Saturday, December 11, 2004

Photo of the Day

Viktor Yushchenko, the would-be next president of Ukrainian was poisoned with Dioxin, most likley by an the head of Ukranian Security Gen. Ihor P. Smeshko on September 5th. His wife smelled something funny on his breath (like medicine) after kissing him that night.

Nanny Problem

When I learned that Bernard Kerik has removed his name (AKA asked to drop out) from the nomination of homeland security director, I was happy. That is, until I learned why: did not pay taxes on his nanny.

How many presidential nominees have been sunk in recent years because they either (1) hired an illegal alien to be their kid's nanny, or (2) failed to pay taxes for them or (3) both? I can think of at least two Clinton nominees and now two Bush nominees. Is it that hard to find good legal help these days? Or is it a symptom of something worse and bigger?

It's the latter. Instead of sinking these nominees on the merits like they should be, political hacks are delving deep into people's private lies to catch them in an error, which just so happens these days to be with nannies. I don't think this is an appropriate way of "advise and consent" the present dear Senate. This is why we end up with the Kerik's in the first place, because truely gifted would-be public servants don't want people combing through their trash and dirty laundry. That, and the pay stinks.

Now some will say that this nanny-gate stuff shows that these nominees have no respect for the law which is really bad when you are appointed to be the attorney general like Zoe Baird was. Or you have no respect for labor laws, which it also bad if you are nominated to be Secretary of Labor, like Linda Chavez was. Or you have no respect for immigration laws, assuming Kerik's nanny was an illegal, when your department oversees the INS like Homeland Security does. Nonetheless, why can't be shoot these people down on the merits?

Kerik did a terrible job in the few months he was in Iraq. And no one explained ever why he left so appruptly. The man's only qualification was his loyalty to Rudy G. This was a patronage job, plain and simple. Rudy called in a favor from George W. Bush. Why can't his resume and past performance be the reason the senate votes him down?

I am just so tired of this gotcha culture in Washington. The "politics of personal destruction" is why we have power hungery men like Tom DeLay who manage to keep their nose clean enough avoid the axe. Congressmen lose power for saying dumb and racist things and yet ones who flaunt the law and commit real crimes (AKA not minor tax evasion) get promoted. There is something wrong with this picture.

Friday, December 10, 2004

From Bad to Worse

Usually I am pretty biased about Utah Democrats, after all, I am one of them. But when you have to step down because you where caught shoplifting and then many years later, you try to run over your son-in-law with your car you are out of my favor, to say the least.

[ex-State Rep.] Dionne Halverson, 57, faces a Dec. 30 arraignment for felony aggravated assault.

Deputy Weber County Attorney Dean Saunders ... alleges the incident happened Nov. 16 at the Plain City home of Alex Williams, a Utah Highway Patrol Trooper who is married to Halverson's daughter. He was not injured.

Halverson resigned in 1991 from her second term as a Democratic Utah House member from Ogden after she was arrested for shoplifting nearly $200 worth of clothing.

A security guard at Mervyn's Department Store in Ogden stopped her leaving the store around Christmas with a bag of unpaid clothing. She first denied guilt, then pleaded no contest to a class A misdemeanor, and was fined $350.

A House ethics committee voted to expel her, but passage by the whole House failed by two votes. Instead, she was censured and subsequently resigned.

Thank goodness she lost in the primary/convention in her attempt to come back in 1998.

Reporter fed Q to soldier: So?

The "dramatic town-hall encounter between" Secretart of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Specialist Thomas Wilson, "an Iraq-bound soldier who worried about his unit's safety took a new twist" 12/9 when Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter Edward Lee Pitts said he "helped the soldier devise the question" according to Bandler for the Wall Street Journal. "Since mid-November," Pitts "has been 'embedded' with a unit" of the TN National Guard. His "role came to light after an e-mail he sent to a colleague was forwarded" 12/9 "to a Web site produced by the Poynter Institute. In the e-mail, Pitts wrote that he and two soldiers 'worked on questions to ask Rumsfeld about the appalling lack of armor their vehicles going into combat have." Pitts "wrote that he 'found the (sergeant) in charge of the microphone for the question and answer session and made sure he knew to get my guys out of the crowd." Pitts added it was "one of my best days as a journalist." I'll bet.

Pitts' editor, Tom Griscom, "'was asked' to include an account of his actions" in 12/9's story, "but it didn't get included, and (the omission) didn't get caught in the editoring." Griscom "said he would publish a letter to readers on the front page of today's newspaper explaining Pitts' role in the event" according to Memmott of USA Today.

Griscom defended Pitts' actions saying "the soldier asked the question" and "could have rejected Pitts' idea." Griscom: "Because someone's in the media who's embedded with them, does that mean they don't have the same opportunity to at least make a suggestion of something that might be asked? Is that what makes it wrong, because a journalist did it? That response from the troops was a clear indication that this is an issue on their minds" (Thanks Howie, you Media Whore)

Of course, Rush Limbaugh is deeply offended, equating Pitts' actions with those of Dan Rather. I am sure or other conservative blogs are going Ape about this "news" because it supposidely validates their "liberal" media conspiracy theory.

In reality, the soldier trusted this guy, and knew him to be good with words, which presumably he was not, otherwise he wouldn't have asked for Pitts' help crafting the question. Maybe the soldier was just not confident, and Pitts helped him find his strength to stand up to Rumsfeld. There were other questions asked that wheren't "prompted" by a reporter, which were along similar critical lines, are they disingenious?

Bush and almost all politicans these days have speech writers, does that mean those politicans don't believe what they are saying and it is just put in their mouths? Maybe for some, but I bet most of them believe what they say but just couldn't craft their words and thoughts as elequently as these writers could. That's why you hire them.

Of course, this begs the question: Should a reporter be a speechwriter? I say, if this is the only way these questions are going to be answered by folks like Rumsfeld, the media should try everything they can to get their questioned answered. The soldier wasn't his puppet, but his willing and likeminded conduit.

I love how people like Howard Kurtz get into a huff about this, but never about folks like Judith Miller who just parroting some dubious unnamed sources with dubious motives. Or the political reporters of the New York Times, who care about nothing but process and internal leaks of disgruntled staffers, who take their disagreements out into the press when they cannot convince their candidate/elected official to go their way. This is interesting, but not nearly as important as the underlying fact that there isn't enough armor. This is a classic media distraction, manufactured by the Right/Bush Administration to get them off topic into their own navel gazing instead of pounding the real story for another couple weeks.

NBC's Miklaszewski: "as of today, only about one third of the military's 20,000 Humvees in Iraq are fully armored. When American troops first took Baghdad, only US military police had the fully armored Humvees. But when insurgents turned up their attacks with roadside bombs, Americans started taking heavy casualties, and Congress came up with additional funds to turn up production of the heavily armored vehicles" ABC's Moran: "The army revealed today that of 30,000 military vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan, about 8,000 are still waiting for armor. ANd the Army's schedule does not call for all Humvees in Iraq to be armored until next March" Operation Truth founder Lt. Paul Rieckhoff, asked if the shortage of armor was a well-known problem: "Absolutely, sir. I spent just under a year in Iraq in central Baghdad, and commanded 38 soldiers on the ground who were poorly equipped. We did not have armored humvees; we were reduced to duct taping old flak jackets to the side of our Humvees to provide protection. We put sandbags in the floors of our vehicles. ... it cost soldiers their lives and it wounded soldiers as a result, and it was absolutely inadequate" Now that is the news, that is the story. Press, I beg of you, run with that.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Cpl. Hassoun charged with desertion

The Salt Lake Tribune has the scoop: Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun has been charged with desertion by the U.S. Marine Corps.

Cpl. Hassoun is from West Jordan, UT and has been the subject of a five-month investigation into his June disappearance from a U.S. military camp near Fallujah, Iraq.

The whole dissipearance, being on Al-Jeziera and reappearance in his native Lebenon thing made the Marines pretty suspecious, especially when they wound Hassoun's things in a raid on insurgence in Fallujah. His Utah family were shocked by the news of the dissertion charge.

Here's your quickie on military law:

If found guilty of desertion, Hassoun could face a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of pay and allowances, and five years confinement for each specification.

Hassoun will be assigned military defense counsel to represent him, and has the right to be represented by a civilian attorney of his choice at no expense to the United States.

Now I know what the fuss is about

So I finally read the questions and answers to Sec. Rumsfeld’s visit with the soldiers in Kuwait and I have a feeling that he won't do that again.

The Times has a good account of the questions, mostly related to the lack of armor for vehicles and personal when they are in a drawn out guerilla war, the back door draft for would-be retired servicemen and women, and the full-time work part-time pay of National Guard Reservists (two weekends a month my Butt!)

Needless to say, most people paying attention have know this problems for a long time, but the fact that media wasn't aware, didn't believe it, and the E-Ring folks basically ignored it is now quite apparent. All of a sudden, reports are trickling in about how new armored Humvees are being made for our troops...good work Pentagon Media Relations! The reality is that we have been in Iraq for two years now starting in next spring and they didn't plan properly to protect the grunt soldiers. It looks like they don't care, and Rumsfeld’s answer show he has about as much respect for them as he does the press corps, that is next to nothing.

After two long years in Iraq, we have next to nothing to show for it but thousands of dead soldiers and a broken country. Sure we have Saddam in some jail, but we could have done that other ways. Ways that would have not left the target on these soldiers with no return ticket and no armor.

Their families shouldn't have to hold bake sales to buy them armored vests when the Pentagon are spending billions on new submarines and stealth bombers (don't forget the hundreds of millions for no-bid Halliburton contracts even while they overcharge the government). Folks, we are in a long-term occupation of a poor, desert country, those things are useless. Body and vehicle armor, however, is vital.

We should be treating these fighting men and women with the respect they deserve by telling them honestly what is happening. And call me crazy, but I just don't get that impression from Rummy.

One down...

Well I finished by Civil Procedure test today at noon and have thus far taken the afternoon off, having a leasurely lunch at Big Ed's (a hole-in-the-wall greesy spoon near campus) with some classmates and then shooting around University field house.

Now I am kicking it in my exercise gear. I think I will take off the rest of the day to clear my head before I dive into Torts over the weekend (8 hour take home starting at 8:00am on Monday).

Sorry for the lack of discussion of the days events. I have no idea what happened today. Except that stupid Scott Peterson case.

I will tell you, I am conflicted about the death penalty and would love to hear people's arguments for it. On the one hand, that NY Times article really summs up my problems with the death penalty: the administration. Those folks in Texas seem determined to kill, the facts be damned. Illinois had similar problems, but they are doing something about it, instead of thumbing their nose at the supreme court like the 5th circuit did. A 8-1 decision, and they copy and paste the one dissenting opinion (by none other than Clarance Thomas)in theirs? Terrible.

But I really have no problem killing Peterson, from all that I have read, he did a horrible crime and its a person who cannot be rehabilitated. In California, they spend more money per a prisoner than they spend per a college student in the UC system. Our country has its priorities all messed up.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Video Game of the Day

I am out studying for Civil Procedure, which is tomorrow at 8:30AM for 3.5 hours (after that, I have two 8 hour take home finals, the last of which is really much more than that since we have had half the semester to do 2 of the 4 questions...Top that Michelle!)

In the meantime, please enjoy the clip from this old video game made by Japanese programmers in the late 80s who obviously didn't pay enough attention in English class:

Courtesy of, via Kos

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Website of the day

Today's website of the day (and blog of the day) is the grouchy but brutally honest Unemployed Kerry Staffer. Money quote: "Ran into somebody today who still has a job. ... I found myself wishing I could push her down and kick her"

So far I have taken the 2000 and 2003 CivPro exams writen by my teacher and I always manage to miss one thing that I should have gotten. But then again, I am short changing myself about an hour each time because I get too bored. Wish me luck (test is on Thursday)

The most unsurprising news of the year

NY AG Eliot Spitzer: "I have decided I will run for governor in 2006," the New York Democrat said. "The state is at a point of crisis," he said. "The state is in dire need of leadership that will address budget issues, tax issues. We are bleeding jobs. We need reform in the process of government." His announcement comes just two days before the campaign committee stages a $1,000-a-person fund-raising lunch in Manhattan aimed at raising more than $2 million to add to its $5.5 million coffers.

And Eliot is the man to do it. A pro-business New Democrat who has gone after corporate crime when Bush's SEC looked the other way, Spitzer has been a headline whore for 4 years now and shouldn't have a name recognition problem. As NY Governor George Pataki's spokeswoman Lisa DeWald Stoll once said, "We all know that A.G. stands for aspiring governor."

Equally good for him, someone (maybe it was him) talked Chuck Shumer into staying in the Senate and taking over the DSCC job. I guess the idea is that Hillary might come begging to Chuck for money, but really, it will be the other way around.

The Journal reports of a Zogby poll which has Spitzer leading Gov. Pataki 44% to 41% of likely voters, with ex-NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, topping Spitzer, 52% to 36%. However, "Giuliani hasn't shown any interest in the governor's race." Psst, that's because he is planning on running for President, and a governor's race will just complicate things and force him to run to the center (away from his new found conservatism).

For what it is worth, The Third Avenue proudly endorses Spitzer for NY Governor. He's our kind of Democrat.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Waging war over the war, 2 years later

I wish someone could explain to me why liberals love fighting the same battles over and over, like Bill Murry in Groundhog Day. The purfect example is once liberal icon Ralph Nader, who thought it would be fun to fight for the New Deal again by making such a fuss in 2000 (and 2004).

The big bloggers are currently having a meta-debate over the Iraq War. Atrios believes that those who didn't support the invasion of Afghanistan weren't necessarily against war in general while CalPundit and Matthew Yglesias take the opposite position. All three were against the Iraq war and all want to talk about why the Michael Moore's of the party get shamed while the Bruce Reed's stay in prominance. [see BOPNews' summarization and discussions]

It all makes me feel like Punxsutawney Phil. There is definately something to what Kevin Drum and his camp is saying, that is, many of the people that opposed the invasion of Afghanistan are pacifist-leaning. Of couse, not all of them are. I am still very tired of refighting the war about the war.

There's no doubt in my mind that our generation will be talking about Iraq the way my parents talk about Vietnam. And my kids will be like who cares? I guess the reason for the constant refighting is to remind ourselves that the Baby Boomers finally came completely full circle. In the 80s and 90s they succomed to greed and in the 00's they gave into military might over right. They are now the people they were railing against in the 60s and 70s. Ironic isn't it? Of course, this is another generalization that doesn't fit all. But I am sure polls will back me up on the Baby boomers being at least marginally (52% or something) in favor of the war at the time and for most of it.

All this rediscussion makes me understand why my conservative friends get so exaspirated with liberals. You never see such hand-ringing and re-navel gazing amoung conservatives. Everything is honky dory when you are winning. We will see if they have a bout of re-examination if they lose big time in 2008. But I doubt it will be as bad as the ones Democrats and other progressives have been doing for 4 straight years now.

Anyway, I should get back to Civil Procedure. Enjoy folks.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

The Nuclear Option

Since I took a Civil Procedure practice exam yesterday (the reason there was no posting on Saturday), I thought I would share this nugget of scary knowledge I gained from learning about Article III of the Constitution: Congress has the power to create, and hence get rid of, the District Courts and Appellate Courts of the Federal Court system.

If in 2006 the GOP win enough seats to have a 60-40 majority in the Senate (unlikely but possible) or they get rid of the filibuster rule altogether right now, they could pass a bill to remove these two lower federal courts only to recreate them the next day and George W. Bush would get to appoint the entire judiciary save the Supreme Court (which it looks like he will get to appoint at least one now that Rehnquist can't even talk).

Now my CivPro teacher assured me that such a move, while technically possible, is politically untenable. That might be true because even many hard-line GOPers would freak out about such court packing and seeding such power to one president. After all, these new Judges would be there for life.

Still, the GOP has such discipline and force to drag its members of Congress further and further to the right with fealty oaths to the party's dogma and the will of George W. Bush. All I am saying is, I doubt Karl Rove hasn't had a wet dream about this one. If they could do it, I think they would try.

After all, Bush et al doesn't seem to care about how he is perceived or how many people he alienates, as long as his people stay in power. Happy nightmares everyone.