2007 - %3, July

King for a Day

| Fri Jul. 20, 2007 2:03 PM EDT

Bush to name Cheney president while he undergoes a medical procedure Saturday. Atrios' thoughts: pray. Everybody else, guard your copy of the Constitution.

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Romney Not Even President Yet, Already Abusing Power

| Fri Jul. 20, 2007 1:31 PM EDT

It's a slow news day today, with the exception of the White House's unsurprising-if-you-know-this-crowd assertion that the Justice Department will never take up contempt charges filed by Congress against members of the White House unwilling to testify before Congress.

So let's go with this, shall we:

In an apparent violation of the law, a controversial aide to ex-Gov. Mitt Romney created phony law enforcement badges that he and other staffers used on the campaign trail to strong-arm reporters, avoid paying tolls and trick security guards into giving them immediate access to campaign venues, sources told the Herald.
The bogus badges were part of the bizarre security tactics allegedly employed by Jay Garrity, the director of operations for Romney who is under investigation for impersonating a law enforcement officer in two states. Garrity is on a leave of absence from the campaign while the probe is ongoing....
"They (the aides) knew the badges were fake and probably illegal," said a presidential campaign source...

Spotted on The Plank.

All the King's Horses and All the King's Men

| Fri Jul. 20, 2007 12:38 PM EDT

Can Defense Secretary Gates bring his undersecretary of defense for policy Eric Edelman to heel?

Update: Go read Slate's Fred Kaplan's take.

Here's Gate's reaction, via David Kurtz.

Oh No They Didn't!

| Fri Jul. 20, 2007 12:18 PM EDT

In case you missed yesterday's post, I dropped a tease about some big news in the works for Mother Jones. As fans of quality journalism and strong, independent voices in the press, you won't be disappointed. Back to you on Monday!

Jay Harris
President & Publisher

Morning Political Trivia, July 20th Edition

| Fri Jul. 20, 2007 11:29 AM EDT

This morning's question comes courtesy of my friend Dave Olsen:

Which president has a statue erected to him in the classical municipal style (full figure, bronze) declaring him to be our "least memorable president"?

And where is that statue?

Remember, no Googling, just guessing.

Most Recent Update:

"Retraction, Retraction!" that was the phone message I got from last night, but not before Jonathan had updated the post with the "answer" below, which we now know to be entirely subjective.

Here's what happened: Dave emails me the picture, no comment provided. I reply, "Can't make it out, what does it say below Chester Alan Arthur?" He emails back "least memorable president." I ask: "Where is it." And he replies: "Madison Square Park."

Did my friend Dave intentionally mislead me? No, this comes from a long line of trivia/philosophical questions passed around an extended group of friends, ranging from those that divide into bitterly divided camps—Which kind of bacon is better, floppy or crispy? (IMO: crispy).—to those to which there's an answer to which almost everyone can agree upon—such as: What's the worst album title of all time (Reo Speedwagon's "You Can Tune a Piano But You Can't Tune a Fish").

So "most obscure/least known" president was one such question some time back, the mostly agreed upon answer was Chester Alan Arthur (though all the presidents the commentors named were also bandied about). The next day, Dave spots the statue, takes a cell phone pic, and forgets about it until yesterday morning.

So a bad misunderstanding, and mea culpa for not triple checking with Dave. And special apologies to President Arthur, for obscure though he might be, it sounds like he acquitted himself pretty well in office (see below).

Jonathan's Original Update:
The answer is Chester A. Arthur, as commentor Mark guessed. Before moving to the White House as James Garfield's vice president, Arthur was a deputy to New York City political boss Roscoe Conkling. Arthur was an active participant in the world of graft, spoils, and the like, both while in New York and while the vice president, a fact that so angered the president that he at times refused Arthur entry to the White House. Garfield was shot by a supporter of Conkling's — leading to speculation that Arthur had engineered the situation to assume the presidency, a claim that is now generally thought to be false. Upon taking over for Garfield, Arthur, a native of the tiny town of Fairfield, VT, become a champion for civil service reform and largely acquitted himself in the eyes of history.

Said one historian, "No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted, and no one ever retired… more generally respected." But clearly someone dislikes him. Here's a picture of that statue we mentioned, which is located in New York City:

 chester_arthur250x530.jpg

Bonus trivia: Arthur served as president from 1881-1885, during which time he never had a VP.

"La Loi, C'est Moi," Part XIV

| Fri Jul. 20, 2007 11:17 AM EDT

A few months ago, Seymour Hersh reported that a White House official and Iran Contra alum, Elliot Abrams, had recently led a "lessons learned" discussion about Iran Contra:

Iran-Contra was the subject of an informal "lessons learned" discussion two years ago among veterans of the scandal. Abrams led the discussion. One conclusion was that even though the program was eventually exposed, it had been possible to execute it without telling Congress. As to what the experience taught them, in terms of future covert operations, the participants found: "One, you can't trust our friends. Two, the C.I.A. has got to be totally out of it. Three, you can't trust the uniformed military, and four, it's got to be run out of the Vice-President's office"—a reference to Cheney's role, the former senior intelligence official said.

Today the Washington Post reports that the White House may have taken that lesson to heart. It has determined, the Post reports, that in legal disputes between the Congress and the White House over executive privilege, game over, because the White House has decided no US attorney can uphold a contempt of Congress decree:

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Review/Infographic: Sonic Youth, Berkeley, 7/19/07

| Fri Jul. 20, 2007 5:56 AM EDT

New York combo Sonic Youth are a third of the way through their Daydream Nation tour, where they're performing the legendary 1988 album in its entirety. For simplicity's sake, here's an infographic describing my experience at the show. Enjoy.

mojo-photo-daydreaminfographic.jpg

Rural Communities Revived By Renewable Energy

| Thu Jul. 19, 2007 10:40 PM EDT

Renewable energy projects in Britain not only help in the fight against climate change but also bring people together, revitalize local economies, and alleviate poverty. This according to a study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. The study documented more than 500 community energy projects happening in the UK, far more than researchers expected to find. "There is a huge demand for this," says project leader Professor Gordon Walker. "It's no longer a question of convincing the public that small scale renewable energy is a good idea. Whenever money is made available it is snapped up immediately." The vast majority of projects, which are rural, provide new income for farmers. Some have been set up and run by communities, with shared ownership of the technology, like the cooperatively owned 750-kilowatt wind turbine at Bro Dyfi in Wales. The researchers found good projects are often driven forward by strong local enthusiasts intent on meeting a local need. . . Sounds delightfully subversive. JULIA WHITTY

Plame Lawsuit Dismissed

| Thu Jul. 19, 2007 5:57 PM EDT

The civil suit filed by Valerie and Joseph Wilson against Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, and Richard Armitage was dismissed by a federal judge today. Ruling that the court lacked the jurisdiction to award damages for the disclosure of Valerie Wilson's covert identity, Judge John Bates made the curious argument that blowing the cover of an undercover CIA officer could be considered to fall within the job duties of an administration official. "The alleged means by which defendants chose to rebut Mr. Wilson's comments and attack his credibility may have been highly unsavory," he wrote. "But there can be no serious dispute that the act of rebutting public criticism... by speaking with members of the press is within the scope of defendants' duties."

The Wilson's counsel, Melanie Sloan, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, is currently reviewing the decision and anticipates filing an appeal. After four years, Joe Wilson isn't about to back down. Here's what he had to say about the setback in a statement: "This case is not just about what top government officials did to Valerie and me. We brought this suit because we strongly believe that politicizing intelligence ultimately serves only to undermine the security of our nation. Today's decision is just the first step in what we have always known would be a long legal battle and we are committed to seeing this case through."

Glaciers & Ice Caps To Dominate Sea-Level Rise Through 21st Century

| Thu Jul. 19, 2007 5:16 PM EDT

Ice loss from glaciers and ice caps is expected to cause more global sea rise this century than the massive Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. A startling new University of Colorado at Boulder study finds glaciers and ice caps currently contributing 60 percent of the world's ice to the oceans, with the rate markedly accelerating in the past decade. The contribution is presently 100 cubic miles of ice annually, a volume nearly equal to the water in Lake Erie, and is rising by three cubic miles per year. In contrast, Greenland now contributes 28 percent of the total global sea rise from ice loss and Antarctica 12 percent. The acceleration of glaciers and ice caps is due, at least in part, to rapid changes in the flow of tidewater glaciers discharging icebergs into the ocean. The team estimates the accelerating melt of glaciers and ice caps could add 4 inches to 9.5 inches of additional sea-level rise globally by 2100 &mdash not including the thermal expansion of warming ocean water, which could double those numbers. A one-foot sea-level rise typically causes a shoreline retreat of 100 feet or more. . . In other words, even if the big canons stay frozen, these little guys are going to inflict a lot of damage.

This of the Jakobshavn Glacier in Greenland. JULIA WHITTY