Saturday, March 31, 2007

Here is the awesome Screen Shot including the new image corresponding to the "contact me" jpg which McCain was sending by hotlinking without permission. Thank you anonymous ICM friend who may be concerned about liability.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri Claims he was tortured by the CIA.

I can't say how much I wish I didn't believe him. Given revelations that torture was official policy and given the gravity of the crimes of which he was accused, I don't doubt that he was tortured with temperature extremes and heat deprivation and would be very surprised if he has not been water boarded.

To remain true to our traditions and principles, we must release him and punish his torurers even if they were just following orders and punish the people who gave those orders (and that means you Mr President). I'm sure no policy maker will actually propose releasing him. I personally would probably make an exception and get back to respecting the rule of law tomorrow. I do think that the perpetrators should be punished.

I also have to note that I don't find all of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri's allegations convincing.

Nashiri said, according to the transcript, that he "invented" some information just to "make people happy" during his interrogations. One of those statements was that Osama bin Laden, whom he had met numerous times, had procured a nuclear weapon.

"They were extremely happy because of this news," he said, according to the transcript.
Yeah right. I would be delighted if someone in a position to know told me that Bin Laden has an atomic bomb. I'm crushed to hear the claim was invented.
Hobson's Choice

Friday, March 30, 2007

My Reply to John Harris's e-mail to Glenn Greenwald

Boy is this ever inside baseball (whatever the hell that means). I haven't read Greenwald's reply.

As far as I can tell, the main, indeed the only, argument in this e-mail is that the New York Times and The Washington Post do it as well so it is OK. This applies to sending stories to Drudge (IIRC only the Times does this although Harris is not clear on that point) and changing the texts of stories without flagging updates.

My reply is that maybe that's OK for printed newspapers, but Politico is a blog and blogs are, in some respects, held to higher standards. In particular, it is generally considered unacceptable for a blogger to change or update a post in any way without flagging the change (typically with the word update). Also, there is the google cache, which means that critics can identify unflagged changes and bloggers can be called to account to explain why they do not flag changes becuase they are "ordinary changes made to reflect new circumstances, as distinct from factual errors." Harris better hope that every change politico has ever made without "highlight"ing it corresponds to breaking news and not facts which the Politico postr could have known when writing the original story. I won't bother checking but someone will.

People don't keep all editions of a paper newspaper around for cross checking. Thus it is not possible to slip over things as it used to be. A web site (including www.washingtonpost.com and www.nytimes.com) can be policed more ruthlessly than a paper paper. Does Mr Harris remember the time that comments on www.washingtonpost.com were shut down (and some deleted forever even though they contained no dirty words but rather an embarassing promise to provide evidence for claims in the Post which evidence was not forthcoming). The internet does.

Harris honestly seems to think that he can keep the fact that Politico gets 65% of its traffic straight from Drudge secret. He clearly has not read the comments to the post which prompted his e-mail.

John Harris has a problem. He thinks that Washington Post standards are good enough for the blogosphere. He will learn to his regret that bloggers have standards and will not tolerate the sort of crap the Washington Post pulls correcting errors without admitting them and trying to hide information of interest to readers.

As someone said re swampland -- you're playing in the big leagues now. Get used to i.
Why does Peer Review Protect the Literature from Loonies ?

It appears that peer review has indeed succeeded in the minimal accomplishment of excluding total nutcases from the scientific literature.

I wonder why. In peer review the referees are chosen by the editor. The editor makes the final decision. It should be easy for a rich nutcase to set up a peer reviewed nutcase journal in which the peers chosen to referee articles belong to the same deranged sect as the editor and the authors of the articles. What's the problem. Peer review is a process. It's content is based on the choice of the peers. That choice is made, in secret, by editors. I could tell you stories about cronyism leading to a lazy good for nothing getting articles published by editors who are his personal friends, but I don't want to talk dirt on my personal friends.

One famous example of the insanity exclusion, is the fact that all peer reviewed articles on global warming present evidence that supports the claim that human activities are, at least, the major factor in recent warming. I think this happened because the claim is true and said human activities result in such a mass of evidence that any serious honest inquiry reaches that conclusion. Others (cough senator Inhofe cough) might consider this the result of a conspiracy by editors of peer reviewed journals to mislead us.

Another example is abstinence only sex eduction. The claim that it has benefits is not supported by the peer reviewed literature hence

Progressives' focus on scientific legitimacy in their critiques has put abstinence-only advocates, who have long enjoyed their favored status within the Bush administration, on the defensive. They've resorted to citing non-peer-reviewed studies by outfits like the Heritage Foundation to back up the claim that their science is sound and accusing peer-reviewed journals of conspiring to silence them. "What they are saying is that, in order to be medically and scientifically accurate, you must be verified and supported in your research by peer review," Focus on the Family's Linda Klepacki told the Christian Examiner. "Abstinence education cannot get into peer-review journals because the journals are controlled by far-left liberal organizations that do not allow us to publish. That automatically eliminates abstinence-only education, from their standpoint."
But I mean jesus, if Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson can set up their own "universities" why can't they set up a peer reviewed journal ?

I assume this blog is not read by much of anyone and certainly not by rich right wing nut cases, or I wouldn't make the suggestion.

Update from comments
Maxine said...

The peer-reviewed journal owned by the nutcase would have a very low impact factor, so nobody would submit to it. it would have a low impact factor because all it would publish would be articles that passed the secret cabal of "nutcase sympathiser" peer-reviewers, hence nobody would read the journal except the nutcases, and there would not be enough of them for the journal to qualify for an impact factor -- or if it did, the impact factor would be about 0.1 and nobody sane would ever submit to it.

True Maxine, but the cut off appears to be "peer reviewed" not "peer reviewed with an impact factor over 0.1". Also, even though same journal cites are not (always) counted. It would be easy for mr Rich wingnut to set up two wingnut journals which cite each other. Citation analysis can't protect the literature from a group of pointless mutually citing journals as is agreed by almost all economists and sociologists (who tend to disagree about what the group of pointless journals is).
Orrin Hatch extracts an amazing confession from Kyle Sampson

(not that he was trying).

Below I said that I was not cut out for liveblogging and that the Senate judiciary committee had recessed for lunch. I recessed for dinner and never came back. Paul Kiel is very good a liveblogging (among many other things) . He notes

Hatch asks Sampson again whether the Cunningham investigation had anything to do wtih Lam's removal. Sampson again says no.

On a line of questioning about why Iglesias was put on the list, Sampson says that four names were put on the list at about the same time (mid-October), but that three came off. Iglesias stayed on because removing him "wouldn't create any problems with the home state senators" -- meaning Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM).
Oh my. This means that there are three serving US attorneys who were put on the list in mid-October 2006 and removed by November 15 2006. I think it is clear to everyone that Iglesias was fired because he refused to use his office to help Republicans (there may be a tiny bit of debate about whether his offence was refusing Wilson's and Domenici's suggestion that he indict a Democrat before election day or failing to harass ACORN (progressive group doing a registration drive) because a contracter defrauded ACORN out of a few bucks by forging the signatures of a 15 year old and a 13 year old on a registration application). Sampson suggests that the other 3 were spared because a Senator came to their assistance.

I assume that they are still US attorneys because they used their offices to help Republicans. I would sure like to know those three names.

No senator seems to have asked the question "who are the three US attorneys you put on the list within a month of election day and took off the list no more than one week after election day ?" No bad question. Better

"You said Iglesias was one of 4 USAs put on the list in mid October. Who were the other three ?"

Then if it is answered (which is unlikely Sampson did not seem to be totally panicked to me and he is clearly smart).

"why were those three US attorneys you put on the list within a month of election day and took off the list no more than one week after election day ?"

Update: Schumer nails it

Now Schumer is asking about who was on the purge list but were then taken off.

Sampson says the USA for Middle District of North Carolina Anna Mills Wagner (ph). Monica Goodling suggested that she be removed (not Western District as in one of the emails), because she had a successful gang prosecution program.

Sampson can't remember who the other three others added in mid-October were.


Riiiiiiiiiight. Firing US attorneys for reasons other than extreme misconduct or a change in the party of the President is unprecedented in recent decades and he doesn't remember. I'd say that is an HR Block to far. It is impossible that Sampson really forgot those names. I am sure they were taken off the list because they abused their office for partisan gain.

Schumer nails it again



5:25 Update: Schumer again, asking about Iglesias.

[snip]

"Sometime in late October, those in the senior management in the department, the DAG, his CoS, myself, Monica Goodling, went back to look at the list." I don't remember it being one discussion, but a series of discussions. Iglesias was added then. Sampson still can't name who was responsible.


That means there are three other people who know the three names. Did they all forget them ? Would Ms Goodling be able to remember if she were granted immunity from prosecution ? Inquiring minds would like to know.

Schumer is doing great, but I would have asked "does the name Christopher J. Christie ring a bell ?" When asking about the three names.

Finally

Schumer pushes him on whether he would fire Iglesias if he had it to do all over again. Sampson says, "I wish the Department hadn't gone down this road." He also says that he would not have fired Iglesias.
Hey, you know, fired US attorneys can be rehired. I mean all is not lost. If it was a mistake to fire Iglesias (and McKay and Lam and Bogden and Charlton and Cummins and maybe even Chiara) they can be re-appointed.

Why not ? We all know why not but I would love to hear the answer to that question from Gonzales and Rove.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sampson Agonistes

Live Blogging *Not* a transcript.

A Specter haunting the Republican party in disarray

Arlen Specter just delayed the hearing because he was deciding how to vote on the out of Iraq by March resolution. He went on to describe the evidence that the firings of Lam and Iglesias was improper and that the DOJ was planning to use the text slipped into the patriot act renewal by his council without his knowledge. Then he went on to say Rove and Miers should testify with transcript but without swearing an oath which doesn't matter.

Senate Judiciary in Session
Sessions in Senate Judiciary

He had to remind Chairman Leahy that he was going to speak. Clearly the Republicans are unwilling to be represented by Specter who is on the other side on this one. Sessions mainly argued that Presidents have the authority to fire US attorneys. He noted Sampson's suggestion to use the patriot act clause.

Interrogation of Sampson

Sampson in quotes. Senators with no quotes.

Sampson swears he has not documents in his custody and control which have not been given to the committee.

Sampson swears he did not talk to the president after the 2004 election and was not present in any meeting where the President was also present and in which firing USAs was discussed after the 2004 election.

Interrogation on an Nov 15 e-mail listing USAs to fire "not informed anyone in Karl's shop" which you considered a pre firing necessity. Is Karl, Karl Rove ? "Yes". Was the proposal circulated to Karl's shop. "I believe it was"

Leahy asks.E-mail Miers to Sampson. Sampson asked who will decide if the President must review ? He now says he doesn't know if the President signed off.

What about the pause while Bush was travelling ? Did you hear from White House during that period ? "I don't remember" bingo hit contact the first HR Block* of the hearing.

"I didn't remember this until looking at this document right now" he missed a question reading a document. Agrees that Ryan called in some political chits. Friends called Karl who all agree is Karl Rove.

long pause then "I don't remember Mr Chairman" = HR Block number 2.

I would hope you would search your memory

Arlen Questions

Outline will be on

Was any US attorney asked to resign because either pursuing hot leads on corruption that someone wanted to stop or because refused to prosecute cases which should not be prosecuted.

Was Gonzales candid.

refers to "real problem right now" e-mail.

"There was never connnection in my mind between ..."

Was it just a coincidence ? What was the real problem ?

"immigration enforcement"

Iglesias added to list on election day after calls from Wilson and Domenici. Was there any consideration of asking him to resign because he refused to carry out a prosecution

"not to my knowledge. I looked at list of people whose 4 year terms were expiring. Added 4 in mid October. In consultation with Elston."

Are you prepared to swear under oath that (what they were doing)
"To my knowledge that was the case"

Conzales' candor

AS:Gonzales said he was not involved but e-mail says he attended a meeting 21/11/07 with USAs on the agenda. Was he at the meeting.
KS: "I don't think the AGs assertion that he was not involved was accurate"
AS: so he lies like a dog
KS: "yes sir"

AS: were you planning to use the patriot act clause ? The answer is yes clearly by e-mails. You have no time to answer this question.
KS: That was a bad idea by staff not adopted by principals. I advocated that but AG AG and WHC HM didn't adopt my recomendation.
AS: Was it rejected by the AG
KS: yes.
AS: do you have an e-mail to that effect ?
KS: no

Chuck Schumer:

CS:Back to AG AG lied like a dog when he said he wasn't involved.
KS: I don't think AG AGs claim is precisely true. Discussed with AG AG. He has clarified
CS: at least 5 times.
KS: huh?
CS: at least 5 times ?
KS: yes

CS: keeps saying yes or no to KS

Cornyn (I think) asks the Chairman Leahy to tell Shumer to let KS answer the questions.
Leahy says KS has said he doesn't remember a dozen times (I counted 2 but they coming fast) and we are trying to find out if he remembers anything. You will get your chance box turtle let schumer continue.

Schumer notes he is asking yes or no questions and KS is dodging them
I have indeed lost count of the HR Block's they are indeed coming fast and furious.

Cornyn reads Sampson's prepared statement asks you still think that ?
KS Yes:
Cornyn reads Sampson's claim that firings not for improper reasons. Any improper requests to fire.
KS: I don't recall
Cornyn says Mueller said no FBI agent claimed firings interfered with an investigation. This is clearly a lie. Special agent in charge in San Diego definitely said something to that effect for attribtion to a journalist.

Cornyn blah blah this is pointless won't blog box turtle.

Cornyn says he has heard no (new) evidence of impropriety and if there is none he is sorry that nice guys like KS caught up in a partisan witch hunt. See how goes from contitional to indicative.

Leahy objects they argue some.

Kohl gives a speech quoting "loyal Bushies" and denouncing Bush so he is giving a speech not extracting information.

KS loyal Bushies mean loyalty to Bush priorities.

Kohl: KR involved so obviously it was political.


Kohl was as worthless as Cornyn. He wants to give a speech he can give a speech. Here he has Sampson under oath and he should have extracted information.

Senator ? asks how the Bush administration defines "performance".

Carol Lam what was the problem and when

KS: did not embrace anti gun violence initiative ?!?!
later immigration prosecution.

Feinstein. Back to AS on May 10 search warrent and May 11 and "real problem" with Lam. She enters the letter sent to Carol Lam (letter of commendation from boarder patrol or something). Your office remains a 100% rate of accepting Border patrol referrals and do not reduce felonies to misdemenors. 416 in 06 = 33?% increase over '05 with 100% conviction. USA today lists her in top 3 anti illegal immigrants. A real surprise ...

Who is Dusty Foggo ?

KS don't remember seeing notice from Lam about search warrent (nother HR Block)
DF: "right now" , "right now"

Were you aware of Cummins investigating Rep Gov, Bodgen investigating Rep Govs, McKay and Gov election in Wash, Charlton and 2 rep reps, Iglesias investigating dems, aware of calls to Iglesias, aware of concerns, No no yes yes no no no.

Sessions
USAs are great people and none would have done something they think not right so all unfired ones are OK. This is pointless.

I am not cut out for liveblogging. besides no one is reading and my sound just cut off.
They seem to have switched me to a Bush speech. Ugggghhhh. I was at www.washingtonpost.com

OK off to CSPAN-3

You know I kinda liked Missing Linc Chaffee, but I sure am glad Sheldon Whitehouse is in the Senate (how about Whitehouse in the Whitehouse). He did a bit of speachifying like Kohl and Cornyn and such, but he knows his stuff. It was argued that taking the 5th can't be held against anyone. He notes that is anyone who is a defendent on trial and that the DOJ has a rule that if the officer of a corporation takes the 5th the corporation must fire them (they can order that ?
That's not just disrespectful of the bill of rights that's socialism). Tough informed and original.

Break for lunch.



*H.R. "Bob" Haldeman (Nixon's chief of staff for you kids) advises someone like Erlichman "if they ask you a question you don't want to answer say that you don't remember no one can prove you remember something" in his testimony at Judiciary back in the day, he had a very very poor memory. It is purely a coincidence that H.R. Clinton has the same first 2 initials. Her memory lapses about Whitewater and Castle Grand were undoubtably honest.
Pony question answered
The word did not come from Singapore.
A Brilliant Op Ed by [Michael] Waldman [and Justin Levitt] includes

Firing a prosecutor for failing to find wide voter fraud is like firing a park ranger for failing to find Sasquatch.

Say it brother I mean distant cousin.

The very strange thing is that there is *another* Michael Waldmann who is a brilliant economist while this Michael Waldman is executive director of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law
Porn Republic

Awesome fact from Adult Video News and Max Blumenthal via Radly Balko (via Glenn Greenwald)

Balko is discussing the firing of Paul Charlton US Attorney for Arizona

The emails indicate that Charlton frequently butted heads with higher-ups in DOJ over priorities and procedures.

[snip]

The porn industry publication Adult Video News and the Nation’s Max Blumenthal

revealed last week that Charlton also came under fire from federal “Porn Czar” Brent Ward for his reluctance to take on federal obscenity cases. But the case in question had a curious twist. The government wanted to charge a porn distributor for shipping obscene movies across state lines. The problem is, another Arizona distributor just a few miles a way was selling several of the same movie titles. The second distributor had recently declared bankruptcy, and was being run by trustees for the federal government to fill its federal tax obligations.

The unpatriotic Balko does not report the name or address of the US government operated Porn shop, so patriotic readers will not be able to do their bit to reduce the deficit (I guess he is a libertarian and opposes censorship of porn but also opposes socialist porn).

However, he does make the brilliant observation
It’s sad, but not terribly surprising, that it would take accusations of excessive partisanship – that is, unfairly using the office to gain a political advantage over the Democrats – to spur the Democrats in Congress to take any meaningful action. Trample on the rights of U.S. citizens, and the Democrats largely look the other way – can’t be seen as soft on crime, or on national security. But trample on the political prospects of Democrats, and the subpoenas fly.
Ouch.
Stolen from Max Sawicky via Matthew Yglesias (whose names show that letters don't matter)

CNA YUO RAED TIHS?

fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid too

Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! if you can raed tihs forwrad it.

[Tkhnas, Woj.]

Posted by max at March 28, 2007 11:13 AM

I never thought spelling was ipmorantt and I did have some pboerlms reading it, but it is amazingly easy. I think part of the secret is that we can guess the word from context. Nonsense written with words each of which has letters jumbled (except for the first and last) might be incomprehensible. I should try that.

Also someone should program a letter jumbler, since it will be boring when everyone disenvowels trolls (or is that disemvowels ? I said I don't care about spellling) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disemvoweling
Oprison off to Prison for a Giffen bad ?

Help me out here Paul, don't make me google.

The estimable Paul Kiel crack intern reporter at America's finest news source (I've enjoyed reading it more than the Onion recently) points out that the White House was involved in falsely denying White House involvement in the effort to make White House hack Richard Giffen US attorney in Easter Arkansas. However, he doesn't make it clear enough for me to know who is nailed.

The e-mail describes Sampson's intention of involving the White House but the to list consists only of DOJ employees. However, the 3rd page of the document is an email to one Christopher G. Oprison.

And who might that be ? I asked the google and found that he was appointed Associate Counsel to the President last November. He appears to have worked on the e-mail making false claims to congress about the activities of the office where he works. This would be a violation of the federal False Statements statute, 18 USC 1001, which makes it a felony to cause another person to make a false statement to Congress.

very quick update: reading on up TalkingPointsmemo I see that Kiel is, of course, googling well ahead of me (I meant what I said about "crack" and "finest." Indeed he is the person in the White House who was directly informed by Sampson of the fact that the claim he signed off on is false in a previously released e-mail. This is in the bit of the e-mail posted then deleted on www.Washingtonpost.com as noted by me as linked to by Kevin Drum.

Oh my.

Hope bandwidth holds up for C-Span3 so I can watch Sampson Agonistes live THURS., C-SPAN3, 10AM ET.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Awesome Op Ed by Harold Meyerson

Including

The third [possible, partial explanation of Republicans sleepwalking] is that the alternative reality conveyed by the Republican media -- Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and their ilk -- has created a Republican activist base that is genuinely not reality-based, and from which the current generation of Republican pols is disproportionately drawn.

Things must be really shifting fast if a columnist in the Washington Post has a diagnosis of what ails the Republicans as insightful and hard hitting as this written by an Australian economist -- John Quiggin


Stolen from comments at Tapped

The idea of a timetable for withdrawal leads to Republican claims that the insurgents would lie low and wait for us to depart. Wouldn't that be the best thing for training the Iraqi army? Without all those explosions and firefights wouldn't training take place in an environment where a)the Iraqis would show up,b)infantry training with drills instead of live fire and c)fewer roadside bombs since the insurgents are simply biding their time to attack again.
Set a timetable and stick to it. It's the only rational course.

TJM has just articulated what I have been thinking all along, isn't it exactly what we want for the insurgents to lie low for a time so we can rebuild the infrastructure, get Iraqis back to work and train the military and police. Who would want the insurgency back after we did all that?



What TJM said. I was about to write a blog post to that effect (really). I especially agree with Th's argument in support of TJM.

All I have left is the chance to note one odd thing. There is a bit of symmetry between the surge and the deadline -- both make combatents lie back and wait for it to be over.

please read on before biting my head off.

It appears that the surge has caused a shift of violence from Baghdad to Diyala as fighters are avoiding direct contact with the surging troops (esp the Mahdi army guys). Thus the "promise" consists of convincing Mahdi army fighters to lay low. On the other hand a deadline would be terrible because they and the sunni insurgents would lay low all over Iraq.

Now I think I can oppose the surge and support a deadline without falling into contradiction. For one thing the surge has direct costs to our overstrained military and the deadline does not. For another, the flypaper theory is absurd while there is solid evidence that the Baghdad surge has lead to increased violence in Dayala (the Mahdi army and the insurgents are not going to leave Iraq while laying low). Both Moqtada al Sadra and al Douri (close to insurgents) have said their condition for a cease fire is just that deadline. Iraqis are not convinced we don't plan to stay forever. A deadline for withdrawal would lead to actual withdrawal which I support (as do most Americans).

However, I don't see how it is possible to support the surge, which is explicitely of finite duration, while opposing a deadline for withdrawal. Both lead to fighters laying low. Is that a good thing or a bad thing Mr Brownstein ?
Matthew Yglesias Metaphor Watch

No homonyms in this post but a wonderful mixed metaphor "The grain of truth that this lie is spun out of". Has anyone ever managed to spin thread out of a grain ? The deliberate spinning (in this case like spinning thread with a spinning wheel not like putting back spin on a 3 point attempt) means that "the grain of truth out of which this lie sprouted" is no good, but how about "the filament of truth that this lie is spun out of" or "the nanotubule of truth that this lie is spun out of" ?

I concede that Matt's mixed metaphor is much better than my unmixed efforts.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Chutzpa All Time Record

Nerve, faccia di bronza, bold facedness, shamelessness and many other lawyerly virtues have never reached such heights.

Monica Goodling, a senior Justice Department official involved in the firings of federal prosecutors, will refuse to answer questions at upcoming Senate hearings, citing Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, her lawyer said Monday.

"The potential for legal jeopardy for Ms. Goodling from even her most truthful and accurate testimony under these circumstances is very real," said the lawyer, John Dowd.

"One need look no further than the recent circumstances and proceedings involving Lewis Libby," he said, a reference to the recent conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff in the CIA leak case.

Dowd's argument, essentially, is that Goodling can not risk testifying because she is likely to be subject to prosecution when another witness with equally honest testimony would not be, since, evidently, the DOJ discriminates against high DOJ officials.

In the previous record setting argument, in which a man who murdered both parents threw himself on the mercy of the court on the grounds that he was an orphan, the claim of fact was true.

While Dowd goes on to argue that come Senators are prejudiced and hostile, he does not explain what Senatorial hostility has to do with the fifth, which concerns prosecution. There may be a special prosecutor named in this case, but a slip up like the naming of Cox and of Fitzgerald is highly unlikely, since the deciders are subjects of the investigation.

What's next ? I'm waiting for a prosecutor to take the fifth when a judge asks him if he can finish his closing arguments by 5 pm.



Sunday, March 25, 2007

Bureacratic SNAFU Causes Interruption of US Torture Efforts

If you want to get anything done avoid committees, meetings, and memos.
As a result of such inefficient idiocies, the USA has been stuck in the community of semi decent nations (AKA the civilized world) for months.

“The administration has been engaged in a deliberative and thoughtful interagency process,” Mr. Johndroe said. “This process required additional time as new officials, including the defense secretary, director of national intelligence and White House counsel were brought into the deliberations.”
Not as stirring as "we hold these truths to be self-evident" but it might just do for the next 22 months.

Warning Goodwin's law violation below. Skip next paragraph if your doctor has advised you to avoid Goodwin's law violation.

Reminds me of a story Gosta Esping Anderson once told about how the Bureaucrats in the German Social Welfare agency slow walked the Nazi's effort to politicize the German welfare state (claiming they didn't have the information technology resourses or something) until VE day.


End of Goodwin's law violation related bloggin activities.

Is this another glorious victory for bureaucracy in the service of humanity ?

No bright lines, ignore red flags, count on red tape.

It's the only thing which is holding us above the abyss.

update: should have written
we are dangling over the abyss clinging to red tape

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Read the Constitution Senator Kyl

Kyle to Kyl via epluribusmedia.

I'm late on this, Senator Kyl has seen the light and voted to close the oversight loophole in US attorney appointment snuck into the Patriot Act Renewal legislation without the knowledge of any legislator.

Still I do have the sense that people who talk about constitutionality haven't read the document recently (it's not long you know).

An attempt was made February 16, 2007 to pass a bill in the Senate reversing the changes that were made to the U.S. Attorney appointment process in the Patriot Reauthorization Act in March 2006. Senator Kyl was there saying no, repeating the objection of Deputy Attorney Paul McNulty:

[snip]

Kyl's chief concern is the bill's awarding of U.S. attorney appointment power to the courts if a permanent nominee is not named within 120 days, which the Arizonan believes may overstep the separation of powers.


The US Constitution Article II section 2

the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

Senator Kyl is not alone. The Deputy Attorney General (who really should be familiar with the constitution) wrote to the Senate

" S. 214 would not merely reverse the 2006 amendment; it would exacerbate the problems experienced under the prior version of the statute by making judicial appointment the only means of temporarily filling a vacancy—a step inconsistent with sound separation-of-powers principles. We are aware of no other agency where federal judges—members of a separate branch of government—appoint the interim staff of an agency. "

Now Mr McNulty may consider his judgement as to what are and are not "sound separation-of-powers principles" to be superior to the judgement of the framers of the constitution. I assume that, being a Bush appointee, he has no respect for the constitution and much prefers to make one up as he goes along. I might add that giving sole power to the president (via the attorney general) does not seem to me to be consistent with sound separation- of-powers principles. As the 2006 amendment, which was slipped into the act on the request of the executive and without the knowledge of one single legislator who voted on it without knowing it was there, I can't really grasp the chutspa of an opponent of its repeal daring to write the phrase separation-of-powers.

Kyl and McNulty are not the only ones who might want to brush up on the constitution.
here are two other links.




Friday, March 23, 2007

Medical Insurance and the English Language

George Orwell would be astounded at the abuse of the English language committed by WellPoint spokeswoman Shannon Troughton who makes "objectively pro-fascist left deviationism" sound as clear and coherant as "the sky is blue."

Blue Cross parent WellPoint said in a statement Thursday that it continued to disagree about what the law requires.

"California law is clear that rescission generally does not require a showing of intent to deceive or willful misrepresentation," WellPoint spokeswoman Shannon Troughton said. "All that is required for misrepresentation to be 'intentional' is that the true facts be known to the applicant.
Thus "intentional" does not imply "willful" and "intentional misreprecentation" does not imply an intent to deceive.

I assume it is possible to find some way to make some sense out of Troughton's statement. My guess is that it is based on the argument that people know what is in every document they have been given to read whether they understand it or not. I doubt Ms Troughton would like to be interrogated under oath about the contents of a document written in Arabic she was given. By her standard, she knows what it says so false statements about its content and the statement that she doesn't know what it says would both be perjury.

This unatributed quote is also beautiful

"Indianapolis-based WellPoint disputed the findings, saying it acted legally and that some rescissions are necessary to combat fraud.

"The vast majority of Blue Cross' rescissions are unquestionably proper under any criteria," WellPoint said."

Which would be like a serial killer saying "the vast majority of days last year I didn't kill anyone" were it not for the fact that the investigation showed 0 of 90 proper rescissions and 0% sure doesn't sound like the vast majority to me.

Via Kevin Drum who wrote


BEST HEALTHCARE IN THE WORLD....PART 87....The state of California has fined Blue Cross $1 million for illegally cancelling policies:

The investigation found that Blue Cross used computer programs and a dedicated department to systematically cancel the policies of pregnant women and the chronically ill regardless of whether they intentionally lied on their applications to cover up pre-existing medical conditions, a standard required by state law for canceling individual policies. Regulators examined 90 randomly selected cases of policy cancellations and found violations in each one.

Italics mine. According to the LA Times, the fine came about as the result of an "unprecedented investigation" prompted by a story they ran a few months ago. Maybe next time state regulators shouldn't wait.

Trading Places II

Kyle Sampson has resigned, yet he is still receiving a paycheck. How odd. What shall we call him ? "The former head of staff of Gonzales who is still around DOJ and getting paid US public money", "the USA's luckiest welfare recipient", or "the case load of TANCH (temporary assistance for needy criminal hacks" ? The English language clearly needs a new word.

The word is "dimissionario" which means "resigning". In Italy it is a common practice for a public official to resign or, more exactly, "porre il suo resignazione" (offer his or her resignation) without actually leaving office. This is followed by some negotiation and then the "resignazione" tends to "rientrare" that is be withdrawn. Roughly this is equivalent to the English "threatens to resign," except the threat is presented as an completed act. I snearingly described the status "dimissionario" a typically Italian bit of hypocricy (and I sneared to Italians who, with typical Italian upside down nationalism, were delighted by my observation). Now with the dimissionario Kyle Sampson, the US under Bush has imported another fine Italian tradition to go along with unpunished corruption and other public sector illegality.

I understand, however, that balsamic vinegar is now available in the USA, so the cultural exchange does have its good aspects.





Below I remark on the odd fact that illegal wiretaps lead to "mandati d'arresto" in Italy and a bogus debate in which the Republicans claim that Democrats do not want to wiretap terrorists in the USA. I also note that prosecutors in Italy are genuinely protected from political interference as they have the status of "magistrates" which means "prosecutors or judges" and can't be fired at will (well who can be fired at will in Italy other than the cabinet and it's undersecretaries). One becomes a magistrate by scoring high on a test on the law which is graded anonymously. What a country eh ? This post got 2 links and a thanks.

Today I noticed another way in which the US under Bush has imported something which I considered as typically Italian as unpunished public sector criminality. Hence the new post.

I think Trading Places will be a regular feature of this blog, at least until the US adopts universal health insurance, increases life expectency, reduces infant mortality and cuts health care spending in half (including an absolutely free actual house call which I really witnessed with my own eyes) and well lots of good Italian things which you can't tell Italians about, because praise of the Italian state makes Italians act like Americans who have just heard criticism of the USA from a foreigner.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Over here in Italy

Warrentless wiretaps lead to arrests (and the investigating prosecutor was not appointed by politicians and can't be fired by politicians).

"Ci sono anche poliziotti ed ex agenti segreti stranieri tra i nuovi arresti ordinati nell'ambito dell'inchiesta milanese sui dossier illegali. ...[including] John Paul Spinelli, ex agente Cia. "

That is "Police officers and foreign intelligence agents are among those named in new arrest warrents issued as part of the Milanese investigation of illegal dossiers ... including ex CIA agent John Paul Spinelli."

If only the rule of law were respected in the USA the way it is respected here in Italy.

And no I never expected to write that ever.

p.s. I was really strongly tempted to translate John Paul Spinelli which would give Giovanni Paolo Reefers, but this is serious.

update: I should have translated more carefully. A "mandato d'arresto" is much more than an arrest warrent. The correct translation of "arrestato" is not "arrested" but rather held in pre-final-conviction detention. A simple arresto is called a "fermo" which translates literally to a "stop". If people are held by the police before being considered by a judge (which is allowed for a maximum of 48 hours in Italy IIRC) they are "tratenuto nel stato di fermo" literally "held in the state of stoppedness."

I made another boo boo first translating "arresto" as "pre-trial detention". In Italy the stato of arresto can last long after trial, because defendents are presumed innocent until they have exhausted their appeals. Further both defence and (amazingly) prosecution have the right to one appeal on the facts of the case, basically an automatic retrial, before going to appeals on procedure. This means that people are often presumed innocent even after they have been tried and convicted twice. This, combined with the much briefer jail terms imposed by lo stato Italiano, means that about half of the people under lock and key in Italy are presumed innocent and held in "lo stato d'arresto" that is "custodia cautelare" that is something else which is hard to translate into English (I considered using Padilla as an example but he was in the "stato di sequestro" that is "kidnapped" since he was locked up by people with no authority to do such a thing who are obviously felons even if they were just following orders).
Who wrote this abstract ?

House Panel Authorizes Subpoenas of Officials
spacer
Subpoenas serve as an act of defiance, coming less than 24 hours after Bush vowed to battle to shield his staff from public testimony under oath.
Jonathan Weisman and Paul Kane

Why is it "defiance" for the Judiciary committee to exercise its constitutional authority. "Defiance" is normally used for those who refuses to obey legitimate authority. Defiance is what Bush expressed when he vowed to ignore the constitution (as usual) not the Judiciary committee.

Also, of course, this is not a "constitutional crisis". There is no mention of "Executive Priviledge" in the Constitution (I just checked). The matter has been adjudicated. The concept of executive priviledge is based on reasonable arguments which should be taken into account by congress when excercising it's authority, but it in no way restricts congressional authority, because, you know, it isn't actually part of the US constitution. As Mark Kleiman put it brilliantly " Maybe the courts would be take seriously a challenge based on"executive privilege" (which, since that phrase doesn't actually occur in the Constitution, must be one of those penumbras of emanations conservatives so despise when they're not using them)".

To be nitpick, Kleiman could be edit for grammer but after a shaky start, the sentence is brilliant.

The actual article by Weisman and Kane is quite good however. They twice note that Republicans are lying by quoting them then nothing the fact that proves they are wrong

Indeed, regardless of Bush's insistence that his current offer would grant Congress "unprecedented" access to his staff, legal observers expect Congress and the White House to reach a deal more to the Democrats' liking. Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, cited nine instances during the Clinton administration when White House counsels testified before congressional committees or were deposed under oath. In three other instances, White House chiefs of staff appeared before committees to testify on Clinton-era scandals or were deposed under oath.
Shorter Wiesman and Kane: Bush lied when he insistent that his current offer would grant Congress "unprecedented" access to his staff.

Got to be careful around the word "unprecedented" which implies an assertion of fact. Bush should have used a vague word like "marvelous", "wonderful", "fantastic" or maybe "fantabulous."

and

"There's a big difference between 'We want to hear from people about why they're not able to pursue criminal wrongdoing' and 'We just want to hire and fire whoever we want to, and such personnel decisions are our business,' " said Mark Corallo, a top aide to the Government Reform and Oversight Committee during the Clinton years.

Philip Schiliro, Waxman's chief of staff, said the Republican-controlled committee was not that restrained. In one incident, he said, then-White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles was deposed on his knowledge of Clinton's holiday-card list.

ouch. Schiliro's example is brilliant. I, being ignorant and verbose, would have argued that the personnel decisions involve recent legislation recently re-written without the knowledge of any legislator, that the Constitution clearly denies the President the authority to "hire ... whomever we want to" contrast with

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
Sure doesn't sound like the original intent was to imply that the executive branch has the authority to "to hire and fire whoever we want to, and such personnel decisions are our business." Maybe Mr Corallo should, you know, read the document before advising the Government Reform and Oversight Committee.

I would also add that, the judiciary committee is investigating obvious perjury, which is a crime.
I would finally note that the judiciary committee doesn't need to " hear from people about why they're not able to pursue criminal wrongdoing," since it knows that they can't because they were fired in the middle of the investigation. They could expand their hearings to oversee investigations which haven't given the result they want, as the Republicans did, but that would be a radical increase in their aggressiveness.

The bored reader who get's this far will certainly agree with me that it's a good thing Schiliro's on the job and not me.
Other Shoe Drops

The more alert commentators on the Pearl Harbor Day Massacre (that is to say TPM and TPM Muckraker) predicted that the real scandal wouldn't be the firing of the few prosecutors who didn't play ball (and could be fired) but the cases in which political meddling was successful.

Sharon Y. Eubanks said Bush loyalists in Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's office ... instructed her to tell key witnesses to change their testimony.


oh my. I wasn't born yesterday and I know that expert witnesses don't express their totally frank personal opinions, but rather are guided by lawyers. However, the intervention by political appointees makes it hard to believe that the changes in sworn testimony were based on a sincere re-evaluation of the facts. It seems clear to me that political appointees should over rule career prosecutors it they think that their request for damages are eccessive and should write the closing arguments. That is policy being decided via elections. However, once testimony is in the court record, asking witnesses to change it seems different, almost like suborning perjury.

Only one of the three appointees replied to the post. He figured that he would play the MSM game and quote an anonymous source

McCallum, who is now the U.S. ambassador to Australia, said in an interview yesterday that congressional claims of political interference were rejected by the OPR investigation, for which Eubanks was questioned. He said that there was a legitimate disagreement between Eubanks and some career lawyers in the racketeering division about key strategy
Odd that he didn't say who those career lawyers might be. Certainly not the only other career lawyer named in the article Eubanks' deputy Stephen Brody who

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 refused to lower the amount.

I trust this is just the beginning. Given the amount of trouble the Bush DOJ has gotten from Bush appointees who serve at the Presidents pleasure and only began talking when they were gratuitously insulted, imagine what career civil servants are going to say. I'm trying and I am engjoying it very very much.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Blogosphere Challenges the MSM in arithmetic impairment.

Below see the ap seems to have reached Donald Luskin's level of understanding of inflation adjustment (concluding that US spending on the war in Vietnam reached 14% of US GDP by dividing spending in 2007 dollars by nominal GDP).

Now Rachel Sklar of The Huffington Post reports that the number of seats in the White House Briefing room has been reduced from 48 to 49

Woo-hoo! It's a happy St. Patrick's Day indeed for Helen Thomas, who was just officially re-awarded her front row seat in the White House Briefing Room after it had been rudely snatched away last month, owing to the combination of fewer seats in the newly-refurbished briefing room (7 seats per rows for 7 rows instead of 6 seats per row for 8 rows)
Keep up the good work bloggers we have a ways to go.
Unbelievable

Via Sadly No it looks like Donald Luskin got a new job at the ap where someone divided spending in 2007 dollars by GDP in 1960 something dollars to conclude that US spending on the war in Vietnam peaked at 14% of GDP. Looks like of the Steven M. Kosiak of the The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, may be challenging Lusking for the title of the world's stupidest man.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Fascinating Stuff in this Newsweek Poll

32 % of Republicans "favor ... Congressional legislation that would require the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by the fall of 2008?." When will Democrats in Congress will be bold enough to place themselves left of the Republican center. When will pigs fly.

63% of Americans claim they are willing to vote for a Gay President ! I don't believe them, but I am thrilled that the reviled group to which I belong (atheists) is opening up a big lead in the most hated contest (my little sister once asked how I could stand to be an upper middle class white American man saying "at least I'm a woman").

However, only 59% of Americans are willing to vote for a presidential candidate who is a strong supporter of gay marriage. Odd.

Newsweek also looks at a new group "Evangelical Republicans" (also known as "the base")

As is widely noted, they are more likely to be divorced than are other Americans. Ha.
A really impressive thing is that only 3% of evangelical republicans are unwilling to vote for a divorced candidate and only 8% are unwilling to vote for a multiply divorced candidate (great news for Rudy). Finally, and this is absolutely wonderfully honest, when asked "

20. If a presidential candidate talks about upholding traditional family values, are you less likely to believe them if they have been divorced themselves, or doesn’t it make much difference to you?"only 28% say "less likely". Hypocrisy is the new official religion.

The divorce results show that Americans and especially evangelical Republicans feel the need to protect the family from gay marriage but don't seem to mind divorce much. I always considered the increase in divorce (and never marrying the other parent of your children) the family crisis pretty much by defnition. It seems to me that protecting family values doesn't have much to do with protecting families.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Personal Income and Capital Gains

When one attempts to measure inequality, one faces the problem that much of the income of the very rich is disguised as capital gains and the deeper problem that the variable of interest is income plus capital gains and not income or even income plus realised capital gains. At least one faces this problem if one is Emmanuel Saez

A standard approach to this problem is to report the distribution of income excluding capital gains and the distribution of income plus realised capital gains. I have a suggestion for a third calculation.

The problem with using income excluding capital gains is illustrated by the fact that total personal income is not equal to national income. National income (net national product) is the sum of personal income and retained earnings, corporate income which is not distributed as dividends. In theory retained (reinvested) profits should show up as capital gains to shareholders. In (simplistic) theory realised capital gains should be a moving average of capital gains obtained year by year. In practice, the stock market bounces up and down insanely and realisations are, in the short run, extremely sensitive to changes in the tax code.

I think that there is a simple way to assign retained earnings to individuals which is crude but might be useful. There are aggregate data on dividends paid and retained earnings giving an aggregate dividend payout ratio. The inverse is the ratio of corporate income to dividends.
There are individual data on dividends received. Why not just divide dividends received by the dividend payout ratio. This will give dividend income plus the corresponding share of retained earnings owned as a shareholder. If there were not systematic differences in the dividend payout ratio of firms whose shares are owned by high and low income people, this will work fine. There are such systematic differences of course, but I doubt that they are huge (basically I guess that almost all dividends which are paid to individuals are paid to individuals whose income reaches the top bracket).

This is a way to immunise estimates of the upper tail of the income distributions to changes in dividend payout without infecting the estimates with vulnerability to irrational exuberance.

Now another huge difference between true income and reported income is due to tax shelters in which overstated depreciation of structures hides true income and then when the structure is sold the hidden income appears as a capital gain. The amount of this activity fluctuated enormously. It was large. When accelerated depreciation was introduced in 1981 (effective 1982 on) it became huge, when tax rates were cut and the practice was specifically banned in 1986 (I think) the amount of old fashion tax sheltering declined sharply.

The period after tax reform shows a huge spike in reported personal income of the richest 1%
This is hard to correct. First for an estimate of aggregate income hidden I would look at total depreciation minus a guess of true depreciation. I would assign it proportional to capital gains (which is just a total silly rough rule of thumb cause I can't think of anything better).

I would guess that true inequality increased even more than inequality of reported personal income in the period 1979-1986 as increasingly massive amounts were hidden from the IRS n this period. Similarly, I would guess that the huge increase in the share of the top 1% from 86 through 89 is largely the effect of a reduction in such sheltering.
I do not have a policy of linking to every post at www.samefacts.com Really

Mark Kleiman asks

"If a politician puts pressure on a prosecutor not to pursue a case, that's pretty clearly obstruction of justice. But what about the reverse: where a politician puts pressure on a prosecutor to pursue a non-case, or to indict by some arbitrary date?"

He wonders if 8-gate "injures any such officer, magistrate judge, or other committing magistrate in his person or property on account of the performance of his official duties"
asking "Is getting someone fired from his job "injuring" him in his "person or property"?"

I am quite sure that firing is generally not considered injuring in the USA (it ranks as a much more severe injury than say 6 weeks detention without trial in Italy). The US attorneys don't get their paycheck, but they have more free time. Under US law that is generally considered a fair deal. Worse, there is no qualifier to "performance" such as "proper performance" or "due performance". Thus the law would ban firing US attorneys for "performance related issues" (as claimed by McNulty). Clearly we have a non starter here.

However, it seems to me clear that pressing an attorney to"pursue a non-case, or to indict by some arbitrary date" is abstruction of justice. To me the magic word is "influences" in

"or by any threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice,"
which logically implies that " any threatening letter or communication, [that] influences,or endeavors to influence, the due administration of justice" constitutes obstruction of justice.

The inclusion of "influences" in addition to "obstructs" and "impedes" seems designed to make sure that pressure for excessive or misdirected zeal is as clearly banned as pressure for undue forebearance.

I'd say that, by the text of the law, Domenici, Wilson and Doc Hasting's chief of staff are nailed.

Don't know anything about precedents though.
The final scene of Animal Farm really has [2] legs [better]

How does Michael O'Hare manage to link "Animal Farm" and "Murder in the Cathedral" without getting something absurd like "Animal Cathedral " or "Murder in the Farm "?

Ah what a lovely post. Everyone must believe in the dialectic when reading a post like that.

I clock 2 references to Confucius and 2 references to Orwell in 3 posts in Samefacts.

Anyone want to bet on who is the most quoted thinker in Samefacts (I suspect it is a certain rabbi of the school of Hillel (and wouldn't it be embarassing to have the same favorite thinker as W) but maybe Thomas Schelling passed Him when he got the Nobel prize).
Neocons Reject Marx

Now we know why the original neocons abandoned Marx. They reject the notion that religion is the opium of the masses. They believe that religion is the crack of the masses

Irving Kristol (Himmelfarb's husband) has written in the past about the need to exploit religious and moral concepts in order to manipulate the masses, and his intellectual North Star, Leo Strauss, has advocated -- as Strauss scholar Shadia Drury documented -- that "those in power must invent noble lies and pious frauds to keep the people in the stupor for which they are supremely fit" -- a view Kristol has endorsed. One can see that dynamic powerfully at work in the interaction between these neoconservatives and the President. They have seized upon the President's evangelical fervor and equated his "calling" to wage war for Good in the world with the neoconservative agenda of endless wars in the Middle East.
I am not suggesting that the President still uses cocaine. He has clearly moved on the the really strong stuff.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I Don't Understand Mark Kleiman's Personal Relationship with Religion

update: but I think he is very very smart and very very thoughtful.

In this post, he writes

But of course we atheists are different, right? We don't think people are going to Hell for not disbelieving the same things we disbelieve, so we have no particular reason to persecute. As a result, Evangelical Christians in, let's say, academia, don't find themselves forced into a closet.
OK so he is an Atheist. So what the Hell (sorry mythical realm in which persons of various religions falsely believe that the (non-existent) immortal souls of sinners are punished) is he doing taking notes for "the UCLA Faculty Tanakh Study Group, which has renamed itself in honor of the late Jack Hirshleifer"* which is working through The Book at the rate of one chapter a week ? I mean I can see how an atheist eaget to understand Israeli politics might read The Book at that rate, but any atheist trying to understand US fundamentalists (for example) would quickly catch on that, on average, they have read about as much of The Book as I have.

And if he is so expert on Judaism what is this "You happen to be an observant Christian or Jew, and consequently you customarily say a prayer of thanks before eating. " In my experience, observant Jews say a prayer *after* eating.

Still his point is absolutely valid. In most contexts, a once traditional level of religious observance is considered weird, and the tradtionally religious either apologise for their eccentricity or violate their traditions. I learned of the prayer of thanks made after eating while eating dinner at the house of an observant Jewish couple. I and other guests had known the wife at work and lunch for years, and she had always hidden this religiously mandated behavior (and this was at MIT!) . Even in their own home, they explained with a mixture of apology and defensiveness.

The belief of the devout that they are marginalised is not as well founded as the corresponding (rarer) belief among atheists, but it is not unfounded.

This, however, is just silly "we'd do better in taking the motes out of Jerry Falwell's eyes if we'd take the beam out of our own eyes first." Now one might reasonably argue that "we'd do better in taking the beam out of Jerry Falwell's eyes if we'd take the motes out of our own eyes first," but I don't think many atheists blamed the Southern Baptists for 9/11.

update continued: I am responding to comments which I think criticize Kleiman much much too harshly.
I read samefact.com religiously and mainly resent this Tahakh business, because I think that Prof. Kleiman is wasting extremely valuable time which he could use to blog more. Also on the specific issue, I agree that people who think the bible is inerrant (I'm not a theologian but I think that means "true") believe correctly that the elite sneers at them, that they are very touchy about this and that such sneering is not only politically incorrect, it is a mistake. Saying vague nice things about religion and Jesus Christ and using that majority of Christ's teachings which were more than 1980 years ahead of his time and are still shockingly radically progressive is a good way to deal with this resentment.

As Kevin Drum says, if we have to say Gays are inferior to get their votes, well we will just have to do without their votes, but surely we can say "blessed are the meak" and "do unto others as you would be done to"(without crediting Hillel cause after 1980 years the statute of limitations for plagiarism has run out). By the way, Barack Obama better not recite the sermon on the mount in the original Aramaic or he will sound like a megalomaniac.

I am and have always been an atheist as are my parents (who, by the way, exemplify the Christian virtues better than anyone I know and therefore better than any Christian I know). However, I have a view much more radical than those expressed by Kleiman. I don't follow Christ and I don't agree with many things he said, for one thing I am not an absolute pacifist, for another I do not believe that the truth will set us free. I think that truth is over rated. I think it is better to believe in a purpose which caused the universe and life after death than to believe what I am sure is the truth. This belief that mistaken beliefs are often better than true beliefs is dangerous and can cause mental conniptions, which, if I am not mistaken, had a lot to do with the origen* of pragmatist philosophy (which I admire in ignorance) and the neocon game (see post above).

* This was a typo but I decided not to correct it, to remind myself of the case of Origen who shows that religious belief can go waaaaay to far "but the primitive church was filled with a great number of persons of either sex, who had devoted themselves to the profession of perpetual chastity. A few of these, among whom we may reckon the learned Origen, judged it the most prudent to disarm the tempter" Ouch.

Sorry Professor Kleiman. I tried to be respectful. It was a typo. The devil made me do it (or would have if there were a devil).

update 2: I see I am more extreme that Kleiman in my willingness to snub Hillel

(Back when a certain rabbi of the School of Hillel was preaching up a storm in Galilee, food taboos had some of the same salience that sexual taboos have now. He didn't make himself popular with the local equivalent of the Traditional Values Coalition or Moral Majority when he pointed out that it's not what goes into your mouth that really pollutes you, since it's all going to wind up in the same sewer, but rather what comes out of it: perjury and slander, for example.)

Also when I sold my soul (for well less than 30 pieces of silver) to google adsense I should have realised I had to be careful about posting about religion. The add linked to a site which claimed that the next Pope will be the antichrist in disguise who will try to establish a New World Order
(I thought, hell after Ratzinger the Anti Christ will be an improvement). They seem to think that Bush was in on the scam. Now that even the total nut cases hate Bush, he is in deep trouble.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Is this Norman Rogers guy for real ?

Update: Is the Pope Hindu ?

Very Late update stolen from Talking Points Memo

Look I am deeply deeply embarrassed at how long it took for me to be sure that "Norman Rogers" was spoofing, but, really, the Bush administration is so crazy but so crazy that it is hard to tell what is parody and what is reality (except that reality is typically too extreme to be convincing parody).

Only the best can serve.

You know that former US Attorney John McKay was canned up in Washington state over the much mentioned 'performance problems'. Now one of the three men the White House is considering as his replacement is former Congressman Rick White (R-WA). The only problem, as TPM Reader JK points out, is that White is currently not authorized to practice law in the state. His law license was suspended in 2003 after he forgot to pay his bar fees.

According to the Seattle Times ...

White's license was suspended by the state Supreme Court in August 2003 for failing to pay his bar dues. He was reinstated to the bar in 2005 after paying a small fee, but currently holds an "inactive" status. That means he can not practice law in Washington until he pays his full bar dues, about $390, and demonstrates that he is current on required Continuing Legal Education classes, said Washington State Bar spokeswoman Judy Berrett.

So it's basically onward and upward with meritocracy.

-- Josh Marshall

I'm over at Political Animal reading comments on the post that links to this blog and I run into a strange character who uses the screen name "Norman Rogers." He mostly seems to be there to argue with Kevin Drum and other commenters. Often this is called trolling but I don't think that is fair. To Debate a large group of people who disagree with you seems to me to be a courageous contribution to ending ideological segregation, making people think, debate, democracy and lots of good stuff (not like I'm commenting on LGF or anything).

On the other hand, maybe "Norman Rogers" is a total spoof parody of a Republican invented to slander the Bush White House he (or she or they) wrote

"What I am interested in this morning are the names of the other lawyers
who Sampson and Miers wanted to appoint. We know Tim Griffin. Who were the
others? Where they political operatives?"

Even though I am
not a lawyer, I was approached in 2004 with
the prospect of being the US
Attorney for New Hampshire. [I am a Bush Pioneer,
Ranger level three, having
raised slightly more than $176,000 from 1999 to 2004]
At the time,
I told my good friend Harriet Miers that I had other
obligations. Not only
was I knee-deep in personal problems, but that my request
for a pardon for
violating several SEC laws in the mid-1990s was still being
processed and I
did not want to have to answer questions from local reporters.
The local
media in the Northeast does not roll over and suck eggs quite as
obediently
as the Washington Press Corps, in case anyone did not already
know.
This
"scandal" is nothing more than a tempest being brewed in a teapot
made by
the liberal media. How convenient that, not five minutes after you
howled
for the head of the innocent Mr. Libby and got it that you liberals found
yourselves with the basic ingredients to whip up another non-scandal to keep
your palpitating little hearts all aflutter.
What's next? Are you going
to
insinuate that the Secretary of State signed a treaty with the Oneida
Indians
without first getting the Senate to debate the treaty for 24
hours?
Bah!

Posted by: Norman Rogers
on March 13, 2007 at 9:22 AM PERMALINK

Now it seems to me that, if the Bush administration really offered to make a non attorney who happened to have raised tons of money for Bush a US attorney, that would be a bigger scandal than the Pearl Harbor day Purge.

Next comment by Norman Rogers


"'Goodness knows the US Attorney should be a political operative, not an actual, you know, attorney.' Do you have a point? Of course a political appointee is a "political operative."This is not the civil service, you know."

Note that the Supreme Court is also not the civil service. Does Mr Rogers think that Supreme Court Justices are political operatives ? Do I even have to ask, he supports Bush, of course he thinks Supreme Court Justices are political operatives. The rest of his comment is playing dumb, pretending the issue is that Bush appoints Republicans and not that he fires his Republican appointees when they prove insufficiently partisan (and asks non Senators to rewrite bills without the knowledge of any Senator which sure sounds worse than a purge to me).

next

the person who is "out of their mind" is the person who believes Janet Reno
and Jamie Gorelick were "competent."
I believe Mr. Reno (pun intended!)
failed to adequately investigate whether or not China paid for the 1996
re-election of Clinton/Gore. I believe Mr. Reno (I'm hilarious!) will go down as
the greatest fraud and charlatan who ever held the position of Attorney General,
bar none.
Jamie Gorelick? Thanks for the memories, toots.
Bwah hah hah
hah hah hah hah!

Ah yes Clinton Fund raising was not investigated. I read all about it (while Republicans were selling the US to K street and no journalist objected).

I hate to write like John Hinderaker but "Norman Rogers" seems to me more like the nightmare vision of Republican which torments a liberal who smoked to many "hallucinogenic mushrooms"than like a real live Homo sapiens.

All I can say is that I sure hope that "Norman Rogers" is a hoax.

However someone else has a constructive suggestion

"Moderators, You might need to look up this person's IP address for congressional investigators as a potential witness to subpoena. : )Posted by: Apollo 13 on March 13, 2007 at 10:05 AM "

Crawford, we have a problem.

OK my hope that "Norman Rogers" is a hoax is growing

"Moderators, You might need to look up this person's IP address for
congressional investigators as a potential witness to subpoena. : )"

Intimidation will not silence me! I am a Republican, sir! I cannot be killed,
I cannot be moderated and I cannot be silenced!
This is outrageous! So
typical of you crazy, drooling lefties to try to moderate away the voice of
reason.
Where is the thanks and the appreciation that I so richly deserve
for
pointing things out to you?Posted by: Norman Rogers

OK never mind.

Mr. Jay:
"B. Bringing any charges of anything against anybody in this
admin. despite four years of incessant whining on all of the illegalities.
"
Sir, please do not bait the liberals. They will cite the convictions of Mr.
Safavian and Mr. Libby, and a whole host of other embarrassments to refute you.
A better point to have made would be to say that "no one has indicted the Vice
President for anything as of noon today."

Thanks Norman you had me going there for a while. I should have known that to be a Bush Rander level III, you have to raise over $ 180,000. Pardon my ignorance.

"I was never asked, actually. But had I been asked, my numerous personal problems and my felony convictions would probably have precluded me from accepting the Presidency of Iraq (interim, of course.)"

oh. my. God. get this man his own blog.

and finally


"I'm officially nominating Norman for a Webbie in the category of Best Parody Troll.Posted by: Disputo on March 13, 2007 at 11:29 AM PERMALINK "

I second the nomination

Wapo Censors Wapo


We got a live one.

Update 3: New Blogger Censors Waldmann. Click to get to the main page of my blog
(or click on Main hidden over on your left). I have recently switched to new blogger and the link to "archives" is not working. Arg I'm trapped in a Political Animal Stampede and none of you wonderful people are a click away from my much older posts.

Kevin Drum quotes the post story as follows

The documents also provide new details about the case of [Tim] Griffin, a former Rove aide and Republican National Committee researcher who was named interim U.S. attorney in Little Rock in December.

E-mails show that Justice officials discussed bypassing the two Democratic senators in Arkansas, who normally would have had input into the appointment, as early as last August. By mid-December, Sampson was suggesting that Gonzales exercise his newfound appointment authority to put Griffin in place until the end of Bush's term.

"There is some risk that we'll lose the authority, but if we don't ever exercise it then what's the point of having it?" Sampson wrote to a White House aide. "(I'm not 100 percent sure that Tim was the guy on which to test drive this authority, but know that getting him appointed was important to Harriet, Karl etc.)".

over at the current version of the story I get a different last paragraph

"[I]f we don't ever exercise it then what's the point of having it?" Sampson wrote to a White House aide.
and then nothing about Harriet, Karl and etc. I have a screen shot of the edited version.

This shows that the Washington Post chose to delete solid information damaging to Harriet, Karl and etc. No doubt because etc. made a plausible denial.

update: I have now thought of a more plausible explanation. Did a copy editor was outraged by Mr Sampson's eccentric punctuation and decided it could not be printed in the Wshington Post even inside quotation marks ?!.:.

Update II: A Political Animal Stampede !!! Welcome fellow readers of Kevin Drum.
Seriously Folks

8-gate is no laughing matter. Obviously sensible people should go to Josh Marshall who (with his admirable junior associates like Kiel and Rood) has outpaced, surpassed and lapped the whole MSM leaving them in the dust and showing them how to do their jobs.


However, I was struck by this

In September, Sampson produced another list of firing candidates, [snip]

Iglesias, the New Mexico prosecutor, was not on that list. Justice officials said Sampson added him in October, based in part on complaints from Sen. Pete V. Domenici and other New Mexico Republicans that he was not prosecuting enough voter-fraud cases.
Recall Iglesias had a very unpleasant (and improper) phone conversation with Domenici in October. Here is proof beyong reasonable doubt that he was fired because Domenici decided he should be fired around the time of that call. I don't see how Domenici avoids censure on this one.
The Overblown Personel Matter needs a snappy name. I like "8-gate", but "the Pearl Harbor Day Massacre" isn't bad either.

This is huge. Basically, it is now known that the Attorney General committed perjury. I'm sure the Justice Department with investigate without fear or favor. We sure don't want a special prosecutor do we. More importantly, it is now proven that the Bush administration attempted to distort (subvert) justice for partisan gain. This is no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention (and not just to this particular scandal).

My most favoritest bit in the article is this

"Bush 'believes informally he may have mentioned it to the AG during the meeting discussing other matters,' Perino said. "

This is a totally new to me usage of "informally". I try not to be stuffy here, so I write informally, but, not being a guy with whom one would want to drink a beer like the President, I haven't attained the ability to believe informally. Let me work on it.

yes did it.

I believe informally that "believes informally" can be translated into English as follows "Our current line is that Bush may have mentioned it to the AG, but we reserve the right to change that fact to fit our policy once we figure out how we are going to try to wriggle out of this one."

I still don't know what absolute rock hard proof exists that forced Bush to admit that he may have mentioned it to the AG. He has followed the example of Richard Nixon religiously, so maybe he had a tape recorder running or something.

This is wonderful too

"Tasia Scolinos ... said the department still believes the firings were 'based on performance-related considerations.'" I wonder how long it will be until they get to "preformance-related program activities". To be fair an intollerably non-partisan application of the law is a "performance-related" issue, so Scolinos is telling the truth.

"To lose is always painful, but to lose to those buffoons is humiliating" -- Antonello Solinas

Monday, March 12, 2007

Arguing with a Commenter Commenting on Matthew Yglesias who is more than half as old as I am.


So the folks who track those freedom index doo-hickies and say Russia is becoming less democratic, they're making it up? I haven't followed this super-closely, but to me, it seems like a lot more journalists have been shut down, put in jail, etc., than under Yeltsin.

There's also the fact that in the early '90s, Russia was not very democratic, but it was moving in the right direction -- it was way, way more democratic than it had ever been before. Things are only slightly worse now, but the place is, as they say, backsliding. Things are moving in the wrong direction.

Posted by: too many steves on March 12, 2007 09:57 AM

Dear Too Many Steves
You ask
"So the folks who track those freedom index doo-hickies and say Russia is becoming less democratic, they're making it up?"
You should examine "those folks" a bit before declaring their index to be authoratative. For example you might find out
who they are. They are "Freedom House." Yglesias's claim is not that the index is completely made up, but that it is
distorted so that Pro US governments are given better ratings than anti US governments even if they are equally (un)democratic.

The fact is that "the folks" changed during the 80s. The original leader of the team that made the political rights index
(Raymond Gastil iirc) came to a parting of the ways with Freedom House (that is decided to spend more time with his family)
immediately after he refused to declare El Salvador a democracy (remember death squads and such). The claim that Freedom
House is a perpatrator of the equivocation between "Pro US" and "Democratic" is not paranoid, it is, more or less, an
established fact. I might be wrong about Freedom House, but you should, at least, know who you are citing as an unbiased
authority.

You say
"There's also the fact that in the early '90s, Russia was not very democratic,
but it was moving in the right direction -- it was way, way more democratic than it had ever been before."
However the Yeltsin administrations lasted a while, so it is not obvious (as you seem to assume) that the direction Russia
was moving was the same throughout. My perception is that Yeltsin's first election (president of Russia then still part of
the USSR) was a great step forward towards Democracy and that the end of the USSR made Russia a democracy for the first time ever.
this was moving in the right direction. However, the direction changed during Yeltsin's two terms in office with the
shelling of parliament, the use of massive force in Chechenia and general contempt for the rule of law and the division of powers
(not to mention a level of corruption which would make Duke Cunningham blush). To be picky and (I admit) Wiki, Yeltsin
was president until 1999, thus progress in the (very) early 90s is not the latest evidence on his devotion to Democracy.
How was the Yeltsin of 1999 more democratic than the Putin of 2007 ? That is the question.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Reaction and Action

A post in which I criticize the metaphors of Edmund Burke and Brad DeLong and attempt, with some success, to understand the difference between Kali and Christ according to Bush.

Brad Wrote

My problem is that in America today I don't see many conservatives. I see plenty of Bush-apologists. But I don't see very many people who think that the traditions we have inherited deserve respect because they are our traditions.

[snip]

long quote from "Reflections on the Revolution in France"

[snip]

You see, for all that Alan Wolfe is an intolerant wolf in tolerant sheep's clothing in his attack on conservatives for being intolerant, Alan Wolfe is right. Conservativism is at its base a form of intellectual thuggishness: a hitting-one's-adversary-on-the-head with the blackjack of tradition when doing so seems likely to gain one a momentary rhetorical advantage. That warped it at its origin, and warps it today.


You omit the oldest tradition trampled by Bush -- the great write of Habeus Corpus. What would Burke have written if he had heard Alberto Gonzales argue that the writ is not a right ? I can imagine and I regret imagined Burke's racist reference to the Attorney General's "maroonish" complexion.

However, it is quite clear that Burke would agree with Wolfe and DeLong and not with Levy. In fact, I am fairly sure that he would consider a resort to arms necessary to save English traditions in the New World in 2004 as he did not in 1776. That would make him a true conservative and easily more extreme than Ward Churchill. I disagree with imaginary Burke, thinking our traditions strong enough to endure even Bush with no need for desperate measures (just as I chide him for political incorrectness).

I am a bit disappointed that he was a man of the enlightenment enough to not only worship Newton but also take his formulas out of context and pretend that they remained valid when shorn of their meaning "you had that action and counteraction which, in the natural and in the political world, from the reciprocal struggle of discordant powers, draws out the harmony of the universe.." I stand in solidarity (Newtonian concept given a wholly new meaning by Rousseau) with romantic conservatives who denounce such nonsense.

However, while I consider Burke politically incorrect, over sympathetic to revolution and physics worshipping, I'm not sure I buy into your critique. You claim, in effect, that "Conservativism is at its base a form of intellectual thuggishness: a hitting-one's-adversary-on-the-head with the blackjack of tradition when doing so seems likely to gain one a momentary rhetorical advantage. That warped it at its origin, and warps it today" because "[i]t was one of the traditions and institutions of Englishmen that they would conquer, torture, and rob wogs whenever and wherever they were strong enough to do so" yet "[t]hat tradition cut no ice with Edmund Burke"

Odd definition of thuggishness demonstrating it's pressence from excessive respect for "wogs". It is true that the original Thugs were from the Indian subcontinent. However, they did not hit their victims with the Black Jack of tradition but rather choked off debate (and life) with traditional garrots forcing their victims to endure the agony of suffocation. Clearly this has nothing to do with those Americans who claim to be conservatives.