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A Faerie's Farthing

Flitting through the internets looking for sparkly bits. All content mine and not to be reproduced without permission.

Location: All Material Copyrighted, United States

Monday, October 31, 2005

Well that was ill-timed...

Well that was ill-timed...

it seems Scalito already has it.

Short Bus Preznit's Short List for SCOTUS

Short Bus Preznit's Short List for SCOTUS

Shrubya once joked, tastelessly, about hitting the trifecta. But with the withdrawal of Perkie's nomination, the indictment of Scooter Libby and the 2,000th soldier to die in Iraq, it's obvious that last week was someone else's turn; Shrubya, instead, hit an anti-fecta of sorts. Since he's never been one to suffer in petulant silence, we can count on his problems becoming ours. Now, I know what you're thinking and yes; things most certainly can get worse.

With his ratings and perceived efficacy finally where they belong, patching up the rift with the red-headed stepchild faction of the GOP is pretty much his only shot at redemption. (rimshot) He almost has no choice but to nominate a bona-fide Wingnut™ to replace the often moderate Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court; irrelevant men do desperate things.

Not that his possible nominations hold any real surprises; most of them are re-runs from the first round. You know - the ones to whom shrubya was less beholden. But I think it's more accurate to say that where Roberts was a Trojan-horse entity, the current short list contenders wear their Wingnut™ hearts on their sleeves. Take, for example, J. Michael Luttig:

Somethin' just ain't right about that boy. His picture sends my creepometer spinning and reading about his judicial bent doesn't help his case any:

Luttig, 51, a graduate of Washington and Lee and the University of Virginia, has been since 1991 a conservative mainstay of the Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, based in Richmond. Like Alito, he is known for his sharp intellect and occasional skirmishes with fellow conservatives over principle. He wrote a ruling striking down part of the Violence Against Women Act that allowed women to sue attackers, sided with the government in terrorist-detention cases and initially upheld a Virginia law restricting what opponents call "partial-birth" abortions before later striking it down, citing Supreme Court precedent.

He does refer to Casey v. Planned Parenthood as "a decision of super-stare decisis with respect to a woman's fundamental right to choose," but his record indicates a tendency to dance around and undermine abortion rights circuitously.

In addition to Luttig, we have Judge Alito to consider:

At least he just looks like a used car salesman, but he appears to be to the right of Luttig:

Judge Samuel Alito dissented from the lower-court decision—affirmed by the Supreme Court in Casey—that struck down a Pennsylvania law that would have required women to inform their husbands before getting abortions. Alito read the Supreme Court's earlier decisions as holding that an abortion regulation did not pose an undue burden unless it banned abortion, gave another person a veto over a woman's choice, or had the "practical effect of imposing severe limitations." A law that had a "heavy impact on a few women" should be upheld, Alito said.

What the hell kind of legal standard is that?! Who defines "heavy;" who counts how many women? I think I can see why he's a darling of the "confirm them" set; they call him "Scalito," you know. Another observer characterized him as "an activist conservatist judge" and "very prosecutorial from the bench," i.e., he is tough on crime and narrowly construes prisoners' and criminals' rights. Unlike Perkie's nomination, the senate Dems have come out swinging on the next candidate.

Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said yesterday that he has already warned the White House that nominating Alito -- who is often compared to Justice Antonin Scalia -- would "create a lot of problems."

..."If he wants to divert attention from all of his many problems, he can send us somebody that is going to create a lot of problems," Reid said of Bush on CNN. "I think this time he would be ill-advised to do that. But the right wing, the radical right wing, is pushing a lot of his buttons, and he may just go along with them."

And, damn it all, Harry's right:

Bush spent the weekend at Camp David huddled with Miers, who remains his White House counsel and is therefore in charge of the judicial selection process, along with Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., who originally advocated Miers as the choice to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. As the three talked, White House officials contacted prominent conservatives to test the reaction to various candidates.

One group consulted was the Concerned Women for America, whose decision to oppose Miers last Wednesday became one of the final blows to help kill the nomination. Janet M. LaRue, the group's chief counsel, said it received a call from the White House on Saturday and liked what it heard.

"Alito and Luttig have always been at the top of our list," she said in an interview. "We think either of them would be a supreme pick. There isn't a thing stealthy about them. They've got a long, proven record of constitutional conservatism."

And that, my friends, is all I need to know; if the biddies at CWA think these guys are "supreme picks," I'm concerned. And you should be, too; they are, after all, "the nation's largest public policy women's organization with a rich 25-year history of helping our members across the country bring Biblical principles into all levels of public policy."

Separation of church and state means nothing to these people. Needless to say, their issues and goals read like your average fundagelical laundry list: gays, sex is bad, those heathen sissies at the UN, up with creationism, etc. Oh, and the evils of Harry Potter, naturally.

That should be enough to make anyone question their judgement; they take Harry Potter seriously. Unfortunately and inexplicably, they appear to be granted at least some measure of regard by the Senate; the group's founder, Beverly LaHaye, testified in support of the Scalia, Bork and Thomas nominations. Not only do they appear to be out of tune with this century; these women don't even look like they are native to this planet. Mrs. La Haye:

And CWA's legal counsel, Mrs. LaRue:

I'm sorry, but anybody who appears to follow Tammy Faye's beauty advice does not need to be steering the selection of a Supreme Court justice. Buckle yer seat belts, kids; this could be a wacky ride.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Libby's Arraignment Judge: Reggie Walton

Libby's Arraignment Judge: Reggie Walton

Like any good Plameaholic, I was poring over the various news reports of Scooter's indictment and discovered that Judge Reggie Walton will be presiding over the arraignment. So, who is Reggie Walton? Well, I couldn't get to his bio page, but the cached copy informs us that

Judge Reggie B. Walton assumed his position as a United States District Judge for the District of Columbia on October 29, 2001, after being nominated to the position by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the United States Senate. Judge Walton previously served as an Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia from 1981 to 1989 and 1991 to 2001, having been appointed to that position by Presidents Ronald Reagan in 1981 and George H. W. Bush in 1991. While serving on the Superior Court, Judge Walton was the court's Presiding Judge of the Family Division, Presiding Judge of the Domestic Violence Unit and Deputy Presiding Judge of the Criminal Division. Between 1989 and 1991, Judge Walton served as President George H. W. Bush's Associate Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the Executive Office of the President and as President Bush's Senior White House Advisor for Crime.

Don't throw your monitor out the window just yet; Walton seems to be quite a mixed bag. Yes, he was appointed by shrubya, but he's also old-school - he was building a career of government service long before chimpy hit the radar. And if Poppy's myriad disagreements with shrubya are any indicator, Walton's close work with him could be encouraging.

So could this curious little case, in which he ruled against BATFE in favor of hobby rocketeers.

On April 22, 2004, Judge Reggie Walton agreed with NAR/TRA's interpretation of his recent order our court case. Judge Walton said that the 1994 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) exemption granted to hobby rockets as "propellant actuated devices" (PADs) remains valid.

This means that unless and until BATFE properly promulgates a rule rescinding the 1994 PADs exemption, fully assembled rocket motors (regardless of weight) are propellant actuated devices under the law and are exempt from regulation by BATFE.

We are free to fly, at least for the time being.

Judge Walton further said that if BATFE agents take any enforcement action in the field that are not consistent with this ruling, NAR and TRA should come back to his court immediately and seek an injunction against BATFE.

So he seems to be a letter-of-the-law kind of guy and we know he has no qualms ruling against government agencies. Especially encouraging is the knowledge that in a case involving FOIA requests, he ruled that the Bush administration had no right to withold the pertinent information.

Last Friday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Bush Administration has violated the Freedom of Information Act by concealing documents related to a deal cut in secret that makes development possible on millions of acres of America’s last wild lands. The deal prohibits government identification and protection of wilderness-quality lands on more than 150 million acres of lands belonging to all Americans. Interior Secretary Gale Norton and then-Utah Governor (now EPA Administrator) Mike Leavitt defied more than a quarter century of precedent in managing public lands when they agreed to a new policy that blindfolds land managers when it comes to identifying and protecting wilderness.

...“The Bush Administration and Gov. Leavitt worked in secret to end consideration of wilderness protection for millions of acres of public lands in Utah, and tens of millions more across the country,” said Leslie Jones, an attorney for The Wilderness Society, the group that is seeking the public records. “The Federal court’s ruling says that the government’s can’t use bogus excuses to hide how the deal was reached.”

...On Friday, Federal District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton ordered the Interior Department to release the redacted documents within 30 days or come up with a legal explanation for withholding them. Judge Walton found that none of the reasons provided by the agency for hiding documents met the law’s strict limits on when the government can keep information from the public.

He's also the judge who ordered USA Next to stop using the unlicensed photograph of AARP infamy:

A federal judge on Thursday prohibited a conservative group supporting President Bush's Social Security plan from using a photo of a gay couple in its online ads attacking AARP…. U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton issued a temporary restraining order forbidding use of the photograph by USA Next.

And even though he ultimately sided with the government in this ruling, his comments hold out some hope for due process and civil rights.

The government asked a federal judge Monday to dismiss a lawsuit by Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, a bioterrorism expert who claims his reputation was ruined when law enforcement officials called him a "person of interest" in the 2001 anthrax attacks.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said he would rule later, but did agree to a government request to further delay most trial preparations until October.

...Hatfill, who has denied any role in the attacks, seeks to clear his name and recover unspecified monetary damages. His lawsuit claims the Justice Department got him fired from a job directing bioterrorism research at Louisiana State University, and that he has been unable to find another position in his field.

Judge Walton was skeptical Hatfill could find work in his field after being publicly linked to the anthrax investigation.

"At least by implication, he's disbarred," Walton said. "The information is now out there. The man's a pariah. Nobody's going to hire him."

This CNN article has some more details:

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton ruled "with reluctance" that the government would have until at least early October to pursue unimpeded what he called "a highly complicated process."

..."At some point I'm going to say enough is enough, but I don't think that point has occurred yet," Walton told lawyers at the conclusion of the hearing.

The judge said he would issue his formal written ruling "as soon as possible" on the government's motion to dismiss the suit.

Walton signaled he would tentatively allow the case to proceed in a limited fashion, granting Hatfill's attorneys the right to pursue evidence from third parties to the case, such as news organizations.

...The firing came after a Justice Department official sent an e-mail to the program director directing him not to use Hatfill on any Justice Department-funded programs; the program Hatfill was working on was one such program.

Walton told the lawyers he is concerned about the impact of the government's involvement in Hatfill's dismissal.

"I'm not unsympathetic to Mr. Hatfill's situation," Walton said. He noted the limited field of bioweapons research and the predominance of government funding for such projects.

"At least by implication, he's disbarred," the judge said. "Nobody's going to hire him," he suggested.

Eventually, the DoJ relented and agreed to allow some witnesses to testify in Hatfill's case.

Earlier this week, in a significant shift, the government notified Walton that it was willing to permit the questioning of some witnesses on Hatfill's claim that the leaks violated the Privacy Act. Yesterday, Walton ordered government lawyers to immediately start laying the groundwork to set up the depositions.

...The government, in its written submission to the court and in its statement yesterday, sought to preclude Ashcroft and other individual defendants from being deposed because the judge is still considering their claims of immunity.

But Hatfill's attorney, Thomas G. Connolly, objected, saying the exclusion of such key witnesses would further delay the case. Walton agreed and ordered the process to go forward, with some limitations.

Walton also had some strong words regarding the aforementioned leaks:

Continuing leaks from within the Justice Department describing former Army biologist Steven Hatfill as a "person of interest" in the FBI's investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks must be halted, a federal judge has demanded.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said Thursday he was troubled by recent news stories citing anonymous law enforcement sources as saying the FBI was still interested in Hatfill, the Washington Post reported. Walton is presiding over a civil defamation lawsuit filed by Hatfill against the Justice Department.

"They're undermining what this country is supposed to be about - that is, that we treat people fairly," Walton said of the anonymous sources. "If you don't have enough to indict this man, then it's wrong to drag his name through the mud."

"That's not a government I want to be a part of. It's wrong, and you all need to do something about it," he added.

All pretty encouraging so far; we'll call these "the good." Now, for the bad:

For nearly 30 years, the D.C. government has conducted a public policy experiment based on the theory that if you deprive citizens of their constitutional right to keep and bear arms, you'll reduce crime. Two weeks ago, federal district court judge Reggie Walton, a George W. Bush appointee, ruled that that experiment should continue. In his decision in Seegars v. Ashcroft, et al., Judge Walton rejected a Second Amendment challenge to the District's comprehensive gun ban.

Of course, Judge Walton is under no illusions that depriving citizens of their right to keep and bear arms actually results in a safer city. Nor, interestingly enough, is the D.C. government attorney defending the ban in Seegars. During oral argument in the case last October, Walton and D.C. Corporation Counsel Daniel Rezneck had the following exchange:

Walton: These laws don't stop the bad guys from getting the guns.

Rezneck: No.

Walton: The bad guys are going to get the guns regardless.

Rezneck: I agree with that your honor.

As Rezneck and Walton admit, the D.C. government has done little or nothing to disarm violent criminals. It has, however, done a marvelous job of disarming law-abiding citizens who "work hard and play by the rules," as a certain Southerner used to put it. And, as a result, the District is the most dangerous large city in America, edging out Detroit for the 2003 murder capital of the U.S.

...One might suppose that such a regulatory scheme constitutes an infringement on the right of the people to keep and bear arms, if anything does. But Judge Walton disagrees, declaring in the Seegars opinion that "the Second Amendment does not confer an individual right to possess firearms" but rather grants some vague, unenforceable collective right.

Walton's interpretation is, of course, at odds with the fairly clear text of the Constitution. The Framers were careful enough with language not to confuse the "right of the people" with the rights of a state. Just as in the First and Fourth Amendments, "the right of the people" in the Second Amendment is an individual right.

And the ugly? Walton is the judge who upheld the government's right to state secrets in the Sibel Edmonds case.

Information she provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee several years ago was recently deemed classified under the state secrets privilege.

And lawyers filing a lawsuit stemming from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks wanted to depose her, but their request was quashed for the same reason.

Edmonds has testified in closed session to the 9/11 commission and has made claims that the FBI possessed some information prior to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon which could have proved helpful in preventing the terrorist strikes.

...U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton agreed with the government's position.

"The Court finds that the plaintiff is unable to establish her First Amendment, Fifth Amendment and Privacy Act claims without the disclosure of privileged information, nor would the defendants be able to defend against these claims without the same disclosures ... the plaintiff's case must be dismissed, albeit with great consternation, in the interests of national security," Walton wrote in the opinion.

Just how great is that consternation? Who knows. IANAL and I won't pretend to know the intricacies of how his various positions translate legally. Like I said, Walton seems to be rather a mixed bag. Needless to say, I'm troubled by the ruling in the Edmonds case. It is incomprehensible to me that a violation of individual rights can be so cavalierly dismissed, state secrets or no. I just hope that his "consternation" was more than lip service. And with any luck, we'll find out soon; Libby's arraignment is in a few weeks.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Libby Indicted

Libby Indicted

5 counts:

2 for perjury
1 for obstruction of justice
2 for making false statements

He has also resigned, so as to deal with these charges from which he expects to be exonerated. Ha! Good luck with that. They knew Plame was undercover, but that's largely beside the point, as evidenced by the charges against 'ol Scooter.

The man lied. Not just once and not to one party. He lied in his answers to the FBI; he lied in his answers to the grand jury - to the tune of 4 lying-related indictments. I dub him "Lie "Scooter" Lewis Libby."

But whatever we call him, we need to make sure that he does not get a pardon for treason - no one in this country should take outing a WMD intelligence agent lightly. Please sign John Conyers' letter and tell shrubya that pardoning someone who endangered our national security interests is NOT acceptable.

And if you're feeling peevish, drop a note to Kay Bailey Hutchison and let her know you don't appreciate her cavalier dismissal of perjury charges. And don't worry - we may yet get to see Rove in gitmorange. Fitzgerald indicated that they are still investigating some things and it is clear that Rove is under the lens.

Posse C in da House? Part II

Posse C in da House? Part II

There has been much ado about shrubya’s recent comments regarding the federal readiness for avian flu. As usual, he eschews any real planning to prevent an outbreak and opts instead for the reactionary approach of a military response once we already have a problem.

One example: If we had an outbreak somewhere in the United States, do we not then quarantine that part of the country? And how do you, then, enforce a quarantine?

…One option is the use of a military that's able to plan and move. So that's why I put it on the table. I think it's an important debate for Congress to have.

Forget about FEMA’s proficiency under James Lee Witt; Health and Human Services? Bah! Strengthening our First Response network and coordinating medical services – none of these matter, because our military knows how to organize and deploy; let them handle it. It’s as though shrubCo believes the military is the only justifiable federal program; you can almost hear him saying “so we might as well use it. And besides, I’m only CinC for another three years...”

I guess preemption is only good for turrists abroad; for any home-grown crisis, shrubCo has exhibited quite the predilection for martial law. I have no doubt that they would use any excuse that presented itself to expand federal powers via the military. At long last, shrubya has actually told us the truth about something! Too bad it had to be this…

In Part 1 of this writing, I shared how I became convinced shrubya tried to impose martial law via the Insurrection Act in post-Katrina New Orleans. Since that fateful Friday, there has been no shortage of stories discussing this imagined need for greater military involvement during disaster management. Take Exhibit A, published on 9/17:

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is reviewing a wide range of possible changes in the way the military could be used in domestic emergencies, spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said Friday. He said these included possible changes in the relationship between federal and state military authorities.

…Di Rita said Rumsfeld has not made recommendations to Bush, but among the issues he is examining is the viability of the Posse Comitatus Act. Di Rita called it one of the "very archaic laws" from a different era in U.S. history that limits the Pentagon's flexibility in responding to 21st century domestic crises.

And, Exhibit B published on 9/19:

As Washington picks through the lessons learned from hurricane Katrina, there is a growing conviction that the only organization with the skills, expertise, and resources needed to respond quickly to a catastrophe of such magnitude is the American military. President Bush suggested a larger disaster relief role for the armed forces in his national address last week, and Congress has indicated it will take up the issue this autumn.

...As officials look at what went wrong - and wonder what to do if a future disaster similarly eviscerates local responders - their attention has turned to the military.

Then there’s Exhibit C, published on 9/25:

President Bush called on Congress to consider a larger role for U.S. armed forces in responding to natural disasters, as he completed what White House aides called a weekend "fact-finding" mission to determine whether the Pentagon needs more control. "Clearly, in the case of a terrorist attack, that would be the case, but is there a natural disaster -- of a certain size -- that would then enable the Defense Department to become the lead agency in coordinating and leading the response effort?" Bush said after a briefing from military leaders at Randolph Air Force Base here. "That's going to be a very important consideration for Congress to think about."

Bush has told aides that one of the major breakdowns in the Hurricane Katrina response was the federal government's inability to seize control of rescue and relief efforts.

Exhibit D, from 9/26:

President Bush said he wants to make it easier for the military to take charge after a disaster like Hurricane Katrina.

...White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush "wants to make sure that we learn the lessons from Hurricane Katrina," including the use of the military in "a severe, catastrophic-type event." "The Department of Defense would assume the responsibility for the situation, and come in with an overwhelming amount of resources and assets, to help stabilize the situation,"

We could probably get through the whole alphabet and each article would merit its own diary; suffice it to say there has been plenty of ink devoted to this supposed need for “greater federal authority” during disasters. This recent article, though, speaks the most plainly:

The U.S. military is planning a more rapid, robust role for active-duty forces in responding to catastrophic disasters or terrorist attacks, a senior Pentagon official said yesterday, describing the demand for large-scale military resources in such cases as "inevitable."

…"We are looking at a wide range of contingencies potentially involving Title 10 forces [federal troops] if a pandemic outbreak of a biological threat were to occur," said McHale.

…The Pentagon is drafting recommendations for improving the military's response to devastating attacks or disasters as part of a government-wide review of "lessons learned" from Hurricane Katrina.

At least they recognize that Katrina brought us many lessons. Chief among them being patronage appointments make for bad government, Edwards was right about the “Two Americas,” and Norquist’s bathtub doesn’t hold water. But the only lesson to shrubCo, apparently, is “more military and increased federal control in crisis situations!”

And therein lies the rub; “increased federal control” is just a pernicious euphemism for martial law. As I mentioned in Part 1 of this story, there is absolutely nothing barring the military from disaster relief efforts. Under the Stafford Act, federal armed forces can be deployed in a natural disaster.

The US Army had a remarkable experience in responding to the devastating onslaught of Hurricane Andrew in south Florida in August 1992; Hurricane Iniki on the island of Kaui in Hawaii one month later evoked a similar response. Both instances provide ample evidence that there is a reliable mechanism to facilitate the employment of active-duty Army units in times of great national disaster. The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief Act of 1984, as amended in 1988 (42 US Code Section 5121 et seq.), commonly referred to as the Stafford Act after its legislative author, is the authority under which such assistance is provided.

The Stafford Act is applicable only within the United States and its territories, and comes into play when a state, usually through its governor, requests a presidential declaration of a state of emergency following a natural disaster. Once a state of emergency is declared, active-duty soldiers can be employed to respond to the crisis under the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In essence, the only ability the military lacks in a disaster scenario is civilian police powers; ergo, that is the only “expansion” of their role to be had. While the articles I’ve found tend to be long on vaguaries – “larger disaster relief role for the armed forces” - there are also subtle clues hinting at militarization. From Exhibit A:

Di Rita called it (posse comitatus) one of the "very archaic laws" from a different era in U.S. history that limits the Pentagon's flexibility in responding to 21st century domestic crises.

“Flexibility” – ha! Then there’s this telling gem from Exhibit C:

Bush has told aides that one of the major breakdowns in the Hurricane Katrina response was the federal government's inability to seize control of rescue and relief efforts.

And of course, the springboard for all this runaway punditry - shrubya’s blue-light speech in New Orleans:

Yet the system, at every level of government, was not well coordinated, and was overwhelmed in the first few days. It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces - the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment's notice.

Thankfully, there were a few straight-shooters in the lot, such as Exhibit B:

Reservations about granting the military too much power at home are older than the republic itself, harking back to days when British soldiers were foisted upon colonials for room and board. In the Constitution, the framers made specific provision to check military power by declaring that America's armed forces be directed by civilian authority - namely, the various secretaries of Defense. Posse Comitatus goes even further, giving only National Guard units the authority to act as law enforcement, because they are under the control of governors. Active-duty troops are being used in the Gulf relief efforts but only for humanitarian efforts and logistical support. The move to amend Posse Comitatus would likely give them law-enforcement powers.

Exhibit D even went so far as to speak against such a role for the military:

The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 bans the armed forces from participating in police-type activity on U.S. soil. Gene Healy, a senior editor at the conservative Cato Institute, said Bush risks undermining "a fundamental principle of American law" by tinkering with the Posse Comitatus Act.

Healy said the act does not hinder the military's ability to respond to a crisis.
"What it does is set a high bar for the use of federal troops in a policing role," he wrote in a commentary on the group's Web site. "That reflects America's traditional distrust of using standing armies to enforce order at home, a distrust that's well-justified."

Healy said soldiers are not trained as police officers, and putting them in a civilian law enforcement role "can result in serious collateral damage to American life and liberty."

By and large, though, there has been very little meaningful coverage of this topic; very few articles explain what is really being debated in this or what the implications of amending Posse Comitatus are. And almost none of them mentioned that this campaign didn’t start with Katrina at all; Katrina merely broadened the scope to include natural disasters. On the contrary, shrubCo has been gunning for Posse Comitatus since 9/11.

We could probably get through the whole alphabet on these articles as well, but here’s a healthy sample indicating this military response mindset:

From November, 2001:

America's military is largely prohibited from acting as a domestic police force, but with the increased fears of terrorism, some experts say it's time to rethink those restrictions.

...The law, known as the Posse Comitatus Act, was championed by Southern lawmakers in 1878 who were angry about the widespread use of the Army in post-Civil War law enforcement.

...Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, testifying in October before the Senate Armed Services Committee (news - web sites), agreed that it might be desirable to give federal troops more of a role in domestic policing to prevent terrorism.

Army Secretary Thomas White said late last month that the Pentagon's review of Posse Comitatus would not likely lead to recommendations that Congress overhaul the act.
``But we are looking at the details of the law to see if revisions are appropriate in the way it's executed or the exceptions that can be taken,'' White said.

Then there’s this July, 2002 piece entitled “Posse Comitatus Hits the Spotlight,” by Christopher Prawdzik (sorry; I’ve lost its url):

Fueled by an enthusiastic desire to curb future terrorist threats, Bush administration officials and members of Congress recently suggested possible revision of the Posse Comitatus Act. Other vested interests in homeland defense, however, view this move unnecessary and threatening to the some of the country's institutions.
The issue emerged when Bush administration officials suggested the Department of Defense and Justice Department look at laws that limit the military's role within U.S. borders.

Another article from July, 2002:

Although Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said the Pentagon would not seek any changes in the venerable Posse Comitatus Act that restricts the use of the military in domestic operations, President Bush's new plan for domestic security included a notable provision calling for Justice and Defense attorneys to review it.

Now Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart, the officer charged with defending the continental U.S., has gone on record that he’s all for it and would endorse changes in the law if that translated into a better-defended country.

"My view has been that Posse Comitatus will constantly be under review as we mature this command, as we do our exercises, as we interact with FEMA, F.B.I., and those lead federal agencies out there," the New York Times quoted Gen. Eberhart Sunday.

I highly recommend that you read this piece in its entirety:

The proposed new Homeland Security strategy recently released by the administration of President George W. Bush quietly unearths, in seemingly innocuous language buried on p. 48, an old idea that deserves robust public debate: "The threat of catastrophic terrorism requires a thorough review of the laws permitting the military to act within the United States in order to determine whether domestic preparedness and response efforts would benefit from greater involvement of military personnel and, if so, how."

What this review means is that the Bush administration now is casting a critical eye on the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. It might mean giving the federal government authority to deploy the National Guard in emergencies, currently a power reserved for governors, or to use the military for civilian defense, including enforcing quarantines in case of a biological weapons attack.

Administration officials have thus far downplayed the implications of reviewing the Posse Comitatus Act. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said "the public discussion is really about the private discussion that will undoubtedly occur between the new secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, once his new North American Command is established, because I think it would be very appropriate for the two secretaries to determine what military assets would be available, under what circumstances, to support civilian authorities in the event of another terrorist attack."

Similarly, Gen. Ralph E. Eberhardt, the designated head of the new Northern Command (NORTHCOM) that the Pentagon is forming explicitly for homeland security functions, said he would favor changes in existing law to give greater domestic powers to the military to protect the country against terrorist strikes.

Revising Posse Comitatus was even discussed during the Beltway Sniper incident:

When Defense Secretary Rumsfeld agreed to a request from the FBI for the use of military surveillance planes to help track down the so-called “D.C. sniper,” the issue of the Posse Comitatus Act once again splashed across the front pages of domestic newspapers. Apart from the usual ranting by the “Black Helicopter” crowd that views every use of the United States military as a continuing government conspiracy to garrison this nation with United Nations forces, the use of the military in this manner is entirely a propos and not in violation of the Posse Comitatus Act.

...As the War on Terror continues and America braces for more terrorist attacks on its soil, the question of whether the Posse Comitatus Act should be revoked or modified will continue to be raised. Arguments that the Posse Comitatus Act is a Congressional statute and can be repealed in toto do not sit well with the long national tradition of excluding the military from domestic law enforcement. Americans clearly have an aversion to the use of soldiers as a policing force.

These and similar musings recently culminated in a War Plan Draft discussed in this WaPo article dated August 8th – three weeks before Katrina hit.

The U.S. military has devised its first-ever war plans for guarding against and responding to terrorist attacks in the United States, envisioning 15 potential crisis scenarios and anticipating several simultaneous strikes around the country, according to officers who drafted the plans.

The classified plans, developed here at Northern Command headquarters, outline a variety of possible roles for quick-reaction forces estimated at as many as 3,000 ground troops per attack, a number that could easily grow depending on the extent of the damage and the abilities of civilian response teams.

The possible scenarios range from "low end," relatively modest crowd-control missions to "high-end," full-scale disaster management after catastrophic attacks such as the release of a deadly biological agent or the explosion of a radiological device, several officers said.

...The war plans represent a historic shift for the Pentagon, which has been reluctant to become involved in domestic operations and is legally constrained from engaging in law enforcement. Indeed, defense officials continue to stress that they intend for the troops to play largely a supporting role in homeland emergencies, bolstering police, firefighters and other civilian response groups.

But the new plans provide for what several senior officers acknowledged is the likelihood that the military will have to take charge in some situations, especially when dealing with mass-casualty attacks that could quickly overwhelm civilian resources.

Given this background, we need to believe shrubya when he says he wants to look at this “increased role for the military” because he means it. 9/11, Katrina, and the as-yet unrealized Avian Flu threat all elicited the same response – let’s militarize! I’m reminded of the adage “Once is a fluke, twice is a coincidence, and three times is a pattern” - quite the predilection, indeed.

Thanks for reading this beast! Part I is here. I hope you join me soon for Part Three.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Science Friday Fun

Science Friday Fun

Well, I think it's fun, anyway. It particularly amuses me when fantastic discoveries are made by accident. Throw in something called "quantum dots" and it's irresistable.

An accidental discovery announced this week has taken LED lighting to a new level, suggesting it could soon offer a cheaper, longer-lasting alternative to the traditional light bulb. The miniature breakthrough adds to a growing trend that is likely to eventually make Thomas Edison's bright invention obsolete.

Michael Bowers, a graduate student at Vanderbilt University, was just trying to make really small quantum dots, which are crystals generally only a few nanometers big. That's less than 1/1000th the width of a human hair.

...When you shine a light on quantum dots or apply electricity to them, they react by producing their own light, normally a bright, vibrant color. But when Bowers shined a laser on his batch of dots, something unexpected happened.

"I was surprised when a white glow covered the table," Bowers said. "The quantum dots were supposed to emit blue light, but instead they were giving off a beautiful white glow."

Then Bowers and another student got the idea to stir the dots into polyurethane and coat a blue LED light bulb with the mix. The lumpy bulb wasn't pretty, but it produced white light similar to a regular light bulb.

The new device gives off a warm, yellowish-white light that shines twice as bright and lasts 50 times longer than the standard 60 watt light bulb.

Not only is this happy accident tremendously useful--the Dept. of Energy says that such a switch could use 29% less energy than conventional bulbs--but this could be a beautiful, fun thing.

If the new process can be developed into commercial production, light won't come just from newfangled bulbs. Quantum dot mixtures could be painted on just about anything and electrically excited to produce a rainbow of colors, including white.

How cool is that? Why, it's almost as cool as solar panels no thicker than your average photo film.

Silicon-based solar panels remain rigid, bulky and expensive a half-century after their introduction. Alan Heeger, the 2000 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, is working to change that.

...Heeger and his colleagues at Konarka, the Lowell, Mass.-based company he co-founded, can “print” strips of photovoltaic (PV) plastic as thin as photographic film. As with traditional PV panels, sunlight is converted into electrical energy. The advantage over traditional crystalline silicon on a glass substrate: Heeger’s power plastic is 100 times thinner, as well as more pliable, cheaper and easier to mass-produce. Imagine electricity-generating awnings, tents, roofs and even clothing. “Solar energy is going to happen,” says Heeger. “It will happen sooner and on a larger scale if we can provide a lower-cost technology.”

For some reason, all I can think of is that scene in "The Graduate" - "I've got one word for you: plastics."

Perkie, We Hardly Knew Ye

Perkie, We Hardly Knew Ye

Well, that was short-lived; Perkie Kohl has withdrawn her nomination for Supreme Court Justice. So much for the hope that her hearings will deflect the heat from Fitzgerald's indictments. It will be interesting to see which consigliere gets nominated next.

It's already interesting watching everybody trying to take credit, if you will, for Perkie's withdrawal. The Wingnut™ Brigade thinks this is a victory for their cause, whereas the Senate feels their lack of confidence in her qualifications sealed the decision. And speaking of sealed, the official line cites the preservation of Executive Privilege as the primary reason - it seems shrubya and Perkie feel that her legal counsel is too sensitive to be viewed by mere Senators.

Of course the nomination was done in by all three factors - Perkie's own trifecta of sorts. But given that at least some of the Senate opposition came from Wingnut™ quarters (e.g. Brownback), I'm willing to call this one for the theocrat wackadoos. She's been anti-borked.

So, it should be an interesting week in the news cycle. The Guardian has collected some choice quotes on the withdrawal, with the inimitable Harry Reid weighing in thusly:

"The radical right wing of the Republican Party killed the Harriet Miers nomination."

They missed a great one, though, from Senator Kerry:

"If the president really believed Harriet Miers was the most qualified candidate for the Supreme Court, he made a terrible mistake refusing to fight for her and capitulating to the right wing."

Awww, snap! Americablog has compiled an even better list of quotes than the Guardian. And I must say - the headlines and stories this is generating are faboo!

Weakened Bush dodges fight with U.S. conservatives

WASHINGTON, Oct 27 (Reuters) - The withdrawal of Harriet Miers' Supreme Court nomination dealt another blow to a reeling White House on Thursday but short-circuited a political fight with conservative allies that a weakened President George W. Bush could not afford.

...But the president's fumbling of the nomination to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a crucial swing vote on the nine-member court on social issues like abortion and affirmative action, added to the image of a White House that had lost its political footing.

"Bush was not in a position to fight for Miers now because he has lost so much political support," said Richard Reuben, a law professor and Supreme Court expert at the University of Missouri.


"In the last six weeks, Bush's image of competence and control has been left in tatters," said Andrew Taylor, a professor at North Carolina State University. "The withdrawal of Miers is just another thing that makes Bush look like he's not in control."

..."Its a telling statement about the instability and ideological confusion facing the White House and the Republican Party," said Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who unsuccessfully challenged Bush for the White House last year.

Things are only going to get crazier...

The Perkie Parade Continues

The Perkie Parade Continues

Even with no overt link to LieraqGate, Perkie isn't having such a good go of things at the moment; or at least her nomination isn't faring well. She seems to be a rather chipper sort of person; who knows if any of this even phases her.

But statements like this from members of the Judiciary Committee can't be a good sign:

...the Senate Judiciary Committee has yet to recieve its updated questionnaire from nominee Harriet Miers. We're told it'll get to them around 11 p.m. ET. Said NY Sen. Chuck Schumer in a statement at 8:45 pm: "This is another in a series of disappointments. The Miers nomination is suffering from a serious bout of delay, distraction, and disorganization and needs a dramatic turnaround."

Maybe the White House's current legal woes are just taking up all of her time; it's understandable that she couldn't get the questionnaire returned until after shrubya went to bed. His handlers are definitely working overtime right now and Harriet is, apparently, chief among them. Maybe that's what all this "pioneer" talk means...Harriet Miers: Handholder-in-Chief:

Move over Eddie Haskell. Harriet Miers could teach you a thing or two about sucking up. Papers released earlier this month by the Texas state archives show a woman who admired the boss and wasn't afraid to show it, with puppy-dog cards and flowery notes in her own hand, often added to official typed correspondence.

"You are the best Governor ever — deserving of great respect!" Miers wrote to George W. Bush in a belated card for his 51st birthday. (Which is why the puppy on the front of the card has such a hangdog look). At the bottom of the greeting card, she added, "At least for thirty days — you are not younger than me." In a flowery thank-you card, she wrote, "Hopefully Jenna and Barbara recognize that their parents are 'cool' — as do the rest of us. ... All I heard is how great you and Laura are doing ... Texas is blessed!"

People like Perkie keep Hallmark stores in business. I'm sure everyone knows the type, but I'm originally from Texas and - trust me - it's a unique breed down there. In that context, reading this article gave me more insight into her character than anything else I've seen about her. I almost feel like I know her. I'd bet anything she drinks sweetened iced tea. And calls people "honey" a lot, especially shrubya.

It's probably fair to say her cloying sweetness is not an act - that's really how she is. Not to say that she doesn't get a little over-the-top now and again, but I suspect it is simply a product of her upbringing from that era in Texas. Call it what you will, but it does seem she excels at ingratiating behavior.

...Can flattery this blatant work?

Can you say Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers? "Boy, is she good," says business consultant Richard Brenner of Chaco Canyon Associates in Boston. The little aside in the birthday card about their age difference is particularly impressive, he says.

"With that personal, almost private connection between the two of them, she is building a secret little tree house where they can both sit sometimes."

A Presidential tree-house. Heh heh

"We like to think that the smarter a person is, the higher she ascends up the ladder of success, the less susceptible that individual is to flattery," Stengel writes. "In fact, the opposite seems to be the case. People of high self-esteem and accomplishment generally see the praise directed at them as shrewd judgment rather than flattery."

Of course, we know it isn't just "people of high self-esteem and accomplishment" exhibiting this trait. It also frequently occurs in narcissistic, megalomaniacal wankers who wind up in positions of power. President "Boy in the Bubble" probably eats it up like candy. I doubt he ever ponders the nature of Perkie's sycophantic outbursts; I'm sure he thinks he was the "best governor ever" too. Nonetheless, Perkie might want to tone it down a bit, lest it backfire:

"The reality is she was trying to set an emotional tone for the relationship. I don't think that's necessarily always bad. It's a question of whether it's sincere."

Bush was a famously average student and has never pretended to be part of any intellectual elite. (In fact, he has honed his reputation as a regular guy over his years in public service.) So when former White House speechwriter David Frum wrote on his blog that once he'd heard Miers describe Bush as "the most brilliant man she'd ever met," tongues across the political spectrum were set wagging: Could she really mean it? And if she was sincere, did this reflect poorly on her judgment?

Neither scenario bodes well for her prospects as a Supreme Court justice. Nor does her poor grammar:

"At least for thirty days — you are not younger than me."

If she was vetting shrubya's speeches, it's no wonder the Niger claim escaped her notice.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

More Perkie, Fitzmas Fun!

More Perkie, Fitzmas Fun!

From Wingnut Daily, no less! But a good read is a good read. It's an older article, but tremendously relevant at the moment.

A photo essay on the White House website shows President Bush had a hands-on role in "revising" January's State of the Union speech that included a now-disputed allegation about Iraq's alleged nuclear-weapons program. It also indicates he scribbled notes beside various passages of text in the margins of the speech drafts.

...Rice maintains that neither she nor the president knew the CIA raised serious doubts about the statement during the drafting of the speech.

"If there was a concern about the underlying intelligence there, the president was unaware of that concern, as was I," she told reporters last Friday aboard Air Force One.

Just three months earlier, however, Tenet himself phoned Rice's deputy, Stephen Hadley, at the White House to get him to pull a similar statement from Bush's Iraq speech in Cincinnati.

PDBs and warnings from our head of intelligence are somehow less meaningful than tip-offs that originated with an Italian reporter. I guess that's the case if you're Stephen Hadley, who received the Niger story from Italy's SIMSI. Hadley, of course, stovepiped the information straight to the White House.

The newspaper reported that Pollari met at the White House on Sept. 9, 2002 with then-Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley. The Niger claims surfaced shortly thereafter. A spokesman for Hadley, now the national security advisor, confirmed that the meeting took place, but declined to say what was discussed.

Hadley, who took part of the blame for the SOTU SNAFU and was promoted for it, gets my vote for "Mr. X" - the unknown source for Novak. But I digress

...Rice's staff worked closely with Bush's speechwriters on the text. It's not immediately clear how closely Bush worked with Rice or her staffers, if at all.

But there's no doubt Bush worked closely with the speechwriters, who were in regular contact with Rice's staffers.

"Rice's Staff"...I think they meant "Hadley." The article goes on to list the people shown meeting with Bush: Matthew Scully, John McConnell, Michael Gerson and senior adviser Karen Hughes.

But the best part of all, imo, is this:

A Jan. 26 photo shows Hughes going over parts of the speech with White House Staff Secretary Harriet Miers and Director of Communications Dan Bartlett, as White House speechwriters confer behind them during a rehearsal in the family theater of the White House.

As White House Staff Secretary, one of Perkie's primary responsibilities included "vetting every piece of paper that landed on Bush's desk or ended up in his nightly briefing book." Just how responsible for those 16 words was she? Is she, too, tied up in LieraqGate? That web has got to be getting crowded...

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Indictment Update

Indictment Update

More goodies for the Fitzmas tree!

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has decided to seek indictments in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson and has submitted at least one to the grand jury, those close to the investigation tell RAW STORY.

Fitzgerald will seek at least two indictments, the sources say. They note that it remains to be seen whether the grand jury will approve the charges.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

And so This is Fitzmas

And so This is Fitzmas

Steve Clemons drops this under the Fitzmas tree:

An uber-insider source has just reported the following to TWN (since confirmed by another independent source):

1. 1-5 indictments are being issued. The source feels that it will be towards the higher end.

2. The targets of indictment have already received their letters.

3. The indictments will be sealed indictments and "filed" tomorrow.

4. A press conference is being scheduled for Thursday.

Merry Fitzmas Everybody!

Merry Fitzmas Everybody!

The reason for the season is treason, and what a Fitzmas this will be! Cheney might even retire!

A Fitzmas poem for all the kids:

The aspens are turning
liars' pants are burning
Fitzgerald is tightening the screws.

Hannah has sung,
and now Wurmser's tongue
also helps place the clues.

Chalabi and WHIG and PNAC
wanted to run the middle east
and so sought all the lies they could use.

"Saddam is a turrrist,
we'd best get him first
before he blows his fuse!"

"Iraq, 9/11, Niger yellowcake!
Aluminum tubes for mushroom clouds he'll make!"
And the media fell for the ruse.

But Wilson debunked their Niger claim
so they outed Ms. Valerie Plame
thinking the tiff would diffuse.

But Fitzgerald is tough
and he's called their bluff
and now it appears they will lose.

The White House is sweating
to them, it's upsetting
that we have heard of this news.

It seems that Bush knew
of the deeds of his crew
and Fitzgerald is dropping the shoes.

Indictments are looming
turd blossom ain't blooming
the whole group is singing the blues.

On joyous Fitzmas day
not too far away,
they'll be frogmarched away by the twos!

And, of course, no celebration would be complete without Fitzmas carols!

Fa la la la la and

Yes, that's Baghdad Judy, self-serving hack.

Don't Just Do Something - Stand There!

Don't Just Do Something - Stand There!

- the White Rabbit, Alice in Wonderland

It's Action Alert Time! And away we go:

Congressman John Conyers is, as always, on it! He is asking voters to demand that shrubya not issue pardons regarding indictments in LieraqGate.

sign his letter to shrubya

As the Fitzgerald investigation nears its conclusion, I am becoming increasingly concerned that Bush will prevent the exposure of wrongdoing in Treasongate by pardoning any indicted members of his administration before trial. I wrote a letter in July asking the President to pledge not to pardon these persons. I have yet to receive an answer so I have organized a letter writing campaign demanding an answer. Over 4,000 people have already signed so I'd like to generate at least 10,000 letters to Bush.

As some of you may recall, the President's father, President George H.W. Bush, pardoned officials under indictment in the Iran-Contra scandal. Some of those pardoned by Bush Sr. include officials in the present White House, like Elliott Abrahms, as well as others who have been purportedly linked to the falsification of the Niger documents. Those previously indicted and pardoned seem to be nearby when further crimes are committed against our country.

[UPDATE] We won! In the face of being defeated by a house vote, shrubya backed off from the Davis-Bacon suspension! Go Rep. Miller! Please do send him some love.

[UPDATE] We won! In the face of being defeated by a house vote, shrubya backed off from the Davis-Bacon suspension! Go Rep. Miller! Please do send him some love.

Action Item #2

We have until Nov. 4th to prevail upon our House Reps to vote down shrubya's gulf coast minimum wage waiver. As you know, he suspended the Davis-Bacon Act for Katrina reconstruction efforts. This is unconscionable and flies in the face of all the "trickle-down," "we need tax cuts for the 1%" mythology.

Please contact your Reps and tell them that this is reprehensible. And send Rep. George Miller (D-CA) some support while you're thinking of it.

Action Item #3

Call the White House and FEMA, shrubya and Chertoff, and tell them that, as a U.S. taxpayer, you are appalled that your money is going to Brownie's paycheck.

While people were dying in New Orleans, Brownie was dining in Baton Rouge. No take-out for him; no. He needed more time for his sit-down restaurant dinner before he made his TV appearance. Heckuva job, Drownie - shameful and shameless all at the same time.

Brownie needs the firing that he didn't get the first time around - bring the noise!

FEMA - 202-646-2763; FEMAOPA@dhs.gov

White House - 202 456 1111

Action Item #4

Contact NBC and insist that Andrea Mitchell issue a correction for her inaccurate reporting about Joseph Wilson IV. Despite speaking with him herself on the air, she is still reporting the canard that Wilson claimed it was Cheney who sent him to Niger.

Mrs. Greenspan should know better; 5 minutes with Google demonstrates this inaccuracy. Here's a thought for Little Miss Journalist: Maybe she could read Wilson's book?! You know, do some research and stuff.

And #5 - Local to Eugene, Oregon

Please help EFAHP protect the wildlife habitat and natural resources of the East Fork Amazon Headwaters Forest. It is nearly 40 acres and one of the most pristine sites left in the Eugene Urban Growth Boundary, but is being threatened by development interests.

If you live in the Eugene Area, please contact the city council members. Letters to the editors would also be good. We non-locals can help by making a contribution to EFAHP and, of course, by getting this information out as far as possible.

Speaking of Cheney...

Speaking of Cheney...

He and Libby are not having much luck with notes lately. They seem to keep finding information that they'd probably rather remained lost. First, it was Baghdad Judy's "Oh! You mean that meeting?" notes indicating a previously undisclosed, and apparently rather forgettable, chat with Libby in June - well before Wilson's column was published.

Maybe she was just distracted by all the Aspens turning; I understand it's quite a sight to see. They must have been distracting Scooter, too, or at least he suffers the same forgetfulness as Judy; as it turns out, his notes reveal that he first learned Plame's identity from Cheney.

Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, first learned about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak investigation in a conversation with Mr. Cheney weeks before her identity became public in 2003, lawyers involved in the case said Monday.

The notes, taken by Mr. Libby during the conversation, for the first time place Mr. Cheney in the middle of an effort by the White House to learn about Ms. Wilson's husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was questioning the administration's handling of intelligence about Iraq’s nuclear program to justify the war.

So, if Cheney knew, can we assume shrubya knew all along as well? Have they both been lying in proclaiming the administration's innocence? Steve Clemons believes so:

This is amazing information. You may ask why?

First of all, this means that Vice President Cheney has known all along that he was Scooter Libby's source -- and whether Libby had license from him or not to try and slaughter the reputation of Joe Wilson -- CHENEY KNEW.

The entire charade of President Bush stating that he wanted to get to the bottom of who leaked Plame's name -- and who was involved -- is no longer believable at any level. Cheney would not have failed to disclose this to Bush, and Bush played along as if none of his staff were involved. They confessed nothing -- accepted no responsibilty -- until forced by Fitzgerald.

According to Scooter Libby's notes, George Tenet was the source for the information about Valerie Wilson lining up the trip -- so to speak -- for her husband, but did not necessarily include the information that she was a covert operative.

This is where things get interesting.

Read the whole thing; it's quite interesting indeed. If we get all this from just two notebooks, imagine what WHIG meeting notes might reveal...

Monday, October 24, 2005

1,000 Words

1,000 Words

Artwork by Jeff Faerber.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Many Adventures of Perkie Kohl

The Many Adventures of Perkie Kohl

cross posted at dembloggers.com

Perkie is my little nickname for Harriet Miers. So I'm easily amused; don't begrudge me that. It's one of the few things keeping me relatively sane.

Anyhoo, back to Perkie...it seems she failed her first Senate test - her questionnaire answers have received dismal reviews from all quarters, even the Moonie Times. The Senate Judiciary Committee has requested that she do some of the questions over; it would appear that, contrary to some reports, her attention to detail is somewhat lacking.

Except when it comes to shrubya, of course. On that score - and if anybody keeps score, it's cronies and toadies - she seems to be involved at every turn. When his questionable military service record endangered his bid for re-election as governor of Texas, it was none other than Perkie who was charged with the task of scrubbing investigating said military service records for the case.

Bush's advisers had anticipated that his military record would be scrutinized closely, but they didn't foresee this curve ball. More than two years ago the Bush camp launched a secretive research operation designed to scour all records relating to his Vietnam-era service as a pilot in the 111th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron of the Texas Air National Guard. The goal was to identify potential vulnerabilities early on and deflect any charges that Bush got favorable treatment. Until recently, the campaign was confident that this worked. But as the latest flap shows, questions about Bush's military service haven't entirely disappeared.

The Bushies' concern began while he was running for a second term as governor. A hard-nosed Dallas lawyer named Harriet Miers was retained to investigate the issue; state records show Miers was paid $19,000 by the Bush gubernatorial campaign.

That must have been hard work, like presidentin' or something, because she was paid an unusually hefty sum for her efforts. But it doesn't stop with overbilling and shrubya's military service; that's but one chapter in a "Texas-sized" scandal, if you will, of no-bid contracts, political favors and boondoggles. Not only was Perkie in charge of investigating shrubya's records, but this happened while she was an appointee of his working for the Texas Lottery Commission. At a time when its main contractor was being scrutinized for financial improprieties and other questions of ethics...

A Bush appointee, Miers served as chairwoman of the Texas Lottery Commission when it was mired in controversy.

...Littwin was hired in 1997 to replace Nora Linares, who had been fired after it was revealed that her boyfriend was working as a consultant for GTECH, the Rhode Island-based firm that has run the Texas Lottery since it began in 1992.

Littwin was fired after five months on the job. He said he was let go because of the aggressive approach that he advocated in scrutinizing GTECH's performance, including investigating whether the company made illegal contributions to public officials.

Mr. Littwin, by the way, will be making an appearance at Perkie's confirmation hearings, assuming they proceed,that is. There are rumors afoot that the White House is floating the idea of withdrawing her nomination. I say "rumors" because it's the usual "He said," "No, I didn't!" fare we've come to expect from Washington. I suspect the nomination is DOA anyway, so all of this is moot, if interesting, speculation. There's simply too much working against poor Perkie at the moment: the Wingnut™ Brigade is displeased, constitutional scholars are terrified and the Senate doesn't seem to take her at all seriously.

With a working relationship that now spans a good dozen years, it seems ol' Perkie was the handmaiden for one too many shrubya moments. That is to say, she holds the key to his skeleton closet and Georgie boy wants his legal Ms. Fix It in place to cover his ass. Period.

I'd go so far as to wager that she would never have made the short list if Fitzgerald hadn't been breathing down the administration's neck. Perkie was right in the thick of all the "9/11, Iraq, War on Terra" hoopla. Which is fairly understandable - as Staff Secretary, her primary responsibilities included "vetting every piece of paper that landed on Bush's desk or ended up in his nightly briefing book." Matthew Scully, who was special assistant to the president and deputy director of speechwriting for President Bush from 2001 to 2004, elaborates:

White House speechwriters first learned the name Harriet Miers in January 2001, when drafts started reappearing full of corrections, instructions and particularly annoying requests for factual substantiation. In the campaign, life had been simpler, the editing and fact-checking a little more casual. Now the old ways wouldn't do anymore because "Harriet said" this or "Harriet said" that. Who was this woman, and could the staff secretary please confine herself to secretarial duties?

We had a few things to learn about the job of the staff secretary - the person who controls all paper passing through the Oval Office - and above all about the caliber of the woman behind the editing.

...It is true that Harriet Miers, in everything she does, gives high attention to detail. And the trait came in handy with drafts of presidential speeches, in which she routinely exposed weak arguments, bogus statistics and claims inconsistent with previous remarks long forgotten by the rest of us. If one speech declared X "our most urgent domestic priority," and another speech seven months earlier had said it was Y, it would be Harriet Miers alone who noted the contradiction.

With that in mind, here is a picture of her handing shrubya the infamous PDB:

USA Today and the Boston Globe carried the photo labeled simply “2001,” but many other newspapers ran the picture in print or on the Web with a more precise date: Aug. 6, 2001.

...As it turns out, yes, according to Tuesday's Los Angeles Times. An article by Richard A. Serrano and Scott Gold observes that early in the Bush presidency “Miers assumed such an insider role that in 2001 it was she who handed Bush the crucial 'presidential daily briefing' hinting at terrorist plots against America just a month before the Sept. 11 attacks.”

The PDB was headed “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.,” and notes, among other things, FBI information indicating “patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks.”

And here she is handing shrubya papers related to his 2003 SOTU - yes, that SOTU.

Naturally, one begins to wonder just how much Perkie knew about the contents of the speech and how extensively she was involved with the PDB. Did she allow the 16 words to slip past her meticulous radar; did she even have the security clearance to know whether or not they were accurate? The clearance could probably be FOIA'd. But we may never find out the rest.

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Friday, October 21, 2005

Bring Home the Davis-Bacon!

Bring Home the Davis-Bacon!

[UPDATE] We won! In the face of being defeated by a house vote, shrubya backed off from the Davis-Bacon suspension! Go Rep. Miller! Please do send him some love.

Before the ink was even dry on Halliburton's no-bid contracts to rebuild the Katrina-ravaged Gulf of Mexico, shrubya also mandated suspension of the Davis-Bacon act, which amounts to suspending minimum wage requirements.

The Davis-Bacon Act as amended, requires that each contract over $2,000 to which the United States or the District of Columbia is a party for the construction, alteration, or repair of public buildings or public works shall contain a clause setting forth the minimum wages to be paid to various classes of laborers and mechanics employed under the contract. Under the provisions of the Act, contractors or their subcontractors are to pay workers employed directly upon the site of the work no less than the locally prevailing wages and fringe benefits paid on projects of a similar character. The Davis-Bacon Act directs the Secretary of Labor to determine such local prevailing wage rates.

In addition to the Davis-Bacon Act itself, Congress has added prevailing wage provisions to approximately 60 statutes which assist construction projects through grants, loans, loan guarantees, and insurance. These "related Acts" involve construction in such areas as transportation, housing, air and water pollution reduction, and health. If a construction project is funded or assisted under more than one Federal statute, the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage provisions may apply to the project if any of the applicable statutes require payment of Davis-Bacon wage rates.

That's right - we still can't entertain the notion of repealing tax-cuts for the rich or re-instating the dividends tax. No; the only way to keep these reconstruction costs managable is to screw the workers out of living wages. Could anything fly more in the face of the trickle-down justification for such tax-cuts?

Thankfully, Congressman George Miller (D-CA) has taken action. Shorty after shrubya issued his proclamation, Miller introduced a bill to overturn it; but it has languished in the House since then. Surprise, surprise. But Miller has also found a little-used statute that enables the Dem House leadership to force a vote on his bill.

Now, Miller is finally able to force a vote in the House on the wage cut issue. Miller today introduced a Joint Resolution under the 1976 National Emergencies Act, which provides for fast track action by Congress when the President unilaterally suspends a law, as he did with Davis-Bacon. Although the National Emergencies Act is nearly 30 years old, this is the first time that a lawmaker has ever invoked its fast track procedures. By law, Congress must act on Miller’s Joint Resolution within 15 calendar days – in this case, by November 4.

So, you heard the man! We have until Nov. 4th - roughly two weeks - to call/email/write/fax our Congress members to make sure they support Miller's proposal to reinstate Davis-Bacon. And letters to the editor are great, too, provided you actually write them, of course.

Now if we could just get someone to introduce "Anti-profiteering" legislation...but God forbid we dip into Halliburton's profits for the good of the commonwealth. Or something.

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Fighting for Forests

Fighting for Forests

If you are in/from/familiar with Eugene, Oregon, please get this information out to everyone, everywhere. I'm not sure the city council will listen to non-Eugenians, but everybody can donate to the cause if nothing else.

Please help get the word out about this.


"EFAHP is dedicated to the protection and preservation of the wildlife habitat and natural resources of the East Fork Amazon Headwaters Forest."

Please join us in the effort to stop the development that will destroy this beautiful and irreplaceable treasure. It is nearly 40 acres and one of the most pristine sites left in the Eugene Urban Growth Boundary, home to the Pileated Woodpecker, Red Legged Frog and many other woodland creatures. It hosts Grand Fir Stands, Oak, Maple, Madrone and Ash trees. Its diverse native vegetation consists of Wayside aster, Tall bugbane, Corn lily, Twin flower, California fescue, Candy flower and Cow parsnip, just to name a few. It is part of the Amazon Headwaters and has a large stream corridor with many seasonal creeks and wetlands that flow into the Amazon Creek.

Many thanks!

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That's not news!

That's not news!

At the behest of Reps. John Conyers and Henry Waxman - true
American heroes, those two - the GAO has conducted a study of voting machine security. They released their report today; it probably comes as a surprise to no one that they concluded the machines have "substantial problems."

Chief amnog them were a host of security issues. Sure, lost votes are an ugly prospect, but nothing could be worse for voter confidence than vulnerabilities such as these cited in the report:

1. Some electronic voting systems did not encrypt cast ballots or system audit logs, thus making it possible to alter them without detection.

2. It is easy to alter a file defining how a ballot appears, making it possible for someone to vote for one candidate and actually be recorded as voting for an entirely different candidate.

3. Falsifying election results without leaving any evidence of such an action by using altered memory cards.

4. Access to the voting network was easily compromised because not all digital recording electronic voting systems (DREs) had supervisory functions password-protected, so access to one machine provided access to the whole network.

And that's just a small sampling. It's clear that our voting technology needs a lot of work. We need Athan Gibb's TruVote system, or some comparable open-source software, and we need it now. Of course, I'd be perfectly content to go back to paper and pen, but that's not acceptable in our bigger, better, faster, more! "culture" of Americana.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

God I Love Kids

God I Love Kids

A friend of mine and his daughter (she's in third grade) were over at my house today. Her eye caught a glimpse of my dubya dollar - you know, the "one deception" fake dollar bills?

She asked what it was; I explained that it was a fake dollar bill that made fun of george bush. I also pointed out the portrait, and said "doesn't he look like a little boy who didn't get what he wanted?" She then mocked him, making a pouty face and saying "meh neh nyah." I cracked up. So for a little while, it was "show us your george bush impersonation" followed by "meh neh nyah." Great fun!

Then we were in the car off on our adventure and she would just periodically pipe up with a random "meh neh nyah!" So I mustered my best stuffed suit impersonation and played along a bit:

her: meh neh nyah!

me as stuffed suit: i know you feel that way, george, but we need to talk about iran - the situation is getting worse.

her: meh neh nyah!

me/ss: well of course; i hate them too. but we need to focus right now.

her: meh neh nyah!

me/ss: that's your answer for everything, george, but this is serious. we really need to figure out what to do about iran.

her: meh neh nyah!

We both lost it right about then and laughed our asses off for a few miles. A bit later she pointed out Mt. Hood and commented that it was getting snowier and why was it so much snowier than Portland anyway? I started explaing how it's colder the higher in the sky you go and, for whatever reason, she piped up with a "meh neh nyah!" So i reverted to stuffed suit mode and said "george, i'm trying to teach you something here. please pay attention."

I have a feeling she won't be forgetting that one for a while. I also think we'll have grand fun the next time I babysit.


Sunday, October 16, 2005

Posse C in da House?

Posse C in da House?

still moving things about. this was a fun one.

In a recent Dailykos story, Plutonium Page takes note of some disturbing quotes from Bush’s statements regarding the federal readiness planning for a potential avian flu outbreak. As with most issues (excepting Vietnam, of course), the Yeehaw Kid leaps straight to a military response.

President George W. Bush asked Congress on Tuesday to consider giving him powers to use the military to enforce quarantines in case of an avian influenza epidemic.

He said the military, and perhaps the National Guard, might be needed to take such a role if the feared H5N1 bird flu virus changes enough to cause widespread human infection.

As with most issues involving Bush, Page wonders whether he would actually have the audacity to do such a thing. Would he really use a national crisis to make a power grab so outrageous? You bet he would, Page. One might as well ask “is the sun warm?”

He already declared such intentions during the Gulf Reconstruction speech from New Orleans. Yes; he said many perplexing, hard to believe things in that speech. There was something for everyone to loathe: True conservatives, not to mention average taxpayers, already put out with the deficit, cringed over the cost of rebuilding New Orleans.

Liberals and Democratic members of Congress, not to mention average taxpayers, worry about the costs too, but their concern arises more from having no faith the money will be spent responsibly. With a handful of no-bid contracts already in the works, who can blame them?

Indeed, the only consensus response to his speech was a general disbelief - one big, collective ”Did he really just say that?!?” His sincerity, motivations, rationales and even his promises were all questioned. But if you believe nothing else about what he said regarding federal disaster response, I’m afraid we can take him at his word when it comes to an increased role for the military.

Yet the system, at every level of government, was not well coordinated, and was overwhelmed in the first few days. It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces - the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment's notice.

Ummm…no, Georgie: the need for such an expanded role is neither clear nor necessary. After Katrina, I think it is imperative to make the current level of government purview more effective before we go expanding federal powers. This is, after all, what DHS was supposed to do.

I am also convinced, after Katrina, that we can take it to the bank that this administration will try to parlay a disaster into yet another expansion of federal power. I believe this because they have already done so - after Katrina. On Friday, September 2nd - four days under water for New Orleans - the administration’s response consisted of territory disputes with Governor Blanco and legal wrangling over who was in charge of and responsible for what.

Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday.

The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law.

[note: While it accurately depicts the interaction between Bush and Blanco, this WaPo article does contain some factual errors in paragraph nine. The hyperlinked pdf file addresses these.]

The $64,000 question, of course, is “wtf? People are dying and he plays power games?!?!!” To which the answer is: “Yes, entirely unnecessary and irrelevant ones, at that!” Sagely, Blanco did not grant him the authority he requested. Instead, she hired Bill Clinton’s FEMA chief, James Lee Witt. Nonetheless, the military was dispatched in a relief capacity on Saturday. That is to say, Bush needed no “permission slip” from Blanco to call up the cavalry.

So the real curiosity becomes what could possibly be motivating this completely immaterial effort to control the National Guard and local police? We may never know the true answer, but we have three theories to work with for now. We’ll start at the top of the fun scale and work our way down to shrubya.

The speculation theory holds that it was a purely political maneuver aimed at garnering another “bullhorn moment,” with the added bonus of playing the blame game and laying the failed response at Blanco’s feet.

Suspecting a political motive, however, state officials refused to make the request, recognizing its implications for state authority over a state emergency and arguing it would be analogous to a federal declaration of martial law, a legal condition that both the US military and state authorities had previously been at public pains to avoid.

… The Post quotes its state source as saying "Quite frankly, if they'd been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals."

And that’s not even the fun part. Newspaper accounts of the subsequent exchanges between Blanco and the White House spoke of a “spat” and “snubs" and described some interesting dynamics regarding one of Bush's visits.

Then Bush made an unusual return visit to the state Monday just days after surveying the damage - a trip that Blanco's staff said caught them by surprise, and caused a certain level of consternation.

``We had no idea the president was coming,'' Blanco's communications director, Robert Mann, said as the governor was forced to cancel a planned trip to visit evacuees in Houston so she could meet with Bush.

Early Monday morning, Blanco was in Baton Rouge preparing to fly to Houston to meet with the thousands of Louisiana refugees when she received news that Bush was on his way. Blanco's chief of staff, Andy Kopplin, called the White House and got word from Bush's chief of staff, Andrew Card, that the president was planning to return to Louisiana in a few hours to follow up on his Friday visit.

The White House had notified the media Sunday about the trip. But Blanco aide Bob Mann said Blanco was assured Sunday by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that Bush was not coming. FEMA spokeswoman Nicol Andrews said that agency director Michael Brown knew about the Bush visit, but many lower-level officials didn't and that was probably why the Blanco administration wasn't notified.

Bartlett said ``there was outreach'' to the governor's office, ``e-mails sent, messages left. We apologize if there was any confusion,'' he said.

A Bush visit to Louisiana at a time when Blanco was out of state would have been a major embarrassment for the governor. It could also have sent the message that Bush, who has been criticized for not moving quickly enough to help Louisiana, was in charge on the ground.

But Bartlett assures us “this was not about politics.” To be fair, though, they also conducted similar time- wasting negotiations with Haley Barbour, who also declined the “offer.” Which brings us to our second theory – the official line, i.e. blame the locals.

…Federal officials all the way up to President have suggested that state and local governments were overwhelmed by the scope of the disaster and were slow to respond, but that they themselves could not have moved more quickly because, in the words of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, "our constitutional system really places the primary authority in each state with the governor."

Never could I have imagined that “cognitive dissonance” might become trite and cliché through overuse. But there is simply no other descriptor so precisely apt for this instance of GOPthink. “Yes, well, the disaster overwhelmed their response capabilities, but we couldn’t do anything because disaster response starts with the states. Mine goes to 11, see...”

Somehow, I doubt that the National Response Plan consists of “That’s their job, even if their response networks are down.”

According to Bartlett, the request was made for efficiency's sake to streamline the chain of command. But, according to LA National Guard and active-duty Army Commanders, there were no problems with the coordinated, tandem response by both services.

As of Monday, two parallel command structures are in place. Major Gen. Bennett Landreneau, head of the Louisiana National Guard, has control of all of the guard forces massed in the state. U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore is in charge of the active-duty forces, including soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division and the 1st Cavalry.

…The parallel command structure in Louisiana isn't without precedent. After Hurricane Andrew in 1992, federal troops dispatched to Florida to help in the relief and recovery were kept under federal control. The governor, meanwhile, retained authority over the National Guard forces.

…Louisiana's Adjutant Gen. Landreneau called the military command ``very integrated'' and said there was no advantage to putting all troops under his control. Adm. Timothy Keating, commander of active-duty forces in North America, agreed. ``From our perspective,'' he said Monday, ``it would not have provided an advantage over the current situation.''

What we therefore know as we move into the third theory - expanding federal powers - is that no governor request was needed to deploy federal troops, in Louisiana or elsewhere; the Guard and U.S. Army commanders saw no need for, or advantage in, federal consolidation of their efforts and that there is historical precedent for this arrangement. We also know that the National Guard can be federalized in times of need, as with the NG members currently serving under federal authority in Iraq, or as part of a national disaster response under the Stafford Act.

So why would anyone insist on control over the National Guard and the local police, when the point seems entirely moot? Hint: “…sought control over the National Guard and local police” is a euphemism. For whatever reasons, our JINO’s in the Potemkin Press consistently dance around the subject, using vague pseudo-info phrases like “broader federal role,” and “increased military involvement.”

But make no mistake: On Friday, Sept. 2nd, Bush asked Blanco to enable invocation of the Insurrection Act, which allows the federal government to use the U.S. military in a civilian law-enforcement capacity. This is what allowed Eisenhower to send troops to Little Rock in 1957.

Such use is normally constrained by one of our shortest and most eloquent laws:

Posse Comitatus Act

Section 1385 of Title 18, United States Code (USC), states:

“Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.”

“Posse Comitatus” literally means “posse of the country." In legalese, it translates thusly:

*The PCA does not apply to the U.S. Coast Guard in peacetime or to the National Guard in Title 32 or State Active Duty status*.

The PCA generally prohibits U.S. military personnel from direct participation in law enforcement activities. Some of those law enforcement activities would include interdicting vehicles, vessels, and aircraft; conducting surveillance, searches, pursuit and seizures; or making arrests on behalf of civilian law enforcement authorities.

Prohibiting direct military involvement in law enforcement is in keeping with long-standing U.S. law and policy limiting the military’s role in domestic affairs.

And in realpolitik, it means that the National Guard can act as civilian police when under control of the State Governor – as they did under Blanco’s command after Katrina. What makes “sought control of the National Guard and local police” so disingenuous is the fact that, when the National Guard is federalized - for example, during an emergency response - it also falls subject to Posse Comitatus and therefore loses its police action capacity.

This is what convinces me that he asked for the Insurrection Act. Federalizing the National Guard would have eliminated what little police backup was available. But if the Insurrection Act is invoked, the entire military – National Guard, Army, Navy, etc. – can act as a civilian police force under federal command.

I might have been willing to write it off as purely political so he could have his "bullhorn moment;" his polls weren’t looking so great even before Katrina. But then I am reminded of the unfathomable incompetence in Brownie’s heckuva job. And the fact that New Orleans sat underwater for four days, unaided, or that the USS Bataan also sat for days, fully stocked with medical and relief supplies, off the coast, simply awaiting orders to go in. I recall the hysteria about “lawlessness” and “looting” - the murders and the rapes and oh, the humanity! And I remember the media nattering on about the “insurgency” in New Orleans.

Do you remember the stories about how the troops were surprised to be met with cheers instead of resistance? Mr. Gottlieb is right – Something Wicked this Way Comes, indeed.

Part II is here.

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