrumentalities for the United States, such as the armed forces, the intelligence communities, the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice and Executive branch of the United States government....

(this is a long post - see the full text Under The Fold)..

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Federalist Society Complexion

Well, if you want to see the temper and character of an organization someone is involved with, look to see what speakers they sponsor and what sort of banter they consider appropriate.

As some of you may be aware, the current Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John Roberts, had been widely reported, through several administrations, as being a member of the Federalist Society, a group formed in 1982 to, as one columnist put it, to change the "tilt to the left" that they (the Society's founders) saw in law schools.

FRom the Society's own website, in the "Our Purpose" page:

..."The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies is a group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order. It is founded on the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be. "

... In working to achieve these goals, the Society has created a conservative and libertarian intellectual network that extends to all levels of the legal community.

Roberts was listed as being part of the Society's "Leadership Directory" during the 1997-1998 period. Roberts has, however, denied any recollection of being a member (of course, the question then is just why his name appears in the directory?).

The Federalist Society, though publicly proclaiming that they are just a group who wants to keep our Constitutional system safe from judicial activists, keeps it's membership list secret.

I have a problem with an organization that claims that it wants to be influential at all levels of the law, through influencing the several legislatures, through judges' clerks, through influencing curriculum, through lawyers themselves, and through the judiciary itself, keeping the names of those who it claims as its members secret.

And, according to current nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court Samuel Alito's written questionnaire responses for his 1990 confirmation hearings as a member of the appellate courts, he, also, is/was a member.

Could the Miers debacle have so spooked the White House that they feel they need to push to the base so much that, when they were trying to paint Roberts as being a "s/h/e/e/p/ moderate in /w/o/l/f/'/s/ conservative clothing" that they now have to pimp Alito as a card-carrying anti-liberal?

Well, as to "appropriate banter" and "company they keep," recently, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, in a speech before the society, very publicly decried the Massachusetts Supreme Court, in their ruling that the laws the Commonwealth that forbade same-sex marriage were contrary to the Massachusetts COnstitution, were ruling not ruling from points of law and the Massachusetts Constitution, but to promte their own values and those of ''their like-minded friends in the communities they socialize in." (see Boston Globe, 11/11/2005).

Also, in Romney's remarks, was this little gem:

''Our Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts, by a one-vote majority, found that in our constitution written over 200 years ago was a right for same-sex individuals to marry," the governor said.

'John Adams would be surprised," Romney said to laughs. ''Now my judicially, philosophically oriented liberal friends were happy, even celebratory. What's wrong, they say, with allowing judges to expand the constitution to do what they and other intelligent people think is the right thing to do? Well, the answer is there are a lot of things wrong with that "

By that reasoning, the courts should not have gotten involved in, as an example, regulating telecommunications, because, obviously, that was never an issue that was originally in either the Constitutions of either the United States or the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. And Brown V Board of Education should never even been scheduled for hearing.

Such obvious disdain, from this governor, for the Massachusetts Supreme Court is not exactly news to the voters in Massachusetts. Most of us just wonder whether Romney will follow the pattern of the last several Republican governors of the Commonwealth, and will leave his term early.

Frankly, a lot of progressive voters wonder how Romney get elected at all, especially after the poor background performance that was revealed during his failed run for the Senate opposite Ted Kennedy. He has, in office, lived to those diminished expectations.

Before the speech, Romney was introduced by Federalist Society member Gerald Walpin, who
... Introduced Romney by praising him for fighting against what he called the ''modern-day KKK . . . the Kennedy-Kerry Klan."

''Today, when most of the country thinks of who controls Massachusetts, I think the modern-day KKK comes to mind, the Kennedy-Kerry Klan," Walpin, who sits on the society's board of visitors, said to hearty laughter. ''One person who has been victorious against that tide in Massachusetts is Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney."

Romney, along with members of the audience, laughed at the joke and later thanked Walpin for the ''very generous introduction."

It was not until later, when the press got wind of the "banter," and pressed Romney about it, that he said: "I think it was unfortunate."

Another speaker before the Federalist Society recently was Karl Rove, who opined that:

We will see one of two things come to pass," he said. "The courts will on their own reform themselves and return to their proper role in American public life, or we will see more public support for constitutional amendments and legislation to rein them in."

This is an apparent reference to the frustration that many conservatives feel is an insufficient deference to the legislative branch, and the proposals of several in Congress to word bills with caveats that the bills cannot be reviewed by the courts. (I suppose that when the members of Congress take the oath to defend and uphold the Constitution they don't have to read it, after all)

But, to have an institution that claims to be dedicated to the rule of law have, as a featured speaker, an individual who is a central figure in the misuse of classified information and the revealing, apparently in a political ploy, the identification of a covert operative of the CIA, strikes me as being more than a little "edgy."

As I said, you can tell a lot about someone by what company they keep, and what jokes they tell.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Armistice, Veterans' and Remembrance Days

We have had all too many "wars to end wars," and so many were started when they did not need to be.

But, whether any war was "needed" or not, the soldiers of the many nations heeded the call to defend what they saw was right, or just, or simply because to Serve was what they saw as right, and proper.

Henry V is very much a soldier's play, and King Hal's address (it is too stirring, and too true, to be called a "speech"), is as true, and relevant, to those who serve today, wherever they are, under whatever flag they live, as it was when Shakespeare gave the lines to his actors.

To those who go into harm's way for us, we must rededicate these lines

This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.

He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'

Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day.

Then shall our names, Familiar in his mouth as
household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.

This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;

And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Friday, November 11, 2005

"I cannot recall ..."

It looks like Judge Samuel Alito, nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court may have been having a few lapses.

Of memory, that is.

One of the key points for the nomination hearings has been how Alito would handle potential conflicts of interest in cases that might come before the US Supreme Court - a real possibility, as Alito had a lengthy tenure as an appeals court judge, and served as a federal prosecutor for a long time before that. Both of those situations could be conditions that would land cases he worked on (as a prosecutor) or heard (as a judge) before the Supreme Court, as that COurt can hear cases that have had long histories.

Of more immediate concern, however, is an apparent discrepency over what Judge Alito said were potential conflicts of interest he would recuse himself over.

A continuing problem, for those who would like to see pesky facts go away, is that in today's world of information every utterance, every piece of paper authored, is filed away somewhere.

So filed was the questionnaire that Samuel Alito filled out before he was confirmed as a appelate judge in 1990.

The questionaire that Alito filled out, and presented to the Senate as part of his confirmation hearings preparations, described four classes of case he felt he would have to recuse himself over -- three classes concerned his personal finances, and the fourth his sister's law firm (I only glanced at the questionaire results, but I remember thinking it was odd that he would find no need to recuse himself if a case he had heard as a judge were to come before him, nor a case he might have ben involved with as a prosecutor)

According to a Newsday story, ALito was involved in a 1996 case involving Smith BArney (his brokerage house). In another case, in 2002, Alito was involved in a case concerning the Vanguard Funds (which holds his mutual funds). In that case he recused himself only after a plaintiff complained about the possible conflict of interest, and after the fact, protyested, in writing, over the removal.

Now it appears that Alito was involved in a case, in 1995, where his sister's law firm was representing one of the parties in a case that he reviewed as part of the appeals court bench.

The Boston Globe has a story with more details here.

From the Globe article:

WASHINGTON -- Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., who said in 1990 that he would disqualify himself from cases involving his sister's law firm, was a member of an appeals court that reviewed a 1995 case in which his sister's firm represented one of the parties, according to court records.

It is at least the third instance in which there is no indication the Supreme Court nominee recused himself from the kind of case he had promised a Senate committee he would avoid as a federal judge.

The news of the case, which had not been reported previously, comes one day after two Democratic senators said they wanted more answers to conflict-of-interests questions about Alito's involvement in cases regarding Vanguard and Smith Barney -- investment firms Alito had accounts with.

Rosemary Alito, a lawyer who is Samuel Alito's sister, confirmed in a telephone interview yesterday that she was at the law firm of McCarter & English of Newark when the decision was made in the case.

But she said she was ''absolutely not" personally involved in the case, which involved repayment of a bank loan. She declined to comment further.

The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, acting as a full court, denied a borrower's petition for a rehearing in the case. The bank that held the loan, MidAtlantic National Bank, was represented by Rosemary Alito's firm.

The decision by the full court in the case lists Samuel Alito and 14 other judges as being "present" and notes that one judge -- not Alito -- said the case should be reheard. It lists McCarter & English as the counsel for the bank. The decision -- which supported the bank's position -- provides no indication that Alito or any other judges recused themselves.

Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman, said last night that Alito ''does not have recollection of this case."


Did Alito think that he would not get questioned about these cases, especially after he said, in writing, he would recuse himself?

A simple explanation about how his service as an appelate judge didn't warrant recusal, but it would as a member of the Supreme Court bench would have been helpful.

Did he think that the details would not be noticed? With however many reporters and bloggers with all the mania of zealotry poring over the details?

Alito's responses to the Senate questionnairen are in this .PDF file (I don't know how to pin-point the hyperlink into the document, so you will have to troll through it yourself to find his written homework)

It would be nice if we could get a nominee who would fill out their homework and turn it in on time the *first* time.

Vets should be "seen [in photo-ops] but not heard [in congress]"

Over the last several months there has been growing criticism of the GOP-controlled Congress and the Bush White House over short-funding of current benefits and proposed cuts to future benefits for military veterans.

Including one extremely embarrassing episode where the VA kept on saying that they were "OK, didn't need any more money."

And then turned around and had to admit that they were more than $1 billion in the hole for 2005.

Now, in another "turnaround," the chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind) has told veterans groups that, notwithstanding a 55-year tradition, veterans' groups will not have the opportunity to make recommendations and state their priorities before joint House/Senate hearings on legislation affecting benefits and funding for veterans.

The House committee chair has proposed that the groups be able to testify to the house in February. But the timing for that would be as the White House is ready to send its budget recommendations to the Congress. And without the prior hearings the vets will not have been able to make their formal input to House on the budget, and will be forced to just take what they've been given.

The Senate still plans to have their own hearings, and the chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (Larry Craig R-Idaho)has said that he would be glad to invite members from the House to his committee's hearings.

Speculation about the shift is that there is concern that the veterans' groups would be very vocal about being very unhappy with the fiscal irresponsibility of this Congress -- and that having the spotlight of testifying before Congress could cause more embarrassment for the GOP and the White House.

The veterans' groups are, of course, umm, unhappy.

"We think it's an absolutely abhorrent idea. These things were initiated somewhere around 1950, and they represent a crowning moment for our grassroots membership," said Dennis Cullinan, national legislative director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)."

"Some people don't want to be criticized for being deficient," said Richard Fuller, legislative director for Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA). "What they want to do is get rid of these [joint] legislative presentations because they have become, unfortunately now in the climate on Capitol Hill, very partisan."

See this coverage from The Hill, and the press release from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is here

Of course, the House is very much on record that they want to support our troops...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Miller's Farewell Opus

As part of the separation process between Judith Miller and the New York Times, Miller wrote a letter to the Times, which the paper's management & publishers agreed to print.

That letter is in today's edition of the paper.

The link to the text is here.

I am not going to say other than that all such correspondence as this letter presents an account to inform the reader of one "side" of a story. (I have already made my opinion known on some of Ms. Miller's points in the letter)

Whether that "side" is accurate, or truthful (the two are not always congruent) is a matter that more time, and disclosures, will determine.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

How Orwellian Can You Get?

I thought I had seen the nadir of stupid things that this
administration had done.

Especially with the lies that were so easy to disprove.

This, however, takes the cake.

Rewriting the text of the White House news gaggle of 10/31/05, and attempting to pressure agencies into altering their own transcripts to match.

When every network with a camera crew there, and every reporter with a tape recorder going, is going to have the exact exchange on tape.

Absobloodylutely astounding.

From Think Progress (which also has video on the site)

There is a brewing controversy about what exactly was said at the White House press conference on October 31. Everyone agrees NBC’s David Gregory said this:

Q Whether there’s a question of legality, we know for a fact that there was involvement. We know that Karl Rove, based on what he and his lawyer have said, did have a conversation about somebody who Patrick Fitzgerald said was a covert officer of the Central Intelligence Agency. We know that Scooter Libby also had conversations.

Congressional Quarterly and FNS both transcribed Press Secretary Scott McClellan’s answer as “That’s accurate.” The White House transcript lists McClellan’s answer as “I don’t think that’s accurate.”

If you listened to the clip, it’s clear McClellan says “that’s accurate.” Nevertheless, the White House is trying to get CQ and FNS to change their transcripts. They’ve refused.

UPDATE: this White House looks even more foolish -- on their own website, where the White House has its own transcript , is the video. Look at about 5:20 into the video for the disputed exchange

Big Oil Really, Really, Doesn't Want To Talk About Those Big Profits

A while ago I mentioned ( here and here) that Big Oil didn't really want to explain the Big Profits, and that the amount of profit *increase* was phenomenal (in one case, the *increase* in profits over the prior year was 86%).

Many people were willing to cut ‘em a little slack, since Hurricane Katrina had waltzed through the Gulf, and put wells and refineries off line when the crews got evacuated. But then it was noted that the prices had started going up *before* the storm hit, and that the prices were being applied to gasoline stocks that were *already* in the pipelines, and on trucks, and in service station tanks.

The answer *then* was that the prices at the pump were “paying the higher price for the next delivery.”

Then the story was that the prices were so high because there was insufficient refining capacity, in general, and tried to say leave the impression that they didn’t build more refineries (or upgrade what they had) because of Big Bad Government Regulation and/or The Evil Environmentalists . This seemed a little, shall we say, disingenuous, as the industry itself had demonstrated that they had no desire to either add to, or upgrade, refining capacity, because the classic scarcity-of-product = high-profit (otherwise knows as “all the market will bear, and then some”). (It also had a somewhat familiar sound to those who remember that one of the reasons that energy companies in California, Washington State and Oregon gave for *their* record high prices was supposed government regulation and environmentalists blocking new power plant construction. And, of course, there was no proof to the rumors that plants were being shut down on purpose to short supplies or, or. Hmmm. Let me get back to you on that, I have a memo from Ken Lay explaining all that….)

Soon after, the prices at the pump hit highs (at least in the US) that I don’t recall seeing since the Great Oil Embargo (the highest I saw at one station here was $3.93/gal).

But this must be the Season of Harry Potter. because soon after the voters started complaining loudly about the high costs, and even though two more big storms swept through the Gulf, the prices at the pump, following laws of economics that that must be something taught in advanced classes at Hogwarts, the prices started to drop at the pumps. Even though those next deliveries were supposed to be so expensive.

The cynic here thinks it more mundane, along the lines of “look, I appreciate all the campaign contributions you give the party, but I’ve got all these pesky *voters* ringing my phone off the hook, and my e-mail box is choking, you really should know that some of these folks think you, (and I really don’t believe it for a minute) are taking advantage of people who don’t have a choice.

"Now, neither you nor I want to see that darn Windfall Profits tax back, now do we? So, why don’t you go and shake those spreadsheets, and see if you can find a “technical market correction” or something like that, OK?”

Well, even though the prices at the pump are starting to come down (see the AAA index here), it’s still a mystery if the prices for home heating oil, a major concern here in New England, will be affordable or a backbreaker.

However, “Big Oil” found itself in the public eye again this morning (Wednesday 11/09/05) as hearings are being held before Congress about the high profits the companies have been seeing. And, to keep things in a little perspective, bear in mind the numbers quoted below from an LA Times story, are *quarterly* profits, not annual.

In a move that, I think, is going to give as much fodder to Democratic advertising spots in the coming mid-term election cycle as one of Delay’s former aides calling the Christian base “whacko,” was the refusal of the Republicans to have the oil executives give testimony under oath....

More can be found Under The Fold

Some video from the hearings can be found at Crooks and Liars.

Miller and the NY times part company

Well, I had guessed that Judy Miller would have taken a sabbatical from the Times, written her book about her 85 days in gaol, and then "moved on."

It looks like the "moved on" part of that has been rescheduled.

According to a story in today's NY Times, Miller is leaving the paper, now.

Apparently Miller and the paper have been in negotiations for the past two weeks on just when she would leave, and on what terms.

As is usual in "these sorts of things," the full terms of the divorce are not open to viewing by the public. However, as part of the agreement, the executive editor of the paper, Bill Keller, sent a memo to the staff explaining that his use of the terms "involvement" and "engagement" in respect to Millers relationships with I. Lewis ("Scooter") Libby, did not "suggest an improper relationship." (Ghods, is *everything* supposed to be about sex these days? When can a cigar go back to being just a cigar?)

Another part of the "terms" is that Miller will write a letter to the paper, that the paper will print (it will be in Thursday's edition).

Lawyers for Ms. Miller and the paper negotiated a severance package whose details they would not disclose. Under the agreement, Ms. Miller will retire from the newspaper, and The Times will print a letter she wrote to the editor explaining her position. Ms. Miller originally demanded that she be able to write an essay for the paper's Op-Ed page refuting the allegations against her, the lawyers said. The Times refused that demand - Gail Collins, editor of the editorial page, said, "We don't use the Op-Ed page for back and forth between one part of the paper and another" - but agreed to let her to write the letter.

In that letter, to be published in The New York Times on Thursday under the heading, "Judith Miller's Farewell," Ms. Miller said she was leaving partly because some of her colleagues disagreed with her decision to testify in the C.I.A. leak case.

"But mainly," she wrote, "I have chosen to resign because over the last few months, I have become the news, something a New York Times reporter never wants to be."

The Moderate Voice has some commentary on this story, and a neat little graphic for the lead paragraph....

UPDATE: See this article for a note about Miller's letter, as published.

Friday, November 04, 2005

GOP strategy, in a nutshell

The Senate committee on Indian Affairs has been holding hearings on the lobbying efforts of Jack Abramoff and his former business partner Michael Scanlon. (they of the "I didn't know who was really paying for this golfing junket to Scotland!")

It is very revealing.

I've been looking through the exhibits entered into the record from the hearings on Nov 2, and the hubris is, humbling.

As is the stupidity.

I can see that there is plenty of opportunity for abuse, but these people *documented* it all by themselves, including the (successful) plans to get local religious leaders involved to fight local gambling plans in Louisiana, so that the Indian casinos can pull more high rollers.

Wire transfers, e-mails (including names of congress-critters involved), etc.

Geez, if you're going to violate the law at least show some foresight in covering your tracks.

Well, part of the exhibits is a memo from Scanlon, a former aide to Tom DeLay, to the Coushatta tribe in SW Louisiana, on their strategy, complete with cost projections for each stage.:

Under "Mobilization,"

"We plan to use three forms of communications to mobilize and win these battles.

Phone, mail and Christian radio. ... Our mission is to get specifically selected groups of individuals to the polls to speak out AGAINST something.

To that end, your money is best spent finding them and communicating with them on using the modes they are most likely to respond to. 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. The wackos get their information form [sic] the Christian right, Christian radio, mail and telephone trees."

The memo goes on to detail strategy about closely targeted "Get out the vote" campaigns :

" ... Calls to OUR voters and OUR voters only. We tell them when the polls are open -- where to go to vote and how to get there. detail strategy about closely target. If they need a ride -- we will have a van come and get them."
Another strategy was to build radio ads around "bibical reasons" and run the ads "exclusively on Christian radio."

These efforts, by themselves, are not illegal (but things like the buying of political influence is), but they open the window to see how the GOP political machine (where Scanlan learned his trade) works -- target the Christian right, pander and lie to them (do you really think that the listeners to those radio ads would have the same reaction if they knew that the efforts were being paid by another casino so they could maximize their own profits?), and try to make sure the general public does not find out what is going on, so the votes can take 'em by surprise.

Yes, he did refer to the Christian voters as "the wackos."

The Senate committee website is here

The PDF file containing the exhibits is here (WARNING: this is 25MB file). Look on page 119 of the PDF file .

Thanks to VirginiaDem at Dailykos for the pointer to the article here

A Salon article referencing the same passage is here

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Once upon a time..

... the political landscape in the U.S. didn't seem to look quite like the crater-pocked advertisement for Beautiful Downtown //fill in ravaged city of ideological choice//.

(I had started this article in response to a "challenge" that Alexandra at All Things Beautiful made -- have both the "left" and the "right" join with the the "center" to exchange information about Supreme Court nominee Alito (links, impressions, etc), in a climate that was conducive to actually having discussion, and not a free-fire-zone between the Freepers and Kossacks. However, this article turned into something else, a more general piece about what the state of the nation's discussions has turned into. The "driving" article at All Things Beautifiul is here)

The parties actually were able to work together, no matter which was in the ascendancy, with a concern for doing the nation's business, rather than scoring off the other, disrupting the nation's business for spite, and trying to completely silence any opposition.

My own partisan view is that the current climate was midwived by Newt's "Contract With America," when the new goal was to get power, both political and personal, and keep that power, rather than attend the good of the nation.

We lost the sense and pride of the country as a single nation with many parts.

Now it's "them / us," "rich / poor" "mericuns / immigrints."

Those lines are chalked by both the "right" and the "left," but, again, the "conservatives" seem the more eager to embrace this realm of division and exclusion. ....

... More under the fold.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

So much for "precedent is important"

Well, it appears that ALito is not the person who really honors precedent after all.

The Boston Globe has an article that shows some times where Alito decided that he wanted to ignore very clear precedent:


"In separate cases involving the deportation of foreigners, Alito sided with the government. In both cases, Alito was outvoted by his colleagues, who accused him of ignoring court precedent.

''We suggest that to read the [law as Alito did] not only guts the statutory standard, but ignores our precedent," the majority said in one of the cases, which involved how much credence to give to an African man's assertion that he would be persecuted if sent home.

The two cases, one in 2003 and the other in 2004, were not the only times colleagues
have chided Alito over perceived failures to follow established rules.

They were, however, unusual in the strength of the language used to rebuke him -- especially because judges on the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit generally have a reputation for being polite to one another.

The second case, in 2004, involved a Korean couple facing deportation after having filed a fraudulent tax return.

In that matter, the panel's majority accused their ''dissenting colleague" of ignoring ''well-established principles" about how to read statutes.

''It may be that Congress will wish to broaden the categories of aggravated felony to include other or all tax felonies," the majority judges wrote. ''But we must interpret what it has written by well-recognized rules of statutory construction, unaided by speculation."


"...Alito colleagues have accused him on a number of occasions of failing to follow precedent. In 1996, for example, the appeals court upheld a federal law outlawing machine guns. Alito filed a dissent, arguing that the law was
unconstitutional because Congress had not proved that machine guns were linked to interstate commerce.

''We know of no authority to support such a demand on Congress," the other appeals court judges wrote of Alito's dissent. ''Nothing in [Supreme Court case law] requires either Congress or the Executive to play Show and Tell with the federal courts at the peril of invalidation of a Congressional statute."


" a 1996 sexual discrimination suit, Alito was the only judge on the appeals court to vote for throwing out the case without a trial. The other 11 judges cited three circuit cases and eight decisions in other jurisdictions that dictated the woman should get her day in court, and accused Alito of misinterpreting precedent.

''The dissent gives no reason why a plaintiff alleging discrimination is not entitled to the real reason for the personnel decision, no matter how uncomfortable the truth may be to the employer," the otherwise unanimous panel complained.


I guess that it's only "judicial activism" if it's "active" against your own bias?