Blogs

Gonzales Argues Against Certainty of the Right Of Habeas Corpus

| Fri Jan. 19, 2007 8:20 PM EST

Very strict constructionism, in the form of creating backwards syllogisms and thereby violating the spirit of the Constitution, has been a hallmark of the Bush administration conservatives. The latest is this gem from U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales: "There is no expressed grant of habeas in the Constitution; there's a prohibition against taking it away."

Gonzales uttered these words yesterday during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Committee chairman Arlen Specter then asked the Attorney General: "The Constitution says you can't take it away except in case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn't that mean you have the right of habeas corpus unless there's a rebellion or invasion?"

Gonzales: "The Constitution doesn't say every individual in the United States or citizen is hereby granted or assured the right of habeas corpus. It doesn't say that. It simply says the right shall not be suspended" (except in cases of rebellion or invasion).

Robert Parry, writing for Consortiumnews.com, asks a logical question: If Americans do not possess the right of habeas corpus because that right is presented via its negative, then what about other rights that are presented the same way? He uses the First Amendment as an example.

Perry also goes on to cite the Sixth Amendment, which presents habeas corpus as a right in a positive syntax, thereby nullifying Gonzales's strange logic.

(Thanks to Project for the OLD American Century for this lead, and POAC, by the way, could use some help.)

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A Showdown at the GSA

| Fri Jan. 19, 2007 8:11 PM EST

Back in December, the Washington Post reported that GSA Chief Lurita Alexis Doan had compared her agency's Investigator General, Brian Miller, to a "terrorist." His audting work had "gone too far," she'd said in August at a staff meeting, and was "eroding the health of the organization."

Today we learn that "going too far" might have meant investigating Doan.

Citing internal documents, WaPo reveals Doan attempted to give a no-bid contract that summer to a company founded and operated by a friend, which would have violated federal law. A former government contractor appointed by Bush, Doan "personally signed the deal to pay a division of her friend's public relations firm $20,000 for a 24-page report promoting the GSA's use of minority- and woman-owned businesses, the documents show."

Not surprisingly, continues the Post:

The GSA's Office of Inspector General has launched an investigation into the episode and briefed Justice Department lawyers, according to sources who said they were not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation. Officials at the inspector general's office and the Justice Department declined to comment.

If Miller is a terrorist, then I wonder what Doan would call the FBI.

Carbon Offsets... Buyer Beware

| Fri Jan. 19, 2007 5:17 PM EST

Carbon offsets are in. Everybody's doing it. And Wall Street knows it, which is why here and abroad companies from London's Marks & Spencer to Dell Computers are clamoring to make you, too, "carbon neutral." A crowded field of for-profit offset providers have sprung up, promising to do everything from reforesting the California redwoods to building solar powered greenhouses in India.

But if Expedia can make that flight from LaGuardia to Heathrow guilt free for only ten extra bucks, how is one to know whether the offsets one has bought are really making that cross-Atlantic trip carbon even-steven? At the moment, it's pretty much a crapshoot (with carbon offset prices ranging from $3.56 to $30 a metric ton). But the UK hopes to change that before the Greenland ice sheet melts into their precious gulfstream. The country's Ministry of Environment announced yesterday that it would set standards for rating the new club of carbon merchants. That way would-be-offsetters can distinguish between quality outfits and those just full of hot air.

The standards will be based on the same "system used to certify credits from the established Kyoto market." Ideally, this will mean the credits have a "clear audit trail" and be linked to real emission reductions, but don't go back to building your carbon-neutral beachfront villas just yet.

Even long-established projects, endorsed by the World Bank and certified for cap-and-trade under Kyoto's rules, don't always deliver their promised bang for the buck. Last week, The Wall Street Journal ran a great piece on the chemical industry in China. A particularly dire snippet:

"Regulators worry that the carbon market is encouraging companies in the developing world to make more of the underlying refrigerant than they otherwise would—so they can produce more of the global warming gas, destroy it, and sell the credits."

Kudos to the UK for holding the carbon traders to a higher standard, as the EU has in regulating the toxics industry. Still, for now, and for us unregulated Americans, riding a bike may be your best bet.

-- Koshlan Mayer-Blackwell

Carbon Offsets... Buyer Beware

| Fri Jan. 19, 2007 5:17 PM EST

Carbon offsets are in. Everybody's doing it. And Wall Street knows it, which is why here and abroad companies from London's Marks & Spencer to Dell Computers are clamoring to make you, too, "carbon neutral." A crowded field of for-profit offset providers have sprung up, promising to do everything from reforesting the California redwoods to building solar powered greenhouses in India.

But if Expedia can make that flight from LaGuardia to Heathrow guilt free for only ten extra bucks, how is one to know whether the offsets one has bought are really making that cross-Atlantic trip carbon even-steven? At the moment, it's pretty much a crapshoot (with carbon offset prices ranging from $3.56 to $30 a metric ton). But the UK hopes to change that before the Greenland ice sheet melts into their precious gulfstream. The country's Ministry of Environment announced yesterday that it would set standards for rating the new club of carbon merchants. That way would-be-offsetters can distinguish between quality outfits and those just full of hot air.

The standards will be based on the same "system used to certify credits from the established Kyoto market." Ideally, this will mean the credits have a "clear audit trail" and be linked to real emission reductions, but don't go back to building your carbon-neutral beachfront villas just yet.

Even long-established projects, endorsed by the World Bank and certified for cap-and-trade under Kyoto's rules, don't always deliver their promised bang for the buck. Last week, The Wall Street Journal ran a great piece on the chemical industry in China. A particularly dire snippet:

"Regulators worry that the carbon market is encouraging companies in the developing world to make more of the underlying refrigerant than they otherwise would—so they can produce more of the global warming gas, destroy it, and sell the credits."

Kudos to the UK for holding the carbon traders to a higher standard, as the EU has in regulating the toxics industry. Still, for now, and for us unregulated Americans, riding a bike may be your best bet.

Attack of the Methodists

| Fri Jan. 19, 2007 5:12 PM EST

The habitually timid clergy of the United Methodist Church is on a rampage. Well, at least as far as Methodists go. Horrified by the prospect of Bush's presidential library marrying itself to Dallas' Southern Methodist University, ten Methodist Bishops have signed a petition opposing the move. Rev. Andrew Weaver of Brooklyn, an SMU theology school grad, told the Houston Chronicle:

What this (petition) will show is there are a lot of Methodists out there who don't wish to give him the gift of our good name because he doesn't deserve it. . .Bush has not been willing to speak with Methodist bishops about the war, but he will meet with Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. Why now is he choosing a Methodist school for his library and think tank?

Spindletop in Baghdad

| Fri Jan. 19, 2007 4:25 PM EST

If all goes as expected, Iraq will soon put in place a plan for a revamped oil industry that offers big international oil companies a free ride.

Iraq has bigger oil reserves than any country on earth – the reserves of just one Iraqi field oil equal those of ExxonMobil. As an added bonus, in Iraq exploration isn't really necessary. Everyone knows where the oil is, all you've got to do is start drilling. Then, on top of these virgin fields, there are numerous unmapped areas in the western desert which promise to yield billions more barrels.

Under Iraq's nationalized system, Saddam gave numerous contracts to companies from a variety of countries from Brazil to Vietnam, France to Russia. But these deals aren't likely to hold up. Rather, people who have been carefully studying evolving law, expect the existing deals will be subsumed as minor appendages of the agreements with Big Oil.

The probable Big Oil winners are:
*Exxon-Mobil and Chevron of the US
*BP and Shell of the UK
*BHP Billiton of Australia.

The final arrangement ensures continuance of a single but weak state company — so nobody can say we are "privatizing" Iraq's oil industry. But under the new law the state enterprise can cut contracts with private companies. This will be done through production sharing agreements (PSAs), where the nominal control of the oil will remain with the state, but for all practical purposes, it will be under control of the private firms. James Paul, executive director of the Global Policy Forum, a New York-based non-profit public interest group that tracks the Iraq play, told Mother Jones, "These reserves are estimated to cost $1 per barrel to produce and the sale of the crude will yield $50-plus on the world market."

"The law allows for concessions to global oil companies as a way to achieve the highest benefit for Iraqis, taking into consideration fair competition between these companies regardless of their nationalities," Oil Ministry spokesman Assem Jihad told the Financial Times, adding, "This law stresses that all oil revenues will go to a central fund and then will be distributed to all Iraqis in all regions and provinces according their populations."

The details of the law are not known. The law will go first to the cabinet, then to parliament for final approval. Jihad said the government hopes to get the law passed and loose ends tied up within one month.

Hard line conservatives in the U.S. originally wanted to privatize the industry, but, Paul notes, the oil companies didn't like the idea of getting tarred as old fashioned colonists. So they opted for the PSAs.

Iraqi oil profits can be parceled out to the different warring groups according to a formula now being worked out. It's not feasible to just break up the business, handing bits and pieces to the Kurds, Sunnis and Shia, because Bush is talking about strengthening the central state with a workable army, police force, revamped commerce, etc. Since oil provides virtually the only revenues coming in, oil money is going to have to underwrite the economic future of the country.

The new oil law, which will shape the country's future, says Paul, "is grossly undemocratic." But there's no fear oil will get re-nationalized. The International Monetary Fund has negotiated a financial arrangement with post-war Iraq with its usual conditions: Everything has got to be privatized and the free market must rule.

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The More the Right Smears Barack Obama, the More I Like Him

| Fri Jan. 19, 2007 3:23 PM EST

Two days ago, right-wing magazine Insight ran a story alleging that Barack Obama is hiding inflammatory details about the four years he spent in Indonesia as a youth -- specifically that he was educated at a madrassa, and may have been raised as a Muslim. Now, Fox News is up and running with the story.

There are two issues here that Obama's enemies are trying to work in their favor. The first is the surprising revelation that Obama is even more "different" than Americans already thought. He's already the son of a Kenyan immigrant and a white woman. He's already someone who spent parts of his youth abroad and in Hawaii. He's already a smoker and former cocaine user.

But here's the thing: The more I learn about Obama's background, with all its cultural diversity and time abroad, the more I believe it is a strong mark in his favor. Look what happened when we elected the almost comically provincial George W. Bush. Before 2000, he had hardly left the country, he knew none of the world's leaders, and he had no background in foreign policy. Is it any surprise that when he took this country to war he had neither an understanding of the region he invaded nor the sensitivity and charm needed to garner international support? Any immigrant, child of an immigrant, or frequent world traveler can tell you: there is invaluable experience to be gained from living amongst the people of the rest of the world, be it in Peru, Tanzania, France, Russia, Indonesia, or anywhere else. Appreciation of America's riches is only one such.

The second issue is that Obama's past can be tagged with "Muslim," which, in this instance, is being used almost like a slur. The story from Insight -- which, by the way, claims that a source within Hillary's opposition research operation gave them the dirt on Obama -- pretends the real issue is that Obama is hiding his past from the American public. But in reality, the story is simply that "Muslim" is a dirty word that engenders suspicion in America, and now its supposedly horrible stain is on the senator from Illinois. Merited or not, he's going to have a hell of a time wiping it off. Of course, this should all be thoroughly ridiculous, but look at what happened to poor Keith Ellison, the nation's first Muslim congressman, who, instead of being celebrated, was greeted by a newscaster who asked him to prove he was "not working with our enemies" and a fellow lawmaker who suggested tighter immigration standards to keep more Muslims out of Congress.

I've put a call out to Obama's folks to get a comment. Stayed tuned.

Bob Ney Sentenced to 30 Months

| Fri Jan. 19, 2007 11:52 AM EST

The AP reports that Bob Ney, the former Ohio congressman who pled guilty on corruption charges stemming from the Abramoff scandal, will spend the next two-and-a-half years at a federal prison in Morgantown, West Virginia. Apparently, the sentence was even harsher than prosecutors had originally recommended. Explaining her reasoning to Ney, Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle said, "Both your constituents and the public trusted you to represent them honestly."

You Go Katie Couric (Er, Um)

| Fri Jan. 19, 2007 2:33 AM EST

Never thought I'd say it, but I feel a deep bond of solidarity with Katie Couric right now. Or at least a little twinge of sisterhood or something. Here's Katie blogging a couple of days ago about being invited to what she cringe-inducingly (sorry, can't help it, sisterhood be damned) calls "the little-known Big Meeting" before the Big Speech -- the president's, that is, speech about Iraq, that is. The Big Meeting was a White House background briefing with TV anchors and talk show hosts. Katie's post gets off to a slow start:

And even though I've been in this business for more years than I'd like to admit, and interviewed countless Presidents and world leaders, it's still thrilling—and even a little awe-inspiring—to get "briefed" at the White House, no matter who is sitting in the Oval Office.

But then we start going somewhere:

And yet, the meeting was a little disconcerting as well. As I was looking at my colleagues around the room—Charlie Gibson, George Stephanopoulos, Brian Williams, Tim Russert, Bob Schieffer, Wolf Blitzer, and Brit Hume—I couldn't help but notice, despite how far we've come, that I was still the only woman there. Well, there was some female support staff near the door. But of the people at the table, the "principals" in the meeting, I was the only one wearing a skirt. Everyone was gracious, though the jocular atmosphere was palpable.
The feminist movement that began in the 1970's helped women make tremendous strides—but there still haven't been enough great leaps for womankind. Fifty-one percent of America is female, but women make up only about sixteen percent of Congress—which, as the Washington Monthly recently pointed out, is better than it's ever been...but still not as good as parliaments in Rwanda (forty-nine percent women) or Sweden (forty-seven percent women). Only nine Fortune 500 companies have women as CEO's.
That meeting was a reality check for me—and not just about Iraq. It was a reminder that all of us still have an obligation to ask: Don't more women deserve a place at the table too?

Me, I'd love to hear more on the revelation-about-Iraq part, but maybe that's for another day. Meanwhile, Katie, if you ever need a few more good stats on this front, we can help.

Ted Nugent's Racist Spectacle at Texas Governor's Inaugural Ball

| Thu Jan. 18, 2007 10:27 PM EST

Is Texas Governor Rick Perry crazy, or is he just a big fan of Cat Scratch Fever? The final act at Perry's inaugural ball in Austin Tuesday night featured redneck rocker Ted Nugent, who, according to the San Antonio Express News, "appeared onstage wearing a cut-off T-shirt emblazoned with a Confederate flag and shouting unflattering remarks about undocumented immigrants, including kicking them out of the country, according to people who were in attendance. Machine guns, including an AK-47, were his props."

The funny thing for those who know Nugent is that he was actually being pretty tame. Two years ago, when I saw him speak at a National Rifle Association conference in Houston, he had this to say:

Remember the Alamo! Shoot 'em! To show you how radical I am, I want carjackers dead. I want rapists dead. I want burglars dead. I want child molestors dead. I want the bad guys dead. No court case. No parole. No early release. I want 'em dead. Get a gun, and when they attack you, shoot 'em.

That one was widely reported. But the AP didn't relate several other Nugent gems from that day. Among them was something he said while recounting a USO tour of Iraq: "I was just hoping somebody would take me hostage," he said. "Just aim for the laundry." (Which was even more odd when you consider that Iraqis generally don't wear turbans). Much of this was said while Nugent was holding an assault rifle. He wound up the tirade by concluding that Democrats, guilty of tax-raising and gun muzzling, should be "eliminated."

There has been a lot of talk in Texas that Gov. Perry could be tapped to run for Vice President. Maybe McCain should just nominate Nugent instead. The bigot vote would be in the bag.