Friday, May 25, 2007

More on Torture

Here is a column by Charles C. Krulak, commandant of the Marine Corps from 1995 to 1999, and Joseph P. Hoar, commander in chief of U.S. Central Command from 1991 to 1994, denouncing America's use of torture.

Ed Brayton offers succinct commentary.

Romney and Giuliani's chickenhawkish oneupmanship would be amusing, were it not an awful, awful thing that they are proposing. Nonetheless, The Onion gets a good laugh in. I wish I could leave it at that. Sigh.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Dildo Diaries

I have all but given up on providing commentary on the things I post here. Luckily, this video doesn't require any. It is positively hilarious.

"According to Texas law, you may purchase a dildo if it's used for a 'bona fide medical, psychiatric, judicial, legislative, or law enforcement purpose.'"

I can't quite decide which of those conjures up a more ridiculous image. But I know that if I were a little more skilled in Photoshop, a little more inclined to waste time on inane internet toilet humor, and a little less concerned about this blog someday coming back to haunt my personal and professional ambitions, I would have a lot of fun with these pictures:

The guy who Pelosi is prying the gavel away from is John Boehner. Tee hee.

Anyways, enjoy.

I mean, seriously, you can have a warehouse full of dildos for sale as long as you call them "educational models" or "personal massagers"? It's enough to make you wonder if politicians from Texas are idiots! I can't think of any...

Final note: Blogger's prudish spellcheck doesn't recognize dildo as a word. You of all people(?) should know that, Google! Also, I didn't realize my home town was so dildo-crazy. Not that there's anything wrong with that.


Time to Defend Science

Needless to say, I am appalled that 3 of the 10 Republican candidates openly reject evolution. What bothers me even more is that Chris Matthews, the moderator of that debate, did not follow that revelation with any questions to those who don't believe; he just moved on to the next set of questions. That sort of statement should evoke the same reaction as if they had said the Earth is flat.

The fact that evolution is debated at all is indicative of the state of science (and expertise generally, for that matter) in our country. It gets no respect.

There are myriad examples of scientists being muzzled because their expert opinions are politically or ideologically problematic. I have written about this before and will doubtless do it again, but I would just like to point out that what offends me most is often not the individual cases of science abuse themselves, but the pervasive attitude that it is okay to reject a fact if it is inconvenient. Anyone who cares to know more -- actually anyone, period-- should read The Republican War on Science, by Chris Mooney. It is superbly researched and argued, and is fairly comprehensive on the biggest contemporary issues. More importantly, it is not merely a list of factual allegations, like "X administration cut funding to NIH by Y percent in year Z." Although funding cuts are certainly detrimental to science, Mooney details a far more insidious brand of anti-science: the manufacturing of controversy where none exists.

The opponents of science have realized that they don't have to prove scientists wrong, they need only to muddy the waters sufficiently so that the public is too confused to hold well-informed opinions. Using techniques reminiscent of Nick Nailor in Thank You For Smoking, they have effectively sowed confusion on issues from birth control methods to global warming. Mooney's book is essential reading for anyone who cares about basing decisions on facts, and its value and relevance are not limited to the issues he covers, because it is not simply a debunking or clarification of existing anti-science conflicts. Rather, it is a tremendous case study of the rhetorical ploys and PR strategies used to mislead the lay public.

If you care about science at all, if you think it has any place in public life, you need to read this editorial. It is far better than anything I could write. Perhaps it will convince you to join the movement to defend science.

Below are some comments generated by the editorial linked above in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

I am not a scientist, but I strongly believe in the value of the scientific method and deplore the attempts by our current government to subvert the proofs of science to an imagined view of reality.
--Margaret Meyer, Ramsey County Public Library

Very few things are as important as teaching our children science. It is disheartening that it has become necessary for scientists to defend themselves against those who would replace that which we can test and KNOW to be true with theories that are nothing more then thinly disguised religious agendas. It is science that has saved my life and that of my children. It is science that can show us the true beauty, wonder and richness of all that exists. It is science that provides the hope for our future.
--Kathleen Nelson, Mother of 3

It is becoming evident that enlightened, open minded reflection about the world we live in is not a freedom that, as Americans living in a free society, we should assume will always be a given.
We should expect that open and honest intellectual pursuit of the nature of our existence should not be an activity which would be a threat to personal liberties but history has shown otherwise.
--William L. Pedersen, Hospital Administrator (ret), Minnesota

I look askance on leaders who declaim that they do what they feel is right. We should subject that which we FEEL to the full light of scientific inquiry. Anything less is arrogance.
--Richard Tice, Mdiv, Ret, The United Methodist Church

Also, an excellent essay on a Christian's obligation to spurn intelligent design. Here's the crux:

Joe, evolution is key to crop research, livestock research, and medicine. These are not debates with no stakes. It’s not just philosophy. It’s cancer cures, diabetes treatment and cures, boll weevil eradication, grapefruit farming, wheat breeding, rice enrichment. Every dime spent to advocate ID over evolution is a dime spent against a cure for cancer. Every minute spent advocating ID over evolution before a state school board is a minute spent advocating ignorance.

Under the circumstances, an ethical person of any religious persuasion is being kind in calling ID merely “misguided.” Claiming that ID has the imprimatur of Christianity behind it raises it to the level of abomination. Christianity has no book calling for a triumph of dogma over truth in any enterprise.

You can dismiss Dr. Myers well-formed and accurate criticisms for no legitimate reason. Yes, he’s atheist. It’s a sad day for the church when atheists are leading the way to ethical behavior, and Christians resist. We have a duty to other people to stick to the truth. We have a duty to the integrity of the church not to advocate untruth in the church’s name. We have a duty to God to get the facts right. Pay attention when Myers’ calls the pursuit dishonest — he’s right, and we need to fix it. (original emphasis)


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Great Thoughts on Bad Science

Politically motivated obfuscation, via cherry-picking or other poor experimental design, is a pervasive reality. It often occurs when the flawed work of well-intentioned researchers is misappropriated by someone with a political axe to grind. Sometimes it is more cynical than that. In any case, it is common and important, especially with regard to the always-inflammatory subject of sex education.

Read the whole excellent article.


Monday, May 21, 2007

I'll Have My Chief of Staff Call Your Chief of Staff's Chief of Staff

When I interned at a dotcom, I jokingly referred to myself as "Vice President of QA." I really was second in charge of QA, the joke of course being that our company was slightly over a dozen people, with only half of them on the development side, so being VP of that less-than-illustrious task made the the bottom man of a six-person ladder. Giving yourself an important-sounding title that you don't deserve (or "marketing") is funny when you're eighteen and not getting paid. In fact, I'd say it's an intern's prerogative. I obviously never considered putting my tongue-and-cheek description of my summer's work on a resume.

But there comes a point, let's say at the cabinet level, when titles like that are taken rather seriously. And the people who hold them take themselves far too seriously. And the cost to taxpayers (and I don't mean that in a strictly monetary sense) of having unnecessary VPs of QA dulls the humor. This is what we call "ridiculous."

Al Kamen
breaks it down like so:

It appears that the first Cabinet-level chief of staff showed up at the Department of Health and Human Services in 1981, Light said. The secretary, former Pennsylvania senator Richard Schweiker, recalled that he had long heard of the difficulties of getting things done in big agencies. So he picked his longtime aide on the Hill, David Newhall, and gave him the chief-of-staff title so he would have the power to steer things through an oft-clogged bureaucracy.

From that humble beginning, the chief-of-staff position quickly metastasized so that every Cabinet member now has a chief of staff.

There are 14 Cabinet department chiefs of staff, and 13 of those have deputy chiefs. There are seven chiefs of staff to undersecretaries. There are 10 departments with chiefs of staff to an assistant secretary, and four of those have a deputy chief of staff.

And of the original goal of streamlining the bureaucracy?

The road to hell, my friend...

Read the whole article. There's some stuff about how although the Chiefs used to be appointed by their respective secretaries, they now undergo a vetting from Bush to make sure their loyalty is with the Prez, not necessarily their boss. Cronyistic and Big-brotherish. Too depressing to write about now.

Note: this manifestation of out-of-control bureaucracy began and blossomed under Reagan. Eat it, Norquist!


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Good Point

About why the GOP shouldn't muzzle Ron Paul for breaking with party ranks. Not that it matters. Rush Limbaugh is, for once, right when he says that Ronnie doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell. Sorry.


You Have Got To Be Kidding Me

What is wrong with these people?


Celebrities Are Better Than Other People

It's true. It's science.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

This Bud's For You

Here's to Bud Diesel!

Seriously though, good point.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Break Me Off A Piece

Of that new federally-hated, arbitrarily demonized blight on society, khat. This report breaks it down beautifully, and I love the article's subtitle: "Courts to decide if khat is an illicit drug or more like a double espresso."

Basically, khat is a leaf that is usually chewed to experience its mild stimulant effects. It is native to east Africa and parts of the Arabian peninsula, where its use often plays a social, as well as pharmacological, role. Sound familiar?

According to the article, "[Users] describe the effects as wakefulness, euphoria and talkativeness. Its defenders liken it to coffee drinking in other cultures." Its use in the United States is mostly limited to African immigrants, especially Somalians, which brings undertones of racism and xenophobia to the already-rich blend of bitter puritanism, nutty irrationality, and slightly acidic teetotalism that one detects in this political brew.

Khat (or technically, one of its active ingredients) is currently a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substance Acts, as is heroin.

As you can tell, I think it's much ado about nothing. Here are some quotes from the article:

“There’s no question that it is an extremely expensive fight,” said Eric Sterling, president of the nonprofit Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. “My understanding of the use of khat is that it should be a very low priority for federal law enforcement. … I think these cases are largely a waste of very precious federal criminal justice resources.”

DEA special agent Rodney Benson in Seattle said in a press release announcing the indictments. “This drug has the same dangerous and damaging effects as other drugs and some of the huge profits from the khat trade were being returned overseas.”

But many experts challenge that assertion, noting that khat has been used in social and religious settings in Somalia and surrounding countries for centuries and is legal in the majority of Western countries.

The World Health Organization has studied khat repeatedly over the years, most recently in 2006 when it assessed its health impact as quite modest. It also has concluded that it does not merit international control.

“No one except the U.S. government asserts khat is particularly addictive,” said Bob Burrows, a professor of Middle East politics at the University of Washington, who spent eight years in Yemen, another khat-chewing society.
Women complain that it makes men lazy, sexually impotent and is a waste of scant financial resources.
Yeah, we tried to outlaw a drug like that. Didn't work too well. At all.

Note to reporter: Really? I mean, REALLY? That's reporting? Facts, facts, facts, nuthin but the facts, cold hard facts? Oh well, shame on us both; I took the bait of that irresistible throw-away line.

Note to DEA agent: When you say things like "This drug has the same dangerous and damaging effects as other drugs" without qualification, you look like you don't know anything about drugs. Different drugs have different effects, and that's exactly what this is about; if its effects are like tobacco or coffee, we probably don't need to declare war on it.

Which brings me to my final point: doesn't it look like the DEA borrowed this logic from the people who want to go to war with Iran? "Hey, things are going so well with this war [in Iraq/on drugs], maybe we should expand it [to any place hot, miserable, and Muslim/to tobacco that can't afford a good lobbyist]!" Anyone?


The Dogma of Linux

The Vatican embraces the infallibility of open source! What an interesting corroboration of the tech-geek mantra that Microsoft is the "Great Satan."

Maybe the Holy See will authorize its own version: Episcopal Mitre Linux?
Damn. I was hoping that would be funny.

Check out the interview with the Vatican's webmaster here.

It just goes to show what everyone already knew: Linux and celibacy go hand-in-hand.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

MoveOn Petition for Batiste

This is an email sent to me from MoveOn. Everything below is copied from the email.

Dear MoveOn member,

It took CBS two weeks to fire Don Imus for calling a college women's basketball team "nappy headed hos," but it only took them two days to fire respected retired Major General John Batiste for speaking out against the president on the war.

Batiste, a Republican, commanded troops in Iraq in 2004 and 2005. He left the Army so that he could speak out against the president's reckless policy in Iraq, and CBS hired him as a part-time consultant to comment about it.1 Last week, he appeared in a TV ad speaking out against the president on Iraq. Just two days later, CBS fired him.2

It's censorship, pure and simple. We're aiming to get over 100,000 messages demanding that CBS re-hire Major General John Batiste by the end of the week. Can you take a moment to add your name? Clicking the link below will add your name to the petition.

CBS says they fired Major General Batiste because he engaged in advocacy—but they're holding him to a different standard than their other consultants.

For example, former White House communications director Nicolle Wallace is a consultant to CBS and consistently uses her position to push White House talking points.3 It was even reported that she was advising the McCain campaign, yet CBS did nothing when she appeared as a consultant on their network to promote his candidacy.4

Plus, the Brookings Institution's Michael O'Hanlon also appeared on CBS as a consultant while advocating in favor of President Bush's escalation plan.5

CBS is sending a message that you can't be a consultant to their network if you're critical of President Bush and the Iraq war. That's political censorship and CBS needs to hear groundswell of outrage from concerned viewers right away.

Can you sign the petition demanding that CBS re-hire Major General Batiste?

Major General John Batiste is not the first general to speak out against the president on Iraq. Recently a number of generals and military leaders have spoken out against President Bush's failed policy—including Reagan's former NSA director, General William Odom, Vietnam veteran Major General Mel Montano and another former general from Iraq—retired Major General Paul Eaton.6

These generals must be heard, not censored for speaking the truth.

Thanks for all you do,

–Nita, Noah, Karin, Jennifer and the Political Action Team
Tuesday, May 15th, 2007


1. "Army Career Behind Him, General Speaks Out on Iraq," New York Times, May 13, 2007

2. "CBS fires consultant Gen. Batiste over VoteVets ad; 'We went to war with a fatally flawed strategy'," Raw Story, May 11, 2007

3. "CBS Fires Batiste For Anti-Bush Advocacy, Hires Bush Aide To Engage In Pro-Bush Advocacy," ThinkProgress, May 11, 2007

4. "CBS Has Allowed McCain Campaign Aide To Advocate For McCain On Air." ThinkProgress, May 14, 2007

5. "CBS Fired Antiwar Batiste—But CBS Consultant O'Hanlon Advocated For Surge," Talking Points Memo, May 11, 2007

6. "Generals Express Outrage at Presidential Veto," National Security Network, May 2, 2007

7. Reid: Senate Will Have Opportunity To Speak On Change Of Course In Iraq, Reid Press Release, Monday, May 14, 2007

Support our member-driven organization: Political Action is entirely funded by our 3.2 million members. We have no corporate contributors, no foundation grants, no money from unions. Our tiny staff ensures that small contributions go a long way. If you'd like to support our work, you can give now at:

Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Now That's Funny

A hilarious take on Obama's threat to America from one of my favorite blogs. Here's a piece:

Still I can't help but be impressed by the case you've laid out against Obama. It's absolutely air tight. As you noted in your Monday column, his middle name is Hussein; his father was Muslim; and he's visited Kenya. Obviously, he's an Islamunistofascist masquerading as a Christian.

This knowledge scares the living hell out of me. I'm not ashamed to admit that. Fear is America's greatest ally. It's served us well since the early days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony when witchofascists sought to destroy everything in which we believe. It continues to be a powerful force for good today by providing us with the will to bomb civilians, deny our citizens habeas corpus, and to commit righteous acts of torture.

But how do we respond to this new information about Obama? Being a Senator, it might be hard to justify detaining and torturing him. I suppose we could bomb the people of Illinois since they elected him, but where would the Cubs play and what about Ditka?

Witchofascists. I don't care how awkward it is, I'm using that word in conversation.


Is This the Discipline of the Disciples?

Gen. JC Christian, Patriot, pokes fun at a crazy lady who advocates "Christian Domestic Discipline" as a godly way to run the household.

He then notes that, unfortunately, it's not that funny.

Here is a condemnation of the practice, with specific attention to the idea that is the proper Christian thing to do. Long comment discussion with "Adult Woman," presumably Leah Kelley.

I'm almost speechless.

But not quite: I should note that while many have been quick to condemn or pity her, I encountered the notion that perhaps this is not just a rationalization of abuse (I cannot remember where, or I would cite the original post). It was suggested that CDD could instead be a way for very religious couples with kinky inclinations to square their desires with church teachings. At times, like with the merchandise and frequent admonitions that "this is not for every couple," that seems quite plausible. Elsewhere, not so much. Ultimately, after reading a bit more of her blog, I find that explanation interesting, but unconvincing (at least in her case). The one thing that's clear is that she is deeply conflicted in her loyalties to church, husband, and self, and I think it's pretty sad.

Update: Leah has responded to the fit of attention she has received recently by shrewdly pointing out that "It's okay, I'm a redneck."
This is indeed the best way to assuage fears of domestic abuse. Well played.


Partisan Assholery Goes Virtual

Or did it? This story is pretty old now, and I'm kind of glad I didn't get around to commenting on it soon after it occurred.

I still don't know what to make of Second Life. I have not tried the game and I don't particularly want to, other than out of an intense curiosity about what the fuss is all about. Yet in a way I understand the draw; it's just not the kind of thing that holds any interest for me anymore.

Like many once-exotic subcultures, I suspect its ethos will be assimilated into some other aspect of web culture, and once it is no longer a curio, no one will care too much about it. In short, it's kind of a cultural experiment they will have run its course when the novelty wears off. That or it becomes an integral part of real life. I'm hoping not.

Anyway, it turns out that it wasn't Republicans messing with Edwards. It was just a group of self-styled "e-terrorists," online assholes (griefers) who get their kicks harassing other players. An excellent breakdown of the whole incident, and the motivations of the perpetrators, is here.

I suppose if you must vandalize/ruin other peoples' day/engage in general sociopathy, it's best that you do it in an environment where your victims can literally pull the plug on you when they've had enough. Malcontents of the world, take your disaffection to Second Life.

Anyway, the Wired article has it right:

This is the modern-day equivalent of hippies freaking out the squares. You see countless news stories about this, over and over again: the gray humorless drones of political parties or corporations rushing to establish a presence in Second Life because it's the thing to do, only to find themselves staring directly into the collective of the Internet's soul.
Would-be hipsters, if you want to inhabit a virtual world, be prepared for what that entails. Like many aspects of web culture, SL's greatest allure is also its most awful flaw. The good: It provides a virtual universe in which people can do things that they couldn't/wouldn't ever do in real life. The bad: That's what people go there to do!

And Google it.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Link Dump/Hager's Family Values

I read this piece about David Hager a long time ago, when I was first becoming very concerned with politicization of the FDA via appointments of ideologues to scientific positions. Its is deeply disturbing. I came across it again recently, and decided to post it.

Here's a great read. It's a few quick case studies in the appointment of incompetent, but politically loyal, hacks to important positions in the Iraq reconstruction. Here's a peak:

To pass muster with O'Beirne, a political appointee who screens prospective political appointees for Defense Department posts, applicants didn't need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.

O'Beirne's staff posed blunt questions to some candidates about domestic politics: Did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000? Do you support the way the president is fighting the war on terror? Two people who sought jobs with the U.S. occupation authority said they were even asked their views on Roe v. Wade .

Many of those chosen by O'Beirne's office to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq's government from April 2003 to June 2004, lacked vital skills and experience. A 24-year-old who had never worked in finance -- but had applied for a White House job -- was sent to reopen Baghdad's stock exchange. The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children were tapped to manage Iraq's $13 billion budget, even though they didn't have a background in accounting.

Makes you wonder understand why Iraq is in the shitter.

Time for some comic relief: Al Franken vs. Bob Jones University. Hilarious.


Sunday, May 6, 2007

I Don't Like This Guy

Here's a piece about the $12 million/year Ob/Gyn.

His defense is essentially that "Yall are just haters." But that's not it. It's not his money that I detest, it's his disregard for medical ethics in acquiring his mammon.

One might argue that the very notion of plastic surgery, when performed for purely aesthetic reasons, is not in keeping with the Hippocratic Oath. I won't go there right now, but it's clear that Dr. Matlock's aggressive marketing of his techniques, and worse, his monopolistic control over them, violate these principles:

I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

Medicine is not meant to be proprietary.

A few related points:
An interesting piece on the peculiar economics of healthcare, and where doctors fit in.

A related tidbit.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Study Cries Foul...on the Refs?


Favorite line: "“Basically, it suggests that if you spray-painted one of your starters white, you’d win a few more games,” Mr. Wolfers said."

Subtle. You should really think about running for political office, by which I mean, not talking to reporters any more without your handler manning the electric shock collar that helps keep your foot out of your mouth.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Give Me Back My Country

No comment is necessary, and none could be sufficient. Congressman Rohrabacher, what you say is un-American, pure and simple. Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Franklin, and company would tear you limb from limb and spit on your grave. You are a threat to America, more than violence could ever be. You are a disgrace.

No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices.
-Edward R. Murrow

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine. And remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to associate, to speak, and to defend the causes that were for the moment, unpopular. This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage, and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the results. We proclaim ourselves indeed we are, defenders of freedom where ever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.
-Edward R. Murrow


Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Seedy Gonzales

This post is no longer timely, but I will attempt to finish what I began.

From WaPo:

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's senior counselor yesterday refused to testify in the Senate about her involvement in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Monica M. Goodling, who has taken an indefinite leave of absence, said in a sworn affidavit to the Senate Judiciary Committee that she will "decline to answer any and all questions" about the firings because she faces "a perilous environment in which to testify."

The decision means a senior aide to the nation's top law enforcement official is in the remarkable position of refusing to testify for fear of implicating herself in a crime. Her lawyer portrays the move as strategic and says she has done nothing wrong.

But one of Goodling's lawyers, John Dowd, said in a statement yesterday that "the potential for legal jeopardy for Ms. Goodling from even her most truthful and accurate testimony under these circumstances is very real."

About that last bit...

First of all, which is it? Does she have something to hide or not? Well without going into the facts of the investigation(which look real bad), I'm gonna guess: Yes, she does. That's a pretty reasonable conclusion to draw when anyone, especially a lawyer 1) hires multiple lawyers to protect them, and 2) those lawyers tell different stories. That's mighty suspicious in my book.

More importantly, how could her lawyer say that it's just a strategic move? That should be an outrage! If she's taking the fifth under false pretenses, that's an abuse of the justice system, and isn't that what this is all about?

Granted, it would be impossible to prove perjury in such a case, as the only thing more difficult than proving that she did something wrong would be proving that she didn't do anything wrong (it's literally impossible). That is all the more reason to take it seriously when some lawyer goes around bragging that his client is just gaming the system. In fact, it's exactly what this whole mess is about in the first place: accountability by administration officials for the things they do and say, and say they didn't do, and did but don't remember.

I think the judge should take her lawyer at his word and compel Goodling to testify: "Per your lawyer's statement, you have done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide, therefore you are not entitled to Fifth Amendment protection." That's accountability. If you want to claim the fifth, you don't get to claim a PR victory and go around bragging about how you did nothing wrong; you must accept the burden of shame that accompanies a senior aide in the Justice Department having done something potentially incriminating, as well you should.

The whole thing (not just Goodling, but also Gonzales' actual testimony, Bush's "reasonable proposal" that his aides be questioned off the record and not under oath, and the whole three rings of this circus) reminds me of this old lawyer joke, which reminds us that while these people are clearly assholes, they are not idiots.
Prosecutor: Did you kill the victim?
Defendant: No, I did not.
Prosecutor: Do you know what the penalties are for perjury?
Defendant: Yes, I do. And they're a hell of a lot better than the penalty for murder.

As for the actual proceedings of the investigation, I won't bother to comment, since Gonzo has so thoroughly disgraced himself that there is nobody left to argue with me that he's not a fool and/or liar, and that just wouldn't be any fun.

This post, excerpted below, from DailyKos pretty much says it all. It also brings up the point that this whole scandal is somewhat Clintonesque in its relative banality; if the AG had just said, "Yeah, we canned some Dems because the Pres wanted to put party hacks in their places, and by the way, that's his prerogative" this wouldn't have been nearly such a big deal. Not that it would have gone unnoticed, but it almost certainly wouldn't have ended with even Republicans calling for Gonzales' resignation. Like many other "scandals" the hurt lay more in the lies that concealed it than in the act itself. As Francois de La Rochefoucauld observed, "Almost all our faults are more pardonable than the methods we resort to to hide them." With an administration that has been so unrelentingly uncooperative, so intractably opaque, and so pathologically dishonest in trying to cover its cronyistic tracks, the whole country was just raring to nail them for a slip-up. And so we have.
Of course Gonzales is both a bumbling fool and a liar. Today's performance put that debate to rest. It's almost a shame that his downfall was this relatively mundane political scandal (though certainly more egregious malfeasance by the administration is likely to be uncovered as the investigation unfolds) and not a result of his crimes against the Constitution, the Geneva Conventions, the Magna Carta, the basic rule of law. But I guess we take what we can get.

A few related clips and links are below.
Here is Gonzales denying that Habeas Corpus is constitutionally protected. The meat of his argument: "There is no expressed grant of Habeas in the Constitution, there's a prohibition against taking it away." Can't beat that logic with a stick! [But you can alligator-clamp a car battery to its gonads.]

Here's Olbermann on the death of Habeas Corpus vis-a-vis the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (the good part starts at about 2:47):

Let's get a little lowbrow. Check out #4 on this countdown:

Here's some more from the Gonzales hearings, and they have forced me to reevaluate my opinion. Here's the scoop:

On the one hand, that testimony actually makes me feel a bit sympathetic towards Gonzo; I can see why you'd want to torture someone when you know he's lying through his teeth. On the other, this is outrageous, but a different way than I had expected.

We expected Gonzales to dissemble and lie. But at this point it is abundantly clear that he is also an idiot. I mean, this is the nation's top-ranking lawyer, and he looks more than stupid, more than untruthful: he looks like he has absolutely no idea what he's doing. Of course he's going to lie to cover up for those who put him in power, but I thought he would be clever enough to dress it up in some slick argument that diverts us away from the point, or at least use some legalese to obfuscate his reaming for the lay audience. Lawyer jokes aside, could this guy possibly know a thing about argumentation? In my only court experience (Class C misdemeanor for jaywalking, if you care), I saw an alcoholic homeless bum mount a more compelling legal defense! I shit you not. Bush himself could have handled those questions better.

And this is the great irony of this case. If they had simply admitted the obvious fact that these firings were exactly what they appear to be, this probably have been a minor scandal, or just one more dirty trick that only historians and policy wonks will remember. But this enormous ordeal has, I believe, shed light on the far more dangerous side of the same issue: politics supplanting meritocracy. It is not unusual that a president should seek to consolidate his ideology within the government by way of "purging" other political appointees. Nor is it unusual that he appoint his own henchmen to those vacant positions. But Bush's administration has time and again shown utter contempt for the notion of expertise, opting instead for candidates who possess a mafia-like loyalty to the hand that feeds them. This has lead to some of the most spectacular bungling, and consequent bungling of the cover-ups, that the executive branch has ever seen. Bush's appointees across the board are people who, when push comes to congressional investigation, will sacrifice every shred of credibility and dignity they have to take the heat for the higher-ups, knowing, or at least believing, all along that they will be rewarded in the end.

Libby had that loyalty, but he was also a pretty clever guy. What terrifies me about Gonzales is that he appears to be a thoroughly incompetent lawyer, lacking even the modicum of qualification that would make him a suitable political hack. Bush is our nation's Happy Gilmore (in so many ways) and Gonzo is his bum caddy. How many more like him fill the ranks of our government, and how great are their responsibilities? What could be the consequences of their gross incompetence? Another Katrina? Iraq?

Cronyism is, in its mild to moderate form, an inevitable but manageable hazard inherent to our system: a pothole of democracy. Taken to the extreme, though, it is a fundamental threat to the function of our government, which relies heavily on the appointed bureaucracy to implement the policies developed by elected officials. Scientists that don't believe in evolution, doctors who prescribe the Bible, FEMA directors who are barely qualified to judge horses, lawyers who have no business in high ranking judicial positions (remember Harriet Miers's Supreme Court nomination?): these are not mere trifles to be dismissed with a light-hearted "partisans will be partisans" apology. They are perilous in the extreme, and they have already hurt us deeply and often, if sometimes subtly. The great scandal that this congressional investigation revealed is not that a Bush political appointee did some shady political maneuvering, but rather that such a moron could become such a powerful official in the first place.

Update: More shameless lies, and perhaps one of the most disturbing revelations yet, from Ashcroft's former deputy AG, James Comey.

Finally, Goodling gives it up. Check out the video where Steve Cohen (D-TN) rips Goodling about her Christian diploma mill law school. Also, apropos of above comments, Goodling is clearly a moron.


Nailed It

I've always bristled at that authoritarian streak (mostly on the right) that likes to tell me the president is my "commander in chief." As a civilian, the president is not only not my commander, he is my elected official; if anything, I am atop his chain of command. If the president were commander in chief of all citizens, that would make him an awful lot like an emperor or a king, and I seem to recall that monarchy is a system of government rather frowned upon by the wise men who framed our constitution.

Gary Wills, professor emeritus of history at Northwestern University, takes this quasi-fascist fantasy back to constitution class, and scratches an itch I've had for quite a while:

The president is not the commander in chief of civilians. He is not even commander in chief of National Guard troops unless and until they are federalized. The Constitution is clear on this: “The president shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States.”

When Abraham Lincoln took actions based on military considerations, he gave himself the proper title, “commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.” That title is rarely — more like never — heard today. It is just “commander in chief,” or even “commander in chief of the United States.” This reflects the increasing militarization of our politics.