Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither, and lose both.
-- Benjamin Franklin

What was envisioned as the Senate’s role in approving Supreme Court Nominees?

From Alexander Hamilton, in the Federalist, #76:

To what purpose then require the co-operation of the Senate? I answer, that the necessity of their concurrence would have a powerful, though, in general, a silent operation. It would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President, and would tend greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters from State prejudice, from family connection, from personal attachment, or from a view to popularity. In addition to this, it would be an efficacious source of stability in the administration.

It will readily be comprehended, that a man who had himself the sole disposition of offices, would be governed much more by his private inclinations and interests, than when he was bound to submit the propriety of his choice to the discussion and determination of a different and independent body, and that body an entier branch of the legislature. The possibility of rejection would be a strong motive to care in proposing. The danger to his own reputation, and, in the case of an elective magistrate, to his political existence, from betraying a spirit of favoritism, or an unbecoming pursuit of popularity, to the observation of a body whose opinion would have great weight in forming that of the public, could not fail to operate as a barrier to the one and to the other. He would be both ashamed and afraid to bring forward, for the most distinguished or lucrative stations, candidates who had no other merit than that of coming from the same State to which he particularly belonged, or of being in some way or other personally allied to him, or of possessing the necessary insignificance and pliancy to render them the obsequious instruments of his pleasure.

The underlines are mine.

Unfortunately, the current administration knows nothing about being ashamed.

What it’s all about

As republican troubles in congress and the whitehouse mount, I find myself less and less willing to discuss them here. Unlike most of those on the right, and many on the left, I can’t bring myself to treat this like a football game, cheering on our side, and booing theirs. I wish we could all look at the facts and react to them. This does not mean I don’t view the behavior of the administration as egregious. I do, but until we get over the bickering over which “side” we are on, we can’t get back on the right track.

Here are some facts:

  1. The administration was determined to go to war with Iraq, regardless of the efficacy of sanctions or Iraqi responses to them. The British memos revealed this, confirming what others who had resigned from the administration had previously said.
  2. The administration lied to start the war. This is the essence of Plamegate, not the revelation of a CIA operative. Joe Wilson was proven right. The evidence presented regarding Nigerian uranium was incorrect, and manufactured. The administration had every reason to know this.
  3. The administration has repeatedly attacked anyone who dared to criticize its handling of Iraq. Valerie Plame was exposed to punish Joe Wilson (no one doubts this at this point, the question is who exactly did it, and was it done in a manner that was illegal). Wilson is just one case, revisit Paul ONeill and several other people who have left the administration over disagreements with policy. What is egregious about the Plame affair is that she was a covert operative for the CIA. We can argue whether she was covert at the time, but the CIA originally asked for this investigation because it maintained she was. And, whether she was actively covert or not, she had had contacts overseas which were compromised by this revelation.
  4. Administration officials have lied to cover up their policies regarding Iraq. Of this there is no doubt, the question remaining is did they do it under oath before a grand jury.
  5. Because of the policies resulting in the war in Iraq, one thousand nine hundred and eighty six american service men and women have lost their lives in Iraq. In excess of 15,000 have been wounded.
  6. The administration has repeatedly violated international law in this case, first through our treaties with the UN, then by treating prisoners in ways prohibited by the Geneva convention, and then by authorizing torture both in Guantanemo, and in Iraq. While lower level soldiers have been prosecuted for this, at no point have the officers or administration been held accountable.
  7. The ostensible justifications for the war have been proven false. Not only have no Weapons of Mass Destruction been found, but the administration’s own investigators have found no reason whatsoever to believe that there was an ongoing program to develop such weapons, or that any effort was made to transport them such weapons out of the country prior to the war.
  8. Prior to the war, the Iraqi government had no relationship to the Al Qaeda terrorist network. Since the war, Iraq has been become a prime center of Al Qaeda activities, recruiting many from those upset with the US Invasion.
  9. Rather than paying for itself from oil revenue, as some administration officials originally proclaimed, the invasion and occupation has now cost in excess of two hundred billion dollars. Partially because of this, and partially because of unwarranted tax cuts, the last three years have had the highest national budget deficit, in terms of adjusted dollars, in the history of the country. This money will have to be repaid. Borrowing now, and tax cuts now, amount to tax hikes for our children.

Many other illegal or dishonorable actions have been committed by the administration: illegally paying journalists (with taxpayer money) to promote their agenda on the air without disclosure of the agreement, no-bid contracts to companies with which the administration has a financial relationship, appointing unqualified people to important posts (a vetrinarian to lead the office of women’s health??, a Judge coordinator for horseshows to handle FEMA, and more), and many others. Ignoring those for the moment, though, the above list is by itself damning.

The Whitewater investigation lasted 5 years, and cost eighty million dollars. The congressional investigation of Whitewater lasted 13 months. At the end, the only thing that Bill Clinton was charged with was lying (under oath, admittedly) about his sex life. For this, the nation was brought to a standstill as he was impeached by the senate.

Forgive my naivete, but I believe lying to start a war resulting in tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths is more of a crime than lying about sex.

Given the standard set by Clinton and the Whitewater investigation, it is long past time to impeach and remove George W. Bush.

Ever wonder why Powell quit as soon as could?

“What I saw was a cabal between the vice-president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made. Now it is paying the consequences of making those decisions in secret, but far more telling to me is America is paying the consequences.”

– Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s chief of staff until January 2005
quote from Wednesday, October, 19th.

from talkingpointsmemo.com

It would not surprise me at all if Colin Powell has spent the majority of the time since he resigned compulsively washing himself, over and over again.

A quote

“The invasion of Iraq I believe will turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history.”

-General William Odom
Former National Security Agency under President Reagan. Prior to that, Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, the Army’s senior intelligence officer.

Arctic Warming News

Scientists are now saying that the total ice covering the arctic region will be least ever recorded, and within the lifetime of someone born today, may be completely ice free during the summers.

“It’s increasingly difficult to argue against the notion that at least part of what we are seeing in the Arctic, in terms of sea ice, in terms of warming temperatures … is due to the greenhouse effect,” Mark Serreze, a research scientist at NSIDC, said in an interview.

“We’ve put a hit on the system and we are in the midst of a grand global experiment,” Serreze said about the impact of global warming and ice melting on humans and animals. “We will have to live with the outcome.”

Most scientists believe greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide that is released mainly from cars and utility smokestacks, cause global warming by trapping solar heat in the atmosphere. Many believe global warming can lead to catastrophic consequences, including raising sea levels and strengthening weather events such as hurricanes.

As opposed to so called “Intelligent Design”, there is plenty of hard evidence for the belief that global warming from greenhouse gases is causing major shifts in weather patterns, exacerbating the problems with hurricanes. Potential problems include vast stretches of currently arable land becoming unusable; the destruction of the gulf stream which is responsible both for huge fisheries, as well as keeping Europe’s weather stable; massive flooding; and complete destruction of human habitats in currently marginal living areas.

The US is the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases.

The administration has refused to sign the Kyoto Accord, which is a coordinated attempt to reduce greenhouse gases.

Never mind 2,000 dead American soldiers, or upwards of 100,000 dead Iraqi’s; their greed may end up killing us all.

Facts for the day

According to the Federation of American Scientists:

  • Half of the world’s governments spend more on defense than health care.
  • The U.S. share of total world military expenditures per year has been roughly 36 percent, though the U.S. constitutes under 5 percent of the world’s population.
  • The U.S. arms industry is the second most heavily subsidized industry after agriculture.
  • 2001 world military expenditures topped $839 billion, while at the same time an estimated 1.3 billion people survive on less than the equivalent of $1 (U.S.) a day.
  • The International Red Cross has estimated that one out of every two casualties of war is a civilian caught in the crossfire.
  • According to the United Nations, there are now over 300,000 child soldiers around the world, now serving as combatants in over 30 current conflicts.
  • The Center for International Policy estimates that about 80% of U.S. arms exports to the developing world go to non-democratic regimes.
  • There are more landmines planted in Cambodia than people. Cambodia is just one of 64 countries around the world littered with some 100 million anti-personnel landmines. Intended primarily to maim, landmines can lie in wait years after a conflict ends, causing 500 deaths and injuries per week.
  • The U.S. government is training soldiers in upwards of 70 countries at any given time.

Priorities

bush priorities

What’s Bush’s opino on Roe v. Wade? He doesn’t care if people get out of New Orleans, let alone how they do it.

Our Compassionate Senator

Senator Santorum on Katrina:

“I mean, you have people who don’t heed those warnings and then put people at risk as a result of not heeding those warnings. There may be a need to look at tougher penalties, candidly, on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving.”

Right. People are too poor to evacuate, so fine them. Typically compassionate and understanding repuglican response, but I guess he’s at least open about it.

Of course, Santorum thinks the National Weather Service was partly responsible for the disaster, for not giving sufficient warning for it’s severity:

Santorum said he didn’t think the weather service had given “sufficient warning” initially about the hurricane’s path or what its impact would be when it hit Florida. He said he was “not going to suggest there were any major errors,” but that the adequacy of the warnings should to be investigated along with other aspects of how government agencies have dealt with Katrina.

“The expectation was that [the hurricane] was not going to hit Florida with much fury, and it ended up being a Category 1 hurricane and did a lot more damage than I think was ever anticipated,” Santorum said in the recorded radio interview.

Here is the warning the NWS issued before Katrina hit New Orleans:

NWS Warning

Looks pretty explicit to me. Too bad Bush and Cheney were out of town on vacation when this was happening, and Chertoff and Brown weren’t clever enough to read the NWS warnings on their own initiative.

For a timeline of how things played out with Katrina, check here.

For a debunking of several Republican talking points trying to shift blame for the disaster response, check here. Note particularly that Governor Blanco’s declaration of a state of emergency, the triggering event for responding to this kind of disaster, occured three days before Katrina actually made landfall.

Every Cloud must Have a Silver Lining

Or, as Eric Idle sang in the “Life of Brian”: “Always look on the bright, side of life! de do, de do, de di di di do…”

Never miss a chance to pad your buddies pockets.

From CNN:

Companies with ties to the Bush White House and the former head of FEMA are clinching some of the administration’s first disaster relief and reconstruction contracts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

At least two major corporate clients of lobbyist Joe Allbaugh, President Bush’s former campaign manager and a former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have already been tapped to start recovery work along the battered Gulf Coast.

One is Shaw Group Inc. and the other is Halliburton Co. subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root. Vice President Dick Cheney is a former head of Halliburton.

See? Everyone benefits! As the former first lady observed, the poor were disadvantaged anyway, and the Astrodome is an improvement, and the President’s buddies get to make more money off of tragedy! Isn’t life just grand??

Incompetence at FEMA goes all the way to the bottom

One of my pet peeves as a 26 year veteran of software development is developers who ignore software standards and portability issues. The most egregious of this nowadays is in web development, where Micro$oft tools encourage the development of websites which will only operate with the Micro$oft browser, Internet Explorer. I validate all my web development by using at least three different browsers (IE, Opera, Firefox) and three operating systems (Linux, Mac OS X and Windows XP).

Apparently that’s too much trouble for the Skippy’s that program for FEMA. The have set up a website for applying for aid after Katrina that requires not only IE, but also Javascript. Anyone not bowing to the Micro$oft empire is SOL.

Now, I expect people like Brown to lie, pad their resumes, and be incompetent. Is it possible that even the technical staff there is incompetent and are hired only for their political loyalty?