Blogs

Do Not Pass Go, Scooter Libby. Do Not Collect $200

| Fri Jun. 15, 2007 9:04 AM EDT

Perhaps you've heard about this?

Scooter Libby will not be allowed to remain free while his lawyers appeal the 30-month sentence he received after being convicted of lying to investigators during the CIA leak investigation, according to media reports.
The former White House adviser could be sent to federal prison within weeks, according to the Associated Press.

Now the pressure is really on President Bush regarding a pardon -- delaying it until the end of his term, entirely possible if Libby was allowed to stay free during appeal after appeal, is out of the question. Reports say that Team Cheney is pushing for a pardon hard, but the president is ambivalent. Though I think it would make a mockery of the justice system, I'm not sure why he doesn't pardon Libby today -- it's not like his approval ratings can get any lower.

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Gonzales Under Investigation for Trying to Influence Aide's Testimony

| Fri Jun. 15, 2007 8:48 AM EDT

The problem with investigations is they create new, smaller investigations. That's what Alberto Gonzales is learning, anyway. He's under investigation for possibly trying to influence the testimony of former aide Monica Goodling in the U.S. Attorneys scandal.

Gonzo said in testimony that he never discussed the scandal with other "fact witnesses," and that in fact this lack of discussion was exactly why he had to respond with so many "do not recalls" in response to lawmakers' questions. But in testimony that came after Gonzo's, Goodling said that her boss had a conversation with her around this time about whether or not she should stay at the DOJ. According to Goodling, this conversation made her "a little uncomfortable." Many speculate it was intended to influence her testimony.

What's remarkable about this is that the investigation isn't being taken up by Congress -- it's being instigated by the Department of Justice itself. That means that it's no Democrat-led fishing expedition, but also that Gonzales is being investigated by his subordinates, putting everyone in an awkward position and raising the question of whether the investigation will be effective.

Effective or not, add this to the ever-growing list of scandals at DOJ.

Geek Love -- The Long Awaited Follow-up

| Thu Jun. 14, 2007 7:24 PM EDT

After 17 years, fans of the cult (and personal) favorite Geek Love by Portland-based author Katherine Dunn are finally getting their wish for a follow-up. Knopf, Dunn's publisher, will release Dunn's second novel, The Cut Man in September 2008. Back in 1989 Dunn told The Guardian, "'The cut man in boxing is the person who stops the bleeding in a boxing match. The new novel is about boxing and serial killers."

In the meantime, you can get your Dunn fix here, where Dunn is guest blogging for a bit. Be sure to check out the comments section below posts where the host blogger asks her questions about her life and writing. She gets into the nitty gritty of how the writing process works for her.

She is especially interested in the sound of the human voice, writing yesterday, "I keep trying to remind people that the hen scratches are just symbols for the sounds of the human voice. That it's the sound that communicates. You've got to hear this stuff as you read it. It's gorgeous, this process. Alone in a room you hear the sounds and note them down in silence and they go out to others who read them in silence and hear the sounds again."

Her first post on the blog is the essay "Just as Fierce," which was originally published in the Nov/Dec 1994 issue of Mother Jones.

--Martha Pettit

Bush DOJ Protects the Strong from the Weak

| Thu Jun. 14, 2007 6:55 PM EDT

Jonathan blogged earlier today about how the Department of Justice's shifted its focus away from traditional issues like race and sex discrimination and vote suppression to discrimination against religious conservatives—one of the most kowtowed-to and overrepresented groups in the country. I think he gave short shift to how utterly disturbing the move is. Here are specific examples cited in the Times article, which I will let speak for themselves:

• Intervening in federal court cases on behalf of religion-based groups like the Salvation Army that assert they have the right to discriminate in hiring in favor of people who share their beliefs even though they are running charitable programs with federal money.

• Supporting groups that want to send home religious literature with schoolchildren; in one case, the government helped win the right of a group in Massachusetts to distribute candy canes as part of a religious message that the red stripes represented the blood of Christ.

• Vigorously enforcing a law enacted by Congress in 2000 that allows churches and other places of worship to be free of some local zoning restrictions. The division has brought more than two dozen lawsuits on behalf of churches, synagogues and mosques.

• Taking on far fewer hate crimes and cases in which local law enforcement officers may have violated someone's civil rights. The resources for these traditional cases have instead been used to investigate trafficking cases, typically involving foreign women used in the sex trade, a favored issue of the religious right.

• Sharply reducing the complex lawsuits that challenge voting plans that might dilute the strength of black voters. The department initiated only one such case through the early part of this year, compared with eight in a comparable period in the Clinton administration.

Palestinian President Dissolves Government

| Thu Jun. 14, 2007 6:27 PM EDT

As Hamas and the more moderate Fatah movement battled on the streets of Gaza, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah movement dissolved the government, which had been structured around a Fatah/Hamas power-sharing agreement. He has promised to create an emergency government.

Question is, is it good for the Jews, or bad for the Jews? Part of me believes that this is Israel's (and the neocons') dream come true—Palestinians destroying each other so Israel doesn't have to bother. It couldn't have been hard to see as Israel issued call after call for Arafat and then Abbas to rein Hamas in that eventually something like this would happen. On the other hand, it was also predictable that Hamas—you know, the more radical and better-armed group—would quickly gain the upper hand. The group has conquered nearly the entire Gaza strip. Having Hamas in power is a serious gamble for Israel (or at least Israelis), if this was the country's plan. One thing is for sure: This isn't good for the Palestinians, and it may well lead to a further increase in terrorism worldwide, already up since Bush invaded Iraq.

Guys, this is why you don't wage elective wars in the world's most conflict-ridden region—certainly not while depriving an angry group of its basic necessities because you don't like the results of a democratic election and then turning a blind eye to the consequences.

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Once-Common Birds In Dramatic Decline

| Thu Jun. 14, 2007 3:24 PM EDT

The National Audubon Society reports that populations of many of America's most familiar and beloved birds are in dangerous decline. Some have fallen more than 80 percent in the past 40 years—a direct result of the loss of habitat, including grasslands, healthy forests, and wetlands, from multiple environmental threats such as sprawl, energy development, and the spread of industrialized agriculture. The threats are now compounded and amplified by the escalating effects of global warming—as detailed in MoJo's current cover story.

"These are not rare or exotic birds we're talking about—these are the birds that visit our feeders and congregate at nearby lakes and seashores and yet they are disappearing day by day," said Audubon chair and former EPA administrator Carol Browner. "Their decline tells us we have serious work to do, from protecting local habitats to addressing the huge threats from global warming."

Audubon's assessment comes from 40 years of its citizen-led Christmas Bird Count's data and the Breeding Bird Survey. The following once-common species are among those hardest hit: Northern Bobwhites down 82 percent; Evening Grosbeaks down 78 percent; Northern Pintails down 78 percent; Greater Scaups down 75 percent; Eastern Meadowlarks down 71 percent; Common Terns down 70 percent; Snow Buntings down 64 percent; Rufous Hummingbirds down 58 percent; Whip-poor-wills down 57 percent; Little Blue Herons down 54 percent in the U.S.

Check out Audubon's suggestions on what individuals can do to help. --JULIA WHITTY

So Long, Farewell, We Say Goodbye With an Obit

| Thu Jun. 14, 2007 3:14 PM EDT

Okay, so this is a little strange. The San Francisco Chronicle's Executive Editor Phil Bronstein is writing short, eloquent posts remembering former colleagues let go because of the paper's downsizing.

The paper announced this spring they were laying off 25 percent of the newsroom by end of the Summer, and readers can now learn tidbits about folks who were let go. For example, one former Style editor was a "renaissance guy with broad knowledge of jazz, literature and other subjects," and one editor was able to deconstruct complicated stories and reassemble them as mini-masterpieces every day.

What's odd is that the blurbs say things like "Her departure after 32 years of faithful, professional service represents an irreplaceable loss," which sounds more like an obit. But sensitive remembrances don't make good on the fact that many talented journalists are going jobless. As the Project for Excellence in Journalism points out in its 2007 State of the News Media report, two important journalistic pursuits — monitoring of local governments and regional issues — are losing out to newsroom downsizing. (Other Bay Area news staff reductions get frequent updates here, and MoJo's "Breaking the News" investigation digs even deeper.)

If news companies do not assert their own vision and take risks, the PEJ report argues, their future will be defined by those less invested in and passionate about news than the heroes being eulogized by Bronstein.

--Gary Moskowitz

You Can Go Home Again

| Thu Jun. 14, 2007 2:53 PM EDT

police_50s.jpgLast night I relived my childhood. I saw The Police in concert. The sound of Sting's voice filling an open-air stadium (this time in Oakland) really took me back—though the biggest Proustian moment came when I saw Police posters for sale. Posters!

The performance was fantastic. Sting can still sing gorgeously. He's still got a winning little twist to his mouth as he does it, and if my ass and biceps look as good when I'm 55, I will be seriously, seriously happy. (I'm not sure if it was an ironic note or not, but the band revisited its 80s look, headbands, sleeveless shirts and all.) The really great thing about the show was seeing the band feeling free to delve deeper into their influences. Sting got a little scat into "Roxanne," which might have been borderline cheesy in a solo performance, but with Stewart Copeland there to reign him in, it was amazing. There is obviously still some interpersonal tension, but, damn, hearing them let their songs get a little abstract and airy, but then—POP!—bring them back down to earth, made me really wish they had been able to make that compromise as a band. In my younger years, I would send a dozen roses backstage for Sting at every concert. Last night, I thought the roses were for Stewart. (Andy came across as a man with ample skills but little soul.)

One disappointment: There was no political statement or undertone. Correction: During "Invisible Sun," a song about the bleakness of the industrial age, the video monitors showed footage of what might have been Iraq. But, come on, "Bombs Away" was an obvious follow-up:

The President looks in the mirror and speaks
His shirts are clean but his country reeks
Unpaid bills
In Afghanistan hills
Bombs away
But we're O.K…

"Walking in Your Footsteps" also begged to become a song about exploding the carbon bomb instead of the atom bomb (Hey there mighty brontosaurus / Don't you have a message for us? You thought your rule would always last / There were no lessons in your past. … / If we explode the atom bomb, / Would they say that we were dumb?).

Nonetheless, the songs revealed their well-craftedness as the band turned some major chords minor, filled up some places that had been emptier, and emptied out some places that had been fuller. The Police aren't just the pivotal band of my youth; they're also a band that has earned a significant place in musical history.

Giuliani Contradicts Himself in Rush to Blame Dems for Terrorism

| Thu Jun. 14, 2007 10:05 AM EDT

Rudy Giuliani's efforts to fit in with the Republican mainstream by, in part, Democrat-bashing is resulting in some ugly contortions. Speaking recently on FOX News, Giuliani slammed Bill Clinton's presidency for making America less safe, saying the administration's attitude towards terrorism was "don't react, let things go."

Not only is that wrong (see Richard Clarke's work) and misdirected, it directly contradicts what Giuliani said just nine months ago, when commenting on ABC's 9/11 docudrama:

"The idea of trying to cast blame on President Clinton is just wrong for many, many reasons, not the least of which is I don't think he deserves it."

One can only hope that if Rudy wins the Republican nomination, the mainstream media will focus on contradictions such as this and what even conservatives say is Rudy's facile understanding of foreign affairs.