Mojo - June 2007

No Dice on "No Confidence" Vote

| Mon Jun. 11, 2007 7:14 PM EDT

It's fish-or-cut-bait time in the Senate. Democrats failed to obtain the 60 votes they needed to conduct a "no confidence" vote on AG Alberto Gonzales. (Best AG AG insult of the day: "This is a little man in a very big job, and he has embarrassed his country and his president in the way he has carried it out," wrote Martin Frost.) Democrats have approved but not issued subpoenas for the testimony of evil mastermind Karl Rove and, well, Harriet Miers. The Dems also have the legal right to impeach Gonzales.

Joining Democrats in calling for the "no confidence" vote were Arlen Specter (Pa.), John Sununu (N.H.), Gordon Smith (Ore.) Chuck Hagel (Ne.), and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine. Seven more votes were needed.

And, now all but officially a member of the Republican Party, one-time Democratic VP contender Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut voted "no."

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Congress Will Demand More Fuel Efficiency from Detroit

| Mon Jun. 11, 2007 5:56 PM EDT

Finally, finally, Congress is set to act to demand that American automakers improve the fuel efficiency of their cars and trucks. The Senate is expected to vote in the next two weeks on a bill demanding an average fuel efficiency of 35 miles per gallon by 2020. Left to their own devices since 1985, the automakers have been in reverse: 1987 model-year vehicles averaged 26.2 miles per gallon; last year's fleet averaged 25.4 mpg. Clearly, know-how is not the problem.

But the automakers will say any old thing to avoid changing, even when their declining market share suggests that, from a purely financial perspective, change is necessary. GM's chief begged lawmakers to be "responsible" so as not to "disadvantage the domestic industry." Yet it may well be the lack of fuel efficiency that has put Detroit at a disadvantage in recent years relative to Japanese automakers Honda and Toyota.

GM also lashed out against CAFE, charging that the law "has not accomplished what it set out to do," because American fuel consumption has continued to increase. Here again, lies, bloody lies. The auto industry has lobbied continuously and aggressively against strengthening fuel standards since they were first introduced. And, they've backslid from the efficient cars they made in the 70s and 80s.

Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan (N.D.) reportedly gave the Big Three the schooling they've long needed. "We protected you from CAFE and you lost market share, jobs and money anyway." (GM, Ford and Chrysler lost a combined $16 billion last year and put thousands of Americans out of their jobs.) "You've lost," Dorgan said. "Your position is yesterday forever."

Good riddance.

Indefinite Domestic Detention Suffers Major Blow

| Mon Jun. 11, 2007 3:43 PM EDT

Just a week after the only two detainees at Guantanamo Bay charged with crimes had the charges against them thrown out by military courts, the only captive in the war on terror held within U.S. borders was freed by a federal appeals court. He was freed only momentarily, but I'll get to that in a second. The more important point is that the judiciary (even the military judiciary) is in revolt, protecting our civil liberties from the Bush Administration's out-of-control war on terror tactics.

The ruling today pertains to Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a Qatari national who was studying computer science in Peoria, Illinois, until his December 2001 arrest for allegedly being an al Qaeda agent. The federal government chose not to put al-Marri through the court system reserved for all other incarcerated people, instead labeling him an enemy combatant and keeping him at a naval brig for South Carolina for four years. Much of that time was spent without charges or any sense of when his detention would end.

The court did not find Al-Marri innocent. Instead, it found that civilians arrested in this country -- not abroad -- and held domestically -- not at Guantanamo -- cannot be held indefinitely and eventually tried in a military tribunal system that parallels the regular court system but offers fewer rights and operates in secrecy. On a macro scale, the ruling says you can't round people up in the United States, call them terrorism suspects, and then hold them in shady places while making shady claims about trying them in shady courts. It's a victory for anyone who didn't want to see a Children of Men scenario play out within our borders.

But because the court didn't find al-Marri innocent, it is ordering him from the military custody he was previously in into a different state of the government's choosing. He can be charged in the civilian court system, he can be deported, he can be held as a material witness, or he can be released. But he can't be held in military detention any longer. Wrote the court:

"To sanction such presidential authority to order the military to seize and indefinitely detain civilians...even if the President calls them 'enemy combatants,' would have disastrous consequences for the Constitution... We refuse to recognize a claim to power that would so alter the constitutional foundations of our Republic."

Powell Calls for Guantanamo to be Closed

| Mon Jun. 11, 2007 3:15 PM EDT

powell_mtp.jpgAh, Meet the Press: What is it about little Timmy Russert that makes politicians drop their juiciest little morsels on his show? This Sunday it was former Secretary of State Colin Powell's turn to make waves on the show. The big news is that Powell called for Guantanamo to be shut down. The continued detention—sans lawyers and, in most cases, charges—of 365 men, Powell said, has "shaken the belief that the world had in America's justice system." Powell expressed faith in that system, arguing that the country "has 2 million people in jail, all of whom had lawyers and access to writs of habeas corpus…. We can handle bad people in our system."

Powell, who as chairman of the Joint Chiefs during the Clinton administration helped draft the disastrous "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, also titillated news whores and homosexuals everywhere when he implied that the policy may need to be revisited. It was "an appropriate response to the situation back in 1993. And the country certainly has changed," he said. However, unlike his successor as chair of the Joint Chiefs, John Shalikashvili, Powell stopped short of denouncing "Don't ask, don't tell." (More recently, chairman Peter Pace called homosexuality immoral. And, yes, it is hard to keep a chairman of the Joint Chiefs for long in these troubled times.)

Powell's final move to separate himself from the Bush administration he once served came as he announced that he hasn't decided whether to support a Republican or a Democrat in 2008. That's great, but I can't help but wonder why Powell, who's evidently a competent and decent guy, didn't know better than to serve under Bush and Cheney in the first place.

The Hits Keep Coming: New Screw Up at Dep't of Justice

| Mon Jun. 11, 2007 1:07 PM EDT

Cameron can add another scandal to the already long list he provided in his last post about the Department of Justice. According to a study done by the Washington Post, the "Bush administration increasingly emphasized partisan political ties over expertise in recent years in selecting the judges who decide the fate of hundreds of thousands of immigrants, despite laws that preclude such considerations."

Yup, just when you thought Alberto Gonzales' fiefdom couldn't get any more screwed up, they pull this out of a hat. Turns out half of the judges the Department of Justice appointed to the immigration bench lack any sort of qualifications, and one-third are clear GOP apparatchiks. One is the former treasurer of the Louisiana Republican Party, one was a participant in the "Brooks Brothers riot" that stalled the recount in Florida, and one is a former White House domestic policy adviser and anti-porn crusader. Hardly the qualities one hopes for in judges that have to interpret the nation's voluminous and often incredibly detailed immigration laws.

The judges are appointed indefinitely, and combine to deport nearly a quarter million immigrants a year. Think of the damage these folks could do. Just another example of how the Bush Administration has turned the federal government into a bastion of conservatism, ignoring qualifications, expertise, and long-accepted hiring rules in the process.

Senate Will Have 'No Confidence' Vote on Gonzales

| Fri Jun. 8, 2007 5:21 PM EDT

The Senate will hold a preliminary vote on Monday on whether to hold a thumbs-up/thumbs-down vote on AG AG. Republicans promise to vote against the proposal, but surely at least a few will break ranks. Republican Arlen Specter has hypothesized that Gonzales will resign before facing a "no confidence" vote. The funny thing is, the Senate could (and should) actually impeach Gonzales.

(If you haven't been following why Gonzo is such a Gonzo, you haven't been reading our blog, now have you? What it boils down to is this: U.S. Attorneys may be political appointees, but firing them for refusing to prosecute bogus "voter fraud" cases to keep minorities home on Election Day is unacceptable. So is hiring second-rate attorneys because they've been dutiful contributors to the Republican Party. So is prosecuting the first-ever voting rights case alleging white people were discriminated against. So is neglecting genuine civil rights cases. And so is having major diversity problems in the DOJ, when one of the department's primary functions is to prevent institutionalized discrimination. Oh yeah, and so is perjury.)

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God Doesn't Just Hate Rudy

| Fri Jun. 8, 2007 3:45 PM EDT

Jonathan wrote earlier this week about the whole God-hates-Rudy-Giuliani-thing (lightning shorted his microphone at Sunday's GOP debate while he tried to explain his position on abortion). Well, thanks to Ann over at TAPPED, who spotted this post on Feministe, the God-hating nonsense can continue. It appears God doesn't just hate Guiliani but also teens who listen to Metallica on their iPod, while cutting the lawn in a lightning storm, as well as those who pray?

George W. Bush Walks Into a Bar...

| Fri Jun. 8, 2007 3:24 PM EDT

While we're on the subject of what Bush eats and drinks, I'm curious what people think about this photo:

bush_beer.gif

That's Bush enjoying a frosty mug of low-alcohol beer (a Buckler, to be precise) between sessions at the G8 summit. It's not the first time the teetotaler-in-chief has been caught on film downing a near beer (even though he apparently used to try to hide his habit from the press.) But I wonder why a recovering alcoholic would choose to drink a low-alcohol beer (Buckler is 0.5% alcohol). My sense is that it has less to do with the smooth, refreshing taste than simply wanting to be convivial. You can imagine Bush feeling like a wuss while his world-leader buddies enjoy a stiff drink (though tough guy Vladmir Putin reputedly abstains). But there's still the question of whether he should be drinking fake beer. There's an AA saying that "Nonalcoholic beer is for nonalcoholics." So is this a sign of Bush's recklessness—or his self-discipline? Or should we get a life and just let the guy enjoy the ice cold beverage of his choosing?

Bush Poisoned by Putin?

| Fri Jun. 8, 2007 3:00 PM EDT

bush-Putin.jpgAfter trading insults with Russian president Vladimir Putin in the lead-up to the G8 summit in Germany, Bush had to miss a session and group photo op yesterday after falling ill with what the White House called "some sort of bug." Was he, like Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko and reform-minded Ukrainian president Victor Yushchenko, poisoned? Apparently, White House counselor Dan Bartlett also sensed the coincidence, asserting defensively that Bush's illness was "probably more viral in nature and highly unlikely to be anything related to food or anything he ate." Question is, does Bush have a taster? 'Cause homeboy needs one. Putin is a dangerous enemy, and Bush doesn't have too many friends at home.

(Note to conspiracy theorists—and Mr. Putin: This post is tongue-in-cheek. )

The United States: Not Very Peaceful

| Fri Jun. 8, 2007 2:25 PM EDT

The BBC reported last week that the United States ranks 96th, out of 121 countries, on the Global Peace Index, a list determining the peacefulness of each country (121 being the least peaceful). Compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a research and advisory firm spawned originally to serve the magazine, the index ranks countries on, among other factors, prison population, violent crime, and relations with one's neighbors. Iraq, due to the ongoing war (one of the reasons for the U.S.' poor ranking as well, I'll assume), ranks dead last, at 121. Norway, not surprisingly, ranks at the top. Other notables: Japan ranks fifth (although, that seems sort of skewed, due to its military constraints), Sudan sits at 120 and Israel at 119.