Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Congratulations to Senator Dodd

The public does not seem to have an adequate understanding of the tremendous significance of the FISA bill that was before the Senate the other day. The crux was a provision, included at the choice of Senate majority leader Broken Reid, that would have given blanket immunity to all telecommunications companies that had participated (and are probably still participating) in the probably illegal and possibly un-Constitutional surveillance of American citizens.

President Bush has said that the program is necessary to the security of Americans at home and our troops in Iraq--yet he threatens to veto the bill that funds it if that bill does not contain the immunity provision. So we must conclude that giving big corporations a free pass on criminal wrongdoing is more important to Mr. Bush than the safety of the nation and its troops.

In all this, we should all honor those few Democrats with the fortitude to stand up to the little weasel that Broken Reid is turning out to be (along with a few weasel den-mates like Jay Rockefeller), and especial kudos to Chris Dodd for undertaking an emergency trip to the Senate from Iowa, where he had been campaigning, and for being willing to undergo the great physical and mental strains of a true filibuster.

A crucial point in all this is that Broken Reid severely dissed Dodd and the anti-amnesty Senators by refusing to honor a "hold" Dodd had placed on the bill. If you don't know the informal rules by which the Senate works, you may not fully grasp the immensity of that move, but you'd best believe it's a highly public slap in the face.

Glenn Greenwald at Salon has a good status report on the fight, with links to more good coverage.

You can and should read the roll call for the Senatorial vote (here, a "Nay" is the proper vote). But the ten Senators who stuck up for the right deserve the honor of being individually named:

Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Dodd (D-CT)
Feingold (D-WI)
Harkin (D-IA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Wyden (D-OR)
The other campaigning Democrats sent Dodd their best wishes for success, but could not be stand-up enough to actually go and do something vital to the future of this nation. You'd think they could have put their heads together and said "Look, if we all go, no one loses here, so let's do it." I doubt any one of them would have held out. I mean, that's their job, isn't it? But no.

Recounts, anyone?

The Ohio Secretary of State has rejected a large number of electronic voting machines after they failed a major re-testing program.

While some tests to compromise voting systems took higher levels of sophistication, fairly simple techniques were often successfully deployed.

“To put it in every-day terms, the tools needed to compromise an accurate vote count could be as simple as tampering with the paper audit trail connector or using a magnet and a personal digital assistant,” Secretary Brunner said.

Of course, as many experts have been saying for a long time now, our entire simplistic voting system may nearly as bad as it can be; Newsweek discusses another suggested improvement.

Pardoning "humble Christian men"

Michael Huckabee's padron of killer/rapist Wayne DuMond is something that these days Huckabee tries to shrug off as just one of those mistakes that are made in a governor's busy life. But as Joe Conason puts it over at Salon:
How could anyone believe that he would let a vicious killer and rapist walk free? It is all too believable, if only because Huckabee continued to exercise his powers of clemency and commutation just as foolishly and frivolously for years after he should have learned better from the DuMond mistake. He bestowed those favors on prisoners he happened to meet, on prisoners with personal connections to him or his family, and especially on prisoners recommended to him by pastors whom he happened to know from his own previous career as a Baptist minister and denominational leader. As with DuMond, whose case was pleaded by a preacher named Jay Cole, prisoners guilty of heinous crimes could be washed clean in Huckabee's estimation if a pastor of his acquaintance importuned him. Among the thugs to whom he granted clemency was a robber who had beaten a man to death with a lead pipe. . . .

The pattern could not have been clearer, as described by Arkansas columnist Garrick Feldman, who crusaded against Huckabee's feckless, faith-based clemency and pardon policies. Killers and rapists need not express remorse, as the Green case showed. They need only profess their salvation, "especially if a minister from Huckabee's circle vouches for their jailhouse conversion."

Read the whole thing. Any day now, the other Republicans are going to start smiting Huckabee hip and thigh with this stuff.

Sorting out Bali

The so-called about-face by the U.S. at the Bali climate conference has gotten some press, but what really went down? As an article in Time--not exactly a left-wing rag--put it:
It should be difficult for a country to make the final concession that allows a landmark deal to fall into place, and still appear selfish and churlish — but the U.S. somehow managed to do that. Years of blocking climate action at every turn meant the Bush Administration came into the Bali talks with little public credibility, and while there was a sense before the talks that the U.S. might show flexibility, that hope was quickly dispelled. Throughout the negotiations the U.S. — with help, at least until the last night, from Canada, Australia and Japan — blocked attempts to make climate diplomacy match the urgency of climate science. "The U.S. needed to come in here and build up its credibility," says Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Instead, they just burnished their Darth Vader image."
It was the European Union's surprising demonstration of backbone that finally brought the modest concessions the U.S. did make: Germany in particular issued a threat to boycott upcoming "major emitter' conference", which is the Bush attempt to bypass the Bali path and substitute his own "climate control" scheme. That much egg on its face even this administration couldn't stand, so it caved--a little.

Beavis and Butthead as terrorists

That's the general take on the Liberty City Seven trial, the so-called "terror cell" of which then-U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (remember him?) said that if "left unchecked, these homegrown terrorists may prove to be as dangerous as groups like al-Qaeda."

The jury didn't quite agree: they acquitted one and gave up on the other six. Things that may have influenced the jurors, aside from the childish ineptitude of the dingbats in question, were that the famous warehouse site was in fact paid for by the FBI, and that the defendants moved their operations there at the suggestion of an undercover informant who was also paid by the FBI. The literally ridiculous videotaped swearing-in ceremony (seen by the jury) was led by the informant--who at another point had suggested a plan to bomb FBI offices in Miami. "The case was written, produced and directed by the FBI," defense attorney Albert Levin said in his closing arguments.

And it was. A "big hit" was needed for credibility, so the Feds made one up out of whole cloth, roping in a few imbeciles who couldn't find the sun at noon. Your FBI, in peace and war.

Don't confuse me with facts, I'm conservative

The Washington Post reports that at least 14 states have either notified the federal government that they will no longer be requesting funding for any "abstinence-only" sex-education programs.

The reason is absurdly simple: they do not work.

I don' gotta listen to no stinkin' judge

U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy had ordered the Bush administration in June 2005 to safeguard "all evidence and information regarding the torture, mistreatment, and abuse of detainees now at the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay." They responded by destroying over 200 hours of videotape of detainee interrogations. Now they are telling Kennedy that he has no business looking into that destruction.

If all else fails this lot, they could always open a foundry with their spare brass.

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