Too Much GonzalesGate?

JurassicPork of Welcome to Pottersville raises a good point in a post entitled, "Stonewall Jackass Rides Again": why is it the story of the purging of U.S. Attorneys (federal prosecutors) is getting all the media attention when there are so many different scandals, scofflaws, and scary stuff that never sees the light of day?

As I've posted here and at All Things Democrat, I do feel like the GonzalesGate story is a big deal within context. It is NOT, however, an isolated scandal with the GOP which has been about little more than blind ambition, unchecked power and abuse of that power, as well as partisan palaver.

Yet I do see JP's point of view (we Yankees have to stick together).

I will also say that I grow weary of the media only being able to handle one story at a time (and then, none too thoroughly), often leaving out any context of wrong-doing throughout.

Speaking of Opportunistic Health Crises

If yesterday, the news surrounded the announcement by John and Elizabeth Edwards that her breast cancer has metastasized (spread) to her bones, then today's was all about Tony Snow(job)'s disclosure that he was to undergo removal of a tumor. While I have less than zero respect for Snowjob, I do wish him well.

However, I'm feeling less than charitable after watching and listening to the way some of the rightwing responded to Elizabeth Edwards' tale. The (dis)likes of Rush Lamehog... er.. Limpfog... uh HamhogLimbaugh going way out on the metaphorical limb to suggest that the wife of the former senator and current 2008 Democratic race candidate for the 2008 Dem presidential nomination "engineered" this horrific crisis to aid her husband's poll numbers.

Were I a good Bushie, a great Kool-aid carrier for the far rightwing "always on message" agenda like a Rush or an Ann Coulter or a Michelle Malkin, I might ask if Tony suddenly "dreamed up" this surgical procedure simply to distract us from the sympathy extended to Mrs. Edwards, the lies Tony spins each and every day, and the GonzalesGate mess. After all, as one of the not-too-brighty righty bloggers yesterday posted, "The timing is damned convenient, so much so it makes one wonder."

Thankfully, however, neither you nor I is quite possessed of the cold lump of coal of a heart that so much of the "compassionate Christian conservative" right demonstrates. So we can wish Snow better than he delivers himself as water carrier for the Bushies, without looking into bizarre motives.

Say Hello to ...

The New Democracy Project

God only knows that, after 6+ years of the Bush Empire in which the thing that matters LEAST of all is the will of the people, not to mention the laws the rest of us must live by while allowing the Bushies must answer to no one, least of all the edicts of the U.S. Constitution, we truly NEED a new Democracy... one that does not act like an absolute monarchy, an energy company empire, a dictatorship run by the biggest Dick (Cheney) of them all.

While New DOD Chief Wanted to Close It Down, White House Reports Bush Will Likely Never Close Gitmo

This may be just about the ONLY information about Donald Rumsfeld's replacement as Department of Defense secretary, Robert Gates: that in his first few weeks in his new job, he sought to close down the American gulag known as Guantanamo Bay (a/k/a Gitmo) in Cuba.

Yet, as always (the only thing besides completely shredding the English language as he speaks and a complete and utter lack of understanding about history and everything else - odd for an history major at Yale), Bush is making it clear that he will NEVER allow the detention facility to be shut down.

Mind you, we've had more than 2,000 detainees go through there and subjected to truly abusive, torturous, and mind-bending/breaking psy-ops and interrogation techniques yet we have only lodged charges against about 10.

Ten out of more than 2,000. What the hell does that say about the Bushies, especially given their great comfort level with trumping up charges through lies, cooked intelligence, and a steady diet of torture (with the "dressed up" name of "extraordinary rendition")? Certainly, the Pentagon and all these defense contractors have acted as Bush's co-dependent enablers.

Will We Hear From More Whistleblowers In The Matter of GonzalesGate/AttorneyGate?

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT and yes, he's mine) hinted that this may indeed be the case last night during an interview with "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" on MSNBC. Raw Story provides some additional details.

"Rovian Theory", "Public's Right To Know", Obfuscation, With a Side Order of "Executive Overreach"

With GonzalesGate never farther away than Dubya's latest 60-year-old frat boy petulant temper tantrum (and he has those OFTEN), posting on the White House Watch blog at the Washington Post, Dan Froomkin writes:

Why are President Bush's Democratic critics so focused on getting White House political guru Karl Rove's testimony regarding the firing of eight U.S. attorneys?

Because based on Rove's history, the whole thing may well have been his idea -- and may be even more complicated than it initially appeared.

Rovian theory suggests the following: The eight U.S. attorneys were fired not only to purge the Justice Department of some prosecutors who were insufficiently willing to use the power of their offices to attack Democrats and protect Republicans --- but also to install favored people who wouldn't have such scruples.

And, thanks to a provision snuck into law by a Bush administration henchman (who has since been granted a job as -- you guessed it -- a U.S. attorney) there would be none of those pesky safeguards to prevent those jobs going to unqualified hacks.
Pair this up with Dan's blog on Thursday ("The Public's Right to Know"):
The most telling restriction built into the White House offer to make senior aides available for private interviews about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys is that no record of those aides' words would be allowed.

According to the offer, which has been soundly condemned by Democrats, members of Congress investigating the firings could come out of the closed-door, highly circumscribed interviews and say what they thought they heard. But there would be no transcript and no recordings.

White House officials say that the absence of a transcript is absolutely essential -- and is a reflection of their determination not to allow a friendly information-gathering session to take on the trapping of a court proceeding or political theater.

But more significantly, it would deny the public any reliable record of what was said. It would remove the pressure from senior aides, most notably White House political guru Karl Rove, to come clean on their involvement in the firings -- while denying the public an opportunity to assess their veracity.

And it would make Congress a party to keeping important information obscured from the kind of public scrutiny that comes when journalists and bloggers have a chance to untangle the skillful evasions so common to this White House.
Now add to this his post from Wednesday ("Indications of Obfuscation" - now there's a word Bush could never pronounce although he engages in it every minute of every day) for a fuller picture of the whole GonzalesGate WH wheeze of sleaze (if you please):
Among the many lessons of the Scooter Libby trial is this one: That when the White House issues squirrelly statements under fire, the most cynical interpretations may well be the closest to the truth.

So there's really no longer any excuse for letting President Bush get away with carefully parsed denials, hairsplitting and non-answers.

In that spririt, my takeaway from Bush's comments yesterday on the firing of eight U.S. attorneys is that the president may well be aware that his critics are correct -- and that at least some of the prosecutors were ousted because top White House officials felt they had not performed their duties with sufficient loyalty to the Republican Party. He certainly didn't deny it.

Here's the transcript of Bush's comments. Consider his carefully chosen -- and carefully repeated -- response to a question from Deb Riechmann of the Associated Press:
    "Q Mr. President, are you still completely convinced that the administration did not exert any political pressure in the firing of these attorneys?

    "THE PRESIDENT: Deb, there is no indication that anybody did anything improper. And I'm sure Congress has that question. That's why I've put forth a reasonable proposal for people to be comfortable with the decisions and how they were made. Al Gonzales and his team will be testifying. We have made available people on my staff to be interviewed. And we've made an unprecedented number of documents available.
Then Beth Nolan checks in with this on "Executive Overreach" (or, in my own parlance, "Bush's notion he's an Absolute Monarch with a mandate from God"):
The Framers of our Constitution envisioned that in the exercise of their authorities, the two political branches would assert their prerogatives against each other. A process of negotiation and accommodation between the branches is what one would expect. That process isn't elegant, but a push-pull between the branches doesn't necessarily mean that anything is wrong.

What is going wrong today, however, is the take-it-or-leave-it position of the White House. The struggle between Congress and the executive branch over the requested testimony of White House officials regarding the removal of eight U.S. attorneys is playing out in the political arena.

In fact, the political arena is where the contours of these prerogatives are largely shaped, rather than in our courts. While executive privilege is based in constitutional principles of the separation of powers and the authority of the president over the executive branch, and the privilege has been recognized by the Supreme Court, its scope has been largely determined outside the judicial process.

Life In The Bush-Big Brother America: "My National Security Letter Gag Order"

Pundits are great for saying things like "President George W. Bush has never asked Americans to sacrifice anything in these dark and scary times."

But that is simply NOT true. Americans have been required to sign away their freedom and other tenets upon which this nation was founded by ancestors like mine. Time and again, the Bushies prove they cannot accurately assess intelligence and frequently abuse Americans' trust and reasonable expectation of privacy, only to have these same Bushies demand more and more access to our private lives.

With these so-called "National Security Letters" or NSLs, they can snoop wherever and whenever they like; and just the sending of an NSL can make people treat the person being "checked out" quite differently. For example, as in my case, a "friendly inquiry" to a publisher results in lost work because who wants to have to deal with Alberto Gonzales' corrupt Department of (In)Justice?

Here, from the Washington Post, is someone's tale of such a National Security Letter and its attendant gag order. Read it all:

It is the policy of The Washington Post not to publish anonymous pieces. In this case, an exception has been made because the author -- who would have preferred to be named -- is legally prohibited from disclosing his or her identity in connection with receipt of a national security letter. The Post confirmed the legitimacy of this submission by verifying it with the author's attorney and by reviewing publicly available court documents.

The Justice Department's inspector general revealed on March 9 that the FBI has been systematically abusing one of the most controversial provisions of the USA Patriot Act: the expanded power to issue "national security letters." It no doubt surprised most Americans to learn that between 2003 and 2005 the FBI issued more than 140,000 specific demands under this provision -- demands issued without a showing of probable cause or prior judicial approval -- to obtain potentially sensitive information about U.S. citizens and residents. It did not, however, come as any surprise to me.

Three years ago, I received a national security letter (NSL) in my capacity as the president of a small Internet access and consulting business. The letter ordered me to provide sensitive information about one of my clients. There was no indication that a judge had reviewed or approved the letter, and it turned out that none had. The letter came with a gag provision that prohibited me from telling anyone, including my client, that the FBI was seeking this information. Based on the context of the demand -- a context that the FBI still won't let me discuss publicly -- I suspected that the FBI was abusing its power and that the letter sought information to which the FBI was not entitled.

Rather than turn over the information, I contacted lawyers at the American Civil Liberties Union, and in April 2004 I filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the NSL power. I never released the information the FBI sought, and last November the FBI decided that it no longer needs the information anyway. But the FBI still hasn't abandoned the gag order that prevents me from disclosing my experience and concerns with the law or the national security letter that was served on my company. In fact, the government will return to court in the next few weeks to defend the gag orders that are imposed on recipients of these letters.

Living under the gag order has been stressful and surreal. Under the threat of criminal prosecution, I must hide all aspects of my involvement in the case -- including the mere fact that I received an NSL -- from my colleagues, my family and my friends. When I meet with my attorneys I cannot tell my girlfriend where I am going or where I have been. I hide any papers related to the case in a place where she will not look. When clients and friends ask me whether I am the one challenging the constitutionality of the NSL statute, I have no choice but to look them in the eye and lie.

I resent being conscripted as a secret informer for the government and being made to mislead those who are close to me, especially because I have doubts about the legitimacy of the underlying investigation.

The inspector general's report makes clear that NSL gag orders have had even more pernicious effects. Without the gag orders issued on recipients of the letters, it is doubtful that the FBI would have been able to abuse the NSL power the way that it did. Some recipients would have spoken out about perceived abuses, and the FBI's actions would have been subject to some degree of public scrutiny. To be sure, not all recipients would have spoken out; the inspector general's report suggests that large telecom companies have been all too willing to share sensitive data with the agency -- in at least one case, a telecom company gave the FBI even more information than it asked for. But some recipients would have called attention to abuses, and some abuse would have been deterred.

I found it particularly difficult to be silent about my concerns while Congress was debating the reauthorization of the Patriot Act in 2005 and early 2006. If I hadn't been under a gag order, I would have contacted members of Congress to discuss my experiences and to advocate changes in the law. The inspector general's report confirms that Congress lacked a complete picture of the problem during a critical time: Even though the NSL statute requires the director of the FBI to fully inform members of the House and Senate about all requests issued under the statute, the FBI significantly underrepresented the number of NSL requests in 2003, 2004 and 2005, according to the report.

I recognize that there may sometimes be a need for secrecy in certain national security investigations. But I've now been under a broad gag order for three years, and other NSL recipients have been silenced for even longer.
At some point -- a point we passed long ago -- the secrecy itself becomes a threat to our democracy. In the wake of the recent revelations, I believe more strongly than ever that the secrecy surrounding the government's use of the national security letters power is unwarranted and dangerous. I hope that Congress will at last recognize the same thing.

While Bush Tantrums, House Passes Iraq War Spending Bill With Timetable for Troop Withdrawal

You simply can't be surprised that President Bush had his umpteenth tantrum of this week about this bill, hell bent to insist absolutely no one - certainly NOT the American people - should be able to suggest what he should do.

Here's the story from WaPo; you can see how House of Representatives' members voted here.

The House of Representatives today passed a $124 billion emergency spending bill that sets binding benchmarks for progress in Iraq, establishes tough readiness standards for deploying U.S. troops abroad and requires the withdrawal of American combat forces from Iraq by the end of August 2008.

The bill promptly drew a veto threat from President Bush.

After four hours of floor debate yesterday and today, the House approved the bill by a vote of 218 to 212. One lawmaker voted present and three did not vote.

In a brief but sharply worded speech at the White House with several uniformed service members and their families standing behind him, Bush said House Democrats had engaged in "an act of political theater" and "voted to substitute their judgment for that of our military commanders on the ground in Iraq."

Saying that the bill contains "too much pork" and includes restrictions "that would require an army of lawyers to interpret," Bush vowed, "I will veto it if it comes to my desk." He expressed confidence that his veto would be sustained, pointing to the closeness of the vote.

The bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan represents a major challenge to Bush, who opposes any mandates or timetables for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.
Pork is always a given with the House of Reprehensibles; but Bush should talk considering how he squanders money.

British Troops Seized By Iran

The seizure of at least 15 British marines by Iran on charges that they trespassed into Iranian waters is a situation to watch closely. The videotape of the marines sitting in a room, blindfolded, certainly whips up some emotion.

However, we know that both the U.S. and Great Britain have violated Iranian territory (both sea and air) many times in the last few years and some report this has increased significantly over the last several months. Iran has the right to seize ships and sailors who trespass just as the U.S. does on a pretty regular basis.

Before anyone screams and yells about the "horrible treatment" Iran is giving these marines, stop and think what the United States is doing. Our "secret" detainees are tortured, shipped all over the globe, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

I am not exactly into conspiracy theories, but I've watched the Bush Administration socially engineer and lie about so much that I find myself wondering if the Bushies and Tony Blair did not set up a scenario by which Bush can have the war with Iran he seems to want so desperately. When people lie and destroy so much, so often, there is literally nothing you can put past them.

Rat Poison In The Recalled Dog/Cat Pet Food?

[Update: Menu Foods will hold a press conference at 4 PM EDT to discuss the report of rat poison found in the more than 80 labels of cat and dog food they process.]

CNN is reporting that rat poison has been identified in the contaminated pet food recalled by Menu Foods which has sickened and killed far too many cats and dogs over the last three months.

So Much For Our Military Veterans

From Campaign for America's Future (the blog), and like all things Bush, it ain't pretty and it's failing miserably:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales isn't the only Bush cabinet official worrying about his job.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson, deemed "a Brownie situation" by Sen. Claire McCaskill, is also worrying as the Walter Reed scandal continues to unfold.

Trying to get ahead of the knives, Nicholson launched a (wee bit belated) review of 1,400 VA medical facilities, in an attempt to show he's on top of things.

The review was released yesterday, finding more than 1,000 incidents of subpar conditions -- including bug infestations, suicide risks and asbestos.

The spin from Nicholson's crew of hacks? Nothing to worry about!

From the W. Post:
    VA officials said ... that the department's $519 million maintenance budget this year should address the "shortcomings."
    For the moment, let's leave aside the question of whether there actually are sufficient funds available to fix problems.
Nicholson's own argument is, in essence, that while these problems have festered for two years on his watch, he's been sitting on the funds that could have addressed them.
These folks really inspire us to trust them, don't they? ::urp::

And Quite The Challenge It Is, Too

The New York Times on the Iraq vote this week, in an Op/Ed entitled, "Congress' Challenge on Iraq":

The House of Representatives now has a chance to lead the nation toward a wiser, more responsible Iraq policy. It is scheduled to vote this week on whether to impose benchmarks for much-needed political progress on the Iraqi government — and link them to the continued presence of American combat forces. The bill also seeks to lessen the intolerable strains on American forces, requiring President Bush to certify that units are fit for battle before sending any troops to Iraq. Both of these requirements are long overdue. The House should vote yes, by an overwhelming, bipartisan margin.

It is normally the president who provides the leadership for American foreign policy and decides when there needs to be a change of course. But Mr. Bush stubbornly refuses to do either, and the country cannot afford to wait out the rest of his term. Given Mr. Bush’s failure, Congress has a responsibility to do all it can to use Washington’s remaining leverage to try to lessen the chaos that will likely follow an American withdrawal — no matter when it happens — and to ensure that the credibility and readiness of the United States military is preserved.

House Democrats have wisely moved beyond their earlier infatuation with mere deadlines. The benchmarks spelled out in this legislation, which also provides the next round of money for the war, require that the Iraqi government stop shielding and encouraging the Shiite militias that are helping drive the killing. United States and Iraqi security forces must be allowed to pursue all extremists, Shiite and Sunni, disarm sectarian militias and provide “evenhanded security for all Iraqis.”

The benchmarks also require the Iraqi government to take measurable steps toward national reconciliation: equitably distributing oil revenues, opening up more political and economic opportunities to the Sunni minority and amending the constitution to discourage further fragmentation.

The legislation does not settle for more empty promises — from Mr. Bush and the Iraqis. It would require the president to provide Congress, by July, with an initial detailed report on Iraq’s efforts to meet these benchmarks. By October, the Iraqi government would have to complete a specific set of legislative and constitutional steps. Failure to meet these deadlines would trigger the withdrawal of all American combat forces — but not those training Iraqis or fighting Al Qaeda — to be concluded in April 2008. If the benchmarks were met, American combat forces would remain until the fall of 2008.

The measure would also bar sending any unit to Iraq that cannot be certified as fully ready. It sets a reasonable 365-day limit on combat tours for the Army and a shorter 210-day combat tour limit for the Marines. As for how many troops can remain in Iraq — until the House’s deadlines for withdrawal — the legislation imposes no reduction on the level of roughly 132,000 in place at the start of this year.

Critics will complain that the House is doing the Pentagon’s planning. But the Pentagon and Mr. Bush have clearly failed to protect America’s ground forces from the ever more costly effects of extended, accelerated and repeated deployments.

If Iraq’s leaders were truly committed to national reconciliation and reining in their civil war, there would be no need for benchmarks or deadlines. But they are not. If Mr. Bush were willing to grasp Iraq’s horrifying reality, he would be the one imposing benchmarks, timetables and readiness rules. He will not, so Congress must. American troops should not be trapped in the middle of a blood bath that neither Mr. Bush nor Iraq’s leaders have the vision or the will to halt.

Too fricking bad if the White House and Pentagon complains. They've had four-plus years now to get something, anything right yet have failed each and every time to do so. They couldn't be trusted in 2003 and can hardly be trusted now.


Classy, Caring, And Completely Human: Elizabeth Edwards

Words fail me as I keep replaying the words and affect today of Elizabeth Edwards, with her husband John, announcing that her cancer has spread YET she wants her husband to continue his campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination because it's that.

Totally and utterly fake is usually the best thing that can be said about most politicians and their spouses, sporting smiles that freeze their mouths yet never reach their eyes. You know that every single word has been engineered to draw the maximum calculated affect from the audience and that they've probably spent a bundle on marketing and focus groups to refine the message down to a science. You see it with Laura Bush and with Hillary Clinton; you see it also with male pols.

But that is NOT what I got from Mrs. Edwards today. Instead, I saw and heard a very genuine human being expressing most genuine feelings. It left me not just with a wildly heightened great respect for her - the mother of still young children - but also for John himself. When she told us that America needs her husband in a leadership role, I know she meant it with every fiber of her being; not just for blind ambition but for the good of the country.

Of course, Rush Limbaugh and others from the hate-hugging far right immediately attacked her and ridiculed John, coming close to suggesting that the announcement today was a stunt, a ploy to gain sympathy. How sick - truly pathological - is that? Poor Rush wants sympathy for his drug addiction - which I doubt he overcame - but the Edwards, he wants us to think, are so desperate for attention they "conjured up" metastatic breast cancer in a still-young woman.

Elizabeth is amazing. She deserves our respect.

The Blame Bush Game: I Disagree That McCain and Giuliani Play It Well

I find myself seriously disagreeing with the premise in this Op/Ed by Thomas B. Edsall in Thursday's The New York Times, entitled "The Smoke-Filled War Room." I do NOT find that Rudy Giuliani or "Mr. Straight Talk" Senator John McCain make any great effort to blame the failings on the president and the rest of the at-best-incompetent-but-more-likely-treasonous Bush Administration.

Most of the time, "America's Mayor" (gag) and "I'm such a big war hero that I have no problems insisting our troops continue on in Iraq just so I can win the 2008 presidential bid" do nothing but worship at the mismatched socks of the Emperor Bush. What say you?

THE Democratic majority in the House is trying to set policy for the Iraq war by committee — a fractious and divided committee.

If the Democrats really want to play a role in the current Iraq debate, they should take a look at what John McCain and Rudy Giuliani are up to. These two Republican presidential contenders are pinning the blame for the current morass squarely on President Bush, rather than tackling the far more contentious project of how and when to bring the war to an end.

The Democratic leadership, meanwhile, instead of hammering Mr. Bush, has busied itself behind closed doors, producing a toothless, loophole-ridden resolution that showcases the party’s generic antiwar stance while trying to establish troop readiness requirements, benchmarks for Iraqi progress and withdrawal timetables. The resolution — more precisely, a set of deals intended to paper over intraparty factions — is the result of a process better suited to a highway bill than national security.

Paul Krugman: "Don't Cry For Reagan"

Yes, I am very, very late in posting Monday's Paul Krugman, but it's worth the wait (if you haven't already read it. The whole text lies here; I offer a snippet, size large.

As the Bush administration sinks deeper into its multiple quagmires, the personality cult the G.O.P. once built around President Bush has given way to nostalgia for the good old days. The current cover of Time magazine shows a weeping Ronald Reagan, and declares that Republicans “need to reclaim the Reagan legacy.”

But Republicans shouldn’t cry for Ronald Reagan; the truth is, he never left them. There’s no need to reclaim the Reagan legacy: Mr. Bush is what Mr. Reagan would have been given the opportunity.

In 1993 Jonathan Cohn — the author, by the way, of a terrific new book on our dysfunctional health care system — published an article in The American Prospect describing the dire state of the federal government. Changing just a few words in that article makes it read as if it were written in 2007.

Thus, Mr. Cohn described how the Interior Department had been packed with opponents of environmental protection, who “presided over a massive sell-off of federal lands to industry and developers” that “deprived the department of several billion dollars in annual revenue.” Oil leases, anyone?

Meanwhile, privatization had run amok, because “the ranks of public officials necessary to supervise contractors have been so thinned that the putative gains of contracting out have evaporated. Agencies have been left with the worst of both worlds — demoralized and disorganized public officials and unaccountable private contractors.” Holy Halliburton!

Not mentioned in Mr. Cohn’s article, but equally reminiscent of current events, was the state of the Justice Department under Ed Meese, a man who gives Alberto Gonzales and John Mitchell serious competition for the title of worst attorney general ever. The politicization of Justice got so bad that in 1988 six senior officials, all Republicans, including the deputy attorney general and the chief of the criminal division, resigned in protest.

Why is there such a strong family resemblance between the Reagan years and recent events? Mr. Reagan’s administration, like Mr. Bush’s, was run by movement conservatives — people who built their careers by serving the alliance of wealthy individuals, corporate interests and the religious right that took shape in the 1960s and 1970s. And both cronyism and abuse of power are part of the movement conservative package.

In part this is because people whose ideology says that government is always the problem, never the solution, see no point in governing well. So they use political power to reward their friends, rather than find people who will actually do their jobs.
Find the rest at Rozius Unbound.

One Of Gonzales' Purged Federal Prosecutors Speaks Up

David Iglesias, one of the federal prosecutors given the ax by the Bush Administration and U.S. Flunky er... Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, writes in The New York Times' OpEd page "Why I Was Fired", with a (very LARGE) snip below.

WITH this week’s release of more than 3,000 Justice Department e-mail messages about the dismissal of eight federal prosecutors, it seems clear that politics played a role in the ousters.

Of course, as one of the eight, I’ve felt this way for some time. But now that the record is out there in black and white for the rest of the country to see, the argument that we were fired for “performance related” reasons (in the words of Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty) is starting to look more than a little wobbly.

United States attorneys have a long history of being insulated from politics. Although we receive our appointments through the political process (I am a Republican who was recommended by Senator Pete Domenici), we are expected to be apolitical once we are in office. I will never forget John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, telling me during the summer of 2001 that politics should play no role during my tenure. I took that message to heart. Little did I know that I could be fired for not being political.

Politics entered my life with two phone calls that I received last fall, just before the November election. One came from Representative Heather Wilson and the other from Senator Domenici, both Republicans from my state, New Mexico.

Ms. Wilson asked me about sealed indictments pertaining to a politically charged corruption case widely reported in the news media involving local Democrats. Her question instantly put me on guard. Prosecutors may not legally talk about indictments, so I was evasive. Shortly after speaking to Ms. Wilson, I received a call from Senator Domenici at my home. The senator wanted to know whether I was going to file corruption charges — the cases Ms. Wilson had been asking about — before November. When I told him that I didn’t think so, he said, “I am very sorry to hear that,” and the line went dead.

A few weeks after those phone calls, my name was added to a list of United States attorneys who would be asked to resign — even though I had excellent office evaluations, the biggest political corruption prosecutions in New Mexico history, a record number of overall prosecutions and a 95 percent conviction rate. (In one of the documents released this week, I was deemed a “diverse up and comer” in 2004. Two years later I was asked to resign with no reasons given.)

When some of my fired colleagues — Daniel Bogden of Las Vegas; Paul Charlton of Phoenix; H. E. Cummins III of Little Rock, Ark.; Carol Lam of San Diego; and John McKay of Seattle — and I testified before Congress on March 6, a disturbing pattern began to emerge. Not only had we not been insulated from politics, we had apparently been singled out for political reasons. (Among the Justice Department’s released documents is one describing the office of Senator Domenici as being “happy as a clam” that I was fired.)

Uh... D'oh

You know, you're always welcome to point out when I misspell something like say... Gonzales.

My only (two) excuses are that a) I got the spelling from the White House Web site where they have his name spelled incorrectly (although not everywhere, I note now) and b) I went to college with a "two z" Gonzales.

I suppose no harm is done. After all, there is no chance in hell our president could spell his "bestest" 'spanic pal's name either, including the very easy "Al".

And Speaking of "You Can Call Me Al..."

With apologies to Paul Simon and his Graceland album and then, just a warning not to eat while you read this entry because I bet you'll choke when you do:

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says he won't resign because - ::choke:: - he needs to stay in office for the kids. What kids? Yeah, exactly. Maybe the kids who will grow up to become Republican federal prosecutors he can fire purely for partisan punking? [Don't ask me; I'm not Machiavelli NOR a GOP pundit NOR a Bushie. ::shudder::]

Also from Think Progress (click the link to see Gonzales video):

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced this morning: “I’m not going to resign. I’m going to stay focused on protecting our kids.” Speaking before a Project Safe Childhood event, Gonzales told reporters he plans “to go up to the Congress and provide further clarification” about the U.S. Attorney purge, and claimed that his department has been “tremendous in the area of public corruption.”

Gonzales’ declaration that he intends to stay “focused on protecting our kids” comes as he launches a cross-country PR tour to save his job
What an asshole. But then, if he were competent and honest, he would NOT be a Bushie OR have a job with the Bush Administration, would he?

Couched In The Iraq "Surge" Vote Is Very Sweet Deal for American Fuel/Energy Companies

I am massively pissed that the Senate voted today to approve an additional - and whopping! - $122 Billion (we've already spent well more than half a trillion on the war that would pay for itself) for Bush's Iraq "surge" regardless of provisions for a time line for an exit strategy.

But getting too little attention is a part of this bill which HANDS mostly American energy/fuel companies a deal for Iraq oil which will give them an unheard of percentage of profits. I would think that Iraq oil belongs to Iraq and that the Bushies should NOT be able to give it away to Exxon, etc.

From Think Progress on the Iraq "redeployment":

The Senate Appropriations Committee “approved a $122 billion measure Thursday financing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but also calling on President Bush to pull combat troops out of Iraq by next spring. The bill, approved by a voice vote, is similar to one the House began debating Thursday. The White House has threatened to veto the House measure and issued a veto threat against an earlier, similar version of the Senate withdrawal language.”
And once again, the bully monarch Bush demands things go HIS way, or the low way.

My Very Best Wishes For The Edwards Family

I'm very sad to learn that Elizabeth Edwards, wife of 2004 Democratic vice presidential candidate and current 2008 presidential race runner John Edwards, has been diagnosed with a metastatic spread of her 2004-diagnosed breast cancer to her bone (specifically, a rib).

The Edwards family today stated that her cancer is no longer curable (true enough) but can be treated. While some of the GOP pundit sites raced to say this meant John would automatically drop out of his bid for presidency, he has not done so. However, I also imagine this is a very hard decision to make: be there more for his wife and family at this hellish time OR proceed with a purpose, a vision, and a dream the two of them shared for a better United States of America. I do not in any way envy them the necessity of this choice. [Newt Gingrich, however, given his past history, would just divorce his wife so she wouldn't get in the way of his blind ambition - it takes a "great family values American conservative Republican leader like Newt to be such a class act; and before you tell me this is a terrible thing to say, check your history. He's already done it.]

However, I think I speak for most (probably ALL) here when I say that we wish the Edwards family the very best. I spent years working with cancer patients, especially the terminally ill. I know that despite metastases, some go on to lead very full lives for months and even years. I'm sure Elizabeth has the best care possible.

The Times Attacks Bush's "No Under Oath Testimony on GonzalesGate" As "Nasty and Bumbling"

I can hardly disagree. And what about this Nixonian 18-day gap in emails?

In nasty and bumbling comments made at the White House yesterday, President Bush declared that “people just need to hear the truth” about the firing of eight United States attorneys. That’s right. Unfortunately, the deal Mr. Bush offered Congress to make White House officials available for “interviews” did not come close to meeting that standard.

Mr. Bush’s proposal was a formula for hiding the truth, and for protecting the president and his staff from a legitimate inquiry by Congress. Mr. Bush’s idea of openness involved sending White House officials to Congress to answer questions in private, without taking any oath, making a transcript or allowing any follow-up appearances. The people, in other words, would be kept in the dark.

The Democratic leaders were right to reject the offer, despite Mr. Bush’s threat to turn this dispute into a full-blown constitutional confrontation.


Good Night, Larry "Bud" Melman

The man behind one of David Letterman's old semi-regular comic routines back when he was on NBC, Larry "Bud" Melman, has died.

Although the man made the jump over to CBS when Letterman did, "Melman's" character name was changed to "Calvert DeForrest" to avoid a lawsuit by NBC. He didn't appear a lot, however, once Letterman had the new show. I've missed him.

Thank you and good night, Mr. "Melman", wherever you are.

Alternatives To Recalled Pet Foods That Can Kill Your Dogs or Cats

A few folks posting on the issue of the huge and deadly Menu Foods Item Fund pet food recall where many dogs and cats are dying of urinary/renal/kidney failure from a contaminant in some of the major brands of pet food, including IAMS and others, have offered some good information.

First, see Doug's comment points out that "Anger can be good" (and many of us are almost as furious as we are downright scared for the health of our pets who received such food before we learned of the latest recall; there have been MANY pet food recalls of various products in just the past year) and gives excellent links to additional information. Please read it.

Also, while I'm not big on advertising on this blog of any kind, let me point you to a dog food company that takes a far less factory-oriented approach: Robert Abady Dog Food. Rob posted here today and I was favorably impressed by some of the articles there as well as the food selection.

Hallelujah! Conservatives Come Out For Checks & Balances!

(And not a "cold and broken" Hallelujah for a change!)

Ricky Shambles of Cause for Concern brings us this, which indeed I saw but (as he posts) flew beneath my radar nonetheless:

Because of Gonzo and the paper storm, nobody is talking about this. I've grabbed the whole press release from Citizens Party:

March 16, 2007
Contact: Alison McQuade (413) 531 – 8894
Conservatives Unite In Coalition to Defend Civil Liberties, Roll Back Excessive Presidential Power: Leaders in the Conservative Movement to Announce Campaign to Restore Governmental Checks and Balances, Individual Freedoms

WASHINGTON – An alliance of prominent national conservatives will hold a news conference on Tuesday, March 20, to announce the formation of the American Freedom Agenda (AFA), a coalition established to restore checks and balances and civil liberties protections under assault by the Executive Branch. The restoration would bind the current and all future occupants of the White House, irrespective of party affiliation. The group will present a legislative package to restore congressional oversight and habeas corpus, end torture and extraordinary rendition, narrow the President’s authority to designate “enemy combatants,” prevent unconstitutional wiretaps and mail openings, protect journalists from prosecution under the Espionage Act, and more.

They will present a “Freedom Pledge” to all Presidential candidates of both parties to sign, and call for a bipartisan grassroots campaign to protect the vision of the Founding Fathers — that no single branch of government should have excessive power.


Karl Rove Answers His Critics

I love this Jeff Danziger cartoon which applies not just to GonzalezGate but everything this White House does.

Guess When Gonzalez Goes Bye-Bye And Win A Year of Free Ice Cream!

Hey, who (except me, who doesn't like ice cream) would pass up an offer of free (I would assume, the quite premium Ben & Jerry's) ice cream for a whole year?

True Majority, a progressive organization started by Ben & Jerry's founder, Ben Cohen, has initiated a contest that amounts to something of a pool:

The person who correctly guesses WHEN (not if) U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez becomes Gone-Gone-Gonzalez gets that ice cream deal.

Click here to play!

Now this would make for a very sweeeeet ending to GonzalezGate. Sadly, however, the corruption will continue long after the lackluster, bootlicking Gonzalez Goes-Goes-Gone because Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rice, etc will still remain in power.

Spring Birthdays

A happy birthday to reader dudlee and a reminder to another reader, Andrew J. Borden, that I have not forgotten his arrives on Saturday.

Why Don't We Know That Tainted Pet (Dog and Cat) Food Is Nothing New?

[Ed. note: As Ole Blue the Heretic, whose blog is here, notes in comments quite accurately: "The FDA protects large corporations esp. the pharmaceutical companies." Anyone who fails to recognize and accept this truth does so at their own peril.]

I happened to notice that I was getting hits here on the blog from various news sites about the massive pet food recall. Going backward, I noticed something rather interesting and extremely disturbing.

While currently the focus is on potentially contaminated pet food that was manufactured for and distributed by Menu Food Item Fund (check their recall list here) between January and March, there were pet deaths for other labels back LAST year. Many of them, in fact.

Here's a CBS story from December about Diamond Pet Food, for example, and here's the (ever useless *&#&(@#) FDA notice about it for containing something called aflatoxin.

A few things have struck me since I first learned of the recall last Saturday:

  1. Don't EVER believe the FDA is there to protect any of us (goes without saying, right?)
  2. How could these deaths go on so long with still no idea WHAT is in the tainted food that shuts down renal function (most pets are dying of kidney failure/shutdown)?
  3. If a terrorist group wanted to do an excellent "dry run" of how to scare the bejesus out of the American population AND how to contaminate the human food supply, they'd do it first through pet food (and, of course, the Bush Administration would not be interested because these aren't the terrorists that help the energy companies get sweetheart deals - notice they did nothing about the Anthrax Avenger)
  4. Why is the media not paying attention? And they aren't; not much. Now they report 100 dogs dead, for example, when I've heard anecdotal estimates of that many dogs dead in Vermont alonel

Happy Vernal Equinox!

Hey, we've almost made it out of calendar winter (she says while the temperature here is below zero degrees Fahrenheit yet a-fucking-gain).

Nicholas Kristof: "Iran's Operative In The White House"

And oh what a Dick that operative is! Read all of this op/ed at JP's Pottersville, or content yourself with this slab:

If an 18-year-old American soldier were caught slipping obscure military paperwork to Iranian spies, he would be arrested, pilloried in the news media and tossed into prison for years.

But in fact there’s an American who has provided services of incalculably greater value to Iran in recent years. So you have to wonder: Is Dick Cheney an Iranian mole?

Consider that the Bush administration’s first major military intervention was to overthrow Afghanistan’s Taliban regime, Iran’s bitter foe to the east. Then the administration toppled Iran’s even worse enemy to the west, the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq.

You really think that’s just a coincidence? That of all 193 nations in the world, we just happen to topple the two neighboring regimes that Iran despises?

Moreover, consider how our invasion of Iraq went down. The U.S. dismantled Iraq’s army, broke the Baath Party and helped install a pro-Iranian government in Baghdad. If Iran’s ayatollahs had written the script, they couldn’t have done better — so maybe they did write the script ...

We fought Iraq, and Iran won. And that’s just another coincidence?

Or think about broader Bush administration policies in the Middle East. For six years, the White House vigorously backed Israeli hard-liners and refused to engage seriously in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, thus nurturing anti-Americanism and religious fundamentalism. Then last summer, the White House backed Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, which turned Iran’s proxies in Hezbollah into street heroes in much of the Arab world.

Consider also the way the administration has systematically antagonized our former allies in Europe and Asia, undermining chances of a united front to block Iranian development of nuclear weapons. Mr. Cheney may nominally push for sanctions against Iran, but by alienating our allies he makes strong sanctions harder to achieve.

And by condoning torture and extralegal detentions in Guantánamo, the White House antagonized Muslims around the world and made us look like hypocrites when we criticize Arab or Iranian human rights abuses. Take Mr. Cheney’s endorsement of the torture known as waterboarding, which simulates drowning: “It’s a no-brainer for me,” he said. The torturers in Iran’s Evin prison must have cheered. They got a pass as well.

Even at home, Iran’s leaders have been bolstered by President Bush and Mr. Cheney. Iran’s hard-liners are hugely unpopular and the regime is wobbly, but Bush administration policies have inflamed Iranian nationalism and given cover to the hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Find the rest here.


Frank Rich: "The Ides of March 2003"

Frank Rich takes us on a walk down Bush memory lane. ::choke::

Tomorrow night is the fourth anniversary of President Bush’s prime-time address declaring the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In the broad sweep of history, four years is a nanosecond, but in America, where memories are congenitally short, it’s an eternity. That’s why a revisionist history of the White House’s rush to war, much of it written by its initial cheerleaders, has already taken hold. In this exonerating fictionalization of the story, nearly every politician and pundit in Washington was duped by the same “bad intelligence” before the war, and few imagined that the administration would so botch the invasion’s aftermath or that the occupation would go on so long. “If only I had known then what I know now ...” has been the persistent refrain of the war supporters who subsequently disowned the fiasco. But the embarrassing reality is that much of the damning truth about the administration’s case for war and its hubristic expectations for a cakewalk were publicly available before the war, hiding in plain sight, to be seen by anyone who wanted to look.

By the time the ides of March arrived in March 2003, these warning signs were visible on a nearly daily basis. So were the signs that Americans were completely ill prepared for the costs ahead. Iraq was largely anticipated as a distant, mildly disruptive geopolitical video game that would be over in a flash.

Now many of the same leaders who sold the war argue that escalation should be given a chance. This time they’re peddling the new doomsday scenario that any withdrawal timetable will lead to the next 9/11. The question we must ask is: Has history taught us anything in four years?

Here is a chronology of some of the high and low points in the days leading up to the national train wreck whose anniversary we mourn this week [with occasional “where are they now” updates].

March 5, 2003

“I took the Grey Poupon out of my cupboard.”

— Representative Duke Cunningham, Republican of California, on the floor of the House denouncing French opposition to the Iraq war.

[In November 2005, he resigned from Congress and pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from defense contractors. In January 2007, the United States attorney who prosecuted him — Carol Lam, a Bush appointee — was forced to step down for “performance-related” issues by Alberto Gonzales’s Justice Department.]

March 6, 2003

President Bush holds his last prewar news conference. The New York Observer writes that he interchanged Iraq with the attacks of 9/11 eight times, “and eight times he was unchallenged.” The ABC News White House correspondent, Terry Moran, says the Washington press corps was left “looking like zombies.”

March 7, 2003

Appearing before the United Nations Security Council on the same day that the United States and three allies (Britain, Spain and Bulgaria) put forth their resolution demanding that Iraq disarm by March 17, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, reports there is “no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq.”. He adds that documents “which formed the basis for the report of recent uranium transaction between Iraq and Niger are in fact not authentic.” None of the three broadcast networks’ evening newscasts mention his findings.

[In 2005 ElBaradei was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.]
Read the rest here.

Why GonzalezGate/Purging of U.S. Attorneys Matters To Us All

While more Americans are beginning to pay attention to the case of several federal prosecutors with the (In)Justice Department being hand-picked by the Bushies to be fired simply because key people in the White House (namely, Bush, Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, and then presidential attorney-turned-U.S. Attorney General, Alberto Gonzalez) did not feel these prosecutors would "tow" the Republican/Bushie line, I believe the mainstream media is doing a piss poor job of explaining just WHY Americans should care.

True, this is another incidence of great corruption and abuse of power. Sadly, however, and particularly with the Bush Administration, these scandals come faster than your next fast food order.

However, here's what I believe to be the core issue here:

First, yes, the appointment of the U.S. attorneys for 93 different regions that serve under the one U.S. Attorney General is indeed a political appointment. This means they serve at "the will" of the president. However, it is very rare to see these federal prosecutors targeted for removal DURING an administration. Normally, the changeover occurs at the beginning of an administration.

BUT - and here's the core issue - while the federal prosecutors are politically appointed, they are SUPPOSED to operate separately from politics. In other words, they may be there at "the pleasure of the President", but they are supposed to apply the law and conduct investigations fairly, and in a non-partisan matter.

While the Bushies like to say the so-called GonzalezGate is nothing more than any other president does, this is simply NOT true. Aside from Bushie urban legend, there has NEVER been a time - not even on Nixon's watch and you'll recall he FIRED a special prosecutor to try to stop an investigation into his and the GOP's corrupt electoral practices - when a sitting president so far into a two-year-term has decided, "OK, this prosecutor isn't Republican enough" or "this prosecutor won't go after this innocent person just because WE don't like that person."

That's the critical point; what the Bushies sought to do here is make it MUCH easier for the feds to go after ANY ONE OF US purely on partisan palaver. Write something the government doesn't like, get hauled into court. Do something they don't like and WHAM, there you go into federal court.

If we allow the White House and the (In)Justice Department to get away with these actions, we are basically saying, "OK, the political witch hunts can go full tilt."

I don't want that. Do you?

More On The Pet Food Recall And Deaths of Cats and Dogs


The major media is practically ignoring this story, but last weekend's reports of possibly 10 dead pets from presumably tainted food tied to companies producing pet food under the Menu Food manufacturing network) seems like a single molecule on the tip of the iceberg. Since I wrote about it on Saturday, I've heard from literally hundreds of people who say they've either got a sick cat or dog from food on that recall list (usually from kidney damage/renal failure) or a dead pet. On Sunday, I was told that dozens of pets are dead or dying just in one area of Vermont.

Everyone needs to check the recall list at Menu Foods and make certain they do NOT feed their dog or cat food from ANY of the listed products. Check the UPC numbers especially.

If you learn you HAVE already fed your pet any of this potentially contaminated food, contact a vet immediately. I've had a pet die from renal failure, and it's most horrible. Symptoms don't necessarily appear immediately after ingestion. Your vet will likely advise you try to be sure your pet is able to pass urine, is not swollen or tender, is still eating, etc.


On This Anniversary Of Our Invasion of Iraq

"The Daily Show" reminds us of Donald Rumsfeld, then the Defense Secretary, and his comments on February 7, 2003, about five weeks before we invaded:

"This war could last six days, maybe six weeks,
but I certainly doubt it can last six months."