Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Dog Didn't Eat Their Homework, the RNC Servers Did

A new "Blog Brief" column I wrote with Darin McMullen was published today in the Legal Intelligencer, and can be read here. It concerns the "missing" White House emails about official business that were routed through RNC and Bush campaign email accounts and then were conveniently deleted.

Here is the lede:
As the investigation into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys unfolds, a scandal within the scandal has emerged. While investigating whether these dismissals were motivated by the U.S. attorneys' investigations of Republicans or failures to investigate Democrats, Congress has learned that White House staffers have been using e-mail accounts maintained by the Republican National Committee and the Bush re-election campaign. Further, it appears that these accounts were used to conduct official White House business.

The mere use of nongovernment e-mail accounts to conduct official White House business is controversial in and of itself. As many commentators have observed, dual systems for conducting official White House business may have created a significant breach in national security. The White House is a prime target of espionage, and RNC resources are not likely to be as well secured from foreign eavesdropping as the White House system. . . .

What's more, the revelation of the widespread use of RNC accounts has also spawned another spin-off scandal: the Bush administration has acknowledged that it "mishandled" these accounts, resulting in the "loss" of an undisclosed number of e-mail concerning official government business. As a result, the public is once again left questioning the Bush administration's tactics and efforts to operate under a shroud of secrecy and away from public scrutiny and accountability.
The article includes links to two Daily Kos diaries (one by Citizen92 and one by Jpadgett), some excellent work by Paul Kiel (here and here) at TPM Muckraker, a couple of posts by Anonymous Liberal, one by Glenn Greenwald (now at Salon), some information from CREW, and an old column by former White House Counsel John Dean.

Take a look.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Visual Depiction of the Blogosphere

This is a "map" of the blogosphere from Discover Magazine, showing incoming and outgoing links among websites. Via Daily Kos (which is depicted as the big white dot in the center).


Via Digby, a summary of what Bush has wrought:
Bush leveraged a national tragedy into reelection. He’s seeded the federal government with true believers, expanded executive authority while marginalizing Congress and appointing 2 radically conservative SC judges. He’s expanded government surveillance of our phones, e-mails, libraary borrowings, bank accounts and medicine cabinets. He’s stalled efforts to curb global warming, cut protections once provided by the EPA, FDA, and silenced scientists who dare refute the literal word of bible or the backward beliefs of those who claim to know the mind of the almighty. The US can now torture, imprision without providing cause and prosecute without allowing a reasonable defense. He’s built bases in the middle east, and fattened the bank accounts of those whose bank accounts were already obscene. The middle class — the masses — have not been so economically impotent in decades.

For such an idiot, this guy has been awfully successful.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The "Stand Up/Stand Down" Iraq Strategy Is No Longer Operative

(above: the previous "plan," not proactive enough)

Interesting. We have now abandoned Bush's zen-like mantra, "stand up, stand down." Having lost faith that training Iraqis is the answer to when our troops can come home, the military "now believe[s] that U.S. troops will have to defeat the insurgents and secure control of troubled provinces."

Really though, this changes nothing. There is no Iraq strategy, just drift, with the occasional vague vow to "win" (combined with a helping of preemptive blame for failure, usually from the obvious authors of the failure, if anyone suggests that a "win" is no longer possible, or that our presence in the country is counterproductive).

Justice Department Ran Massive Campaign to Suppress Vote

At No Comment, Scott Horton highlights this story by Greg Gordon in McClatchy. The lede:
For six years, the Bush administration, aided by Justice Department political appointees, has pursued an aggressive legal effort to restrict voter turnout in key battleground states in ways that favor Republican political candidates, according to former department lawyers and a review of written records.
The administration intensified its efforts last year as President Bush's popularity and Republican support eroded heading into a midterm battle for control of Congress, which the Democrats won.

Facing nationwide voter registration drives by Democratic-leaning groups, the administration alleged widespread election fraud and endorsed proposals for tougher state and federal voter identification laws. Presidential political adviser Karl Rove alluded to the strategy in April 2006 when he railed about voter fraud in a speech to the Republican National Lawyers Association.
Digby unpacks a few more points on the topic here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Congratulations to Charlie Savage

Savage deserved his Pulitzer Prize for his work exposing President Bush's improper use of "signing statements" to usurp the laws he swore to faithfully execute. The good Glenn explains the importance of this work, here.

Although he did not win this year, TPM's Josh Marshall surely deserves accolades as well [for his team's work in exposing the scandalous firings of the eight U.S. Attorneys].

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Who needs a War Czar when you already have a Decider?

Help Wanted: New Decider
The White House wants to appoint a high-powered czar to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with authority to issue directions to the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies, but it has had trouble finding anyone able and willing to take the job, according to people close to the situation.
Dan Froomkin: "[T]he best solution the White House could apparently come up with was one that only the nation's first MBA president could love: A new layer of management."

So now Bush wants to spin off his decidin' powers to someone else, a "commander in chief," if you will. Funny, I thought that job was taken.

In any event, who would want such a thankless job? You get the responsibility and blame for all the Decider's mistakes in a misbegotten and aimless war that he has already largely lost, and the responsibility and blame for a forgotten war that he never had any real interest in fighting. Plus, even if you thought you could do some good to fix all of his mistakes, you would still have Bush and Cheney overruling every critical decision that needs to be made.

Two Sets of Books

Bumped and updated

Christy Hardin Smith at Firedoglake takes on the case of the Bush White House's reportedly widespread use of RNC and personal email and phone accounts to hide "sensitive" information from future production -- a move that may both violate the Presidential Records Act and result in a waiver of any potential executive privilege that could have protected these emails and phone records.


The dog ate my homework! (via TPM)
WASHINGTON - The White House said Wednesday it had mishandled Republican Party-sponsored e-mail accounts used by nearly two dozen presidential aides, resulting in the loss of an undetermined number of e-mails concerning official White House business.

Congressional investigators looking into the administration's firing of eight federal prosecutors already had the nongovernmental e-mail accounts in their sights because some White House aides used them to help plan the U.S. attorneys' ouster. Democrats were questioning whether the use of the GOP-provided e-mail accounts was proof that the firings were political.

Democrats also have been asking if White House officials are purposely conducting sensitive official presidential business via nongovernmental accounts to get around a law requiring preservation - and eventual disclosure - of presidential records. The announcement of the lost e-mails - a rare admission of error from the Bush White House at a delicate time for the administration's relations with Democratically controlled Capitol Hill - gave new fodder for inquiry on this front.

"This sounds like the administration's version of the dog ate my homework," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. "I am deeply disturbed that just when this administration is finally subjected to meaningful oversight, it cannot produce the necessary information."
To keep us from losing the forest for the trees, Josh Marshall brings it back to where it all begins: bogus allegations of voter fraud intended to disenfranchise likely Democratic voters.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"You can’t call yourself a patriot if you’re not outraged"

Wow. Former Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca, a former W-supporter, has had enough:
Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, "Stay the course."

Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I'll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!

You might think I'm getting senile, that I've gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don't need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That's not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I've had enough. How about you?

I'll go a step further. You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have.

My friends tell me to calm down. They say, "Lee, you're eighty-two years old. Leave the rage to the young people." I'd love to—as soon as I can pry them away from their iPods for five seconds and get them to pay attention. I'm going to speak up because it's my patriotic duty. I think people will listen to me. They say I have a reputation as a straight shooter. So I'll tell you how I see it, and it's not pretty, but at least it's real. I'm hoping to strike a nerve in those young folks who say they don't vote because they don't trust politicians to represent their interests. Hey, America, wake up. These guys work for us.
An excerpt from his new book. (via Carpetbagger Report)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Still Unanswered: Who Forged the Documents that Led to the Iraq War

Josh Marshall's team at TPM is still on the lonely case -- the world's biggest unsolved mystery story that almost nobody seems to have any interest in solving. As the Blog Brief has repeatedly asked: Who forged the forged documents?

The Washington Post went front page today with the whole forgery conspiracy, but as Paul Kiel at TPM explains, almost the whole article is devoted to irrelevancies and side points:
It doesn't really tell how a bogus letter became a case for war. In that story, the beginning and the end would be of utmost importance -- the beginning being the origin of the documents, the end the Bush administration's suppression of their fraudulence.
The real story is reduced to two sentences that don't appear until the very end of the article:
It remains unclear who fabricated the documents. Intelligence officials say most likely it was rogue elements in Sismi who wanted to make money selling them.

Senator Reid Explains Bush's Veto Threats on Iraq in One Sentence

A Good Amicus

Prof. Eric Muller at Is that Legal? has filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief on behalf of the children of three Japanese Americans who unsuccessfully challenged racial curfew and detention before the Supreme Court in World War II, in support of the plaintiffs in a case seeking damages for Arab and Muslim men "who allege they were swept up and abusively detained on alleged immigration violations in the wake of the attacks of September 11."
Back in June of 2006, a federal district judge in New York dismissed the plaintiffs' allegation that the government had illegally singled out Arab and Muslim aliens for prolonged detention before ultimately deporting them. Accepting the allegation that the government had singled out Arabs and Muslims for detention that was longer than necessary, the district judge held that such prolonged detention does not violate equal protection; "the executive," said the trial court, "is free to single out nationals of a particular country" for prolonged detention.

Mueller, who has written extensively on the Japanese internment and recent efforts to whitewash that scandalous episode has posted the amicus brief on his website here.

The New York Times has written an article about the brief.

New Orleans Again

When Holden's not inspecting the President's diction or obsessing over gaggle (both of which we always love), some of the nice folks at First Draft have been posting to their blog some of their pictures and reactions to their efforts this week to help clean up what small portions of New Orleans that they can. Take a look.

In the post excerpted below, Scout Prime takes on one of the many underappreciated ways that the Bush Administration is continuing to keep Louisiana from recovering with any reasonable speed:
An extremely pressing issue here in Louisiana is Bush's refusal to waive the 10% requirement of state matching funds in order to receive federal disaster assistance under the Stafford Act. The Democrats saw fit to take care of this in the Iraq supplemental bill but we know Bush will veto this. However he would veto it regardless of the bill it were in. The White House has made it clear that it opposes such a waiver.....
The Administration opposes a waiver of the State match requirement.

OK it doesn't get any clearer than that.

The New Orleans City Business recently accused the Bush administration of playing politics with this and it is hard to conclude otherwise given the facts. Here they are:

  • Under the law Bush is allowed to waive the matching requirement when the per capita cost of a recovery bill exceeds $65.
  • In Louisiana the per capita recovery cost is at $6,700 so far.
  • The matching requirement was waived when the recovery cost of Hurricane Andrew reached $139 per capita.
  • It was waived for New York when 9/11 cost per capita reached $390.
  • The matching requirement has been eliminated 32 times since 1985 for other disaster recoveries.
  • Louisiana has already paid back $400 million as required under the Stafford Act, more than any other state has ever had to do for disaster recovery. The state still faces paying an estimated $1 billion more.

Bush refuses to waive this requirement and in the process has hamstrung the Gulf Coast recovery. Communities here are broke. They can not come up with the 10% match and so necessary recovery projects such as roads, bridges and schools are on hold.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Two More Imperial Presidents-in-Waiting

The cancer is spreading through the ranks of Republican leadership. Ramesh Ponurru reports at National Review Online:
Crane says he was disappointed with Romney's answer to his question the other night. Crane asked if Romney believed the president should have the authority to arrest U.S. citizens with no review. Romney said he would want to hear the pros and cons from smart lawyers before he made up his mind. Crane said that he had asked Giuliani the same question a few weeks ago. The mayor said that he would want to use this authority infrequently.
What is wrong with the Republican Party? The pernicious effects of Bushism and its embrace of the unconstitutional and authoritarian as the necessary and patriotic seem to be seeping into the conservative mainstream. Glenn Greenwald takes up the issue at Salon:
Two of the three leading Republican candidates for President either embrace or are open to embracing the idea that the President can imprison Americans without any review, based solely on the unchecked decree of the President. And, of course, that is nothing new, since the current Republican President not only believes he has that power but has exercised it against U.S. citizens and legal residents in the U.S. -- including those arrested not on the "battlefield," but on American soil.

What kind of American isn't just instinctively repulsed by the notion that the President has the power to imprison Americans with no charges? And what does it say about the current state of our political culture that one of the two political parties has all but adopted as a plank in its platform a view of presidential powers and the federal government that is -- literally -- the exact opposite of what this country is?
More here.

Update: Mona at Unqualified Offerings has this (and much more) to say:
I am entirely ready to conclude that modern conservatism (and the GOP) has long been evolving toward — and has now entirely reached — incompatibility with any reasonable conception of libertarianism.

. . .

Modern Republicanism is a corrupt, proto-fascist movement, and I think neocons have more to do with it than perhaps Jim does, particularly as they have married the theocons who also tend to be Christian Zionists. But whatever the reason, it is time for libertarians to realize that many liberals and Democrats, at this critical juncture (and with exceptions), wear hats of, if not white, at least beige compared with the utter black ones atop the heads of such as George W. Bush or Rudy Giuliani.
Second Update:

Well it looks like Giuliani really needs a refresher course in basic civics and our form of constitutional government if he has any intention of becoming President, because this is turning into a trend. Greenwald highlights yet another statement betraying a woefully narrow understanding of Congress' war powers:
Now, NR's Rich Lowry, who attended a Giuliani event in New Hampshire last night, reveals statements made by Giuliani explaining his views of presidential war powers that are at least as extremist and disturbing as the ones revealed this weekend:
Rudy to Bush: Ignore Congress?

Rudy was asked about the Iraq supplemental. He said he finds it "irresponsible and dangerous." Then he began to muse about, after a veto, "would the president have the constitutional authority to support them [the troops], anyway?" He said he's a lawyer so he wouldn't offer an opinion "off the top of his head," then he proceeded to do just that.

He seemed to suggest that Bush could fund the Iraq war without Congress providing funding, but it was confusing. In an interview with a New Hampshire TV reporter after his remarks, he seemed more categorical and said, since the war had been authorized by Congress, the president has "the inherent authority to support the troops." But he added, "You have to ask a constitutional lawyer."
It really should go without saying that (as even Bush supporter Rich Lowry recognizes) these comments ought to be a major media story. One could even argue that, standing alone, they are office-disqualifying. Particularly in light of Giuliani's belief in process-less arrest of American citizens, this really is a complete repudiation of how our government works, of the most basic and unquestioned constitutional principles of our republic. Literally.
At least up until now, even the most radical of the Bush Theorists of Presidential Omnipotence -- even the John Yoo/Dick Cheney/David Addington strain -- have acknowledged that the two (and, in their view, seemingly only) powers Congress has is to fund or de-fund various policies, and make decisions about war, and that Congress therefore has the power to end the war in Iraq by refusing to fund it or de-authorizing it. Even John Yoo . . .
More here.