Saturday, March 31, 2007

All Fear, All the Time

Once again the Pensacola News Journal is trying to scare the crap out of its readers. "Terror Suspects Not Welcome," reads this morning's boogeyman headline.

This is the second time this week the paper's front page headline story offers only empty calories for the mind.

In today's 'news' story Michael Stewart is given by-line co-credit. We're sorry to see that. It's beneath him. Possibly, Michael can be excused for having tried to lend a little gravitas -- way back on an interior page near the end of the article -- with a few reassuring facts from the U.S. Marshall Service and city police.

Otherwise, the "news" being reported is based on interviews with a total of seven -- count 'em, seven! -- local citizens "in the west side neighborhoods of Warrington and Myrtle Grove."

One of the interviewees is identified as a bartender. As for the rest, we aren't told what they do or why we should care what they think -- which naturally raises the suspicion that they were collared for a quote around the same bar.

"Some are angry. Some are scared," the lede reads. For all we're told about the others, it could have added, "most are witless, confused, and want another beer."

The PNJ is doing its readers no favors by pandering to popular ignorance and fear. This is precisely what Zbigniew Brzezinski warned against last week in an insightful article titled, "Terrorized by 'War on Terror.' ":
The "war on terror" has created a culture of fear in America. The Bush administration's elevation of these three words into a national mantra since the horrific events of 9/11 has had a pernicious impact on American democracy, on America's psyche and on U.S. standing in the world. Using this phrase has actually undermined our ability to effectively confront the real challenges we face from fanatics who may use terrorism against us.
* * *
Constant reference to a "war on terror" did accomplish one major objective: It stimulated the emergence of a culture of fear. Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue.
Apparently, News Journal editors hope not only "demagogic politicians" will profit from a culture of fear. Bad newspapers can do it, too.

Friday, March 30, 2007

'Green Zone' Turns Red

Juan Cole is reporting that the oft-mentioned "Green Zone" in Baghdad has turned "red."
The US embassy in Baghdad circulated a memo to all Americans working for the US government in the Green Zone. It ordered them to wear protective gear whenever they were outside in the Green Zone, including just moving from one building to another. Guerrillas have managed to lob a number of rockets into the area in recent days, and killed one US GI on Tuesday.

The Green Zone is therefore actually the Red Zone. I.e., it is no longer an area of good security contrasting to what is around it. Senator McCain was more wrong than can easily be imagined. Not only can American officials not just stroll through Baghdad districts unarmed and unprotected by armor, but they can't even move that way from one building to the next inside the Green Zone!

Moving GITMO to Pensacola

Pensacola daily newspaper readers were greeted this morning by the big, black, scary headline you see above. The underlying story was based entirely on wire service copy and a pusillanimous politician's press release.

Almost immediately, the usual crowd of nincompoops and near-illiterates who couldn't wait for the talk shows to begin went on-line to scream as loudly as if Osama bin Laden was due to arrive at any moment for a speaking engagement at the civic center.

(By the way, where is ol' "dead or alive", anyway? It's been almost six years!)

"Not in my back yard" is the local sentiment. No surprise there. The same loosely-wrapped jingoists who so lustily cheered George Bush as he launched his war against Iraq and began breaking the U.S. army have been the last to volunteer to pay for the folly, fight it, or clean up the mess. These "loyal Bushies" now constitute a record-low thirty percent of the American public, according to the latest Time magazine poll.

By some standards, that's only five points higher than the total percentage of all insane Americans.

Incumbent congressman Jeff Miller is among them. "A good number of these terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay have killed or threatened Americans," he says in a press release vowing to oppose the closing of Guantanamo prison.

Miller's theory is that this could be done by amending U.S. law to prohibit "the treatment of wounded soldiers within fifty miles of any facility housing former Guantanamo Bay detainees."

Does it make any sense to punish our wounded soldiers because dangerous prisoners might be held at a military prison somewhere nearby? No, which is one reason why Miller's amendment was defeated.

Not to worry, though. Not yet. Pensacola Naval Air Station is only one of 17 potential relocation sites. According to the Kansas City Star others include:
  • Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
  • Fort Knox, Ky.
  • Fort Sill, Okla.
  • Fort Lewis, Wash.
  • Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.
  • Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.
  • Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.
  • Naval Brig Norfolk, Va.
  • Weapons Station Charleston, S.C.
  • Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
  • Submarine Base Bangor, Wash.
  • Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla.
  • Marine Corps Brig Quantico, Va.
  • Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
  • Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.
  • Lackland Air Force Base, Texas
The military prisons at those other bases already shelter a fair number of dangerous murderers who have "threatened Americans." They just happen to be our own home grown, westernized type of dangerous criminals. After all, imprisoning murders, rapists and such is what prisons are for, right?

A number of other congressmen now are promising the bases in their districts won't take Guantanamo prisoners, either. So it looks likely that closing Guantanamo and dispersing the detainees is going to become another kind of Yucca Mountain problem with no resolution in sight.

Everyone presumes the inmates include at least some dangerous material that needs to be contained, but no one is willing to do the containing themselves. Even Bush's own Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says Guantanamo should be closed. But he probably doesn't want them in his home town, either.

After thorough consideration, however, we're pleased to announce that we've come up with a solution: Let George do it. Move the notorious Guantanamo prison to remote, isolated, brushy Crawford, Texas.

George W. Bush broke the pottery. George W. Bush should have to pay the price and take it home with him.

Callow, Shallow Sampson

Watching, listening, and reading what Kyle Sampson had to say to the Senate Justice Committee one can't help but be struck by how callow, fatuous and jejune he is.
So. Attorney General Roberto Gonzales lied, according to an early news report about the testimony of his own (former) Chief of Staff. As a later update of the same report describes--
The former aide, D. Kyle Sampson, who resigned two weeks ago, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Mr. Gonzales’s statements about the prosecutors’ dismissals were inaccurate and that the attorney general had been repeatedly advised of the planning for them.

The two men talked about the dismissal plans over a two-year period, Mr. Sampson said, beginning in early 2005 when Mr. Gonzales was still the White House counsel. Mr. Sampson said he had briefed his boss at least five times before December 2006, when seven of the eight prosecutors were ousted.

We more or less learned all of this from news leaks over the past ten days. In fact, yesterday's hearings didn't bring out much we didn't already know or suspect; but it did drive more nails in Gonzales' coffin and lengthen the list of miscreants:
Under questioning near the end of the day from Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sampson said [New Mexico U.S Attorney David] Iglesias should not have been fired.
* * *
In dramatic testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, D. Kyle Sampson also revealed that New Mexico U.S. Attorney David C. Iglesias was not added to the dismissal list until just before the Nov. 7 elections, after presidential adviser Karl Rove complained that Iglesias had not been aggressive enough in pursuing cases of voter fraud. Previously, Rove had not been tied so directly to the removal of the prosecutors.
* * *
Sampson said he was aware of repeated complaints about Iglesias by Domenici, who called Gonzales and McNulty four times from late 2005 to 2006.
* * *
Sampson said Iglesias's name remained on the list after [Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty] told a group of Justice officials that Domenici would be pleased by the firing.
Although he was ramrodding the project to replace U.S. attorney with "loyal Bushies," Sampson kept no notes to speak of, conducted no performance reviews even remotely worthy of the name, and maintained only what he called a "drop" file consisting of little more than a hit list. The list, "he drew up ... adding and subtracting names, [was] based on a 'not scientific' accumulation of opinions...."

In other words, he relied primarily on the opinions and stated desires of Republican politicians, lobbyists, suspected criminals who made heavy contributions to the Republican cause, and Karl Rove.

Watching, listening, and reading what Kyle Sampson had to say to the Senate Justice Committee yesterday, one can't help but be struck by how callow, fatuous and jejune he is. Here is a lawyer in mid-career and he's prosecuted exactly one low-level "possession of a firearm" case in his life (in South Florida, no less). He doesn't have a clue what U.S. attorneys do or how vital it is that they discharge their very great investigative and prosecutorial powers independent of partisan political influence. Indeed, when as Gonzales' chief of staff he went begging to be named a U.S. attorney himself, his own mentor, Orrin Hatch, had to tell him no.

We can't be sure if others Gonzales brought into the Justice Department mirror the same deplorable qualities Sampson put on display yesterday, but you have to wonder, given Sampson's once-exalted status as "gate-keeper" for Gonzales.

Certainly, another Justice Department employee at the center of the scandal, White House liaison Monica Gooding, has worse than no experience. She's a 1999 graduate of Pat Robertson's obscure Regent University law school and has less than six months actual work experience outside the political realm. No wonder she's taking the Fifth Amendment -- some senator might ask about her LSAT scores.

Sampson's friend and fellow Mormon, Taylor Oldroyd, whom Sampson himself plucked from obscurity as deputy mayor of Provo to plop down into a new obscurity as lobbyist for the U.S. Agriculture Department's rural development agency, may think Sampson is "smart." But after hour upon hour of confessional testimony, we have concluded that you're likely to find more brains and acumen in the Provo city council than on Gonzales' staff.

And that's no compliment to Sampson, Gonzales, Bush's Justice Department, or the Provo city council.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Foley Trial in Pensacola?

All of a sudden, disgraced Florida ex-congressman Mark Foley (R-West Palm Beach) is back in the news again.

First, the Associated Press reported yesterday that Foley still is under the microscope of federal and state prosecutors for his lewd text-messaging to under-aged pages working in the House of Representatives. The Sun-Sentinel picked up the same tale, probably because their AP subscription is up to date.

Next, Brian Ross and Vic Walter report for ABC News that if he is indicted, Foley most likely would be tried in Pensacola "based on sexually explicit instant messages that were sent from Pensacola... ." Truthout repeats that story for the hard of hearing.

ABC adds:
People familiar with the case said one instant message in particular, from Pensacola, could serve as the foundation of the case because it would allow charges to be brought in a county far from Foley's Palm Beach, where he was a popular figure.

Law enforcement officials say any decision to bring charges is still a month or two off and also depends on testimony from the former pages who received Foley's messages.
You may recall that we were among the first to speculate publicly about the possibility of a Pensacola trial way back when. Now, we're going to go out on another limb and predict that it won't be long before the Pensacola business community pushes prosecutors into indicting Foley.

Sure, local merchants and the Chamber of Commerce are heavily Republican, just like the former congressman. But we're always on the lookout for tourist promotion opportunities, too. Have to fill those hotels, restaurants, and T-shirt shops, y'know.

The dollar trumps everything in Northwest Florida, even justice. And now, thank goodness, we have the kind of Attorney General who will bend to political pressure.

A Foley trial could be a bonanza the likes of which we haven't seen since Pensacola won the interstate bidding contest and got to imprison Geronimo as a tourist attraction for a couple of years:
In 1886 Pensacola realized the value of a tourist attraction when Geronimo and his wives were imprisoned at Fort Pickens. Throngs of sightseers arrived by rail from New Orleans and other major Southern cities, while yachts circled the water around the fort hoping to catch a glimpse of the famous warrior.
According to ABC, "law enforcement officials say any decision to bring charges is still a month or two off." Just in time for the summer tourist season.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Boycotting Circuit City

UPDATED BELOW I and II

Executive greed is about to drive yet another nail in the coffin of the American dream of a living wage for the working class.

Electronics chain Circuit City announced today it will fire 3,400 of its "higher-paid" sales personnel, Bloomberg News is reporting. "[R]eplacements willing to work for less" will be hired in their place.

"Higher-paid" is Circuit City doublespeak for $11 an hour. "Working for less" means just above minimum wage.

"The sales people being fired weren't given an option of taking a pay cut, spokesman [Bill] Cimino said." But some day they might be "allowed" to re-apply for a lower-paying wage, or so the company claims.

The company previously announced plans to shed another 400 lower-paying jobs in the U.S. and Canada by closing 70 stores. All of this follows the company's most recent quarterly earnings report which showed a loss for the first time in six quarters. Circuit City, with a market cap of nearly $3.4 billion, remains profitable. It's just not quite as profitable as Wall Street wants.

But that's not what makes this newsworthy. The reason Bloomberg News gives for Circuit City's disappointing performance last quarter is that its recently-acquired Canadian store chain has "been hurt by competitors such as Best Buy Co. which has bigger stores and more selection."

In other words, the company's executives made a bad corporate acquisition two years ago. Then they mismanaged it by neglecting to stock the right mix and range of goods. So, of course, those same executives now have decided that the sales staff should be fired! The people who barely earn enough to feed a family of one.

Does that make sense to you?

Meanwhile, Circuit City CEO Philip Schoonover continues to draw compensation of $8.52 million per year. That's nearly three times more than what industry leader Best Buy Corp. pays its CEO, Brad Anderson.

Schoonover and the idiots on the Circuit City board who authorized his compensation package are the reason why we, speaking for ourselves, will be boycotting Circuit City from now on. They feel no loyalty to their hourly work force? We feel no loyalty to them.

UPDATE I
March 29, 2007

Check the salaries, bonuses, and stock options of the brilliant crew in Circuit City's executive suite at Executive Pay Watch.com

UPDATE II
March 30, 2007

New York senator and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sent a letter Friday to Circuit City CEO
Philip J. Schoonover asking him "to reconsider your company's actions."

Hooking Freebies on Panama City Beach

WaPo's style reporter, Libby Copeland, writes today about the aggressive commercial marketing that infects Panama City Beach every year at Spring Break. The "ocean of promotion," she calls it. Copeland seems alternately amused and alarmed, but mostly thoroughly disgusted.

The alarming parts are easy to spot through the reporter's faux tone of exited wonderment --
Behold, the marketers of spring break have descended, transforming the beach into a corporate wonderland. There's a Geico gaming tent and a Neutrogena spa, and the Trojan booth offers pina-colada-scented oxygen you can inhale through a tube. There's free mouthwash and chewing tobacco, free sunblock and tampons, and after a free massage, you can make a delightful lunch out of Jack Link's beef jerky and 180 energy drink. So very free!
The snarky parts show up when she contrasts the 'natural' way Spring Break is supposed to be with the artificial marketing orgy it has become--
Some folks might believe that youthful revelry occurs naturally, the way rocks are slowly worn down to sand, but it turns out that's not true. During spring break, at least, lusty excess must be carefully planned. Who makes the machinery of this annual celebration turn, bringing in the hot salesgirls and organizing events overseen by bawdy emcees? Who schedules a "J-Lo Booty Shakin' Contest" to promote a new perfume?

The marketers, that's who.

Look over there! As part of a "Sand Castle Demolition" contest, a squirming heap of spring breakers are scrambling for bottles of Vitamin Water hidden in the sand. They emerge with sand all over their chins.

Even the U.S. Army, no surprise, is muscling in on the selling bonanza:
Above the Venus Breeze banners floating proudly on the wind, above the Def Leppard wailing from the speakers (pour some sugar on maaay), a lone parachuter spins and spirals across the sky, spewing a majestic trail of red smoke. Then there are more parachuters, and more, all members of the Army's Golden Knights, trailing yellow parachutes that say ARMY. The spring breakers gather around and squint up, watching the golden creatures float to the sand like gods.

"If you want to find out more," a voice says over a loudspeaker, "GoArmy.com."
Do you suppose the kids who do Spring Break on Panama City Beach are so besotted with raging hormones and alcohol (or worse) that they actually might fall for this stuff and trade Panama City Beach for Baghdad? Might be.

One clue that the marketers really are on to something is hidden in the boastful reminiscence of Matt Britton, "chief of brand development for a company called Mr. Youth." Now more than a decade out of college, Britton confesses that he still uses --
a credit card he signed up for in college to nab a free T-shirt. "That's college marketing at its finest," Britton says.
The hidden part, we're guessing, is that Britton is so deeply in debt on that card he can't afford to quit his shitty job. Why else would a mature, obviously intelligent guy like him agree to endure Spring Break in Panama City Beach every year?

WaPo also has a video of Britton extolling the profit opportunities presented by a beach full of nearly naked, mostly drunk young people. He can be insightful and engagingly candid, as when he tells the camera that at age 32 he thinks he's too "old" for this; or when he reflects --
"Our culture has a way of, y'know, year by year really lowering cultural standards in every institution and marketing is no different."
Still, our favorite part is buried deep down in Copeland's article where she describes how local Panama City Beach residents are handling the marketing blitz. They're becoming what is known in corporate circles as "opportunity seekers." (As another voice on the video explains, that's usually a marketers' resentful phrase applied to the smarter college students "who go to events just to get the free T-shirts.")

Writes Copeland:
The loot accumulates as if splitting off from itself, amoeba-style. One guy has four hats and three T-shirts. A college senior named Tori Voorhees makes off with an entire case of Vitamin Water.

Even the senior citizens want a piece. An old guy with a cane limps off toward a condo with two energy drinks and a bag of skin-care samples.
We're on the old guy's side. Like him, perhaps, we've always made it a point of principle not to wear clothes with someone else's name on it unless they're paying us for the advertising space. But free energy drinks and skin-care products? We'll take two, please.

Santa Rosa 'School' Tax Wins

Santa Rosa County voters "overwhelmingly approved" the half-cent sales tax for Santa Rosa public schools for another ten years in a special election yesterday. As PNJ reporter Carmen Paige reports:
Although only 9.6 percent of the county's more than 100,000 registered voters cast a ballot Tuesday, nearly 77 percent were in favor of extending the half-cent sales tax for an additional 10 years.
The nine percent turnout is reprehensible. But that's just about the only cloud in this otherwise sunny news. In every one of the county's 40 precincts from Pensacola's bedroom commuter 'burg, Gulf Breeze, to more remote blue collar Munson and Jay, a decided majority voted for the tax.

One reason for the favorable vote surely is the lofty reputation of the county's public schools. Several Santa Rosa County elementary, middle, and high schools consistently rank among the best in the state. Santa Rosa citizens are justly proud of that.

Another is the changing demographics of Santa Rosa County. There are more young working couples with children; comparatively fewer double-dipping, pharisaic retirees with a knee-jerk aversion to any tax.

Among the voters reporter Paige managed to corner for a comment, Evelyn Wingate of Milton had what we think is the most telling comment about the Santa Rosa school tax:
"It's done a lot for our school system," she said. "I have three grandchildren in local schools, and I am concerned for the welfare of them and all children."
How about that? Santa Rosa County has voters concerned about someone other than themselves and their own pocketbooks. Soon we may see if Escambia County can say the same, although early signs aren't good.

As Derek Pivnick reported yesterday, it looks like voters in Pensacola Beach, Pensacola, and points north might have another special election in late June.
Escambia County voters once again could be asked to approve a sales tax increase to fund health care for residents who have jobs but can't afford health insurance.
AccessEscambia Inc. officials said they hope to put the item to voters on a June 26 referendum.

Voters rejected the group's proposed sales tax hike for health care in November 2004 by more than 14,000 votes.


The Escambia County Commission on Monday voted 3-0 to let voters decide again whether to increase the county's sales tax by a half-percent with the condition that AccessEscambia pays the estimated $200,000 cost of the special election.
It's more than mildly bizarre to condition a citizens' referendum about a vital issue of public health policy on someone else paying the election expenses. That's carrying the "privatizing" fever way too far and it sends a terrible message about how Escambia county commissioners really view the opinions of the citizens they supposedly represent.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

John McCain in Neverland

This would be too funny -- if it weren't so depressing to see how far out of touch with reality some of our leading national politicians are.

It seems that presidential aspirant and U.S. Senator John McCain, speaking from the comfort of the Senate cloakroom, went on television this afternoon and told Wolf Blitzer the surge is working so well "I know for a fact of much of the success we're experiencing, including the ability of Americans in many parts ... to go into some neighborhoods in Baghdad in a secure fashion."

Blitzer then had the rare good sense to turn to CNN war correspondent Michael Ware, who is on the scene in Baghdad, to ask him for confirmation. Ware was abashed:
[I]f I have any difficulty hearing you right now, Wolf, that's because of the helicopter circling overhead and the gun battle that is blazing just a few blocks down the road.

Is Baghdad any safer?

Sectarian violence -- one particular type of violence -- is down. But none of the American generals here on the ground have anything like Senator McCain's confidence.

I mean, Senator McCain's credibility now on Iraq, which has been so solid to this point, has now been left out hanging to dry.

To suggest that there's any neighborhood in this city where an American can walk freely is beyond ludicrous. I'd love Senator McCain to tell me where that neighborhood is and he and I can go for a stroll.

No. No way on earth can a westerner, particularly an American, stroll any street of this capital of more than five million people.

I mean, if al Qaeda doesn't get wind of you, or if one of the Sunni insurgent groups don't descend upon you, or if someone doesn't tip off a Shia militia, then the nearest criminal gang is just going to see dollar signs and scoop you up. Honestly, Wolf, you'd barely last 20 minutes out there.

I don't know what part of Neverland Senator McCain is talking about when he says we can go strolling in Baghdad.
Crooks and Liars has the videotape. CNN has a transcript of the whole program. Digby has edited it to highlight the McCain segment.

Fugitive Fredo

Unwilling to tell the truth and afraid to be caught in yet more lies, the Attorney General of the United States -- the Attorney General, for goodness' sake, highest legal officer in the nation -- "dashed out of a Chicago news conference this afternoon in just two and a half minutes, ducking questions about how his office gave U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald a subpar rating," reports the Chicago Sun Times.

Florida's Best

Barbara Ehrenreich is one of the best things in Florida. Read this to see why.

'Shabby Show Trial'

UPDATED BELOW

Twice yesterday Guantanamo detainee David Hicks was hauled before Marine colonel Ralph H. Kohlmann, who was pretending to be a real judge. The second time, late last night, Hicks finally agreed to enter a plea of guilty one charge of 'supporting terrorism' in Afghanistan.

Jackie Northam of NPR is reporting this morning that the one charge Hicks is admitting to is the lesser of the two charges against him. We can't be sure, though, because the Marine colonel has imposed a gag order on all the lawyers. He also has to approve news reporters and the work of courtroom cartoonists.

But the New York Times assures us that Hicks "answered calmly several times" with the words. "No, sir" to signal his compliance with the oddly hasty decision.

The Miami Herald's Carol Rosenberg writes:
Hicks, 31, offered the extraordinary plea at about 8:30 p.m. after an on-again, off-again day of pretrial proceedings at his arraignment.
Good for Hicks, although he is a painfully slow learner. Five years in confinement in the black hole of Guantanamo, subjected to god-only-knows what "interrogation techniques." Light bulbs burning 24/7 in his cell so he couldn't sleep. An earlier hearing, where Hicks had the temerity to object to the hearing as unconstitutional -- and even win when the U.S. Supreme Court declared it a violation of due process. Months in solitary confinement starting immediately afterwards.

Earlier yesterday, it seems Hicks even tried to have his own chosen lawyers represent him, but Colonel Kohlmann quickly put a stop to that nonsense. The colonel fired Hicks' two civilian lawyers, cleverly asserting that their papers weren't in order, which left the defendant alone with his Pentagon-appointed lawyer. Rosenberg reports in a McClatchy News Service version of the same Miami Herald article:
Kohlmann excused attorney Rebecca Snyder because, although she was a reserve officer in the U.S. Navy, his reading of the rules said that a taxpayer-paid defense attorney could only be an active-duty officer, in uniform.

Next, Kohlmann excused New York defense attorney Joshua Dratel from the team, after Dratel said he wouldn't agree to sign a pre-trial agreement that Kohlmann was requiring, since Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had yet to issue rules governing military commission defense lawyers.

Now, that's efficient justice! Enforcing rules to get rid of pesky lawyers even before the rules are written.

As for U.S. Navy Reserve officer Rebecca Snyder, we fully expect Colonel Kohlmann to generously help her to serve as lawyer real soon by calling her up for the "surge" in Iraq.

Amnesty International calls the whole business a "show trial", no doubt trying to invoke memories of Stalin's show trials conducted by military marionettes in judge's robes. But colonel Kohlmann, impressively dressed in a black judicial robe, methodically rejected Hicks' every complaint. The colonel, who had assigned himself the case, "rejected each assertion that he was acting arbitrarily or was biased."

What a relief. Otherwise, as Carol Rosenberg points out, the Bush administration couldn't claim that it has "won its first victory in the first completed U.S. war-crimes trial since World War II."

What a victory! Every American can feel proud to have been a part of this exercise in democracy's rule of law.
UPDATE
(March 28, 2007)

Law professor Jack Balkin thinks this will be the end results of Hicks' plea bargain: (1) He will be quickly transferred into Australian hands; (2) Australian courts will set him free "
via a legal process based on shared English common law traditions;" and (3) Hicks nevertheless may well file and pursue a claim all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to erase the conviction. What's more, "in the longer run" Hick's abortive hearing "should produce even greater pressures, both at home and abroad, to terminate these tribunals entirely. Although the confused proceedings lasted only a few hours, that was enough to establish that changes mandated by the Military Commission Act of 2006 (MCA) are insufficient to produce the 'full and fair' trials promised by the President when launching this process a half-decade ago. "

Monday, March 26, 2007

Living Like You Mean It

Apparently CBS news reader Katie Couric is getting a lot of grief from right-wingers like Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh, and their idiot minions about her interview with Elizabeth and John Edwards. The interview was aired on 60 Minutes.

Ever notice how the family values cheerleaders, metaphorically speaking, always seem to have something ugly sticking out from their souls?

We didn't see the interview. We almost never watch commercial television and certainly not to learn the news. But that doesn't stop us from having an opinion because we can always read the transcript.

Our opinion about this has nothing to do with Katie Couric, or CBS, or (god forbid!) Drudge or anything so trivial. It's about Mrs. Edwards' thoughts and beliefs about life and death:
You know, you really have two choices here. I mean, either you push forward with the things that you were doing yesterday or you start dying. That seems to be your only two choices. If I had given up everything that my life was about – first of all, I'd let cancer win before it needed to. You know, maybe eventually it will win. But I'd let it win before I needed to.

And I'd just basically start dying. I don't want to do that. I want to live. And I want to do the work that I want next year to look like last year and... and the year after that and the year after that. And the only way to do that is to say I'm going to keep on with my life.
Just for the record: Elizabeth Edwards and her husband have more than our vote. They have our personal respect and admiration.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Gonzalez: The Big Question

For anyone who still doesn't get it, New York Times columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. articulated yesterday the unanswered questions in the Alberto Gonzales affair as concisely as can be done at the moment:
  • Were "any of the eight fired U.S. attorneys ... asked to step down for political reasons"?
  • Have "political aides in the White House played an important role in the firings"?
  • Was "replacing independent-minded prosecutors ... a way of influencing ongoing or future investigations"?
  • Has "the Bush administration ... illegitimately politicized the justice system?"
Kevin Drum explains with more questions why we should remain skeptical as long as those questions remain unanswered, concluding:
DOJ has now had weeks to come up with a plausible story for the firings and they still haven't. This is truly remarkable. Why not just tell the truth? That doesn't take weeks to concoct.
One reason it might be taking so long to "concoct" a story, of course, is that the truth would reveal that the Bush administration really is 'politicizing the justice system' by appointing political partisans. But that only leads to another, even larger question.

To what end? Why would the Bush administration want to politicize the Justice Department at what is essentially the lowest, most local administrative level? Why does it want to be sure that every one of its U.S. attorneys is a loyal "Bushie"?

Most of the public speculation has centered on presumed efforts to halt the ongoing prosecutions of corrupt Republicans for past acts of bribery, fraud, racketeering, perjury, and even murder. Some speculate it was to jump-start prosecutions against Democrats for supposed voter fraud before the November 2006 elections.

But the '06 election was over. Yet, the released emails show the White House plan to stuff "Bushies" into U.S. Attorney jobs continued.

As long as everyone is left to speculate because Gonzales lied and no one else in the administration has come forward with the truth, we have to ask -- what if it's not about that? What if it doesn't involve excusing or punishing past conduct by others?

What if it's all about protecting conduct that the administration, itself, is planning to undertake in the future?

Friday, March 23, 2007

World Turned Upside Down

"Jamaican authorities confirmed that the coach of the disappointing Pakistani national team had been strangled... .
* * *
"The murder has already roiled the Pakistani cricket world."
Just one question: how big could the "Pakistani cricket world" be?

The Lives of Others - Translated

We intended to see, and then perhaps post a review of, the Oscar-winning foreign film The Lives of Others. But reality intruded. An anonymous op-ed in the Washington Post more or less beat us to it.

For those who don't much care for foreign language films, here's a translation into 'American' of Roger Ebert's synopsis of the movie plot:
It feels like science fiction... but the chilling and chilly dystopian world of writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's George Bush's "The Lives of Others" National Security Letters existed exists today. The film F.B.I. policy, which begins in 1984, 2002 is a depiction of historical reality very real, not a cautionary fiction. It's set in East Germany the United States of America, ... then once upon a time a Soviet bloc communist-totalitarian state democratic nation that respected the rule of law. Think of it as "The Conversation" behind the Iron U.S. Department of Justice Curtain.

Wielser is just one of hundreds of thousands More than 140,000 anonymous secret police are employed by the Stasi, Federal Bureau of Investigation, a massive domestic intelligence effort designed to keep tabs on German American citizens and weed out possible subversives.

You should read the rest of the plot here. Everyone should.

Florida Reaches Out to Protect Iowans

Florida legislators are worried that the evil Arnold Schwarzenegger by moving up the date of the California primary inadvertently has pushed Iowa's presidential caucuses back to mid-January, 2008, when the plains state's weather typically is bitterly cold and people might freeze. So, yesterday the Florida House voted to move the Sunshine State's primary up to January 29, 2008.

It is fervently hoped that Iowa politicians will respond at once by sensibly moving their presidential caucus to a more salubrious time of the year -- say, next month.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

What Were They Smoking?

When the sordid, rank history of the George W. Bush administration finally is written in full, future generations will ask themselves, "What were they smoking?"

Part of the answer, apparently, is tobacco:

The leader of the Justice Department team that prosecuted a landmark lawsuit against tobacco companies said yesterday that Bush administration political appointees repeatedly ordered her to take steps that weakened the government's racketeering case.

Sharon Y. Eubanks said Bush loyalists in Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's office began micromanaging the team's strategy in the final weeks of the 2005 trial, to the detriment of the government's claim that the industry had conspired to lie to U.S. smokers.
* * *
Two weeks before closing arguments in June, McCallum called for a meeting with Eubanks and her deputy, Stephen Brody, to discuss what McCallum described as "getting the number down" for the $130 billion penalty to create smoking-cessation programs. Brody declined to comment yesterday on the legal team's deliberations, saying that they were private.
* * *
The most stressful moment, Eubanks said, came when the three appointees ordered her to read word for word a closing argument they had rewritten. The statement explained the validity of seeking a $10 billion penalty.

"I couldn't even look at the judge," she said.

Equally amazing is that the 'Bushies' in the Justice Department still can look at themselves in the mirror.

Edwards Un-News in the Media

Want another example of why the mainstream press can't be trusted? Look at the media's un-news, as collated by Google News, half way through John and Elizabeth Edwards' press conference -- along with an overlay of Josh Marshall's far more reliable blog report.

(click image to enlarge)

Truth, Idiots, and American Journalism

"Rin Tin Tin was a movie star," Gore responded. "I just have a slide show."
-- San Francisco Chronicle, March 22, 2007
"It's possible to be a Republican and not be an idiot."
-- Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-Maryland)
Al Gore made a highly unusual appearance before two congressional committees in one day, yesterday, to urge action on global warming. On the whole, national press coverage of the event was just as bad as -- or worse than -- we have come to expect.

Almost every reporter fell for the theater instead of the facts. Little wonder that Americans are said to be among the least well informed people in the world when it comes to the global environmental crisis.

The worst coverage, of course, comes from Fox News, via Drudge. But Fox and Drudge aren't really part of journalism. They're propagandists in the Goebbels tradition. So they don't count.

The Washington Post shoved news of Gore's appearance onto page 4. Only at WaPo would that be considered an improvement over putting it on A-14, the dungeon where Walter Pincus's penetrating assessments of George W. Bush's incompetent and self-destructive war policies have been consigned since 2002 when he didn't jump aboard the war whoop wagon.

At least the Times gave Gore's warning of a "planetary emergency" front page coverage.
"This is not a normal time. We are facing a planetary emergency," Gore said in the afternoon Senate hearing. "I'm fully aware that that phrase sounds shrill to many people's ears. But it is accurate."
Even there, however, you will look long, hard, and fruitlessly for any mention of the ten point program Gore proposed for immediate action by Congress. But plenty of journalistic ink is spilled over the tit-for-tat between Gore and cynical fantacists like Joe Barton (R-Texas) and James Inhofe (R-OK).

It's as if all these reporters think they're sports jockeys sent to cover the hearings like an NCAA basketball game rather than a deadly serious call for Congress to save Planet Earth.

One exception is John Donnelly's superb report in the Boston Globe. Sure, he gives a little ringside entertainment --
Gore, who arrived along with his wife, Tipper, in a new hybrid sports utility vehicle, faced strong rebukes from some Republicans who doubt that global warming has become a crisis.
And he deftly word-paints the scene --
Sitting next to 12 cardboard boxes filled with petitions and postcards from 516,000 people asking Congress to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and craning his neck to see over a sea of photographers and cameramen, Gore often sounded like a university professor giving a science lecture that delved into details of the composition of greenhouse gases.
But, unlike nearly everyone else, Donnelly puts it all in an appropriate context with just two neatly written paragraphs --
Gore, 58, who won the popular vote for president in 2000 but lost the disputed electoral tally to President Bush, appeared soon after an Academy Awards appearance in which his documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," won two Oscars, and at a time when many Democrats are clamoring for him to run for the presidency in 2008. Gore has said repeatedly he has no plans to run.
* * *
The Bush administration opposes any mandatory measure to limit carbon dioxide emissions, saying it would greatly harm the economy and put companies at a competitive disadvantage. Instead, it favors voluntary emission reductions, increasing the production of ethanol as an alternative fuel, and gradually raising fuel-economy standards on vehicles.
And then includes the actual kernel of Gore's remarks to Congress:
Gore's 10-point plan included a carbon tax and freeze on carbon dioxide emissions. He also said the United States must be part of a global treaty to dramatically reduce worldwide emissions; place a moratorium on US coal-fired power plants that cannot capture and sequester emissions in the future; build an "electranet" that allows people to create power from the sun, wind, or other sources and then sell the electricity to the grid; ban incandescent light bulbs; and rapidly increase fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks.
Otherwise, for fact reporting on the actual content of Gore's ten point proposal, it looks like you'll have to turn away from the mainstream media and go to resources like David Robert's live-blogging at Gristmill. A bit amateurish? Perhaps. But he gets the facts right, which is more than you can say for the Post, which is now running this correction:
Correction to This Article
Earlier versions of this story incorrectly said that former Sen. John Edwards ran for vice president on the 2000 ticket with former Vice President Al Gore. Edwards ran on the 2004 ticket with Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.). This version of the story has been corrected.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! As Brad Delong asks so often,Why, oh why, can't we have a better press?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

GOP Litmus Test

Kevin Drum caught this: Republican House leader John Boehner
"would have appointed Rep. Wayne Gilchrest to the bipartisan Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming -- but only if the Maryland Republican would say humans are not causing climate change, Gilchrest said.

"I said, 'John, I can't do that,'" Gilchrest, R-1st-Md., said in an interview. "He said, 'Come on. Do me a favor. I want to help you here.'"

Gilchrest didn't qualify. Neither did Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, a research scientist from Maryland, or Michigan's Rep. Vern Ehlers, "the first research physicist to serve in Congress."

Only idiots need apply.

What is wrong with today's Republican Party?

Dissing Miller

Shorter Pensacola News Journal: Sure congressman Jeff Miller 'cares' about veterans. He's just stupid.

As we said.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

More Than Student Rights on Trial

"In truth, every American should be concerned. Forget abortion rights. Forget the law of privacy or homosexuality. Forget student rights. George W. Bush may well have given us a chief justice who doesn't believe in any individual civil liberties."
Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Morse v. Fredrick. [Legal briefs here.] It could well become a key case defining student free speech rights for the next generation; it also may have wider implications for the First Amendment rights of everyone under the yellow eye of Chief Justice John Roberts.

The case arose in 2002 when Joseph Frederick, an 18 year old high school senior at Juneau-Douglas High, and friends (including an army soldier on leave) suddenly unfurled a "14-foot banner proclaiming 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus''' as the Olympic torch was being carried by en route from Salt Lake City to Beijing. Apparently, Frederick et al. were in "hopes of attracting the attention of television crews covering the event" by displaying a "humorous, ironic" statement "that could be controversial."

Lucky thing for Frederick he hasn't chosen to go into writing "humorous, ironic" television marketing slogans for a living. (At the moment, he's teaching and studying in China.)

It seems that Frederick had been engaged in a running dispute with school officials over what he saw as his First Amendment rights; more specifically, he opposed efforts by the high school vice-principal to force Frederick to stand during the pledge of allegiance.

Unfortunately for the student, as the Olympics torch passed by high school principal Deborah Morse was standing nearby on school property. She saw the banner go up, crossed the street, and ordered Frederick and friends to take down the sign. When Frederick refused, citing his First Amendment rights, principal Morse then "grabbed and crumpled the banner" and later suspended Frederick from school for five days.

She doubled the suspension to ten days when Frederick protested the principal's action by "quoting Thomas Jefferson on free speech."

"How dare he?" one supposes principal Morse thought. Or maybe she said to herself, "Thomas Jefferson? Thomas Jefferson? Sounds like just another druggie to me."

Nasty little facts often have a way of clouding what otherwise might have been a clear legal issue. So it is here.

One debatable fact is whether Frederick's banner conveyed a message "encouraging" illegal drug use. Kenneth Starr, late of the over-cooked, over-budget Clinton investigation, says it did. But according to Chris Sherman of the Associated Press, at least some among "scores of students" who happened to be visiting Washington D.C. during oral arguments felt otherwise.
So, too, did the Court of Appeals, who found Frederick's message "vague and nonsensical."

Another factual dispute is whether the banner was "disruptive." By all accounts, Frederick himself was polite and respectful throughout the entire incident. (Not so the principal. Yet, no one seems to be wondering whether principal Morse's actions in crossing the street, seizing the banner, and tearing it apart was 'disruptive.' But that's the law for you.)

Perhaps the central factual argument is whether the Olympic torch-carrying event through the streets of Juneau was a "public event in a public place" or became the "equivalent of a school assembly" when the principal dismissed classes to encourage students to attend. On that hangs the difference between full constitutional rights protection for a student and the 'something less than full' protection school students are said to enjoy under our Constitution.

Accounts of the oral arguments in the Supreme Court yesterday (and a transcript here) suggest that whatever divisions of opinion the Court may have about Frederick's free speech rights, most justices seem ready to rule that Frederick cannot collect money damages from the school (via a judgment against the principal). Explains an early AP wire dispatch:
A clear majority seemed to side with Morse on one point, that she shouldn't have to compensate Frederick. A federal appeals court said Morse would have to pay Frederick because she should have known her actions violated the Constitution. [emphasis added]
The legal principle behind shielding school principals and other public officials from money damage awards even when they violate a citizen's constitutional rights is a late-era invention of the Supreme Court, courtesy of Nixon-appointee Lewis Powell and Reagan-appointee William Rehnquist, the latter whom we now know was himself brain-addled by a dependency on the psychotropic drug Placidyl.

Essentially, the doctrine comes down to this: a government official has "qualified immunity" from paying money damages (or, as invariably happens, sticking the government agency with the bill) if he violates a citizen's constitutional rights out of ignorance because the right had not yet been "clearly established" by a specific Supreme Court precedent.

Yes, Virginia, ignorance of the law is a defense. Just as long as you are a school teacher or other government employee.

Maybe this explains the "low levels of proficiency in American history and limited knowledge of our political system" so prevalent in today's high schools. Too many educators either don't know, or don't want to know, how our constitutional system works.

Linda Greenhouse identifies what may be the most disturbing implication in yesterday's oral arguments: the apparent predilection of Bush's new chief justice, John Roberts, to take a truly extreme position against the First Amendment. It's always dicey to reach any conclusions from oral remarks made by justices during oral arguments, but Greenhouse reports that Roberts showed a distinct desire to overturn the central case that reaffirmed First Amendment rights for students almost 40 years ago, Tinker v. Des Moines School District.

In Tinker, the court held that a school had violated the students' rights to wear a balck armband as a protest against the war in Vietnam.
The court’s leading precedent on student speech, a 1969 decision called Tinker v. Des Moines School District, “articulates a baseline of political speech” that students have a presumptive right to engage in, Mr. Starr said.

That was too far to the middle for the chief justice. “Presumably, the teacher’s agenda is a little bit different and includes things like teaching Shakespeare or the Pythagorean theorem,” he said, adding that “just because political speech is on the student’s agenda, I’m not sure that it makes sense to read Tinker so broadly as to include protection of that speech.” [emphasis added]

According to that early AP dispatch filed late yesterday, "
Conservative groups that often are allied with the administration are backing Frederick out of concern that a ruling for Morse would let schools clamp down on religious expression, including speech that might oppose homosexuality or abortion."

In truth, every American should be concerned. Forget abortion rights. Forget the law of privacy or homosexuality. Forget student rights. If Greenhouse is right, George W. Bush and the Republicans who enabled him over the past six years may well have given us a chief justice who doesn't believe in any individual civil liberties.

The First Amendment is the bedrock freedom preserved by our founding fathers. Without freedom of speech, press, assembly, religion, and the right to "petition" against grievances, the rest of the Bill of Rights have little practical meaning.

If Chief Justice Roberts really thinks that the Constitution doesn't protect "political speech" when it isn't on "the agenda" of a public school -- or Government in general, for that matter -- then far more is in danger than the freedom of school students.

Broder's Baloney

David Broder's insipid, self-contradictory, biased, and illogical column from last Sunday's Washington Post finally got repeated today on the editorial page of the Pensacola News Journal. Atrios provides a helpful summary of Broder's meaning:
"I feel for Bush administration officials who broke the law in the past but have stopped doing so since 1/07."
What a waste of newsprint. It inspired Prof. Brad Delong to ask, once again, "Why, oh why, can't we have a better press corps?" He predicts, "Five years. I give the Post as we know it five years" if they keep publishing such tripe.

PNJ: take warning.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Consumer Alert

Jonathan Alter has the goods on why you shouldn't subscribe to Bill Kristol's Weekly Standard: It's a waste of money. It will feed you completely erroneous, misleading information. And, it probably will make you sick.

Family Values

Greg Sargent at TPM's Horse's Mouth has been counting:
The top four GOP [presidential] candidates have divorced a total of five times, while the top four [Democratic] liberal candidates have a total of zero divorces among them.
No wonder Nevada is said to be an early "battleground" for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination. Do you suppose they'll be throwing dishes at each other?

Quartus Annus

Bush's Iraq War (March 20, 2003 - March 19, 2007):
"Assumptions that would have been unthinkable even a few decades previously were becoming commonplace. Enthusiasts for empire argued that Rome had a civilizing mission; that because her values and institutions were self-evidently superior to those of barbarians, she had a duty to propagate them; that only once the whole globe had been subjected to her rule could there be a universal peace. Morality had not merely caught up with the brute force of imperial expansion, but wanted more."
-- Holland, RUBICON: The Last Years of the Roman Republic
(Anchor Books Random House, 2003), p. 262-63

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Good News, Bad News

The good news: Half again as many Americans approve the way Bush is handling his Iraq war adventure.

The bad news: Half again of what, you ask? That would be half again the percentage of Iraqis.

A dismal 27 percent of all Americans now support Bush's Iraq war compared with barely 18 percent of all Iraqis.

Shorter WaPo

Shorter Washington Post editorial: Bush was wrong. The Bush administration is incompetent. WaPo was "insufficiently skeptical." Iraq is a huge mess. But "seeding democracy at the point of a gun in unaccustomed soil" is difficult. So, let's forge ahead, anyway.

And do it again.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Jeff Miller: 'Not My Problem'

"I don't think it's an issue of congressional oversight," Miller said.

Big, black headlines in today's Pensacola News Journal tell the tale: Congressman Jeff Miller (R-Northwest Florida), who's always bragging on how he looks out for the military veterans --
has been to Walter Reed Medical Center many times over the past several years to visit wounded constituents and other veterans... . But he never witnessed and never was told about the substandard living conditions and poor treatment that recovering service members experienced as outpatients living at the medical center's Washington campus.... .
You see, he signs up only for the luxury tour:
Miller said that when members of Congress tour Walter Reed, they typically get special treatment.

"It would not surprise me if there were deficiencies, that the Army would not highlight those to a member of Congress," Miller said.
Okay, so maybe Miller was ignorant. But other congressmen did know. According to journalist Larry Wheeler's report:
"Some lawmakers did know about the obstacles that wounded vets faced.

Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young, a St. Petersburg Republican and former chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, said he personally told Walter Reed commanders of his concerns about poor patient care.

And Rep. Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican, chaired a hearing of the House Government Reform Committee in February 2005 on treatment problems affecting wounded Guard members and reservists.
Still, the incumbent congressman for Northwest Florida tells the PNJ, "I don't think it's an issue of congressional oversight."

Good grief! You have to wonder what, exactly, Jeff Miller thinks he's good for? He votes the Bush party line so mindlessly you could send a Blackberry in his place. He waltzes through Walter Reed like airhead-royalty seeing nothing, asking no questions -- even though he knows he's getting a snow-job. He's enacted no new laws of substance. And he has no pull with anyone in his own party, much less the Democrats.

Panhandle ACLU Hires Lawyer

Will wonders never cease? After years of limping along as an outlander chapter of the Florida American Civil Liberties Union, the Panhandle chapter of the Florida ACLU has hired a staff lawyer. And they pay him a salary!

According to Emerald Coast.com, Benjamin James Stevenson will be a full time staff attorney right here in Northwest Florida. He's no schlub just out of law school, either:
Stevenson joined the ACLU after a sabbatical traveling extensively throughout the world. Prior to that, he worked at the Tallahassee law firms of Andrews Moy√©, LLC, and Fowler White Boggs Banker, P.A., where he handled all aspects of his clients’ litigation needs. He also directed Florida’s False-Claims-Act cases by overseeing attorney’s prosecutions and settlements while in Tallahassee.
The state ACLU issued a press release that adds Stevenson graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of the South and was Order of the Coif at Florida State University’s College of Law. Both high academic honors.

We're told the move is part of the Florida ACLU's "five-year strategic growth plan that includes additional staff, new regional offices and increased public education efforts across the state."

It's also pretty clearly a response to years of the Bush administration's assault on the U.S. Constitution. Local chapter leader Susan Watson, who has been a major force locally in upgrading the Panhandle Chapter, told the on-line Emerald Coast.com:
"People have become alarmed at how the Administration has run roughshod over the Constitution in its response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The country sees that the ACLU has been needed to challenge many of these excesses, including wiretapping, surveillance, detention and torture, especially in light of the irresponsible lack of oversight by Congress."
Amen to that. If our own experience is any guide, a lot of folk in the last few years have are signing up or renewing their status as card-carrying members of the ACLU. It costs as little as $20 a year to thumb your nose at the Bush administration while helping to retain smart lawyers like Ben Stevenson to defend our Constitution.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Change of Misdirection

"Okay," someone in the White House must have said. "That lie didn't work. Let's try this one."
The White House retreated today from its claim that former counsel Harriet E. Miers first came up with the idea of firing U.S. attorneys, another apparent shift in the Bush administration's evolving version of events behind the controversy

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Lawyer Who Lies

Graphic courtesy of Buckfush.com

A lawyer who lies? Kidding aside, as in any honorable profession, yes, there are a few.

Unfortunately, one of them is the nation's top law enforcement officer, the Attorney General of the United States.

Monday, March 13 (Alberto Gonzales press conference):
As a general matter, some two years ago, I was made aware of a request from the White House as to the possibility of replacing all the United States Attorneys. That was immediately rejected by me. I felt that that was a bad idea and it was disruptive.
Thursday, March 15 (ABC News):
New unreleased e-mails from top administration officials show that the idea of firing all 93 U.S. attorneys was raised by White House adviser Karl Rove in early January 2005, indicating Rove was more involved in the plan than the White House previously acknowledged.

The e-mails also show that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales discussed the idea of firing the attorneys en masse weeks before he was confirmed as attorney general.
* * *
The latest e-mails show that Gonzales and Rove were both involved in the discussion, and neither rejected it out of hand.

PNJ: 'Gonzalez Has To Go'

The flagship daily newspaper for right-wing, reactionary, Bush-beatifying Northwest Florida calls today for the firing of Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez -- if he doesn't resign first.
It is rare for presidents to fire their own U.S. attorney appointees. But to fire them for being insufficiently attentive to the president's political agenda before an election is beyond the pale.
* * *
If Gonzales had distinguished himself as attorney general, he might have some credibility. But he came to "prominence" as the presidential advisor who provided justifications for the use of torture. As attorney general, he appears to see his job as telling the president whatever he wants to hear -- including that he is not bound by U.S. law or the Constitution.

It's too late for Gonzales to show the allegiance to the Constitution an attorney general owes the American people.
Predictably, the ever-shrinking crowd of Bush believers already is hitting the newspaper's comment section to share their ignorance. "Bill Clinton fired all of his US Attorneys when he was president," writes one moron. "What's the big deal?"

Someone should tell that guy to get a clue. While it is tradition for all U.S. attorneys to resign when a new president takes office, and most of those resignations are accepted, the "big deal" is that incumbent presidents don't fire their own appointees wholesale; nor do they do it to cover-up criminal activity by politicians and lobbyists of the president' s own party -- at least, they didn't until Nixon, and now George W. Bush.

Also, it's not a good idea for the nation's Chief Law Enforcer and his top aides to lie to Congress.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bush Cover-up

This may be an inch or two ahead of the story, but it sure looks like George W. Bush himself played a direct role in the retaliatory discharge of the seven U.S. attorneys who were aggressively prosecuting corrupt Republican politicians and refusing to gin-up phony voter fraud cases.

From today's New York Times:
Questions about whether the dismissals were politically motivated have been swirling since January. But they reached a fever pitch on Tuesday with disclosures by the White House that Mr. Bush had spoken directly with Mr. Gonzales to pass on concerns from Republican lawmakers, among them Senator Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico, about the way certain prosecutors were handling cases of voter fraud.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Lighter Footstep Launches

A new locally produced environmentally-conscious web site, Lighter Footstep, has officially launched. Editor Chris Baskin describes Lighter Footstep as "a web-based magazine dedicated to sustainable living: learning to thrive in our personal and business lives by making wiser choices."

Based in Warrington, the web magazine has issued a general invitation for volunteer contributions. The magazine explains:

Lighter Footstep’s staff is entirely decentralized, with writers contributing from North America, Europe, and Australia (so far). Our editorial home, however, is along the sugar-white beaches of Pensacola, Florida. Should you need to reach us by mail, our physical address:

Lighter Footstep
4051 G Barrancas Avenue #192
Pensacola, FL 32507

Take a look and tell them what you think, by post or sending an email to: kit@lighterfootstep.com.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Film Fest

Neil Winker tells us there's been a change in the weekend "Pensacola Film Festival." The Hampton and Hilton Inn on Pensacola Beach are sponsoring screenings at Gulf Breeze Cinema 4 on Saturday and Sunday.

All four screens will be devoted to Academy Award nominated feature-length films, foreign films. and shorts. Check out the whole schedule here.

Lots of intriguing films, but among them the one we really want to see is Volver (nightly at 7 pm).