Corruption and hypocrisy ought not to be inevitable products of democracy, as they undoubtedly are today

If America was thinking or had their fingers crossed and hoped for the best that the last election cleaned up the Republican Culture of Corruption they were mistaken:
FBI Raids Renzi Family Business; Congressman Leaves Intelligence Panel

In a second blow to House Republicans this week, the FBI raided a business tied to the family of Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) Thursday afternoon as part of an ongoing investigation into the three-term lawmaker.

Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ) – Financially Benefitting His Father

In 2003, Rep. Renzi sponsored legislation that dealt hundreds of millions of dollars to his father’s business while, according to environmentalists, devastating the San Pedro River. A key beneficiary of Rep. Renzi’s legislation was ManTech International Corp., a Fairfax, Virginia based defense contractor where Rep. Renzi’s father, Retired Major General Eugene Renzi, is an executive vice president.

A U.S. attorney was investigating Renzi and not surprisingly the same U.S. attorney, Paul Charlton made the Gonzales-Rove hit list, Was Renzi investigation a factor in dismissal of Arizona’s U.S. Attorney?

The newest e-mails, memos and other records raise fresh questions about whether there were political motivations for Charlton’s ouster, as the documents indicate that Justice Department officials were still – after the fact – trying to settle on a complete explanation for why Charlton was called on Dec. 7 and told to resign.

Three days after guilty plea, Griles ties the knot

Two Bush administration officials who have been linked in scandal are now linked in wedlock.

The union of former Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles and Sue Ellen Wooldridge could have implications for the investigation into Griles’s ties to ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

In his guilty plea, Griles admitted lying to a Senate committee investigating the Abramoff matter about the extent of his ties with Abramoff, who lobbied the Interior Department on tribal casino issues.

Prosecutors said Griles had a ”personal, and at times, romantic relationship” with Italia Federici, who introduced him to Abramoff, from 1998 to 2003. Federici runs a Republican advocacy group and has received a “target letter” from the Justice Department.

So the count so far includes Rinzi, Rinzi’s father, J. Steven Griles, Sue Ellen Wooldridge, and Italia Federici. But conservatives are like the energizer bunnies of corruption, five is not enough, Rep. Doolittle Takes Leave From Appropriations

A California congressman linked to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff resigned temporarily Thursday from the U.S. House Appropriations Committee.

Rep. John Doolittle, R-Calif., took the step a few days after FBI agents searched his house in Oakton, Va., The Washington Post reported.

“I understand how the most recent circumstances may lead some to question my tenure on the Appropriations Committee,” Doolittle said in a letter to House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

With Republicans corruption is a family affair, from a year ago – Congressman Doolittle, wife profited from Cunningham-linked contractor

A week before former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham was sentenced to prison, he stressed to the court that a number of other lawmakers also helped arrange federal funding for the defense contractors who bribed him.

None of the lawmakers Cunningham mentioned by name – Reps. Katherine Harris of Florida, Virgil Goode of Virginia and John Doolittle from the Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay – has been accused of criminal wrongdoing. But each has admitted assisting either Mitchell Wade or Brent Wilkes, co-conspirators in the Cunningham case, at a time when the two businessmen were giving them tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions.

And at least one of the lawmakers, Doolittle, received a direct monetary benefit from those contributions through commissions paid to his wife, Julie.

Acting as her husband’s campaign consultant, Julie Doolittle charged his campaign and his Superior California Political Action Committee a 15 percent commission on any contribution she helped bring in.

Note that Doolittle reported to House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio who continues in that position with salary and benefits courtesy the American tax payer even though he is also under a cloud of corruption, For Boehner, Reform Begins Corruption Continues at Home

That’s right, the new ethically pure, reformist, anti-corruption Congressional Republicans will be led by a Republican from Ohio. Boehner is a member of a male-only country club with a $75,000 initiation fee. Maybe that cleaned out his bank account, which is why he had to take almost $14,000 in free trips from the lobbyist-connected Ripon Society. He also has a history as a bag man for the tobacco lobby during his days as a capo for Newt Gingrich, even going so far as to disburse checks from tobacco lobbyists to Republican members on the floor of the United States Congress.

Last, but not least is the Attorney General. A position frequently referred to as the highest law enforcement official in the nation, Maybe Gonzales Won’t Recall His Painful Day on the Hill

Explaining his role in the botched firing of federal prosecutors, Gonzales uttered the phrase “I don’t recall” and its variants (“I have no recollection,” “I have no memory”) 64 times. Along the way, his answer became so routine that a Marine in the crowd put down his poster protesting the Iraq war and replaced it with a running “I don’t recall” tally.

Take Gonzales’s tally along with that of his former chief of staff, who uttered the phrase “I don’t remember” 122 times before the same committee three weeks ago, and the Justice Department might want to consider handing out Ginkgo biloba in the employee cafeteria.

Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), usually an administration friend, asked about a pivotal meeting about the firings that Gonzales attended less than five months ago.

“Senator, I have searched my memory,” the attorney general answered. “My schedule shows a meeting for 9:00 on November 27th, but I have no recollection of that meeting.”

“This was not that long ago,” said a puzzled Sessions. “You don’t recall any of that?”

“Believe me,” Gonzales repeated. “I’ve searched my mind about this meeting.”

“Well,” the senator concluded, “I guess I’m concerned about your recollection.”

For much of the very long day, the attorney general responded like a child caught in a lie. He shifted his feet under the table, balled his hands into fists and occasionally pointed at his questioners. He defended his actions: “The decision stands.” He denied responsibility: “This was a process that was ongoing that I did not have transparency into.” He blamed the victims: “Poor judgment . . . poor management.” He blamed his subordinates: “When there are attacks against the department, you’re attacking the career professionals.”

You have to love that last quote, as with Congressman Doolittle and his wife when all else fails find someone to throw under the rhetorical bus. The career professionals are exactly the ones that Bush and Gonzales have shown so much contempt for. As much as Gonzales is a walking sag of corruption he is just the gaudy neon sign out in front of the Bush Motel of Sleaze. While I wouldn’t bet on it Bush is likely to take the same attitude that he has taken with everything else. The American public and Congress wants Gonzales to take the nearest exit which is exactly why the contrary Emperor Bush will keep him just as he did Donald Rumsfeld because he’s a petulant little punk and ain’t nobody gonna tell him what to do.

I was waiting for the shoe to drop on the Virginia Tech shootings – how could the Right blame either liberals, Muslims, the media, women, the disabled, Martians or anyone that would generate ratings or clicks, O’Reilly blames liberals in general While a right-wing web site called TCSDAILY writes, Ismail Ax: The Shooter Was Another ‘Son of Sacrifice’ By Jerry Bowyer : 18 Apr 2007

First it was Johnny Muhammad, now it was Cho Sueng Hui aka Ismail Ax. Precisely how many mass shooters have to turn out to have adopted Muslim names before we get it? Islam has become the tribe of choice of those who hate American society.

Difficult to reconcile TCS’s clever by half bizarre analysis with this, ‘I die like Jesus Christ’, said university killer

THE Virginia Tech killer compared himself to Jesus Christ and said he died to inspire generations of “weak and defenceless people”.

Cho Seung-Hui, 23, sent a shocking package of documents, videos and photographs to a US television network in a two-hour break in his murderous rampage.

TCS does what the Right does everyday, stake out a POV and then twist and turn bits of conjecture, gossip mongering and outlandish imaginings to fit that POV. One doesn’t have to look far to find someone of some theism that has done some grievous wrong. Those that have taken statistics know that even if you find a correlation that does not automatically prove cause and effect.

“Corruption and hypocrisy ought not to be inevitable products of democracy, as they undoubtedly are today” -Mahatma Gandhi

Courage doesn’t always roar

Conservatives Nathaniel Blake at Human Events and his bud John Derbyshire eat some magic mushrooms in mom’s basement and publish their their strange visions, implying that Va. Tech students are cowards. More blaming the victim

Something is clearly wrong with the men in our culture. Among the first rules of manliness are fighting bad guys and protecting others: in a word, courage. And not a one of the healthy young fellows in the classrooms seems to have done that. …

Like Derb, I don’t know if I would live up to this myself, but I know that I should be heartily ashamed of myself if I didn’t. Am I noble, courageous and self-sacrificing? I don’t know; but I should hope to be so when necessary.

We’re not supposed to call them chicken hawks anymore so I leave it to the reader to come up with your own description. Experts at back seat heroism comes to mind.

update: Since this post there have been more reports about how events unfolded and there were several heroes, The Holocaust survivor who saved a classroom

Selective View of Fraud By Joe Conason

Harassing minority voters with bogus claims of fraud is a venerable tradition in the G.O.P., as anyone familiar with the career of the late Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist would know. Back in the early 60’s, when Rehnquist was just another ambitious young lawyer in Arizona, he ran a partisan campaign to confront black and Hispanic voters over their “qualifications.” Along with many of today’s generation of Republican leaders, he was a stalwart of the Goldwater campaign in 1964, which garnered its handful of electoral votes in the South by opposing the Voting Rights Act.

Then came Richard Nixon’s Southern strategy of nurturing racist grievances to build Republican majorities—around the time that a young operative named Karl Rove was rising in the party. Under his leadership, the G.O.P. has repeatedly been disgraced by conspiracies to diminish voter participation.

In 2002, Republican operatives used a telemarketing firm to illegally jam Democratic phone banks in New Hampshire to win the U.S. Senate seat now held by John Sununu. In 2004, Florida state officials sent armed officers into certain Orlando neighborhoods to scare elderly black registrants, while Republicans sought to challenge minority voters en masse in communities in Kentucky, Nevada, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and paid for the destruction of Democratic voter registrations in Nevada and Oregon.

With such contempt for American values and an opposition party and the majority of independents so adamantly opposed to their agendas wouldn’t it just be easier for these democracy haters to move to some place like Uzbekistan. Bush and Cheney would love it, all authority no human rights 24/7. Kangaroo Tribunals Give a Kafkaesque Edge to Guantanamo

The prisoners at Guantanamo Bay — or Azkaban, as one of my clients, a Harry Potter fan, calls it — have had no access to a hearing in a court of law. Instead, Guantanamo’s inmates are subjected to two kangaroo procedures: Combatant Status Review Tribunals and Administrative Review Boards.

The tribunals determine whether an individual is an enemy combatant. Needless to say, the cards are stacked against the prisoner from the get-go. The tribunals are allowed to rely on hearsay evidence and information acquired though coercion. Any evidence deemed “secret” is withheld from the prisoner. Can you imagine trying to defend yourself against evidence kept secret from you?

Amazingly, my client Abdul Al-Ghizzawi (a Libyan who ran a bakery in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, before being handed to Americans for a bounty in late 2001), was found to have no ties to terrorism and not to be an enemy combatant. Unfortunately, the higher-ups intervened and the tribunal’s judgment was overturned six weeks later upon the miraculous discovery of “new evidence.” I saw the classified proceedings of my client’s tribunals, and I can assure you that no new material was considered. Mark and Joshua Denbeaux, authors of the study “No-Hearing Hearings,” have discovered that some prisoners went through as many as three hearings before the tribunals made the “correct” determination that a prisoner had ties to terrorism.

The Establishment Rethinks Globalization

Essentially, Gomory proposes to alter the profit incentives of US multinationals. If the government adds rules of behavior and enforces them through the tax code, companies will be compelled to seek profit in a different way–by adhering to the national interest and terms set by the US government. Other nations do this in various ways. Only the United States imagines the national interest doesn’t require it.

In recent months Gomory and Leo Hindery of the Horizon Project have been calling on Congress with these big ideas and getting respectful audiences. The two met with some thirty Democratic senators and Congressional staffers from both parties. Senator Byron Dorgan, with co-sponsors like Sherrod Brown, Russell Feingold and even Hillary Clinton, has introduced several bills to confront the trade deficits.

Gomory’s concept for multinational taxation is a tougher sell amid Washington lobbyists because it goes right to the bottom line of major US corporations. On the other hand, this proposal has stronger intuitive appeal for citizens, who reasonably ask why multinationals are allowed to undercut the national interest when they enjoy all the benefits of being “American” companies.

Then there is the back door subsidy that these companies get – not hiring, paying or insuring U.S. workers. These workers in turn get whatever job they can and are forced to depend on shopping at Wal-Mart where they buy products that are cheap because of very cheap labor, which in turn supports the world’s largest remaining communist country China. You remember communism, it was the world’s biggest threat until the Right decided to be financial partners and make Islam the newest biggest baddest threat. As conservatives spin so do the days of our lives.

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” – Mary Anne Radmacher

armedanddangerous.jpg

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest

If Republicans were genuinely serious about small government and fair taxation I would at least entertain the thought of being a Republican. Fact is that government in every way has expanded under Republicans and sadly for most Americans that increase in growth in both spending and power has not made for a government that is more effective. It must be all those government programs like Social Security and food stamps, Right? As US tax rates drop, government’s reach grows

Slightly over half of all Americans – 52.6 percent – now receive significant income from government programs, according to an analysis by Gary Shilling, an economist in Springfield, N.J. That’s up from 49.4 percent in 2000 and far above the 28.3 percent of Americans in 1950. If the trend continues, the percentage could rise within ten years to pass 55 percent, where it stood in 1980 on the eve of President’s Reagan’s move to scale back the size of government.

One wonders if Mark Trumbull at The Christian Science Monitor just has a fondness for fake cowboys and framing issues in a way that would make Newt Gingrich drool with envy. Reagan did not shrink government. He did what Bush II did, he expanded federal spending and government intrusion into American’s personal lives. One of Bush’s worse miscalculations, if you’re a medium income taxpayer anyway was to make Medicare a welfare program for pharmaceutical and health care companies. God Punishes Us When We (Collectively) Vote Republican, Part 5

I noted that for whatever reason, we observe higher growth rates in real real (GDP less increase in national debt) per capita under Democratic Presidents than under Republican Presidents. In fact, looking at complete administrations (i.e., assuming JFK & LBJ form one administration, and Nixon & Ford form another), all three Democratic administrations outperform all five Republican administrations. I noted this discrepancy was true for Congress; real per capita growth less increases in the debt was higher under Democratic Congresses than under Republican Congresses.

I advanced a few guesses as to why this discrepancy might be observable which I hope to test as time permits, but I think perhaps the biggest one is simply that Democrats tend to pursue policies that are less likely to run up the debt.

and some similar data here, DEMOCRATS v. REPUBLICANS on the issue of the U.S. ECONOMY

Then there is the bright red herring of those statistics that Trumball flashes,

Similarly, Shilling predicts that the number of “government beneficiaries,” as he defines them, will grow to 60 percent of the US population by 2040 Against this backdrop, many Americans are understandably uneasy about the fiscal path of their politicians.

Could it be that these increases in government benefits are perfectly in-line with an aging population and the retirement of the baby boomers. That segment of the population is simply collecting, adjusted for inflation the monies that they paid in. Social Security is not facing a crisis, but it is facing some shortfalls because of demographic trends. Republicans had ten years to fix that problem, but instead tried to sell the public on gambling their retirement benefits away by investing in nice safe stock like Enron and Worldcom. While Trumbull notes the baby boomer phenomenon, he doesn’t tie government outlays to it, he leaves it dangling as he blames increased spending on discretionary spending. Retiring and having a roof over your head, food, clothing and shelter is not discretionary. Discretionary has become some damning all encompassing catch phrase used to paint a false picture of how our money is spent. I’ve gotten to the point where red lights go off whenever I see the word in print because most of the time I know that it is being misused. Not mentioned at all in the article is the Democratic proposal to pay as you go, Democrats drafting pay-as-you-go budget

Instead of promising more unaffordable tax cuts that go mainly to the richest Americans, as their Republican counterparts have done for the past six years, key Democrats are imposing some real spending discipline on themselves.

That is the underreported story in the budget resolutions passed by the House and Senate just before the Easter recess and now headed for tweaking in a conference between the chambers and final approval in the next few weeks.

The resolutions differ in detail but have an important common feature: a pay-as-you-go rule, shorthanded as pay-go, which requires Congress to offset every increase in an entitlement program or new tax cut with an equivalent saving somewhere else in order to prevent any further additions to the budget deficit.

The return to pay-go, which was jettisoned by Republicans in 2001 in order to make it easier to pass their tax cuts, is a triumph for two stubborn men in particular – the Democratic chairmen of the Senate and House budget committees, Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina.

President Bush’s Failed Economic Record

Based on that one story it would be unfair to call Trumbull a bad reporter ( he isn’t a liberal reporter or he wouldn’t have included two erroneous implications that Reagan made government smaller), though he was obviously a bit lazy. On the other hand there are a few good reporters out there, like Charles Savage, BOSTON GLOBE’S CHARLIE SAVAGE WINS PULITZER FOR NATIONAL REPORTING

Boston Globe Washington correspondent Charles Savage was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting today for series of articles uncovering the Bush Administration’s widespread practice of using “presidential signing statements” to circumvent hundreds of existing laws passed by Congress and signed into law by the president himself.

The articles by Savage brought national attention to a little-known prerogative of presidential power and resulted in Senate oversight hearings and a declaration from the American Bar Association said that such actions were “contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional separation of powers.”

Among the laws Bush has said he can ignore include those banning torture, new safeguards in the Patriot Act, various military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, “whistle-blower” protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

In his articles, Savage also revealed other behind-the-scenes tactics aimed at expanding presidential power, including the administration’s use of political appointees to hire lawyers for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

Observations like this are a little jarring, but need to be made. At least for those on the Right that are calling the Virginia Tech shootings a massacre, Now Do You Understand?

Let’s total the score: at least 65 Iraqis dead in four attacks vs. 22 Americans shot at Virginia Tech.

Why are the same people that keep telling us that Iraq is Bush’s Desert Paradise now screaming about what a horrible tragedy that the Virginia Tech shootings are. Its not that difficult, Iraq and Va. Tech are both horrible tragedies. The tragedy in Iraq just never ends.
I waited as late as I could thinking that authorities might get around to releasing the perpetrator’s name, but they haven’t, Worst U.S. shooting ever kills 33 on Va. campus

Federal investigators told NBC News’ Pete Williams that they believed the man was a Virginia Tech student in his early 20s. Their identification was delayed for several hours, they said, because the man’s face was disfigured when he shot himself, he carried no ID and an initial check on his fingerprints came up empty.

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” – Benjamin Franklin

“Change is inevitable. Change for the better is a full-time job” – Adlai E. Stevenson

Life is not a spectator sport

Cartoon: Which political party is the most pro family?

The right-wing blog Tigerhawk writes in this post, Warmth in winter: American perception and global reality, By TigerHawk at 3/04/2007 09:54:00 AM

Starting in March, the United States has a very different experience from Europe and northern Asia. In general, the rest of the populated northern hemisphere is much hotter than it used to be. In the United States, the only meaningful changes have been in the southwest, which is thinly populated and only marginally influences American politics. The ugly truth is that we Americans are, in general, enjoying warmer winters without paying the price of hotter summers. (emphasis mine)

He has charts and graphs and everything. Very impressive unless you do some fact checking. U.S. HAS SECOND WARMEST SUMMER ON RECORD Nation Experienced Warmest January – August Period On Record

The average June-August 2006 temperature for the contiguous United States (based on preliminary data) was 2.4 degrees F (1.3 degrees C) above the 20th century average of 72.1 degrees F (22.3 degrees C). This was the second warmest summer on record, slightly cooler than the record of 74.7 degrees F set in 1936 during the Dust Bowl era. This summer’s average was 74.5 degrees F. Eight of the past ten summers have been warmer than the U.S. average for the same period.

NOAA image of June-August 2006 statewide precipitation rankings.The persistence of the anomalous warmth in 2006 made this January-August period the warmest on record for the continental U.S., eclipsing the previous record of 1934.

  DROUGHT AND CLIMATE CHANGE:  IMPLICATIONS FOR THE WEST (DOC formant) 

The prolonged drought over large portions of the West generated a set of adverse and costly effects in 2002, ranging from record wildfires in Oregon, to large fish kills in California’s Klamath River triggered by warm water temperatures. In some regions of the West, drought has persisted for nearly a decade, leading to severe stress on vegetation and water resources. The intensity and frequency of recent droughts has raised concerns that fundamental climate shifts may be occurring in the western U.S. and elsewhere, due perhaps to the generally rising temperatures observed globally over the past decade. This paper reviews the current understanding of possible links between drought and global climate change, the physical and  economic consequences of drought, and the potential to mitigate the adverse consequences of such climatic events using long term climate forecasts and other meteorological information.

A range of potential effects of global climate change on water resources and agricultural management has been suggested.  These include increased surface temperatures and evaporation rates, increased global precipitation (but with greater geographic variability), increased proportions of precipitation received as rain, not snow, earlier and shorter runoff seasons, increased water temperatures, and decreased water quality.  Variability in precipitation patterns is also expected to increase, resulting in more frequent droughts in the U.S. and elsewhere (see Adams et al. 1999, for a review of the effects of climate change on agriculture and agricultural resources).

The economic consequences of drought are well documented.  For example, average annual costs in the United States due to drought are estimated at $6 to 8 billion (Knutson, 2001).  Flooding and hurricanes, though more publicized than drought, are responsible for only $3.6 to 7.2 billion in annual damages combined (Knutson, 2001).  Some of these economic costs arise from the direct physical impacts of drought, such as crop failure, municipal water shortage, wildfires, and fish and wildlife mortality.  Indirect effects also occur.  For example, water deficits reduce hydroelectric power generation, and increase electricity prices.  The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (2002) and Claussen (2001) offer comprehensive discussions of the physical and socioeconomic impacts of drought in the United States.

 Combating global warming makes economic sense

For 25 years, the Golden State has led the nation in programs to save energy; these, in turn, reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions that contribute to global warming. According to the California Energy Commission, the state’s energy-efficient appliance standards, among the toughest in the country, have led to a 75 percent reduction in the energy required to power refrigerators, much to the delight of consumers. Similarly, new homes built in California use only a quarter of the energy of older homes, thanks to smarter building codes. Renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind have prospered in California, where state tax credits helped drive the price of wind energy down almost 90 percent, which now makes it cheaper, in windy areas, than any alternative. As a consequence, in Colorado, for example, customers who agreed to pay a bit extra for wind-only electricity are instead are now getting rebates.

The Hewlett Foundation recently sponsored a study of the economic consequences of these policies over the past three decades. It tells an amazing story. California now uses half as much energy per capita as the nation as a whole, saving the average household $1,000 each year, with total savings now more than $56 billion. New York households have similarly benefited. Whereas per-capita electricity use across the nation has increased 50 percent in the last 30 years, in New York it has risen only 15 percent, due to the state’s focus on energy conservation, saving billions of dollars. The bottom line here is that saving energy is not only good for the environment, it also saves people money.

Whither winter weather? Some worry Minnesota’s losing it 

These are simple straight forward facts. Not too difficult to find. Why he had the energy to put of three temperature maps and one photo ( which he couldn’t help, but insinuate a vast liberal media conspiracy as to why he hadn’t seen the chart pictured else where. Right-wing rule #13b – Anything that disturbs the right-wing force is a result of a vast liberal conspiracy – never entertain the idea that you might be wrong.) and not get the major point of his post factually correct leaves a critical reader wondering about the exclusion of such important data. He also states that he agrees directionally with Al Gore, but basically just doesn’t like him as to so would make TH a member of the likers of the celebrity class – you know that class of people that gave us Ronald Reagan and might give us second rate actor Fred Thompson for president. Still one supposes mission accomplished – he managed to get his facts wrong, bash Al Gore, the supposedly liberal media and celebrities all in one post without being the least aware of his short circuiting the hypocrisy meter.

‘We killed BBC reporter’, Palestinian group says. Another tragic nail in that perverse narrative of the Right that all journalist are terrorist sympathizers.

The Man Who Sued Himself

In continuing coverage of the mess that is our federal student aid system, the NYT today ran a story about the private sector’s often below-the-belt tactics competing with the less costly direct loan program.

“The companies have offered money to universities to pull out of the federal direct loan program, which was championed by the Clinton administration.
They went to court to keep the direct program from becoming more competitive. And they benefited from oversight so lax that the Education Department’s assistant inspector general in 2003 called for tightened regulation of lender dealings with universities.”

In January of last year I published a detailed insider account in the Village Voice of how political pressure was applied within the Department of Education to subvert the direct loan program.

“”The people Bush brought in told us we were no longer allowed to give speeches, talk to colleges, publish any brochures or reports, make any hires,” my source said. “The annual Direct Loan conference was canceled. Our communications person wasn’t allowed to talk to the press without a [Bush] appointee in the room. You almost had to ask permission to go to the bathroom, and you never, ever got it.””

We wouldn’t want the government doing something that is more effective and saves students and their parents a few bucks at the expense of Bush administration supporters in the private sector now would we. That America has a middle class thanks to affordable public universities and that the nation’s science, business and technological future rests on having a large number of well educated Americans from a broad spectrum of backgrounds would never cross the Decider’s mind.

60 years ago, Jackie Robinson stepped onto a field in a monumental act of courage

ASHEVILLE — Baseball will honor perhaps the most significant African-American athlete in history today by celebrating the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the game’s color barrier.

When Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947, he changed the game and athletics forever.

“Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you’re wasting your life.” – Jackie Robinson

Propaganda proceeds by psychological manipulations, character modifications, by creation of stereotypes useful when the time comes

New Rule from this post from the right-wing hate mongers and Bush genuflectors at Newsbusters, Missing Bush Documents: Another Jack Cafferty-Endorsed Conspiracy Theory, Posted by Matthew Balan on April 13, 2007 – 18:50.

On Friday’s Situation Room, CNN commentator Cafferty was doing publicity for the Bush-hating site Salon.com, reciting some of the many quotes blogger Glenn Greenwald collected from a variety of liberal media sources, such as the New York Times, Newsweek, NPR, and the Associated Press. These quotes from news articles “tend to suggest a pattern,” as Cafferty put it, of missing documents and e-mails with the Bush administration.

Memorize the rule, a fringe nationalistic right-wing site says that if its printed in Newsweek it cannot be true, but just this past January they ran this post: Posted by Noel Sheppard on January 11, 2007 – 18:10 , Mega-Kudos to Newsweek’s Samuelson: Entitlement Programs Put Country at Risk in which they lap up the utter nonsense that published by Newsweek that cuts in Social Security benefits, raising the retirement age, and cutting Medicare will erase the incredible national debt created by a Republican Congress and their Decider-in-Chief. Then again on December 6, 2006 Newsbusters could hardly restrain its unquestioning – as in non-fact checking glee on another story from Newsweek, Posted by Noel Sheppard on December 18, 2006 – 18:08., Media Shocker: Newsweek Reports Iraq Economy Booming

In the midst of all the civil war, quagmire, cataclysmic, doom and gloom reports about Iraq comes a shocking story from an even more shocking source. According to Newsweek, Iraq’s economy is booming

Iran ready to step in if summit fails

Under the plan, Iraq would agree to undertake a series of economic and political reforms in exchange for international investment and financial concessions.

Mr. al-Dabbagh said that, despite Iraq’s vast oil and gas reserves, the country faces a five-year “bottleneck” trying to jump-start the economy and reform social and legal services while dealing with an increasingly violent insurgency.

Iraq’s foreign debt stood at about $120 billion when Saddam Hussein’s government fell in 2003. The United States forgave some $4.1 billion in Iraqi debt in late 2004, and the “Paris Club” of wealthy creditor nations pledged a major debt-forgiveness program.

Without the influx of foreign aid Iraq wouldn’t have an economy and much of its future plans depend on debt forgiveness that totals in the tens of billions. If the fringe Right thinks that is a healthy economy then so much for their grossly over estimated expertise on all things economic.
Even if we move on to NPR as a liberal news outlet that according to the rabid Right cannot tell the truth, Posted by Noel Sheppard on May 8, 2006 – 09:48, Shocking News From NPR: Oil Companies Aren’t Gouging Consumers After All.

For months, the media have blamed virtually anything but free market forces for the rise in oil and gas prices. NBC’s Lisa Myers attributed these increases to greed on a recent Nightly News report stating almost disgustedly “Exxon earned 9.5 cents on every dollar of gasoline and oil sold, cashing in at every stage of the process.”

Imagine the nerve of ExxonMobil actually making a profit. Oh the humanity.

The Right does have some strange love fixation for straw men. They don’t mention in the piece exactly what major Democrat or even liberal media figure that has staked out the position that oil companies should not make a profit. The Right as usual cannot tell the difference between capitalism and greed. They cannot tell the difference or are unwilling to acknowledge that some individuals and businesses rig the game at the expense of consumers and investors. Anger at oil chief’s $400m retirement package

Exxon says the value of the package is at least $258m, which comes on top of a retirement bonus of $98.4m. This largesse makes his salary and bonus for 2005, $49m, look modest by comparison, but it was still one of the biggest pay deals for an executive last year and it has stoked claims that big oil companies are profiteering from the soaring price of crude. Exxon made a profit of $36.1bn in 2005, the biggest ever by any company in the world.

Well you get the idea. If Newsweek, NPR etc. run stories that dovetail with the manufactured reality of the Right then they are more then willing to site those stories as evidence to justify their fringe agenda. No coincidence that the stories the Right fonds over don’t hold up to two minutes of fact checking. That doesn’t keep sites like Busters from siting them as though they were some newly revealed holy grail. This is in marked contrast to when multiple news outlets and sources run news that Newsbuster and their right-wing clone sites disagree. Then despite an avalanche of proof they simply shift into denial mode with the all damning tirade about the entire media being liberal and only the great grand priests of the ultimate truth Newsbusters knows the real story. Newsbusters is outrageous, but helpful in a way. Like the vast majority of the rabid Right you know you’re backed them into a corner when instead of presenting facts to refute your argument they start flailing about arms waving  yelling liberal media liberal media. Far Right pundit and media darling himself Bill O’Reilly is always good for a regular hypocritical whine about the media of which he is a major figure, O’Reilly on Media Matters: “a far-left swamp pit … that just attacks people with whom they disagree”

O’Reilly elaborated that “they’ll take an hour discussion we do here on The Radio Factor, and then they’ll transcribe two minutes of it and leave out all the other stuff. … [I]t’s a cheap game. They’ve been doing this for years. And everybody with any intelligence knows it.” As with his previous attacks on Media Matters, O’Reilly did not offer a single example of Media Matters’ taking his remarks out of context. Media Matters provides transcripts, with full context, and, when available, audio or video clips of O’Reilly’s remarks in items about him.

Unfounded accusations, name calling and angry rhetoric empty of anything resembling a cogent argument are O’Reilly and the far Right’s modus operandi. Hypocrisy is their daily drug and their crutch. This is probably why the Right has such contempt for the rule of law. The law uses facts, history and rules of evidence. All things that the Right doesn’t want to be bothered with. They want to move their agenda along based on emotion – fear and anger most of all. Just as the Right keeps saying they are pro capitalism when they are pro unearned wealth, they are not advocates of truth in media as much as pro right-wing propaganda.

Unsentimental, but fond farewell to Kurt Vonnegut by Lev Grossman.

“(Propaganda) proceeds by psychological manipulations, character modifications, by creation of stereotypes useful when the time comes – The two great routes that this sub-propaganda takes are the conditioned reflex and the myth” – Jacques Ellul

You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man’s freedom. You can only be free if I am free

Michael O’Hare writes more eloquently then me about the extent of punishment for those that trade in inflammatory speech, Acts and traits, rights and duties

We need to stop shortchanging analysis of public figures by inferring traits from acts, and pay attention to the acts. In particular, we need to cut everyone some slack for blurting and careless speech. Atom-bomb sanctions for rudeness just make everyone afraid, because we know we’re only human and that we almost certainly can’t dissemble an angelic nature all the time. In a world where one careless utterance can ruin your life, the wise will just shut up, perhaps more quickly than the clueless, and that’s not good for anyone. Of course, Imus didn’t just blurt out something once; it’s a large part of his shtick. But his story is getting mixed up with cases that were slips and the kind of barely meaningful errors humans are prone to, especially when they’re tired, stressed, or scared.

It is not that Imus or plenty of others shouldn’t be called out and verbally hammered, but the extent of that punishment is a two edged sword. Inevitably your day will come, the day when something slips out from that otherwise temperate, maybe even angelic facade. You’ll be sorry the moment it leaves your lips or keyboard, but its too late then. I do disagree with O’Hare on one point. When the reaction got to the point where there was pressure on Imus not to apologize or make some sought of contrition, but to be fired that was censorship even if not the text book definition. Government censorship is the classic definition of same, but not the only kind or route that can be used to silence people. O’Hare then ends with a point that many, especially the mainstream media are missing that Imus and the seemingly endless number of right-wing shock pundits wouldn’t exist without a base of listeners and advertisers that are more then willing to give them a base of support.

By way of introduction to the next story Lee Iacocca writes, Excerpt: Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

Had Enough? Am I the only guy in this country who’s fed up with what’s happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We’ve got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we’ve got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can’t even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, “Stay the course.” Stay the course? You’ve got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I’ll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out! You might think I’m getting senile, that I’ve gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies.Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don’t need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we’re fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That’s not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for.

Clueless bozos? Sounds like inflammatory name calling or hitting the nail on the head. They are not clueless in the classic sense of not knowing what they’re doing. It is more a case of having an agenda that is predicated on treachery and sticking to it regardless of how it hurts America. They don’t listen to the voice of the people or respect the law, they listen to the little voices rattling around inside their little pointed heads, Bush Administration: Breakdown

Is this is a metaphor for something?

Congressional oversight committees and reporters covering the U.S. attorneys firing scandal waited with bated breath Thursday night for yet another huge document drop revealing more details in the Bush administration’s plan to fire eight U.S. attorneys.

They waited, and waited. But the documents weren’t delivered to the House and Senate Judiciary committees until this morning because — no joke — the Justice Department’s copy machine broke.

As if the broken copier weren’t enough, something even worse happened: the DOJ’s computer server went down this morning just as agency officials were trying to email around 2,000 pages worth of documents to Capitol Hill.

But wait, that’s not all! After the server went down, the car transporting hard copies of the documents to the Hill got a flat tire.

Or at least that’s the dog-ate-my-homework excuse the Justice Department provided to the committees, according to Judiciary committee aides who asked to remain anonymous.

No this is not an excerpt from a comedy skit from SNL, Bill Mahr or the Daily Show. This is the alternate universe of conservatives and how they govern. Conservative confidence in the Big Lie has served them somewhat well in terms of power, abet at the expense of morality and respect for our nation’s values. It does tend to weave a tangled web. After a while you forget how to properly time the lie and what to lie about and why. Then there is coordinating the lie with all the underlings White House Claims Bush Was In The Dark About Iraq Troop Extensions, Fueling Speculation

On Tuesday, President Bush addressed the American Legion and accused Congress of forcing U.S. troops to extend their deployments in Iraq:

The bottom line is this: Congress’s failure to fund our troops will mean that some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines.

The very next day, his own Pentagon announced that all U.S. Army soldiers in Iraq would have their 12-month tours in Iraq extended by 3 additional months.

What explains the strange timing? As Atrios noted, when the Pentagon announced its new policy on Wednesday, Defense Secretary Gates said he was angry that the news had been leaked to the press. That has sparked suspicion that the deployment extension was actually supposed to be announced after Bush had vetoed Congress’ Iraq legislation “so that he could try to claim it was their fault.” In that scenario, Bush’s remarks on Tuesday were just meant to prime the pump.

More here There’s a big job opening in Washington, but nobody seems to want it

Translation: The deputy press secretary is unaware of whether Bush was aware that a decision had been made by a key subordinate to extend the tours of soldiers in Iraq….But wait a minute, isn’t Bush supposed to be the Decider?

Record of Iraq War Lies to Air April 25 on PBS

Video shows Richard Perle claiming that Saddam Hussein worked with al Qaeda and that Iraqis would greet American occupiers as liberators. Here are the Weekly Standard, The Wall Street Journal, William Safire from The New York Times, Charles Krauthammer and Jim Hoagland from The Washington Post, all demanding an overthrow of Iraq’s government. George Will is seen saying that Hussein “has anthrax, he loves biological weapons, he has terrorist training camps, including 747s to practice on.”

But was that even plausible? Bob Simon of “60 Minutes” tells Moyers he wasn’t buying it. He says he saw the idea of a connection between Hussein and al Qaeda as an absurdity: “Saddam, as most tyrants, was a total control freak. He wanted total control of his regime. Total control of the country. And to introduce a wild card like al Qaeda in any sense was just something he would not do. So I just didn’t believe it for an instant.”

Knight Ridder Bureau Chief John Walcott didn’t buy it either. He assigned Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay to do the reporting and they found the Bush claims to be quite apparently false. For example, when the Iraqi National Congress (INC) fed The New York Times’s Judith Miller a story through an Iraqi defector claiming that Hussein had chemical and biological weapons labs under his house, Landay noticed that the source was a Kurd, making it very unlikely he would have learned such secrets. But Landay also noticed that it was absurd to imagine someone putting a biological weapons lab under his house.

“You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man’s freedom. You can only be free if I am free.” – Clarence Darrow

“A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on. Ideas have endurance without death.” – John Fitzgerald Kennedy

What began as a crusade for civility has soured into a cause of conflict and even censorship

What has the Right and Faux News focused on the past 24 hours? The dropped charges against the Duke Lacrosse players. Its great that the same people that smeared and continue to smear the honorable Senator Kerry have suddenly, if only for a second decided that the truth matters.

The ACLU has released Civilian Deaths: The Human Cost of War. While an incredible documentation of war’s brutality there is a surreality to putting a price on lose.

Claim filed on behalf of Iraqi [Redacted] by child. [Redacted] was shot and killed by Coalition Forces (CF) on the road after he didn’t stop at their checkpoint. CF had closed the road in order to secure a weapon from the middle of the road. Finding: denied due to negligence of [Redacted].

Claim on behalf of Iraqi [Redacted] by husband. Husband, wife, and children were returning home from a party when they were fired on by Coalition Forces (CF). An RPG had been previously fired at CF and CF were returning fire when they struck and killed [Redacted]. The vehicle was also damaged by gunfire. Finding: not included. A condolence payment of $4,000 US total ($2,500 for death and $1,500 for damage) is offered and justified as follows: “By making this condolence payment, MNF ensures the family and community recognize the MNFs’ sympathy for the unfortunate occurrence. Support will positively influence both the community and local Iraqi leaders.”

Next. NYT has a story on the release of these documents, Civilian Claims on U.S. Suggest the Toll of War

The paperwork, examined by The New York Times, provides unusually detailed accounts of how bystanders to the conflicts have become targets of American forces grappling to identify who is friend, who is foe.

In the case of the fisherman in Tikrit, he and his companion desperately tried to appear unthreatening to an American helicopter overhead.

“They held up the fish in the air and shouted ‘Fish! Fish!’ to show they meant no harm,” said the Army report attached to the claim filed by the fisherman’s family. The Army refused to compensate for the killing, ruling that it was “combat activity,” but approved $3,500 for his boat, net and cellphone, which drifted away and were stolen.

In the killings at the gas station in Balad, documents show that the Army determined that the neither of the dead Iraqis had done anything hostile or criminal, and approved $5,000 to the civilian’s brother but nothing for the Iraqi officer.

In another incident, in 2005, an American soldier in a dangerous Sunni Arab area south of Baghdad killed a boy after mistaking his book bag for a bomb satchel. The Army paid the boy’s uncle $500.

This shouldn’t be taken as an indictment of the military. Iraq and Afghanistan are combat zones. Their lives are at risk 24/7. Imagine the stress they are under. Haditha aside most soldiers do respect life, but the stress of not knowing how, who or when they might be attacked takes a toll. Ultimately the responsibility for this carnage, avoidable carnage rests with Bush and the rest of the neocon cheerleaders.

Those missing e-mails Leahy: Missing RNC E-mails are like Nixon’s 18-minute gap are not an isolated incident. This kind of behavior is standard operating procedure, UPDATED: The 18-minute gap and the Saturday Night Massacre, all rolled up into one

Newsweek, February 28, 2007:

what happened to a crucial video recording of Padilla being interrogated in a U.S. military brig that has mysteriously disappeared?

NPR, June 24, 2004:

Key documents are missing from the batch of newly declassified documents the White House released this week on its policies on torture and the treatment of prisoners

USA Today, May 24, 2004:

some 2,000 pages were missing from a congressional copy of a classified report detailing the alleged acts of abuse by soldiers against Iraqi inmates at Abu Ghraib prison

More at the link.

Today’s intentional or unintentional humor courtesy Opinion Journal at the WSJ where conservative Daniel Henninger writes, The Rebirth of Civility? A revolt against people who are behaving badly. BY DANIEL HENNINGER, Thursday, April 12, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

In 1968, Abbie Hoffman, the Yippie saint and a founding father of anti-civility, wrote a book whose title alone still stands as the best summary of the new game: “Revolution for the Hell of It.” The Web democrats, the public hecklers, the loudmouths are Abbie’s children. They know it and are proud of it. No limits. Don’t like it? Get over it. If you object, they will, like characters in a Dick Tracy cartoon, scream, “I demand my constitutional rights!”

To make a point about discourse on the web Dan reaches all the way back to an obscure figure from the sixties who is most famous for participating in riots aimed at Democrats, so Dan can do a strange pretzel twist to lay the blame for all of the meanness on the web at the feet of liberals. Conservatives have set the standard for debate in our modern culture

Glenn Beck – nationally syndicated radio and has a program on CNN:
Beck called Rosie O’Donnell, co-host of ABC’s The View, a “fat witch,” claimed that O’Donnell has “blubber … just pouring out of her eyes,” and asked, “Do you know how many oil lamps we could keep burning just on Rosie O’Donnell fat?”

Referring to Senator Clinton: she’s the stereotypical bitch, you know what I mean?” Beck subsequently qualified his statement: “I never said that Hillary Clinton was a bitch. I said she sounded like one.”

Neal Boortz:
On the March 31, 2006, broadcast of his radio program, Boortz said that then-Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) “looks like a ghetto slut.” ( I’m not a big fan of M’s McKinney, but that doesn’t sound like civil criticism)

Boortz suggested that a victim of Hurricane Katrina housed in an Atlanta hotel consider prostitution. “If that’s the only way she can take care of herself,” Boortz posited, “it sure beats the hell out of sucking off the taxpayers.”

Multi-millionsire right-wing pundit Rush Limbaugh:
Rush Limbaugh stated that “since [Sen. Barack] Obama [D-IL] has — on his mother’s side — forebears of his mother had slaves, could we not say that if Obama wins the Democratic nomination and then wins the presidency, he will own [Rev.] Al Sharpton?”

Limbaugh commented on a season of CBS’ reality TV program Survivor in which contestants were originally divided into competing “tribes” by ethnicity. Limbaugh stated that the contest was “not going to be fair if there’s a lot of water events” and suggested that “blacks can’t swim.” Limbaugh stated that “our early money” is on “the Hispanic tribe” — which he said could include “a Cuban,” “a Nicaraguan,” or “a Mexican or two” — provided they don’t “start fighting for supremacy amongst themselves.”

Bill O’Reilly, another major media figure and conservative with a TV show, radio program, books, and newspaer column:
Discussing Iraq during the January 24 edition of his radio show, O’Reilly claimed that “the Sunni and Shia want to kill each other. … They have fun. This is — they like this. This is what Allah tells them to do, and that’s what they do.” O’Reilly then asserted that the “essential mistake of the war” was failing to anticipate that “these people would act like savages, and they are.” Later, O’Reilly said that he had not predicted that the Iraqis “were going to act like savages in the aftermath of Saddam [Hussein],” and added: “[N]ow, Iran, we know they’re savages.”

On the January 15 edition of The O’Reilly Factor, O’Reilly said of Shawn Hornbeck — who was abducted at the age of 11, held for four years, and recently found in Missouri — that “there was an element here that this kid liked about this circumstances” and that he “do[esn’t] buy” “the Stockholm syndrome thing.”

There is a lot more at the link. Sure these guys have a right to speak their mind, what they have of one, but they are hardly followers of some marginal extremist from the sixties. These people are everywhere, in every medium in America for hours and hours everyday. If American culture isn’t as civil as Dan wants it to be he and OP might want to take a look in the mirror.

“The notion of political correctness declares certain topics, certain expressions, even certain gestures, off-limits. What began as a crusade for civility has soured into a cause of conflict and even censorship.” George Bush

“so it goes”

This isn’t going to go over very well, but here goes. Shock jock Imus has been fired from the MSNBC simulcast so this is somewhat after the fact. Imus has been on radio for like 276 years, he did his first radio show with Ben Franklin and didn’t think much of the whole lightning rod theory and thought the Continental Congress was a bunch of whining twits. He has been a repugnant pile of worthless crap ever since – his endorsement of Senator Kerry in 2004 probably did more to hurt then help. It was perfectly justified to be angry at him, to call for an apology, but calling for him to loose his job crossed the line into censorship. ABC hired Rush Limbaugh to be a commentator on the old Monday Night football and then when he was true to form and made a racist remark people were shocked, just shocked. That Limbaugh and Imus have a history of racism and misogyny is well known – where was the outrage years ago. The advertisers keep pouring money into the coffers of the likes of Imus and Limbaugh because they have listeners or fans who in between snickering at lame repugnant humor buy their products. Imus is just the part of the malignant growth that you can see. He wouldn’t have survived on radio for decades without a base of support and advertisers to go along – firing Imus is like cutting off a dandelion head, you haven’t killed the root. And calling for the termination of his employment, especially after a public apology doesn’t give people like Imus much incentive to change their ways it just pushes the racism and misogyny under the rug. I’ve heard some good arguments against Imus especially from the coach and members of the Rutgers University basketball team. That is how you win against the thinly and not so thinly veiled hate of the Imuses and Limbaughs, you hold them up for ridicule against enlightened thought and better ideas. The for those that are more New Testament centered there is always forgiveness, Edwards On Imus Spat: ‘I Believe In Forgiveness’

“I believe in redemption, I believe in forgiveness,” Edwards said of Imus, who was suspended earlier in the week after calling the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy headed hos.” Since then, Imus has repeatedly apologized for his comments and met with Rev. Al Sharpton, who called for the outspoken radio host’s firing. Imus has also agreed to meet with the Rutgers team, who would not comment on whether or not they believed he should be fired.

[ ]…”What he said is wrong because it’s wrong. It has to be condemned, we have to speak out when people use this kind of language,” Edwards said. “This is a very serious matter, it should be taken very seriously.”

Speaking out is the way. If liberals or moderate Republicans, independents or whoever insists everyone be fired for practicing free speech, even repugnant free speech we’re going to have streets full of jobless people. Condemn the Imuses, the Limbaughs, the Coulters, the Pat Robertsons, the O’Reilly’s and Malkins, but we need to stop short of being an angry mob that decides who works and who doesn’t – if their audience eventually gets a clue and sees how deeply stupid and morally vacant these pundits are, demands for their termination won’t be necessary they’ll just become obsolete. This free speech issue is going to inevitably come back to bite those that have pushed for Imus’s firing. Kevin Drum has some thoughts along similar lines from Condeleezza Rice’s cousin(strange world), HOS AND BITCHES

On the Imus insult meter, “nappy-headed hos” wouldn’t rate above a 3. It doesn’t even come close to one of his meaner riffs. Regular listeners of the show expect racist and sexist banter. As Imus explained to Mike Wallace on “60 Minutes” in 1998, his show has someone specially assigned to do “nigger jokes.” But rest assured, the Imus crew has plenty of kike, wetback, mick, spick, dago, Jap, Chink, redneck and unprintable Catholic priest jokes too. Not to mention the rabid homophobia and occasional Islamophobia.

….But there’s also no basis for firing him or ending his show. Firing Imus for racist riffs would be like firing Liberace for flamboyance. It’s what he does.

More to the point, Imus should only be fired when the black artists who make millions of dollars rapping about black bitches and hos lose their recording contracts. Black leaders should denounce Imus and boycott him and call for his head only after they do the same for the misogynist artists with whom they have shared stages, magazine covers and awards shows.

I don’t know that consistency is such a great virtue, but as much as it pains me to defend the first amendment rights of hate radio it has to be done. Be outraged at what they say, write stations and demand better – more insight, genuine humor and overall better programming would work for me, but no demands about punish people for exercising their rights while at the same time looking the other way when at least a small portion of pop culture is saying the same thing with bad music layered on top.

Bush aides’ use of GOP e-mail probed

The White House said Wednesday it had mishandled Republican Party-sponsored e-mail accounts used by nearly two dozen presidential aides, resulting in the loss of an undetermined number of e-mails concerning official White House business.

Congressional investigators looking into the administration’s firing of eight federal prosecutors already had the nongovernmental e-mail accounts in their sights because some White House aides used them to help plan the U.S. attorneys’ ouster. Democrats were questioning whether the use of the GOP-provided e-mail accounts was proof that the firings were political.

Democrats also have been asking if White House officials are purposely conducting sensitive official presidential business via nongovernmental accounts to get around a law requiring preservation – and eventual disclosure – of presidential records.

Those e-mail accounts are not like The Republican National Committee e-mail accounts, they are RNC accounts. As Josh Marshall notes this might be a fortuitous opportunity for the NSA or the FBI is show their stuff and let the computer forensics experts loose on those mail servers.

Dammit, this pisses me off. There are never enough good people in the world and to lose one is heart breaking, Kurt Vonnegut, Novelist Who Caught the Imagination of His Age, Is Dead at 84

His last book, in 2005, was a collection of biographical essays, “A Man Without a Country.” It, too, was a best seller.

In concludes with a poem written by Mr. Vonnegut called “Requiem,” which has these closing lines:

When the last living thing

has died on account of us,

how poetical it would be

if Earth could say,

in a voice floating up

perhaps

from the floor

of the Grand Canyon,

“It is done.”

People did not like it here.

“A wicked fellow is the most pious when he takes to it. He’ll beat you all at piety”

Remember that as the U.S. attorney scandal unfolded the Right’s knee jerk response was that all USa’s are political appointments and dismissing them at will is a regular habit of all presidents – failing as usual to acknowledge the details of those other presidents and the motivations. In many ways the firing of U.S. attorneys for purely political reasons is deeply radical and is indicative of the Bush administration’s war on the co-equal branches of government and the apparently now old school idea that the law might be at least a hair above politics. So it is with Bush’s use of “recess” appointments. Bush put Republican water carrier and hitman Sam Fox up for Ambassador to Belgium and by most accounts that nomination was doomed. No problem for the Bushies just withdraw Fox’s nomination and use the recess appointment as a back door. Those Unconstitutional “Recess” Appointments, Redux

The excuse the President offers is the Recess Appointments Clause (RAC) of the Constitution, art. II, sec. 2, cl. 3, which provides that “The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.”

The Senate is currently in the midst of an eleven-and-a-half-day adjournment; presumably Fox and the other three “recess appointees” will be appointed toward the very tail end of that Senate recess, just before the Senate returns.

The President’s view is (i) that this short Senate adjournment, in the middle of a “Session,” is “the Recess” to which the RAC refers, and (ii) that the vacancies for Ambassador to Belgium and the other federal offices “happen” during this “recess,” even though the offices became vacant long before the Senate adjourned.

As Marty Lederman points out this is clearly an assault, a back of the hand to Appointments Clause. Left unchallenged Bush doesn’t just set a precedent for the next Republican president, but for any president. This is where the national debate becomes deeply dishonest. I for one do not want any president of any party to encroach on the balance of powers among the three branches of government by recess appointments or the partisan use of law enforcement officials. This is the true nightmare of Big Government where one branch executes its agenda without check, without over sight. If the conservative movement is truly for small government where is the reaction against this kind of behavior. Are these same conservatives that are quick to rattle off lame excuses for Bush going to be silent when a Democratic president does the same because of the legal precedents that Bush has set. Remembering that the The Federalist Papers are not law, but have served to inform interpretation of the Constitution, Alexander Hamilton in No. 67 writes,

The last of these two clauses, it is equally clear, cannot be understood to comprehend the power of filling vacancies in the Senate, for the following reasons: First. The relation in which that clause stands to the other, which declares the general mode of appointing officers of the United States, denotes it to be nothing more than a supplement to the other, for the purpose of establishing an auxiliary method of appointment, in cases to which the general method was inadequate. The ordinary power of appointment is confined to the President and Senate JOINTLY, and can therefore only be exercised during the session of the Senate; but as it would have been improper to oblige this body to be continually in session for the appointment of officers and as vacancies might happen IN THEIR RECESS, which it might be necessary for the public service to fill without delay, the succeeding clause is evidently intended to authorize the President, SINGLY, to make temporary appointments “during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.”

We needed most urgently to have an Ambassador to Belgium? Only the most cynical, juvenile and arrogant interpretation of the laws intent could afford the the Decider an excuse for his behavior. There is some good news today in the way of Congress asserting its authority. The House has stepped up and served a subpoena on the Department of Justice and no one can say with a straight face that Congress didn’t give Attorney General Alberto Gonzales plenty of time and room to negotiate – Conyers calls effort last resort after weeks of negotiations with Justice

“We have been patient in allowing the department to work through its concerns regarding the sensitive nature of some of these materials,” Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., wrote Gonzales in a letter accompanying the subpoena. “Unfortunately, the department has not indicated any meaningful willingness to find a way to meet our legitimate needs.,”

“At this point further delay in receiving these materials will not serve any constructive purpose,” Conyers said. He characterized the subpoena as a last resort after weeks of negotiations with Justice over documents and e-mails the committee wants.

The legal angle and implication at Firedoglake, Rep. Conyers Issues Subpoena Duces Tecum For DOJ Docs


It Keeps Getting Worse At Justice

Another week means another round of troubles for the beleaguered Justice Department and its barely-hanging-on chief, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. First came word on Good Friday of the resignation of Monica Goodling, the high-ranking Justice official who helped choreograph the dismissal last year of eight U.S. Attorneys. She is thus no longer under the control of the government and now, theoretically anyway, is free to cut her own deal with Congress if she decides to cooperate with the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of the federal prosecutors. Don’t bet on that. But it’s more likely today than one week ago.

Next came word over the weekend of the extraordinary influence at the Justice Department of graduates of a law school called Regent University School of Law, founded by televangelist Pat Robertson. Even if you put the religious angle aside, even if you are comfortable with the idea of federal lawyers having such close ties to religious ideology, it is not exactly a high-water mark for the Department that it is recruiting candidates from a school ranked in the “fourth-tier” of law schools around the country—136th to be exact. Gone, apparently, are the days when the Department sought after and obtained the best and brightest legal minds.

We all know by now from being asleep at the wheel on 9-11, to Katrina, to lying the nation into Iraq and the way that war was subsequently conducted and the Walter-Reed veterans care scandal that ideology has and will always trump good governance and the common good among conservatives. This is an except that Digby posted from “Jesus Plus Nothing: Undercover among America’s secret theocrats.”

At the 1990 National Prayer Breakfast, George H.W. Bush praised Doug Coe for what he described as “quiet diplomacy, I wouldn’t say secret diplomacy,” as an “ambassador of faith.” Coe has visited nearly every world capital, often with congressmen at his side, “making friends” and inviting them back to the Family’s unofficial headquarters, a mansion (just down the road from Ivanwald) that the Family bought in 1978 with $1.5 million donated by, among others, Tom Phillips, then the C.E.O. of arms manufacturer Raytheon, and Ken Olsen, the founder and president of Digital Equipment Corporation. A waterfall has been carved into the mansion’s broad lawn, from which a bronze bald eagle watches over the Potomac River. The mansion is white and pillared and surrounded by magnolias, and by red trees that do not so much tower above it as whisper. The mansion is named for these trees; it is called The Cedars, and Family members speak of it as a person. “The Cedars has a heart for the poor,” they like to say. By “poor” they mean not the thousands of literal poor living barely a mile away but rather the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom: the senators, generals, and prime ministers who coast to the end of Twenty-fourth Street in Arlington in black limousines and town cars and hulking S.U.V.’s to meet one another, to meet Jesus, to pay homage to the god of The Cedars.
[…]

There they forge “relationships” beyond the din of vox populi (the Family’s leaders consider democracy a manifestation of ungodly pride) and “throw away religion” in favor of the truths of the Family. Declaring God’s covenant with the Jews broken, the group’s core members call themselves “the new chosen.” (emphasis mine)

The objection here isn’t simple faith and the freedom to practice that faith. The issue is working against fundament American values clearly stated in our founding documents.
Authored by American diplomat Joel Barlow in 1796, the following treaty was sent to the floor of the Senate, June 7, 1797, where it was read aloud in its entirety and unanimously approved. John Adams, having seen the treaty, signed it and proudly proclaimed it to the Nation.

Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

“A wicked fellow is the most pious when he takes to it. He’ll beat you all at piety.” – Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)