Thursday, November 29, 2007

Follow-up question of the century

In reaction to Scott McClellan's book, where he claimed that five White House officials -- including the president and vice president -- were responsible for McClellan passing incorrect information on the CIA leak case, Dana Perino said:
President Bush" has not and would not knowingly pass false information."
"Ok. Dana, if I may follow up on that: Did Dubya tell you to say that?"

Nah. That won't work. Infinite regress and it's turtles all the way down.

There were two tribes; one whose members always told the truth, one whose members always lied. There's one member of each tribe in front of you. You may ask one of them one question. What do you ask?...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

So good to find a man of principle ... on some things...

The inestimable Digby found this wonderful gem while looking at Hillary Clinton's inexplicable suggestion of bringing Colin Powell into her administration if elected:
Exploiting Clinton's weakness vis-à-vis the armed forces, Powell went public with his opposition to the plan to integrate homosexuals into the military, letting it be known that he might resign over the issue and humiliating Clinton into negotiating with-and all but surrendering to-his own military chiefs.
(original source unknown; see Digby's post)

Yeah, pretty interesting what issue is of such profound national importance it raises Powell's ire to the point he'll resign in protest, eh? My, what strength of character and integrity....

Nice to see a person that knows when to stand up for what is right, and for what is really important. That the stuff he was peddling at the U.N. before the Iraq war was "bullsh*t" wasn't of any earth-shaking consequence (unless you happened to be on the ground in Iraq), and hardly anything to be making a big stink about ... but Gays. In. The. Military!!! Quick, run! Hide the chill'uns....

Granted, Powell's opposition wasn't the only factor in Clinton's acquiescence. And Clinton might have used the moment to make his own "stand on principle" (and still survived).

But the real issue here is what is important enough to Colin Powell to move him to resign (or at least to threaten to).


Monday, November 19, 2007

William Kristol explains the neocon mindset...

William Kristol was kind enough to explain the neocon alternative to "Realpolitik" the other day:

They are sending Deputy Secretary Negroponte over there earlier this weekend. This is the Marcos moment, I think, where we tell our ally, the friendly and decent dictator, that his time has passed.

The problem with these friendly dictators is they end up wanting to hang on, they like being dictators beyond when it is in their country's national interest, and beyond when it is in our interest.

[emphasis mine]

Ummm, "beyond when it is in our interest".... Yes, that could be a problem, I imagine. We certainly want dictators that will promote our interests. And when they don't, and they don't step down ... well, we have another $2 trillion or so and several thousand troops' lives to spare...

Certainly no problem with the many dictators we've supported over the years, such as Marcos, Pinochet, the Shah of Iran, Soeharto, Rios Montt, Park Chung-hee, Saddam Hussein and all the rest we told to go take a hike ... oh, wait.

But this does lay bare the neocon mindset:

Exactly when is it in a "country's national interest" to have a dictator? Let me guess: When that dictator kisses up to 'U.S. interests' so that his country doesn't get turned into a glass parking lot by the United States; I'm sure that binary choice is a no-brainer. Do I win a prize?

And those that might be concerned about the rights of the little people living in those dictatorships can just take a long walk on a short dock. What's their fingernails and testicles compared to our "national interest"?

"[F]riendly and decent dictator", indeed. I thought the accepted term was "benevolent dictator".

(h/t Jonathan Schwarz over at This Modern World)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Lipstick on a ....

Posted by Picasa

"Kiss me. I'm your new Republican Democratic Senator from California" -- DiFi

For reference, paddle-tailed (humpbacked) snapper, Moorea, July 6, 2007, Nikon D70s with twin Ikelite DS-125 strobes, 105mm macro Nikkor lens, 1/60th @ F/11 [click picture for larger image]

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Cronk didn't publish ...

this letter ... but that doesn't mean I can't:

To the Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Senator Feinstein and Sen. Rockefeller are tools of the big
telecommunications providers and do not represent their
constituents, except for perhaps Republicans.

There is no need for retroactive immunity for telecoms. 18
USC § 2511 provides that the attorney general could certify
legality to cooperating telecoms by providing:
a certification in writing ... that no warrant or court
order is required by law, that all statutory
requirements have been met, and that the specified
assistance is required,
Such a certification would protect a company from any
liability. Section 2511 goes on to say:
...No cause of action shall lie in any court against
any provider of wire or electronic communication service,
... in accordance with the terms of a ... certification
under this chapter.
Had such been done, there would be no liability. The
telecom lawyers surely knew this and could have asked for

The telecoms will not be "held hostage to costly
litigation", particularly if they have done no wrong. Much
more, they, as large corporations, certainly have far
greater legal resources than do the plaintiffs and can
certainly shoulder the burden of court proceedings far
better (and longer) than the plaintiffs.

Feinstein's claim that the telecoms could not adequately
"defend themselves in court" is also wrong. If they would
have to disclose "state secrets" to defend themselves, they
(or the government on their behalf) can raise this issue in
a motion for dismissal, and they already have. But the
judge has denied this motion, and is perfectly capable of
preventing disclosure of actual secrets through appropriate
court orders.

Feinstein's suggestion that total damages be limited
ignores the fact that damages are set on a 'per violation'
basis. If there was only a limited snoop (of suspected
and actual terrorists), then the damages will be "limited".
But if the telecoms handed over massive amounts of data
from millions of people, then the damages might be
extensive, but then it becomes more and more clear that
the snoops were massive invasions of privacy of millions
of completely innocent people, and should be punished.

Feinstein's additional suggestion that the appropriate
"remedy" is through an audit of the surveillance program
by the Justice Department's inspector general, is absurd,
of course. This is the administration inspecting itself;
the classic case of the fox watching the hen house.

Arne Langsetmo

What a Pile'O'Cr*p....

So we have the RW "noise machine" Freeping polls so that a blogger that doesn't allow comments on his blog, and a substantial part of whose actual contributions consists of a single word "Heh", wins the "Best Individual Blog" Weblogs award.

As they say, "Heh".....

Thursday, November 08, 2007

"Science" through Internet polling

The global warming denial camp, and the assorted hangers-on of the RW foamer cotillions, Dubya-sycophants, and anyone else on the right that is desperately trying to prevent today's RW from being shown for the eedjits and Neanderthals they are, have come up with a new method of scientific discovery: self-selected Internet polls (h/t to ThinkProgress):

Currently leading the field in the “Best Science Blog” category is a website whose work has gone a long way in furthering anti-scientific interests, the global warming denialist blog Climate Audit.

Climate Audit is run by Stephen McIntyre, a Canadian and “former mining executive” who has become the darling of climate skeptics by challenging the conclusions of Pennsylvania State University climatologist Michael Mann and NASA’s James Hansen.

McIntyre’s criticisms of Mann, which appeared in the non-peer reviewed conservative journal Energy & Environment, have themselves been challenged for “overstat[ing]” their case. Even McIntyre himself has admitted that “the significance of things has been misstated by [Rush] Limbaugh and people like that.”

So if enough people vote this site "Best Science Blog", who can argue that Gore, the Norwegian Storting (who awards the Nobel Peace Prize), the AMPAS, and the thousands of peer-reviewed scientists that have contributed to the IPCC aren't just sadly mistaken?

"Science by controlled public relations" has been perfected by the Dubya maladministration. "Science by unscientific (and Freeped) poll", though, seems to take the cake. An Ig Nobel prize for these folks is indubitably in the offing.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The gummint needs a SpellChecker ... and a LogicChecker

Former U.S. attorney general and barbershop quartet member John Ashcroft, in a wonderful Op/Ed piece in the New York Times, makes a plea for telecom immunity for the wiretapping they were doing without warrants. Little mention is made of the fact that, if the telecoms are haled into court and they are found by a court to have violated the law, then the people in the maladministration that told them that this was just okey-dokey and go ahead and wiretap to your heart's content would also have been violating the law as fellow conspirators ... and that would include ... umm, people in the maladministration like ... umm, Ashcroft....

So let's examine the carcass:
There are many complex and difficult issues associated with these debates, but whether to terminate the huge lawsuits that have been filed against the nation’s major telecommunications carriers accused of cooperating with classified counterterrorism programs is not one of them. Whatever one feels about the underlying intelligence activities or the legal basis on which they were initially established, it would be unfair and contrary to the interests of the United States to allow litigation that tries to hold private telecommunications companies liable for them.
So there's "complex and difficult issues associated with these debates" and reasonable people can disagree, but there's no possible debate on this one point, so don't even argue about whether this immunity should be granted. Wonder why (well, outsidee of the fact I just brought up above) ... let's see:
At the outset, it is critical to understand what the immunity provisions the administration and Congress have negotiated actually do. This is not “blanket immunity,” as it is sometimes caricatured by its opponents. The Senate bill would confer immunity in only two limited circumstances: if the carrier did not do what the plaintiffs claim; or if the carrier did do what the plaintiffs claim but based on explicit assurances from the highest levels of the government that the activities in question were authorized by the president and determined to be lawful.
Typo there, John. Should be:

"[T]he activities in question were purportedly 'authorized' by the president and alleged to be lawful."

If the telecoms "did not do what the plaintiffs claim", then no bill (and no amnesty) is needed. Plaintiffs lose. CivPro 101.

What if the carriers "did do what the plaintiffs claim but based on explicit assurances from the highest levels of the government that the activities in question were [purportedly] authorized by the president and [alleged] to be lawful...."? Hate to say it, but the people that get to "determine[]" lawfulness is the courts. That's their freakin' job and it's been that way ever since even before Marbury v. Madison!!! Not OLC. Not the preznit's consiglieres. Not the very people that wanted the telecoms to do the snooping in the first place. Not to mention that telecoms have their own fleet of lawyers to work out legal compliance issues and the consequences of their actions. And it doesn't take more than a 1L intern to figure out that if the text of the law (say, 50 USC §§ 1809-1810) says it's illegal, and you're subject to criminal and civil penalties for doing it, maybe you shouldn't do it....
Longstanding principles of law hold that an American corporation is entitled to rely on assurances of legality from officials responsible for government activities. The public officials in question might be right or wrong about the advisability or legality of what they are doing, but it is their responsibility, not the company’s, to deal with the consequences if they are wrong.
Ahhh, the "Nürnberg" defence. "Just following orders from on high." If your lawyers tell you 'no problemo', you're off the hook. The Mafia's gonna love that one: "But, your Honour, I was just following legal advice...."

Oh, nevermind.... Ashcroft said "American" ... and "corporation". The rule are different; I forgot....
As a practical matter, in circumstances involving classified intelligence activities, a corporation will typically not know enough about the underlying circumstances and operations to make informed judgments about legality....
There is no exception for "circumstances" in the FISA law as it was. FISA described what could be done in emergency situations (and specified for how long such could be done).
... Moreover, for an initiative like the terrorist surveillance program — which the Office of Legal Counsel made clear was based on the Congressional authorization for the use of military force and the president’s war powers under the Constitution — a telephone company simply has no expertise in the relevant legal issues.
The gummint has failed to advance the "AUMF"/"war powers" theory recently when actually brought into court (and it has been rejected by the courts) in other contexts. Nonetheless, the FISA laws as they existed specified what could be done in the case of actual war ... and what the maladministration asked the telecoms to do was not covered by that FISA provision. And to say that telecoms have "no expertise in the relevant legal issues" is rather insulting ... to the telecoms themselves.

Ashcroft starts spiralling down with weaker and more inane justifications:
One of our nation’s most important comparative advantages over our adversaries is the creativity and robustness of the private sector.
Yes. See, e.g., "Enron".

What's Ashcroft's solution, you might ask? This:
For domestic purposes, proper accountability already exists — through the people’s elected representatives on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. It is through the legislature, not lawsuits, that we as a nation have tried to balance the need to let our intelligence agencies operate in secret, as they must if they are to be effective, and the need to ensure that they do so lawfully.
I see. So, I guess what we need is Congress to pass laws if they think that things aren't being done that aren't right. Ummm, but waiddaminnit, didn't they already do that? Oh, yeah, right, back in 1978, after the last time some Republican preznit tried warrantless spying. So the maladministration ignores the laws, and if Congress objects, they can pass more laws that the maladministration can ignore. Or better yet, Congress can pass laws ... as long as they're laws that just make whatever the maladministration has done legal ex post facto. Works for me.... There's just a lot of people out there that are real silly nowadays with this inane and unworkable suggestion that the maladministration, if it thinks the laws should be different, should ask for Congress to change the laws beforehand (and then agree to abide by whatever Congress agrees to).

Senator Feingold responds (h/t to ThinkProgress).