Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Is it Too Late for U.S. to pull out of Iraq?

Steve Clemons reports on the opinion of Nir Rosen regarding getting the U.S, out of Iraq.
"During his presentation, Rosen stated that "the U.S. military has just become another militia in Iraq." He argued that Iraq is on the verge of genuine sectarian meltdown and that the Sunni population fears being wiped out by Shiites. This, in turn, may draw Sunni brethren from Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt in to prevent the sectarian cleansing of Baghdad and other cities.

Rosen is rethinking his position that America needs to get out of Iraq. He stated that had America withdrawn from Iraq a year ago, its departure might have forestalled the civil war that he believes is now underway. I think he is tilting towards the view now that America missed its window of opportunity to link its departure to a more stable outcome in Iraq -- and that now the question is what will America's departure do or not do.

If pushed, Nir Rosen believes that if America withdraws, the cork will blow off. The Shiite will attempt to wipe Iraq clean of Sunnis -- and neighboring nation Sunnis will pour into Iraq, possibly creating a major regional conflagration that can't be easily contained."
This pessimistic view is one that leaves the U.S. in a real bind. As we remain in Iraq we are being bled like a Bull in a bullfight by the picadors before the main bull fight begins. There appears no way to actually change things there in a manner that would result in real peace. But if we leave, our pullout will set off the attempted genocide of the Sunnis by the Shiites, followed by the entry of Sunni arabs from Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc.

Bush seems to have decided that Iraq can establish a national government that will be able to pacify the situation. The five months it has taken to establish a government after the last election and the fact that no decision has been made on the security positions in that government, plus the fact that the government has no real power outside the Greed Zone of Baghdad makes that an unlikely long shot.

Does the term "No win situation" occur to anyone besides me?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Tax cuts do WHAT for the economy?

The Republicans keep passing tax cuts and claiming that they make the economy better. Someone needs to tell me how.

Those taxcuts are supposed to give businesses more money to invest. Supposedly these new investments will create more business and more jobs. Yet an Associated Press article published Friday points out that the S&P 500 companies are currently sitting on $643 billion in cash and equivalents that they don't know how they will spend! They are holding cash because there are no good investments for it.

So tell me - what do those tax cuts do for the economy again? Those S&P 500 companies don't know how to invest what they have sitting around now, and the economy is supposed to get better if we give them more money that they then won't know how to spend productively?

Behind the curtain of Congressional complaints of searches of Congressional offices.

The recent FBI search of William Jefferson's (D, LA2.) Congressional office has brought forth loud complaints from the House Congressional leadership that the Executive Department (FBI) should not be allowed to search the offices of Congressmen because of the Constitutional separation of powers. Denny Hastert (R. WI. Speaker of the House) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R. WI. Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee) both complain that the Executive Department does not have the right to obstruct the functioning of Congress. (heard on NPR Morning Edition May 29) Roll Call reports that House Members are complaining that the Executive Department is treating them "like common criminals."

Interestingly, Sen. Bill Frist (Rep. Senate Majority Leader) was just quoted on NPR Morning Edition saying that no member of Congress is above the law.

My first response was that Hastert and Sensenbrenner had a good point. If the Executive Department has free rein to search every Congressman's office at their whim, this would be a power that could totally disrupt the functioning of the Congress. Jeralyn Merrit over at TalkLeft has looked into (and links to)
"a copy of the search warrant for Rep. Jefferson's (D-LA2, New Orleans) Congressional office as well as defense counsel's excellent memorandum for sealing the records pending litigation of speech and debate privilege and separation of powers. I'm impressed with both."

She also considers the White House out of control and dismissive of both Congress and arguments that Congress is Constitutionally an equal branch to the President. True though that may be, and as much as I distrust the FBI for historical reasons, the search of Congressman Jefferson's office does not appear at this time to be an example of it.

Josh Marshall makes the point that Congress hasn't been responding to Justice Department requests for information. (also TPM Muckraker) The real problem isn't that the Justice Department is trying to treat Congressmen as crooks. The real problem is that Congressmen like Randy Cunningham, William Jefferson, Bob Ney, Tom DeLay, and Jerry Lewis ARE crooks, and that the Congress is not performing its Constitutionally required duty "Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member." (Art I, Sect 5.)

This investigation and punishment function is what the House Ethics Committee was supposed to do. You remember the Ethics Committee, don't you? After it admonished then Majority Leader Tom DeLay 3 times for unethical behavior, DeLay removed several members of the committee and replaced them with people who blocked all action by the committee. The result was that there has since been no mechanism for the House to "punish its members for disorderly behavior." The House has said and done nothing as the Justice Department investigated Randy "Duke" Cunningham for bribery, convicted him, and sent him to prison for the longest prison term ever (so far) given to a Congressman for criminal actions performed in office.

You will notice that the statement in the constitution says may punish its members. That is permissive, but does not permit Congresspersons to break the law with impunity if the House does not punish them. And that's what (Tom DeLay's protoge) Denny Hastert is afraid of and is trying to head off. The Abramoff investigations are closing in on a lot of Congresspersons. Hastert and Sensenbrenner are throwing up roadblocks.

Because William Jefferson is a Democrat, Hastert and Sensenbrenner seem to have believed that they could make their attempt to be above the law into a bipartisan issue. As the comment above by Bill Frist shows, even the Republicans are one hundred percent behind Hastert and Sensembrenner.

Congress has the power of the purse - if the members work in unison. That's all they need to protect themselves from Executive Department efforts to disrupt their deliberations. They don't need any institutional agreement that places them above the law. Especially not now after six years and more of Congressional corruption. Democratic Congressman Barney Frank apparently agrees with me.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Media makes point of Bush sounding contrite

I heard Bush say that his big mistake was saying "Bring'em on!". My first reaction was "That's all he'll admit to??" It isn't that he has made wrong decisions. No. It's that he said something in a manner that wasn't all that "sophisticated."

But the Press was overwhelmed, and has been ever since. "BUSH ADMITS MISTAKE!!!!!" That's all I've heard since then. Jesus! Are they really that desperate for something to talk about that doesn't find fault with the great Bush?

What the Hell. I guess that if Cheney, Rove and Rumsfeld make all the decisions and Bush only goes out and makes speeches to get various voting blocks to support those decisions, then maybe it's true. The only real mistake Bush has made is in how he said something, because his only function is to give speeches and talk to supporters. If that's the only thing Bush has permission from the real decision-makers to do, then maybe he sees his worst errors as being how he speaks about something.

Apparently, though, his speaking has also sounded "Out of Touch." Like, maybe, oh, he sounds a bit like he hasn't a real clue as to what is going on. Not surprising to any Texan who has watched his act since 1994. He DOESN'T have any clue. Nor does he want one.

I guess Rove's pollsters caught that "out of touch" response last Spring. The result is the current contrition act. Richard Wolffe from Newsweek sure caught it, and reported it. Crooks and Liars has the tape. It's short - one minute and seven seconds.

Chris Bowers on Identity Politics

What makes most voters vote the way they do? Over at MDD Chris Bowers says it's not the issues and strategies we political junkines obsess about. He focuses on religion, but I think that is just another statistical proxy for whatever it really is. So go read his article. Then go read Digby's riff on his article for elaboration.

Then you might do what I have been doing and look at the pretty maps by religious denomination to see what it tells you about America.

There has to be something useful in that process. I'm just not sure what it is.

Big Brother has already been hard at work

Justin Rood puts recent news reports together to get a picture of how large the NSA telephone searches really is. The answer? It covers all of us, and has for four years.

So? If this is what it takes to catch terrorists, fine. Only one problem. There is NO - I say again No - indication that a single terrorist has been caught or a single terrorist incident has been stopped by using this massive set of programs.

This is the result of letting frightened authoritarian incompetent right-wingers try to run the government they don't believe should exist. I wonder how many bank robbers have escaped because the FBI personnel have been on wild goose chases set off by this NSA instigated boondoggle.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

CNN reports that the FBI is investigating members of Congress on NSA leaks

The FBI wants to interview some members of Congress about the leak that exposed the NSA warrantless wiretaps.

Who is protecting Hastert?

More on the issue of whether ABC was correct that Speaker Dennis Hastert he being invectigated for Abramoff-related bribery. The DOJ and Hastert have both denied it, and Hastert has threatened to sue ABC News. ABC stands behind their report.

But the report was based on a leak from somewhere in the Department of Justice. EmptyWheel reminds us that the same ABC reporter, Brian Ross, had an earlier scoop.
"You might remember this one. It went like this:

A senior federal law enforcement official tells ABC News the government is tracking the phone numbers we (Brian Ross and Richard Esposito) call in an effort to root out confidential sources.

"It's time for you to get some new cell phones, quick," the source told us in an in-person conversation.

ABC News does not know how the government determined who we are calling, or whether our phone records were provided to the government as part of the recently-disclosed NSA collection of domestic phone calls.

I guess I've got my answer to the question, "Why ABC."

I have been wondering how long it would take to sink in why the Bush administration didn't try to get the NSA telephone network tracking under color of law and limited by the courts. This is it.

The NSA is after more than terrorists. It is after Bush's political enemies. The courts would never permit the NSA to target reporters.

The Department of Justice knows about the bribe taken by Denny Hastert. They're just shutting down the investigation, just as they did earlier (and here) when the DOJ investigators were told they could not get the clearances to look at the NSA documents. These are documents that are already in the Office of Attorney General Gonzales.

Another Bush "turning point" for Iraq

Sidney Blumenthal writes about the Bush administration's latest Iraqi "turning point" in Salon (watch ad for free day pass.) Yeah, after five months the Iraqis in the green zone have announced that they have actually formed a government. To govern what? The green zone?
" This latest "turning point" reveals an Iraqi state without a social contract, a government without a center, a prime minister without power and an American president without a strategy. Each sectarian group maintains its own militia. Each leader's influence rests on these armed bands, separate armies of tens of thousands of men. The militias have infiltrated and taken over key units of the Iraqi army and local police, using them as death squads, protection rackets and deterrent forces against enemies. Reliable statistics are impossible, but knowledgeable reporters estimate there are about 40 assassinations a day in Iraq. Ethnic cleansing is sweeping the country. From Kirkuk in the north to Baghdad in the middle to Basra in the south, Kurds are driving out Turkmen and Arabs, Shiites are killing Sunnis, and the insurgency enjoys near unanimous support among Sunnis. Contrary to Bush's blanket rhetoric about "terrorists" and constant reference to the insurgency as "the enemy," "foreign fighters are a small component of the insurgency," according to Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Patrick Cockburn, one of the most accurate and intrepid journalists in Iraq, wrote last week in the Independent of London that "the overall security situation in Iraq is far worse than it was a year ago. Baghdad and central Iraq, where Shia, Sunni and Kurd are mixed, is in the grip of a civil war fought by assassins and death squads. As in Bosnia in 1992, each community is pulling back into enclaves where it is the overwhelming majority and able to defend itself." "
The whole article is worth sitting through an ad.

The U.S. does not have enough troops to disarm the militias, it cannot train an Iraqi Army that will not break up into its sector militias, and the so-called Iraqi government cannot gain control of the nation overall. Nor does George Bush have any strategy for making any of the good stuff happen.

Instead, as I predicted last Fall and predict again now, the Bush administration is going to declare victory and bug out (mostly) before the American election in November. They may save a few Republican seats by doing that.

Iraq is an unnecessary military disaster that George Bush and Dick Cheney closed their eyes and marched into just as fast as they could. They broke it, they own it, and there is not a single damned thing they can do about it now except pull out and hope the Iraqis have enough good sense to stop killing each other.

Lay, Skilling convicted for Enron crimes

(Newsweek) Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling have both been found guilty in the collapse of Enron and the related frauds they were accused of.

Enron was another case of cherry-picking the evidence that supported the claims made, and denying that there was anything that did not support "The Official Story." And "The Official Story" was that there had never been a company like Enron before.

It was magic! Enron created value in imaginative ways never before seen in the Business world! Look at all the analysts who supported the stock. Look at the stock analysts who kept reporting that Enron was beating revenue estimates! Look at the banks who (for high fees) were willing to lend Enron money. Look at the personnel system that routinely measured employees by the amount of revenue they brought in, and quickly replaced the lower half of the performers with new, hungrier, more imaginative salespeople. Because Enron was going to the stars, and everyone who was connected to it was getting rich.

And over it all were the geniuses who had created this money machine out of a stogy old electric utility. Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling. They, of course, were being rewarded for their foresight and imagination, and they continued to explain what a great miracle Enron was - even as it was falling apart.

Because there was nothing new here. Just some fancy accounting tricks that beginning accountants know are bad news. Booking revenue far in advance of when it was realized (actually due and received), then selling stock based on the increased price justified by the high revenue. Just meet or beat the stock analysts' revenue estimates. Considerations of how collectible that revenue was weren't realistic, because the next month the shortfalls would be covered up by more false revenue.

But of course, such advance revenue schemes appear in the Cash Flow statement. Such booked revenue isn't confirmed by the cash collected. So Enron did the imaginative thing. I've heard that they didn't publish a cash flow statement (not confirmed.) Booking revenue before it is received, of course, leads to the problem that the company runs short of cash to pay its bills, unless it can borrow more cash. Enter the banks.

The banks were happy to lend more cash to the magic money machine that was Enron, the one that Fortune Magazine had touted as the nations most innovative company for six years running. The fees for making those loans were high. The only issue that could cause a problem is if Enron had so much debt on its books that there was a chance they couldn't pay it all back. But Enron was famous for being such an innovative company, and the revenue kept growing year after year. Enron was creating all new markets as an energy broker and exploiting them. And the balance sheet showed relatively little debt compared to the revenue that was being reported. How could the banks go wrong - other than NOT lending the money and getting the fees.

Here we come to the Chief Financial Officer of Enron, Andrew Fastow. Enron needed to borrow money to pay its suppliers, but Enron had too much debt on the balance sheet for the banks to be comfortable lending money. Solution? Get the debt off the balance sheet somehow. Andrew, being a CPA who was as imaginative as the salespeople he was working around, quickly saw the answer.

The answer was the now-famous 0ff-the-books-partnerships. Fastow sold the excess debt to the partnerships and at the same time gave them enough of Enron's constantly rising stock to balance the debt with "assets." As needed, the partnerships could sell the constantly rising stock to pay the debt as it came due, and the increase in the stock prices also gave the partnerships a profit. The banks saw that the debts were balanced by assets, so they were happy to lend the partnerships the money to buy the debt from Enron in the first place. The banks got high fees for those loans, Enron booked the payments for the debt as revenue. The partners in the partnerships got profits. Andrew Fastow was happy to be one of the partners, and collect an additional fee for brokering the loans from the banks. Everyone was happy. As long as Enron stock went up.

The auditor should have stopped Fastow. But the Auditor was a partner of Andersen Accounting, one of the big five accounting firms, and was getting really big fees for his audit gig - as long as he reported that everything in the financial statements was being done correctly. Any hint that there was a problem in the financial statements and Enron would find another auditor who was more amenable to persuasion - and high fees. Used to be that all partners in a partnership collects a share of the partnerships' fees but were personally responsible for the partnerships' losses. In those days, partnerships like Andersen Accounting had internal review teams that checked on the work of each partner, especially on big accounts like Enron. But Accountants and Lawyers didn't like being responsible for each other, so they got federal law changed so that such partnerships were limited liability organizations, like buying stock. Once that happened, the internal review teams were an unnecessary expense, and tended to slow down deal-making.

Of course, Enron was a ponzi scheme. It couldn't last forever. If Ken Lay ever said publicly "Enron is in for a rough patch in the near future." the whole rickety structure would collapse. If a bank refused to provide a loan, it would come down. If the auditor did an honest audit, it would collapse. It only worked as long as Enron stock increased in value.

When one analyst started questioning the "Enron story" his bosses got phone calls telling them to back off. Since the analyst worked for an investment bank, all it took was a few threats to stop selling stocks and bonds through that bank, and the analyst was informed that he should stop reporting bad news about Enron if he wanted to keep his job. Investment banks operate on fees from the companies they sell things for, and of course, those are high fees. Wouldn't want to lose those fees.

Is it any surprise that Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling were out touting Enron even in the last days as it was collapsing? They had hundreds of people whose jobs and retirements depended on Enron stock continuing to increase in value. Sure it was a fantasy, but it had been a fantasy for years and the stock kept going up. If they could just resell the original fantasy, everything would be alright.

So Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling went out and lied. They had to to keep the fantasy in place. But the fantasy disappeared anyway, and now they are going to prison for their lies.

So what did Lay and Skilling to that was criminal? The courts say they lied, because lying is against the law. Poor leadership is not illegal.

Ken Lay was convicted of six counts of wire fraud and securities fraud. Jeff Skilling was convicted of 19 out of 28 charges, most of then wire fraud and securities fraud, and the remainder were about lying to the auditors. What they really did was fail leadership 101.

The military teaches that a leader is responsible for everything his subordinates do or fail to do. A squad leader can watch his nine men to see what they are doing and not doing, but what does a General do? He listens when problems are presented and he investigates to make sure that routine is followed. No one tells a general what he is doing wrong. The same is true for CEOs.

Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling instead did not listen to problems reported to them, or as in the case of Ken Lay when a Sharon Watkins, a Vice President of Accounting, told him that the structure of Enron was about to collapse, he passed it off to his law firm. The law firm essentially said she was wrong and wrote the problem off. The accountant was transferred, considered for firing, and has had trouble getting work since Enron collapsed. The rule is "Spread the best news, shoot the messangers of bad news."

When pushing high energy sales people who are rewarded big for success and fired for failure, the financial controls are critical. In Enron's case, the financial controls were non-existent. That is where Lay and Skilling failed.

Did their people fail them? Sure, but the structure and culture of Enron made it a certainty that people would take big risks to get big rewards. So they took big risks, and avoided being the messanger of bad news because that was another way of getting fired. This is the organization that Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling set up. Lay and Skilling failed leadership 101. This is failed leadership at work.

Sound similar to the Bush administration? It should. Sunbeam and Worldcom also followed much the same process into oblivion. Sure is a shame the U.S. can't declare bankruptcy in Iraq, but that would change nothing there. Iraq comes from the same process. Dream big, act boldly, and shoot the messangers who deliver any bad news.

Everyone has forgotten how to survive a scam. The final step is to get out of town before the whole thing collapses. Jeff Skilling tried, but it too late.

When you hear Ken Lay blame everyone else for a "Run on the Bank", look at him carefully. He is a failed leader, blaming everyone else for what was his responsiblity.

For more on Enron, the Houston Chronicle is always the place to go.

Dep. AG: Hastert not "in the mix"

Contrary to what I wrote yesterday, it appears that the Deputy Attorney General Brian Ross firmly denies that Dennis Hastert is under investigation. (Via TPM Muckraker)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

ABC reports that Dennis Hastert is under FBI investigation

Via TPM Muckraker we get the report from ABC News that Dennis Hastert, Republican Speaker of the House, is under investigation by the FBI. The investigation is a result of statements by crooked lobbyists who are talking to the FBI to reduce their sentences.

So, with Dennes Hastert under investigation, the House Majority Leader Tom DeLay having resigned under indictment over his money handling (again from lobbyists) several Republican Congressmen under investigation for bribery and illegal deals with lobbyists, and with Senator Frist, the Senate Majority leader under investigation by the SEC for possible insider trading the Republican party is showing its true colors. It is a political machine set up to loot the government while dismantling it.

Opposed to that Democrats have a single Congressman, William Jefferson, who is under investigation for having received $100,000 to facilitate some kind of international deal. Instead of singing his praises and defending him, as the Republicans have done with all their crooks, the Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has asked Jefferson to resign his powerful committee seat.

So which is the party of institutionalzed corruption, and which is the party that roots out corrupt actors?

I haven't even mentioned Dick Cheney's arrangements to get multimillion dollar No-Bid contracts for Halliburton to support the war in Iraq while his stock holdings in Haliburton go up in price as a result, or the $2.6 million in straight bribes given to Rep. Congressman Randy Cunningham. Then there are Bob Ney, who will soon be gone, and Jerry Lewis, both Republican Congressmen from California currently under investigation. Oh, and let's not forget the totally unforgettable Katherine Harris, Rep. Congresswoman from Florida currently running for the Republican nomination for Senator. The $38,000 she got from Mitchell Wade (Cunningham's briber) has yet to be explained.

General Hayden supported by Senate Committee

Well, Michael Hayden has been approved by the Senate Committee to replace the failed Porter Goss as CIA Director. Since Goss is the first appointee that the Bush administration has actually removed from office for incompetence, this is a significant change. Unfortunately there is no indication that Hayden will be any better.

Not, at least, from the point of view of the American public.

Goss failed his masters by bringing in cronies to replace "disloyal" CIA individuals, but they were mostly fired CIA employees who were out to get back at those who got rid of them. The result was an administrative blood-bath of the best of the operations directorate supervisors.

Since Goss was himself a CIA officer for a number of years and then left, we can assume that he left because he had, himself, been one of the failed CIA officers. The individuals he chose to surround himself with were like-minded people. Placing him in charge of the CIA was an example of placing a failure in charge of the organization within which he had failed. It appears that he surrounded himself with like-minded failures when he returned as Director. This is the source of his failure as CIA Director.

So what does Michael Hayden bring to the job?

He has come up through a much more rigourous process. The military does not promote failures to four star officers - not even the Air Force. (Yeah, I'm retired Army.) What they have in Hayden is a competent leader who has proven that he is loyal to those who appointed him.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Mine Safety? Under Bush? Fuggeditaboutit!

From FireDogLake:
It's no secret to anyone with a ticking pulse that this has been a bad year for American coal miners. And for those people whose attention had moved on to other issues, the deaths earlier this week of five more miners served as a reminder that the problem hasn'’t gone away. 31 coal miners have been killed on the job already this year, compared to 5 at this time last year, 11 at this point in 2004, 13 at this date in 2003 and 12 at this time in 2002. And the problem shows no sign of abating. At this rate, we're heading toward the highest number of coal mine fatalities in 20 years, at time when we had over 60% more coal miners than we have today.

The underground carnage has occurred at a time when the job of Assistant Director of Labor for Mine Safety has been open. The position had been held during Bush's first term by former mining executive David Lauriski. Lauriski resigned in November 2004, and in September 2005 Bush nominated Richard Stickler to head the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Stickler has spent his career in the mining industry, mostly as a mine manager, and as Director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Deep Mine Safety from 1997 to 2003. He was head of the Bureau during the 2002 Quecreek Mine flood that trapped 9 miners who were eventually rescued.

No one who has read the news reports on Mine deaths can do other than wonder what the removal of of mine inspections under Bush has done to kill miners.

This is another case of placing incompetents in charge of critical government agencies, like Michael Brown at FEMA. It takes a while to show up, but the results appear in the death statistics after a while.

Do we really need Republicans running government? How many have to die to show that their brand of ignorance selfishness and egotism simply won't do to run the government of a modern nation?

We need experts, not ideologues running government agencies. The mine companies and other being regulated don't like it, but their calculus is different. They don't mind more deaths if it saves money. Miners tend to disagree.

I'm on the miners side.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Safavian trial starts today.

The first Washington trial in the Abramoff situation is beginning. David Safavian is charged with accepting airfare for a Scotland golf trip from Abramoff in 2002 and then with obstructing inquiries into the matter. This is like the golf trips Abramoff gave Congressman Tom DeLay and Congressman Bob Ney. From Bloomberg:
" Safavian is a former colleague of Abramoff's at the lobbying firm Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds in Washington. At the time of the golf trip, he was chief of staff at the General Services Administration, which oversees government property. He later became the top procurement officer in the White House Office of Management and Budget. He resigned in September.

Almost immediately after taking the GSA post, Safavian started receiving e-mails from Abramoff about government properties such as the Old Post Office building in Washington, according to government documents. Sprinkled throughout Abramoff's requests to Safavian for inside information were offers for tickets to sports events, meals at Abramoff's Signatures restaurant and talk about planning racquetball games. "
Abramoff has already pleaded guilty to bribing congressmen and government officials, and he is testifying to the investigators, but the is the first trial. Rather than put Abramoff on the stand subject to cross examination by Defense Lawyers who want to paint him as unreliable the government is expected to use emails between Safavian and Abramoff to present their case.

Safavian thinks he has a case that he did nothing wrong, so he is going to trial instead of simply pleading guilty. This is rather a key case. If the government wins Abramoff is boosted as a witness. If Abramoff does not testify and Safavian wins, Abramoff is not seriously damaged for later cases.

It's going to be an interesting case, and the testimony that comes out will have the chance of adding to what we know of the corruption that Abramoff has been at the center of. That will lead to the heart of the Republican leadership in Congress.

Time to break out the popcorn.

Did Republicans crossover to elect Ray Nagin to weaken the state Democrats?

This is interesting. First Draft offers what they call the Oyster-Adrastos theory on why Ray Nagin won the mayoral election in New Orleans.

Essentially the theory is that if Ray Nagin is mayor of New Orleans during the state election next year, he provides a face for the Republicans to attack. This weakens Governor Blanco state-wide. The fact that Landreau lost to Nagin also weakens the Blanco-Landreau team of Governor-Lt. Governor.

Since there were no Republicans in the mayoral run-off, this could be a reasonable theory, and the white-vote crossover for Nagin suggests that this was in fact planned.

So go read the First Draft article.

Update of Katherine Harris of Florida

Two-term Representative Katherine Harris, best known nationally as the Florida Secretary of State who disenfranchised many mostly Democratic voters and certified George W. Bush as winner of the 2000 Presiential election in Florida, has drawn three unknown oppontents in her campaign to win the Republican primary for Senator. Her opponents are "...LeRoy Collins Jr., son of former Gov. LeRoy Collins; Peter Monroe, a developer; and lawyer William McBride." (from WTOP News, a Washington D.C. news radio station.)

LeRoy Collins Jr. is a retired Naval officer with no political experience. Peter Monroe managed the property of failed banks for the FDIC, and William BcBride is a lawyer in a firm located in Windemer, FL.

Harris has consistently run 30 points behind the incumbent Democratic Senator Bill Nelson. Since none of the three opponents are especially well-known, so they will all be going for the Republican anti-Harris vote, pretty much assuring that even with her disorganized campaign she will probably win the primary.

See also my previous posts on the Katherine Harris campaign:

Sunday, May 21, 2006

"Walking the cat back" on the Iranian Badges for Jews story

I didn't bother to comment on the the story a few days ago about the Iranian government allegedly requiring Jews to wear visible badges just as the Nazis did in WW II because it had been quickly debunked before I ever spotted the story. But it led to a better story. here is the story behind the "badges" lie. It was a Neocon Psy-0ps operation enacted to inflame American public opinion against the Iranians and build support for military attacks on Iran.
"The sole source for the pile of crap was Amir Taheri, an Iranian-born journalist with ties to warmongering neo-cons, who wrote a companion piece to the main story. [Snip]

Taheri is in cahoots with Ledeen, Perle and Frum and is even a columnist for the National Review, their organ for warmongering swill. Taheri writes the incendiary op-ed piece "A color code for Iran's infidels" and himself sends it to the Simon Weisenthal Center. When someone there makes a fuss, it becomes news in a Likudite-linked paper where David Frum got his start as a columnist and where he is coincidentally publishing a weekly column again today. Viola! Effective psy ops delivery of a nasty calumny which makes Ahmadinejad look like Hitler!"
Go read the article at Daily Kos. Keep track fo the names and the publications. Then when you see any of them connected to a story about Iran, be very suspicious.

For more counter-Intelligence against the NewCon attempts to stampede America into attacking Iran, go see this article at BBC.

Diebold makes the most hackable voting machines possible.

No electronic voting machine can be made that cannot be hacked. That's why there must be a paper trail of votes so that the voter knows his vote was recorded the way he intended it, and the vote can be physically counted by hand.

The story is from Seeing the Forest. Dave Johnson of STF got it from Newsweek. Someone in the MSM (Steven Levy) is actually looking at the electronic voting machine problems. But of course, he is only a technology writer, not a political writer. The political writers already know that there is no story in vote stealing by electronic voting machines.

The essential problem with "illegal" immigrants is bad law

Just a thought that struck me a while back. Someone said "...they take jobs away from Americans, they drain our social services, and by moving routinely across our borders they endanger homeland security." that person laid out the basic issues being used to justify the immigration hullabaloo. Jobs, Social Services and security. But aren't they all related to the fact that by not having any way to bring the immigrants into some form of legal status they remain a hidden and illegal community?

They aren't illegal because of their nature, they are illegal because they need jobs to support their families. They for the most part live in Mexico and the Jobs are here in the U.S. Many employers actively recruit illegal Mexicam workers. Then we as a nation give them no route to live and work here legally.

The fact that they are illegal means that employers can (and frequently do) cheat them out of their wages. There are numerous stories of illegals being hired, working for three or four weeks without getting paid, and when they demand their pay the employer calls ICE and has them deported. This has several effects. First, the employer gets free labor, so that Americans cannot compete (how would the employer stiff the American workers out of their pay? They'd go to the Wage and Hour Board.) Second, the illegals are given no route out of their illegal status, so they remain doing the really low-level jobs and get quite good at them. Again, legal workers look for promotion and training to better jobs. The illegals frequently do a better job than the legals because they have more experience. Third, since the immigrants are already in an illegal status and have little access to social services and have a justified fear of contact with authorities, they are more likely to steal. (My surprise is how few really do this.)

As for social services, they can get emergency medicine and not much else. Frequently they can't get driver's licenses so they can't legally drive. Also, no truck-driving jobs. They can't get bank accounts. They get paid by check and then get charged 5% or more of the face value of the check to cash it. If they do get a good job, they can't easily move to another one for better pay and benefits. It's hard to buy a home or set up a business. This is all because of their illegal status which they are forced to accept in order to obtain work that allows them to support a family.

Finally, the security issue. The problem isn't that they cross the international border regularly, it is that they do so illegally. But this is because of their status as illegal immigrants. I can cross that same border anytime I wish in either direction.

The whole set of problems appear to stem from the need for family-supporting jobs (which are available in the U.S rather than in Mexico) and the related need for workers to fill jobs in the U.S., without a way of giving those workers any legal status. If the workers were not forced into the illegal sub-class by the lack of a way out of it, the rest of the problems would mostly disappear. The one remaining problem would be the fact that they speak Spanish rather then English, and that is curable.

Rove - indicted or not? Truthout defends Leopold's reporting

The blogosphere investigation into the accuracy of Jason Leopold's Truthout article stating that Rove had been handed an indictment by Fitzgerald and the indictment would be announced Friday, May 12th is heating up. This is from TalkLeft. (This is in addition to earlier Talkleft reports here and here)

The essence of the latest in TalkLeft is that Ash, the editor of Truthout, feels Leopold got the story correct and his sources were straight with Truthout, but that something changed to keep Fitzgerald from announcing the indictment of Rove.

TalkLeft speculates that this could mean that Rove rolled on someone else in the White House, Fitzgerald has made a deal, and the targets of the investigation have changed sharply. One possibility is that Cheney may well now be the target rather than Rove.

Rove spokesman Marc Corallo and Rove Lawyer Robert Luskin both claim that everything Truthout and Leopold wrote is either a lie or they are crazy.

A commenter, Sydnie, points out that Carralo was spokesman for Bob Livingston in December 1998 and made a similar absolute delial that Livingston was going to resigh exactly two days before Livingston resigned.

So right now it is like watching a dogfight under a blanket. There's a lot of noise and the blanket is moving a lot, but winners and losers haven't been sorted out yet. The most we know is that a lot of activity is happening.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Bush's argument echoes that of King Charles I

Mark Kleiman goes back into British Pariamentary history for an earlier example of the argument that Bush is making about his absolute and unfettered "Constitutionsl" power as Commander-in-Chief in Wartime.
"In the debate over ship-money (a form of unParliamentary taxation claimed by Charles I as an emergency wartime measure encompassed by the royal prerogative) at the beginning of the Long Parliament, Lord Falkland made a simple argument. If, said Falkland, the king is the sole judge in necessity (i.e., has unlimited emergency powers) and at the same time the sole judge of necessity (with unreviewable discretion to decide what constitutes an emergency) then the monarchy is absolute."[Underlining mine - RB]
Charles I (as I recall) was a poor manager, but "strong-willed" (another term for stubborn with those who opposed him.) He forced a showdown with Parliament (which objected to his mismanagement of affairs) that resulted in the English Civil War and his own execution in 1649. (Britania - Monarchs of Britain.)

Bush 43, who also inherited his position, appears to mimic Charles I in that he is strong-willed and mismanages governmental affairs badly. Also Bush 43's argument that he is an absolute monarch is no better than the argument offered by Charles I.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Ned Lamont just forced Joe Lieberman into a primary

I don't know the rules in CN, but apparently Ned Lamont got enough votes at the Democratic Caucus to force Joe Lieberman into a primary election. The report is on FireDogLake. Apparently Lamont got a lot more votes than he was expected to get.

I get the impression that Lieberman is running into an unexpectedly high level of opposition in the Connecticut Democratic Party.

If anyone can explain the mechanics of the Connecticut Democratic nomination process, I wish you would tell me. What has happened, and what does Lamont have to do to win the Democratic nomination?

So far, I'm just really happy that Lieberman is having trouble in his renomination to a fourth term as Senator. He has seriously screwed up in the last six or so years.

There used to be room for crossover votes between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, but that was before the Republicans scorched the earth for moderates. Joe L. has not yet figured this out, and the attention he has been getting from the Republicans as "Bush's favorite Democrat" has apparently blinded him to the damage he is doing to the Democratic Party and to America.

Why Democrats hate Joe Lieberman

Digby takes on the false idea that Democrats are angry at Joe Lieberman because of his position on the Iraq War.

I detest Lieberman. He is not a Democrat. He is a self-serving political opportunist who sucks up to power and screws over those out of power to make himself look good. Right now those out of power are the Democrats and Lieberman is happy to screw them over. Joe Lieberman has done more to damage the image of the national Democratic Party than any ten Republicans (not counting Karl Rove.) Digby points out that the New York Times states that the Democratic opposition to Joe Lieberman is because of his position on the war in Iraq.

Frankly, in 2003 I decided that, based on the information I was getting from the main stream media (and sourced almost entirely from the Bush administration - especially Dick Cheney, though I did not then realize that) there was valid reason to invade Iraq. I didn't understand the timing and I had my share of questions, but I would have voted to give the administration the power to invade Iraq if Saddam failed to respond to the U.N. demands. I never held it against Kerry or Edwards that they voted for the war. It was the wrong decision, but the available information did not make a clear yes or no decision possible. But Digby makes the case against Joe Lieberman today better than I can.
"the reason the netroots are taking on Joe Lieberman is because he enables Republicans on a host of issues and consistently shows disloyalty to the party in a hyper-partisan era. Alone among Democrats at the time, he went on the floor of the Senate and excoriated Bill Clinton for personal failures (that's what the speech was about) and gave support to the hypocritical Republican witch-hunters. Then, once again, alone among Democrats, he stood up for George Bush as it became obvious that the justification for the war in Iraq was based upon lies and hype. These are just two telling examples of where Lieberman tends to come out on issues that mean something to the Democratic party in a larger sense.

He comes from Connecticut. There is no excuse that he's in a Red State and has to pander to conservatives. He does this completely for its own sake. And inevitably, he gets the highest accolades from Republicans for doing so; he actually seems to revel in his position as George Bush's favorite Democrat. It is understandable that a Democratic senator lauded constantly by the right wing noise machine is going to be suspect among Democratic partisans.

There was a time when a vital center coalition existed in the Senate, where there was room on both sides for trading votes across party lines. The Republicans destroyed that coalition and Lieberman, inexplicably, doesn't seem to get that. Even worse, when the shit comes down, he inevitably sides with them. Many Democrats took a long time to learn the harsh lessons of GOP political hardball and had to lose to a bunch of thuggish right-wingers before they began to recognize what they were up against. Lieberman still refuses to accept the fact that his high minded centrism is a weapon in the hands of the radical Republicans.

The netroots are bringing some heat from the partisans and even if Lamont loses maybe this will move Lieberman's ass a little bit back to the party that brung him. That is not illegitimate politics. It is the only way to educate him apparently. He certainly has not listened to anything else."
I didn't care for Lieberman's sanctimonious speech on the Senate floor against Clinton, but I was very unhappy with Clinton's stupid behavior, too. Joe was a bit out of line then. But he seems to have learned the wrong lesson. He has become the Republican's favorite Democrat, with an automatic role in every one of FOX News' Democratic bashing events. He publicly supports Bush more than most Republican House members do today. And he does not seem to learn.

He has told Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton that he will not run as an independent if he loses the Democratic primary, yet he tells the New Hampshire voters that he will run as an independent. He'll lie to Democrats sooner than fight Republicans. Since the Republicans have the national power, he sucks up to them and cuts down the Democrats.

It's a damned shame that a man who went into the South to get Blacks to register to vote in the 60's should have failed to understand America today so badly.

And he still will not admit to rethinking the Iraq war, even thought many Republicans have done so. This is a rather minor thing, though. He has frankly ceased to be a Democrat. So a Democrat needs to replace him.

It's really that simple.

Ed Gillespie explains his decision for RNC to pay tobin's legal bills

Ed Gillespie was chairman of the Republican at the time James Tobin was indicted for the New Hampshire Republican phone jamming scheme to elect Sununu as Senator. Gillespie claims that he independently decided to pay for Tobin's legal bills. Why? Here, from TPM Muckraker is the story:
"He [Gillespie] made an arbitrary decision that the RNC would cover Tobin's legal bills. Why? Because "it's the custom, not written anywhere, that you covered your people." - (N.B. according to Ken Mehlman [Current RNC Chairman], the RNC has since revoked this honorable, unwritten custom: "consulting contracts now explicitly declare that independent contractors must be prepared to pay their own legal costs in civil and criminal cases.") Having made that decision, he [Gillespie] then informed someone at the White House, he can't remember who, that he was going to abide by this unwritten rule. But this was just a heads up, a courtesy, not a dialogue. It was non-negotiable."
So I guess that the fact the Tobin was the representative from the White House to the critical but close race for Senator in NH had nothing to do with it.

My observation has been that the members of the Bush administration trust people, not rules. What matters when trying to get something done is having a strong and ideologically reliable trusted leader who is loyal to the cause of the Bush administration on site. Rules are impediments to accomplishing the necessary task, so a strong effective leader is expected to ignore the rules when required to get the job done. A key element in this is that loyalty is a two-way street. The individual sent out is expected to be loyal to Bush, and can expect Bush's loyalty in return.

This is a feudal* way of thinking. People - strong leaders - get jobs done, not policies and plans. Rules, laws and bureaucracy simply get in the way of effective leadership. This is the mindset.

Of course, this also means that by being elected President, Bush believes that he has been given the absolute trust of the American people, and should not be hemmed in by unnecessary rules, bureaucracy or laws. This includes freedom from such impediments as the Constitution and oversight by Congress and the Courts.

The freedom to operate this way allows a great deal more flexibility to the operators, so it is often found in businesses that require flexible strategies. The oil industry, with its history of boom and bust, is a prime example of this. So is winning elections. But it does not work for running government.

Government establishes laws and enforces them, making it the polar opposite of this feudal way of thinking. Government is, of necessity, a bureaucratic and law-bound organization. It cannot work otherwise. Individuals cannot be allowed the freedom to decide not to pay taxes or to pollute the air and water. Not if society is going to continue to function.

I think the Tobin case is an example of why the Republicans are capable of winning elections but not capable of governing. They come from the feudal way of solving problems and where that works, they function superbly. But when the requirement is for long years of research and operating in a bureaucracy (like the Center for Disease Control or FEMA) they cannot manage the organization effectively. They operate by instinct and gut feel, and their instincts are wrong for the strange environment.

The Tobin case is another example of this.

* Don't mistake the term "feudal" for meaning "primitive." It's not. It was a very advanced way of operating government when the primary function of government was defense of relatively small towns and agriculltural villages against bandits and Vikings. But it does not do a good job of controlling a large organization, which is why effective government became bureaucrative government. Most people don't recognize bureaucracy until some rule interferes with what they want to do, so people only notice the problems that seem to be caused by bureaucracy.

Addendum May 20, 2006 10:23 AM
For an excellent account of the questions raised by the obviously excessive $3 million the Republican Party spent to defend James Tobin, go read EmptyWheel.

Question: What in Hell are the Republicans trying to hide?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Report states Rove will be indicted Friday. (We hope)

Steven D over at Booman Tribune offers new hope to those of us who were burned (or at least confused) by the Truthout report last week that Rove was going to be indicted Friday. This is based on the Wayne Madsen Report dated May 17th which unfortunately does not have links to individual stories. So go to the WMR and scroll down if you want to see it.

It appears that the WMR confirms a lot of last weeks details, and provides the explanation that some of the confusing parts may have been put out by Rove supporters specifically to provide "...diversions and smokescreens." The WMR states Fitzgerald will follow the same pattern as he did when Libby was indicted. The indictment will be posted on Fitzgerald's website, it will be delivered, and there will be a news conference tomorrow.

The WMR also states that Rove's attorney, Luskin, is also a target of Fitzgerald's investigations "...as a result of a conversation with Time reporter Viveca Novak, in which Novak told Luskin that Rove was a source for Time's Matt Cooper. The special prosecutor, who has prosecuted one defense attorney in the Hollinger case, is reportedly investigating whether Luskin, as an officer of the court, may have violated laws on obstruction of justice."

So - based on the available Intel, there is a good chance Rove will be indicted tomorrow. There are multiple sources of the impending indictment, one of which sets tomorrow as the date of the announcement. The initial source was not correct about the date, but the second source confirms many details from the first source.

We should therefore keep one ear on the Washington news tomorrow and hope.

Breaking News! Polygamy is illegal!

Well, OK. This is not what we would consider news in 49 U.S. states, but this is a statement by the state Supreme Court of Utah. I just couldn't resist the headline.

The source is TalkLeft.

James Tobin has been sentenced for interfering with an election in 2002

TalkLeft reports that James Tobin has been sentenced for his actions to interfere with the 2002 election in New Hampshire. See my previous posts on this subject:
Tobin was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison and a $10,000 fine. The Republican National Committee has paid just under $3,000,000 for his defense, and after the 2002 election they hired him as the Northeast coordinator for the Bush 2004 election.

"Follow the money." What you will find is that Tobin's actions were condoned by, if not instigated by, the entire national Republican Party. Every Republican who contributed to the RNC supported Tobin right up until the day the conviction was handed down.

More on the recent Avian flu cluster

DemFromCT provides an interesting update on what we know and don't know about the recent cluster in Indonesia of Avian flu cases in which 6 of 8 people with the flu died.

The good news is that transmission of the flu to humans is still difficult. The bad news is that pigs can catch both human flu and avian flu, making them a potential "mixing bowl" in whicb the virii of both kinds of flu can mix and possibly merge in ways that allow a new flu appear that is easily transmitted between humans.

The Flu Wiki (see sidebar) provides a list of flu clusters and the countries in which they have occured. The Indonesian case about has not yet been added as I write this.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

TalkLeft discusses the Jason Leopold story that Rove is already indicted

There is a lot of doubt about Jason Leopold's story in "Truthout" that Rove has already been indicted by Fitzgerald. Jeralyn at TalkLeft discusses what is known independently of the story by Leopold.

At the moment, I am not sure what to make of the Leopold report. While I hope it is true, it could well be a scam pulled on him by his sources. But he says these were the same sources who told him of the 250 e-mails being turned over to Fitzgerald, and that story turned out to be true.

Time will tell. Soon, I hope.

Spammers use web attacks to stop anti-spam effort

BBC has the interesting story of an Israeli firm that was working for clients who wanted their names taken off the spammer's lists. Here is how it worked:
"Blue Security set up the Blue Frog anti-spam scheme in July 2005 and since then has signed up more than 500,000 members.

If this method of stopping spam failed, Blue Security would then visit the spammer's websites advertising the products seen in junk mail and fill in any forms asking for users' names be removed from the list.

This could mean that some spammers' websites were getting thousands of requests for mailing lists to be cleaned up every day.

Blue Security claimed that the scheme reduced spam for many of those that signed up. "
Unfortunately it angered the spammers.

The spammers responded by linking numerous computers to conduct a denial of service attack on the Bule Frog server and by sending threatening e-mails to the individuals who were using Blue Frog to get their names removed from the spam lists.

Blue Frog has stopped its anti-spam program for fear of contributing to an escalating war on the internet.

I don't know if they are correct to stop. If the war really escalated, the spammers whould ultimately lose it, and any spammer after that could be attacked out of existence. But Blue Frog would have to call on a lot of allies to win.

You know, allies who have been spammed and hate it enough to fight back?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

How to really improve education - improve textbooks!

This article tells how The System can improve American education.

Improve the textbooks.

The students come in as random unknown units. You don't know who you will get, but you have to educate them. The teachers are under some control. That's what teacher certification and evaluation is all about. Then you test the students at the end of each year or so to see what they have learned. That's what No Child Left Behind is all about. So what's missing?

The textbooks.

Here in Texas textbooks go through a highly politicised process to determine which textbooks the state will provide to schools. The process is one of having publishers get experts to write the texbooks, then getting teachers and experts look at textbooks. After that, there is a public comment period on the books.

It is this latter period that results in the most corrections, both for errors in the texts and for religious problems such as too much focus on Evolution and discussion of the Big Bang Theory. (See Mel and Norma Gabler in Texas.)

Notice that nothing here includes evaluating what the students learned based on the various textbooks the students learned. Yet in mathematics and science, the key to what students learn is the content and ease of use of the textbooks. It would be extremely useful to give the various text books to groups of students and then give them the results-oriented test to see what they have learned.

The most effective textbooks are the ones which should be adopted. Not the textbook that is the most religiously correct, but the one which best teaches the students the material on which they will be tested.

Of course, this will force the politicians to deal with the so-called Christians as they redirect their efforts towards the content of the tests. But that is merely the next stage in the education of society. Religions which cannot deal with contradiction without political control over the facts presented to children have real problems that the rest of us need not deal with.

President's first domestic issues speech falls flat

Last night Bush presnted his first prime time speech on a domestic issue, perhaps hoping to lead the Republican Party into a more unified position on the subject of immigration. Instead he seems to have sparked greater dissension in the Republican Party.

Georgia10 provides at excellent review of responses over at dKos.

I should have known that many conservative Republicans would go ballistic. There were parts of the speech that actually sounded reasonable and well-thought out.

Rule of Law vs. Arbitrary Command

Lawrence Tribe describes how the Bush administration is stomping on the Fourth Amendment in the Boston Globe.

Tribe's editorial is excellent, but let me add to it what is meant by "The Rule of Law." From Perspectives we get this explanation:
"The difference between "rule by law" and "rule of law" is important. Under the rule "by" law, law is an instrument of the government, and the government is above the law. In contrast, under the rule "of" law, no one is above the law, not even the government. The core of "rule of law" is an autonomous legal order. Under rule of law, the authority of law does not depend so much on law's instrumental capabilities, but on its degree of autonomy, that is, the degree to which law is distinct and separate from other normative structures such as politics and religion.

As an autonomous legal order, rule of law has at least three meanings. First, rule of law is a regulator of government power. Second, rule of law means equality before law. Third, rule of law means procedural and formal justice. We will take up these meanings of rule of law one by one.

First, as a power regulator, rule of law has two functions: it limits government arbitrariness and power abuse, and it makes the government more rational and its policies more intelligent.

The opposite of rule of law is rule of person. There are two kinds of rule of person. The first kind is "rule of the few persons," examples of which include tyranny and oligarchy. The second kind of rule of person is "rule of the many persons," an example of which is the ancient Greek democracies. The common feature of rule of person is the ethos that "what pleases the ruler(s) is law." That is, under rule of person, there is no limit to what the rulers (the government) can do and how they do things.

In contrast, a key aspect of rule of law is "limitation;" i.e., rule of law puts limits on the discretionary power of the government, including the power to changes laws. This is why the western juridical tradition is Roman, not Greek. One of the major problems of ancient Greek democracy is that its conception of law does not contain the idea of limitation. The Greek word "eleutheria," commonly translated as "freedom," connotes a freedom that extends into the principle that what pleases the people is law. In other words, there were no limits to the (democratic) governments of ancient Greece, and the popular will, be it short-term passion or long-term rationality, would always become law if the demos so wished. "As soon as law lost its sacred character, popular sovereignty was placed above the law, and, by that very act, government by laws was once again fused and confused with government by men" (Sartori, 1987, p. 307).

Unlike the Greek system, the Roman system of law limited the ability of the rulers to change laws, and it greatly influenced the Anglo-Saxon version of rule of law. At the core of the Anglo-Saxon conception of rule of law is the idea that the discretionary power of the government should be limited. "[W]henever there is discretion there is room for arbitrariness, and . . . in a republic no less than under a monarchy discretionary authority on the part of the government must mean insecurity for legal freedom on the part of its subjects" (Dicey, 1982, p. 110). The solution to this problem, say liberal democrats, is rule of law."
The definition I have seen and really like is that the Rule of Law means that the government provides administrative certainty. In a given situation, the law is superior to the arbitrary decisions of administrators and the law states what actions the government can and will (or will not) take. It is extremely important for the government to be restricted and bound by law as well as individuals. That is an essential element of the rule of law.

The rule of law means that a person can buy a truck and begin a trucking business without fear that the government will arbitrarily decide it needs his truck for government purposes and confiscate it. Such certainty is not the case in many nations even today and the result is that if you have the money to buy a truck, you instead hide the money from the government where it cannot be taken. You don't buy the truck because a working truck cannot be hidden. The economy suffers from this.

Administrative certainty also means that if you decide to rob a store, then you know in advance that the police will attempt to stop you and will work to find and punish you. The risk and reward calculus is presented in advance.

The rule of law does not work if there is a government administrator who can arbitrarily decide you are doing something he disapproves of and shuts you down, or decides to impress you and force you to work for the government outside of legal rules which are predictable (see Draft Laws.)

The key is that everyone gets to make decisions with foreknowledge of what action can be expected from government because the government is bound by law, the law is published and public, and the methods of establishing and changing law are known and are also public.

This also requires an independent judiciary which is responsible for enforcing the law on both the government and on the public. Without public access to such an independent judiciary, the government is under no real constraint to apply the law.

More from Perspectives:
"...how is government arbitrariness constrained? The answer lies in several important principles of rule of law. First, if we are to limit government caprice, rule of law requires the supremacy of law as opposed to the supremacy of the government or any political party. [See the reference to an independent judiciary above] To the noted English jurist A. V. Dicey rule of law means, "in the first place, the absolute supremacy or predominance of regular law as opposed to the influence of arbitrary power, and excludes the existence of arbitrariness, of prerogative, or even wide discretionary authority on the part of the government" (Dicey, 1982, p. 120).

Second, if the government is to be restricted in its exercise of discretion, the government has to follow legal procedures that are pre-fixed and pre-announced. As F. A. Hayek puts it, rule of law "means that a government in all its actions is bound by rules fixed and announced beforehand -- rules which make it possible to foresee with fair certainty how the authority will use its coercive powers in given circumstances, and to plan one's individual affairs on the basis of this knowledge" (Hayek, 1994, p.80). For example, in constitutional and criminal law, there is a prohibition on "ex post facto" laws, that is, no one should be punished for a crime not previously defined in law"

"The third meaning of rule of law is formal or procedural justice. What is formal or procedural justice? Before we answer this question, we need to answer a more preliminary question: what is formalism? Max Weber categorizes legal systems into four kinds: formally irrational, substantively irrational, formally rational, and substantively rational. Rationality refers to the generality and universality of law. Formality refers to the characteristic that the criteria of lawmaking and lawfinding are intrinsic to the legal system itself; that is, all rules, procedures and decisions can be deduced from the legal system itself. In contrast, a legal system that emphasizes substantive qualities of lawmaking and lawfinding uses factors outside law, such as ethical, emotional, religious or political factors, to evaluate cases. To Weber, only a formally rational legal system can achieve "legal domination" (rule of law) through consistent application of general rules, because only a formally rational legal system can maintain a "consistent system of abstract rules" that is necessary for rule of law.

A formally rational legal system, according to the western legal tradition, also results in justice that we desire. This kind of justice is called formal or procedural justice, which "connotes the method of achieving justice by consistently applying rules and procedures that shape the institutional order of a legal system" (Shen, 2000, p. 31). More specifically, formal or procedural justice consists of several principles. First, the legal system must have a complete set of decisional and procedural rules that are fair. Second, the fair rules of decision and procedure must also be pre-fixed and pre-announced. Third, these decisional and procedural rules must be transparently applied. Fourth, these decisional and procedural rules must be consistently applied. When these four conditions are satisfied, western judges and lawyers will say that they have achieved a certain kind of justice, which is called formal or procedural justice. Note that this notion of justice is more concerned with process and procedure than with the end result. As Selznick puts it, "legality has to do mainly with how policies and rules are made and applied rather than with their contents" (Selznick, 1969, as cited in Shen, 2000, p. 30). In other words, as long as the process is fair, transparent and consistent, justice is obtained and legality is achieved."
This is a description of the Rule of Law. It is complicated and has a lot of unanticipated problems (which social scientists studying things call interactions) built in to it. But the Rule of Law is at the core of what makes America great, both as a wealthy nation and as a land of Freedom.

The Rule of Law is also what the Bush administration demands we abandon because there are Terrorists out there who hate our Freedom. Or something like that. So in order to fight against those terrorists, Bush demands that we give up the Rule of Law and turn government over to his arbitrary decrees.

Notice that his decrees are all implemented secretly. In place of the Rule of Law he demands that we allow him to rule arbitrarily. Is the process of declaring someone an Enemy Combatant fair, transparent and consistent? The fact is, it is not consistent nor is it transparent. Whether is is fair or not can only be determined by an independent court - but enemy combatants have to have the right to access the courts. So "Fair" is also down the drain.

America has reached a decision-point. We have the choice of whether we want the arbitrary Bush government or we want a government that is run under the Rule of Law. We cannot have both.

Reference to the Perspectives article:
1. Dicey, A. V. Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1982.

2. Hayek, Friedrich. The Road to Serfdom. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

3. Holmes, Stephen. Passions and Constraint: On the Theory of Liberal Democracy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

4. Sartori, Giovanni. The Theory of Democracy Revisited. Chatham, New Jersey: Chatham House, 1987.

5. Schauer, Frederick. "Formalism." Yale Law Journal 97 (1988): 509-548.

6. Selznick, P. Law, Society and Industrial Justice. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1969.

7. Shen, Yuanyuan. "Conceptions and Receptions of Legality: Understanding the Complexity of the Law Reform in China." In The Limits of the Rule of Law in China, ed. Karen G. Turner, James V. Feinerman and R. Kent Guy. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2000.

8. Weber, Max. Economy and Society, ed. G. Roth and R. Wittich. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978.

Locke's Second Treatise on GovernmentThis is the source document on what the Rule of Law means.

For another view, see Competing definitions of Rule of Law (the second part is about how to use the Rule of Law in economic development and is not needed here.) This is the short summary of the first part.
"the rule of law is not a single, unified good but is composed of five separate, socially desirable goods, or ends:
  1. a government bound by law,
  2. equality before the law,
  3. law and order,
  4. predictable and efficient rulings, and
  5. human rights.
These ends are distinct, likely to meet different types of support and resistance within countries undergoing reform, and often in tension with one another in practice."

Let's educate the Democratic Congresspersons

FireDogLake is offering a way to send a copy of "Crashing the Gate" to each Democratic Congressperson and Senator in Washington.

Instead of complaining about the fact that the Washington D.C. Democrats are out of touch and don't understand the new Grassroots Democratic and Progressive movements which are moving across the nation, we need to retrain the inside the beltway Democrats. Here's what's happening. The Roots Project is collecting money to buy copies of "Crashing the Gate" (click-through the book on the right-hand side of this on-line magazine) at a 37% discount, and they are going to hand-deliver the books to all 250 Democratic Congresspersons and Senators.

If you want to contribute, click here. If nothing else, it will be a demonstration of what those elected officials are facing when they attempt to ignore the grassroots.

Update May 17, 2006
This is from FireDogLake:
"If you haven’t purchased a copy for the project and would like to do so, you can go to this page — which provides all the information on how to order, including the fact that the independent bookseller we’re using is giving everyone a 37% discount (which isn’t reflected on the online ordering page, but will be reflected on your billing, just fyi)."[Underlining is mine - RB]
Christy Hardin Smith says that they are halfway to the goal of 250 copies, and they are looking for volunteers in Washington to help deliver them.

Dallas Fed Chief investing in Gold?

This "Saturday Musing" by Steve Clemmons struck me. I really didn't realize that things were this bad two years ago!
2. I should have bought gold. Gold passed $727 an ounce on Friday. Richard Fisher, who previously ran for the Senate in Texas and then served as Deputy US Trade Representative in the Clinton administration, is now President & CEO of the Federal Reserve Board of Dallas. Two years ago, Fisher told a small group that he was putting a big chunk of his considerable wealth into gold. When a guy who is a regional Fed Board chairman elects to abandon the dollar and other securities for gold, we should listen have listened.
Here is a guy who is at the very center of the Federal Reserve who is anticipating that the dollar is such a poor investment that no reasonale rate of return kept him in dollar-dominated investments. Instead he recommended placing wealth into Gold to protect it.

May 16, 2006 at 10:38 AM Mew York Time the price of gold was $688.50. It was about $520 on January 1, 2006. The recent increase in interest rates will probably prevent inflation, but it has already begun to take the steam out of the Housing Bubble. But the big problem is the fact that the world economy has been falsely inflated through the issuance of U.S. government bonds which the Petroleum countries and Asian countries (especially China, Japan and South Korea) have bought in order to fund the purchase of their exports.

Anyone really think that this financing on depbt that cannot be paid will go on forever? Here is one man's view of the situation:
The Dollar Crisis: Causes, Consquences, Cures
The Dollar Crisis: Causes, Consquences, Cures

So, two years ago the Dallas Federal Reserve Chief was investing in Gold. Today gold is way up in price. Why do I have the feeling that I am watching a horror show that unfolds rather slowly?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Leak investigation uses NSA to see who reporters call

The Bush administration has excused the MSA's non-legal tracking of people who call or are called by persons of interest as being a way of locating terrorists. But the exact same technique can be used against persons who speak to reporters to provide leaks. ABC News has the story.

John Bolton (now Ambassador the the UN based on an interim appointment) is known to have had NSA reports on who then Secretary of State Colin Powell was talking to. We don't know the contents of the reports, so we don't know what was in them. But the NSA was already keeping track of everyone who called or was called by any given phone number. It is known that Bolton had NSA reports given to him. What were they about?

This is less an anti-terrorism or anti-espionage tool than it is a tool to determine what the administration's political opponents are up to.

What do you want to bet that every phone call John Kerry made is listed and has been reported by the NSA?

This is criminal and impeachable behavior by the administration of George W. Bush. If the Democrats get control of one house of Congress with the power to investigate and use the subpoena power, is there any doubt that impeachment will be a consideration? The issue isn't whether the Democrats get control of the House and move towards impeachment. The issue is whether Bush has performed impeachable actions.

This will be important in the midterm elections.

Problem solving

My sister is one of those people who send messages with humorous stories to all her nearest and dearest friends, so I have no idea where this came from. Of course, I blog to achieve the same goal, so here it is.

Some problems CAN be fixed ...
An Iowa farm wife called the local phone company to report her telephone failed to ring when her friends called and that on the few occasions when it did ring, her pet dog always moaned right before the phone rang. The telephone repairman proceeded to the scene, curious to see this psychic dog or senile elderly lady. He climbed a nearby telephone pole, hooked in his test set, and dialed the subscriber's house. The phone didn't ring right away, but then the dog moaned loudly and the telephone began to ring.
Climbing down from the pole, the telephone repairman found:
1 The dog was tied to the telephone system's ground wire via steel chain and collar.
2. The wire connection to the ground rod was loose.
3. The dog was receiving 90 volts AC of signaling current when the phone number was called.
4. After a couple of such jolts, the dog would start moaning and then pee on himself and the ground.
5 The wet ground would complete the circuit, thus causing the phone to ring.
This demonstrates that some problems CAN be fixed by pissing and moaning.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The begining of the American Revolution

Go over to Hullabaloo and read the post there by poputonian. But first, remember your British history.

The first revolution in England was when the Parliament directed the decapitation of King Charles the first, leading into Parliamentary government. That ended because of a reaction against the incompetence of the Parliament to govern (especially over religion), and the rather sheepish request to Charles II to come back and become King. Which worked decently until Charles' son, James II, took the throne and arbitrarily attempted to reconvert England to Cathlocism. That led to the "Glorious revolution" of 1688 in which Parliament deposed James II and invited Willima and Mary over from the netherlands to take his place - with the specific understanding that Parliament retained to power to remove and replace an errant King.

Now go read the post by Poptoniam.

The similarities to today with Cheney in office are striking. Cheney and Bush are reasserting the Divine Right of Kings and fighting against the primciple of Parliamentary superiority to the Executive.

Local elections in Texas yesterday.

If you were wondering where I was yesterday, I ran the election for two precincts. Started at 6:00 AM and finished after 9:00 PM. So no time to read or post anything.

Hey, some of us have a life outside the blogosphere, meager as it is!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Rove has notified Bush he will be indicted

Truthout has written today that anonymous sources advise that Rove has notified both President Bush and Chief of Staff Josh Bolton that Fitzgerald will indeed indict him. The indictment will certainly include perjury and lying to investigators. The delay seems to be involved in whether there will also be an indictment for obstruction of justice, a more serious crime than the others. Rove has said that he will resign from the White House as soon as the Special Prosecutor announces the indictments.
Rove is said to have told Bolten that he will be charged with perjury regarding when he was asked how and when he discovered that covert CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson worked for the agency, and whether he discussed her job with reporters.

Rove testified that he first found out about Plame Wilson from reading a newspaper report in July 2003 and only after the story was published did he share damaging information about her CIA status with other reporters.

However, evidence has surfaced during the course of the two-year-old investigation that shows Rove spoke with at least two reporters about Plame Wilson prior to the publication of the column.

The explanation Rove provided to the grand jury - that he was dealing with more urgent White House matters and therefore forgot - has not convinced Fitzgerald that Rove has been entirely truthful in his testimony.

Sources close to the case said there is a strong chance Rove will also face an additional charge of obstruction of justice, adding that Fitzgerald has been working meticulously over the past few months to build an obstruction case against Rove because it "carries more weight" in a jury trial and is considered a more serious crime.
Rove's unprecedented fifth meeting with the Grand Jury recently appears to be his effort to head off the obstruction of justice indictment. The threat of the indictments has been a major reason his efforts on Domestic Policy were not especially effective recently, leading to that part of his portfolio being taken from him.

My bet is that the first of the many pardons Bush will issue for his gang of crooks will be for Rove, probably right after the November election during the Congressional Christmas break. By the time Congress gets reorganized in January 2007 following the elections, Rove's pardon will be "old news."

Bush liquidating CIA, moving Intel to Pentagon

Sidney Blumenthal writes in Salon (see advertisement for day pass - this is worth it) about how Bush has worked to dismantle his father's CIA and transfer those functions to the Pentagon.

This is an excellent article well worth the time it takes to read both pages.

My thought as I was reading through it is that the Republican mob which has taken over the federal government really does not believe in government outside of the military. So since Intelligence is a national security requirement, the civiliam agency must be dismantled and the functions transferred to the Pentagon. Purely civiliam functions, like disaster response, are not needed at all, so they dismantled FENA. Notice that when FEMA's collapse before the hurricanes Rita and Katrina became obvious, their first reaction was to give the problem to the Pentagon.

The Bush administration failure is a failure of the conservative ideas, the conservative Republican Party, and the group of individuals who currently run the White House, both Houses of Congress, and the Supreme Court (demonstrated when they handed the Presidential election Bush.)

This last is the least clear, but the judiciary is the most professional of the three branches of government in that before becoming a judge you require at least ten years as a lawyer after passing the bar. This process weeds out the incompetents to a greater degree than do the professionalism processes in the political processes that populate the top members of the White House or Congress.

Bush at 29% in Wall Street Journal poll

The Wall Street Journal via AFP through Yahoo News reports that Bush's approval rating his dropped below 30 for the first time. Only 29% of respondants think he is doing a good Job.

Nixon was at 24 just before he had to resign in the face of threatened impeachment. Steve Clemons predicts that the impending Karl Rove indictment will drive Bush's approval lower than it is now.

Dusty Foggo's home and CIA office raided by fed investigators

Dusty Foggo's home and his CIA office have been raided by federal investigators from the FBI, CIA, and the Defense Investigative Service. See here, here, here and here.

If you are interested in reading into the Cunningham - Wade - Foggo scandal, Josh Marshall very kindly provides a listing of what he thinks are the best stories describing the situation to date.

Here is a list of many of my previous posts on the Cunningham Scandal.

Consider this an offering for your leisure reading into Republican scandals.

Ky. Governor Ernie Fletcher indicted for illegal hiring

From FOX News we get the report that Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher (Republican, natch) has been indicted for hiring government employees illegally based on political affiliation. The charges are misdemeanors which accuse him of illegally rewarding political supporters with state jobs. Think Progress also carries the story.

I previously posted on Gov. Fletcher here. This post has links to previous posts.

Fletcher's rebuttal is that the Kentucky Attorney General is a Democrat and this is all political theater. It should also be pointed out that Fletcher has used his power as Governor to pardon the nine of his subordinates who might have been indicted prior to any indictment.

My opinion is that Republicans tend to understand how Kings operate government, but are a lot weaker on recognizing the rule of law in a Democracy and how it limits executive powers. It is two different views of government, the view of the king being the more traditional and less complicated. I also don't think it is solely an attitude of Republicans, but that these days people with this attitude tend to drift to the Republican Party.

Chris Matthews: Rove could be indicted today

Chris Matthews said this morning on the Don Imus show that Rove is likely to be indicted by Fitzgerald today. If Fitzgerald follows the same pattern as he did with the Libby indictment, we can expect him to announce the indictment about 1:00PM. (Presumably that's eastern time.)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Is God a Republican punishing me?

I have been off line for nearly two days, and am only barely back. My hard drive got totally loaded, but since I was dual booting Win XP with Linux, I had space to recycle. So I tried to expand the windows space. Yeah, I killed the whole hard drive.

Two and a half years of stuff stored and not properly backed up. Then when I reloaded Windoz, I had no driver for the wireless USB connecter that the phone company sent me with my DSL modem. So? So I needed to be on line to get the driver I needed to get back on line.

But that didn't matter too much because my telephone died yesterday. When I called tech support from the local grocery store, they were asking if I still had my Yahoo disc and what version it was. Yeah. Right. I had it. At home, half a mile away.

OK. AT&T found the phome problem yesterday afternoon. In their lines, of course. Now I have the drive totally wiped, reformatted, and windoz reloaded. Got the driver. Gave up on Linux. But my normal bookmarks are gone. It will be weeks to get half back.

Is God a Republican punishing me for my anti-Bush attitude?

If so, the price isn't too high, but I am not a happy camper.

Should Dems go long term or short term for 2006?

DNC Chariman Howard Dean is bringing in more money than expected, but is he wasting it on attempting to present a reasonable Democratic presence in severly red states? Dean may be bringing in more money, but he is spending it almost as fast as it comes in.

In military terms, this is the same as attacking without having a reserve force to take advantage of break through. But Howard Dean ran for DNC Chair on the promise of a 50-state strategy, and over the long term the Democrats cannot win without being competitive in every state. So the argument is between the short term view of what it takes to win the House and perhaps the Senate in 2006 and what it takes to again be capable of winning nationally.

The Washington Post writes the story of the conflict among the Democrats.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

What’s so “radical” about the “Lefty” blogosphere?

Kevin Drum takes on the right-wing and Mainstream Media lie about the so-called “radical” leftwing blogosphere. From Atrios he posts this listing of what most will accept as major positions of the left-wing of the blogosphere.
  • Undo the bankruptcy bill enacted by this administration
  • Repeal the estate tax repeal
  • Increase the minimum wage and index it to the CPI
  • Universal health care (obviously the devil is in the details on this one)
  • Increase CAFE standards. Some other environment-related regulation
  • Pro-reproductive rights, getting rid of abstinence-only education,
  • improving education about and access to contraception including the morning after pill, and supporting choice. On the last one there's probably some disagreement around the edges (parental notification, for example), but otherwise.
  • Simplify and increase the progressivity of the tax code
  • Kill faith-based funding. Certainly kill federal funding of anything that engages in religious discrimination.
  • Reduce corporate giveaways
  • Have Medicare run the Medicare drug plan
  • Force companies to stop underfunding their pensions. Change corporate bankruptcy law to put workers and retirees at the head of the line with respect to their pensions.
  • Leave the states alone on issues like medical marijuana. Generally move towards "more decriminalization" of drugs, though the details complicated there too.
  • Paper ballots
  • Improve access to daycare and other pro-family policies. Obiously details matter.
  • Raise the cap on wages covered by FICA taxes.
  • Marriage rights for all, which includes "gay marriage" and quicker transition to citizenship for the foreign spouses of citizens. (Personally I think the government should get out of the marriage business, and restrict itself to the legal rights of personal partnerships. Marraige is a religious issue. Inheritance is a legal issue. The problem comes from mixing the two.)
Then he asks what is so radical about these positions?

In my opinion, the right-wing opposition to these positions is what is radical and out of the mainstream of American political beliefs. Where is the "radical lefty" set of views and who supports them?

Is there any left-wing equivalent of Grover Norquist, famous for stating that he want to starve the beast of government of funds until it gets so small he can drag it into the bathroom and drown it? THAT's radical! So is a preemptive attack on a small Middle Eastern Nation which is of no threat to America just so the fall-out would be to impress the rest of the Middle Eastern nations that they better shape up and do as America demands of them.