B After The Fact

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bush-Cheney in 2008?

This little exercise in paranoia has kept me up more than once.

Bush-Cheney in 2008.

The easy part is Dick Cheney.

The President can only serve two terms.

A never-discussed fact is that the Vice President can serve as many terms as he can.

Ladies and Gentlemen --- Your 22nd Amendment:

"No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this Article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this Article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term. "

The hard part is seeing how Jeb Bush can get the nomination when his brother is so unpopular, and where Jeb hasn't really started yet. This is, to me, the true agenda behind the U.S. Attorney firings. The easier it is to steal elections in key states, or to use the power of the U.S. Attorney to suppress voter turnout in urban areas, the more likely it is that Jeb Bush will find the ground suitable to run on.
More on that at another time.

Monday, May 28, 2007

"That Points Clearly To A Political Career"

I hate to kill David Brooks , but he can be so disappointing.

He tries to bash Al Gore as a "Vulcan", apparently for spending 200 pages in his new book, saying essentially, the "medium is the message."

Brooks complains:

"Some great philosopher should write a book about people — and there are many of them — who flee from discussions of substance and try to turn them into discussions of process. Utterly at a loss when asked to talk about virtue and justice, they try to shift attention to technology and methods of communication. They imagine that by altering machines they can alter the fundamentals of behavior, or at least avoid the dark thickets of human nature."

David --- asked and answered

George Bernard Shaw -- Major Barbara

UNDERSHAFT. It is settled that you do not ask for the succession to the cannon business.

STEPHEN. I hope it is settled that I repudiate the cannon business.

UNDERSHAFT. Come, come! dont be so devilishly sulky: it's boyish. Freedom should be generous. Besides, I owe you a fair start in life in exchange for disinheriting you ... Well, come! is there anything you know or care for?

STEPHEN (rising and looking at him steadily). I know the difference between right and wrong.

UNDERSHAFT (hugely tickled). You dont say so! What! no capacity for business, no knowledge of law, no sympathy with art, no pretension to philosophy; only a simple knowledge of the secret that has puzzled all the philosophers, baffled all the lawyers, muddled all the men of business, and ruined most of the artists: the secret of right and wrong. Why, man, youre a genius, a master of masters, a god! At twenty-four, too!

STEPHEN (keeping his temper with difficulty). You are pleased to be facetious. I pretend to nothing more than any honorable English gentleman claims as his birthright (he sits down angrily).

UNDERSHAFT. Oh, thats everybody's birthright. Look at poor little Jenny Hill, the Salvation lassie! she would think you were laughing at her if you asked her to stand up in the street and teach grammar or geography or mathematics or even drawingroom dancing; but it never occurs to her to doubt that she can teach morals and religion. You are all alike, you respectable people. You cant tell me the bursting strain of a ten-inch gun, which is a very simple matter; but you all think you can tell me the bursting strain of a man under temptation. You darent handle high explosives; but youre all ready to handle honesty and truth and justice and the whole duty of man, and kill one another at that game. What a country! what a world!

LADY BRITOMART (uneasily). What do you think he had better do, Andrew?

UNDERSHAFT. Oh, just what he wants to do. He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career

Saturday, May 19, 2007

What If Ashcroft Signed?

The testimony of Former Acting Attorney General James Comey (the same fellow who appointed the special prosecutor who nailed Scooter Libby by the by) of a middle of the night run by Alberto Gonzales to the hospital sick bed of a man who wasn't the Attorney General to get him to sign a piece of paper that only the Attorney General was authorized to sign would be incredible on an episode of Battlestar Gallactica.

Yet it happened.

I have no way of knowing this, but it is reasonable to assume that if Gonzales could have somehow gotten Ashcroft to sign the document, Gonzales might have had a document that was signed on a date when Ashcroft was not the Attorney General, but not dated on the date that Ashcroft signed the document. If Comey had not been in the room, might the description of the document that Ashcroft was asked to sign been different as well?

It was only the integrity of Ashcroft, and a lucky act of timing on the part of Comey, that prevented this from happening. For his trouble, Ashcroft was forced out in 2004, and all his supporters are now being purged for being too fond of the rule of law.

I don't know if inducing someone to impersonate the Attorney General is a high crime or misdemeanor. I don't know if fraud against Congress for failure to disclose the incident when failure to the Congress in response to a direct question is a high crime or a misdemeanor. They are one or the other or something in between.

Whatever they are, they are impeachable offenses.

I agree with Tony Snow. A vote of no confidence or whatever Senator Schumer calls it, is worthless grandstanding.

If I couldn't find a member of the House to start an impeachment proceeding against the Attorney General, I'd drop the subject.

As I said here , in a system of checks and balances, you can only have expanded executive powers, a unitary executive, if the Congress is willing to impeach for any reason or next to no reason at all. What's a misdemeanor? Isn't what Alberto Gonzales did -- attempting to induce someone to impersonate the Attorney General --- a misdemeanor?

"It shall be unlawful for any person, directly or indirectly ... to make any untrue statement of a material fact or to omit to state a material fact necessary in order to make the statements made, in the light of the circumstances under which they were made, not misleading" \
Rule 10b-5 under the Exchange Act of 1934

Friday, May 18, 2007

"Those who would give up essential Liberty to purchase a little temporary Safety deserve neither Liberty nor Safety"

I didn't get to my Law School Reunion, but I want to add my support to my classmates' An Open Letter To Alberto Gonzales in today's Washington Post.

"As lawyers, and as a matter of principle, we can no longer be silent about this Administration’s consistent disdain for the liberties we hold dear. Your failure to stand for the rule of law, particularly when faced with a President who makes the aggrandized claim of being a unitary executive, takes this country down
a dangerous path."

"Your country and your President are in dire need of an attorney who will do the tough job of providing independent counsel, especially when the advice runs counter to political expediency. Now more than ever, our country needs a President, and an Attorney General, who remember the apt observation attributed to Benjamin Franklin:

"Those who would give up essential Liberty to purchase a little temporary
Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

We call on you and the President to relent from this reckless path,and begin to restore respect for the rule of law we all learned to love many years ago."

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Hillary Clinton -- Chorus of One -- Hitting the Right Note

I just read Dick Morris's column about Senator Clinton's position on Iraq.

Morris, who apparently isn't the sharpest tool in the shed, is confused by the Senator's position. He seems to think this is a badge of honor, and at the end of the piece Dicko sarcastically asks "Got It?"

I replied in a letter to the editor

Got it?

Indeed I do.

Hillary's position is that we need to have soldiers in Iraq, but not necessarily in the middle of a civil war in Baghdad.

That has been her position ever since she realized that the Bush Administration never was, never is, and never will be, serious about the War on Terror or the War in Iraq.

While President Bush is only interested in oil profits and expanding Presidential power, Senator Clinton has always been interested in our America's vital security interests and democracy in America and abroad.

Got It?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Tony Blair Announces Imminent Departure

This link to Tony's Blair's speech in Los Angeles, August 2006, has long been amongst the links on the right column of this blog.

I pulled some quotes from it at the time, but, as I am prone to do, I folded what I thought about the speech into a long rant about other things.

I'd like to set these quotes out alone here, give them a chance to breathe a little.

" ... (I)t is almost incredible to me that so much of Western opinion appears to buy the idea that the emergence of this global terrorism is somehow our fault. For a start, it is indeed global. No-one who ever half bothers to look at the spread and range of activity related to this terrorism can fail to see its presence in virtually every major nation in the world. It is directed at the United States and its allies, of course. But it is also directed at nations who could not conceivably be said to be allies of the West. It is also rubbish to suggest that it is the product of poverty. It is true it will use the cause of poverty. But its fanatics are hardly the champions of economic development. It is based on religious extremism. That is the fact. And not any religious extremism; but a specifically Muslim version. ...

"Its purpose is explicitly to prevent those countries becoming democracies and not "Western style" democracies, any sort of democracy. It is to prevent Palestine living side by side with Israel; not to fight for the coming into being of a Palestinian State, but for the going out of being, of an Israeli State. It is not wanting Muslim countries to modernise but to retreat into governance by a semi-feudal religious oligarchy. ...

"Yet despite all of this, which I consider virtually obvious, we look at the bloodshed in Iraq and say that's a reason for leaving; we listen to the propaganda that tells us its all because of our suppression of Muslims and have parts of our opinion seriously believing that if we only got out of Iraq and Afghanistan, it would all stop. ...

* * *
"It serves one other objective. There is a risk that the world, after the Cold War, goes back to a global policy based on spheres of influence. Think ahead. Think China, within 20 or 30 years, surely the world's other super-power. Think Russia and its precious energy reserves. Think India. I believe all of these great emerging powers want a benign relationship with the West. But I also believe that the stronger and more appealing our world-view is, the more it is seen as based not just on power but on justice, the easier it will be for us to shape the future in which Europe and the US will no longer, economically or politically, be transcendant. Long before then, we want Moderate, Mainstream Islam to triumph over Reactionary Islam.

"That is why I say this struggle is one about values. Our values are worth struggling for. They represent humanity's progress throughout the ages and at each point we have had to fight for them and defend them. As a new age beckons, it is time to fight for them again."

[More at Cow Valve Blues .

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Cow Valve Blues

I'm thinking of moving here .

What do you think?

Friday, May 04, 2007

Shut Off Your Cable Box -- And Other Adventures In Turning Green

The New York Times lead article in last Sunday’s Week In Review Carbon-Neutral Is Hip, But Is It Green?

One money quote, late in the article.

“There isn’t a single American household above the poverty line that couldn’t cut their CO2 at least 25 percent in six months through a straightforward series of fairly simple and terrifically cost-effective measures.”

We cut our electric bill by 60% in the last year by simply taking two actions (a) we switched to compact fluorescent bulbs where we could and (b) wherever possible, when we shut things off, we shut off the power strips, and/or pull the plugs out of the walls.

We’ve found it impossible, so far, to turn the desk-top computer off completely.
The rest of it is pretty easy.

Most of our savings has come from turning off the cable box completely when we are not watching television. All you need do is touch your cable box to see how much heat is being generated. It takes a few minutes to re-boot the cable box every time we turn it on. Once or twice a month, we find that the cable company has turned off our box completely, and we have to call them and ask them to reboot us.

The cable company tells us that if our cable box is not on during a “system wide patch,” then they have to turn off our cable box. It’s a nuisance, both for them and for us. However, a 60% savings on the Con Ed bill is a 60% savings. Our experience with this tells us that there has to be a more energy efficient way to make cable boxes.

We have switched to Con Ed Solutions , which means that we are paying our bill into a fund that ConEd (the electricity provider for New York City, and about the last people you would expect to be going green) uses to purchase electricity generated from environmentally friendly sources (about 65-75% hydropower, and the rest wind power). Last month, we switched to the wind-power only fund. We will now be paying an extra penny-and-a-half per kilowatt hour (less than $3.00 a month). We cut our bill by 60%, we did it at the higher rate, and we haven’t replaced the track lighting yet.

It’s the cable box.


I have been a big fan of carbon-offset programs, where people try to calculate the amount of carbon dioxide emissions that they use by driving cars, taking planes, cooling a home, and engaging in every day life, and buy “offsets” from one of the many (but not countless) companies that sell offsets. These offsets are not prohibitively expensive. Ours cost something like $39 a year. The companies then take the money and try to do some good for the environment.

We purchase our carbon offsets from The Conservation Fund . According to their website

“Your charitable contribution of approximately $5.00 per tree helps support the Fund’s Carbon Sequestration program – an effort to plant native trees to address climate change, protect wildlife habitat and enhance America’s public recreation areas. Since 2000, The Conservation Fund has restored 30,000 acres and planted more than 9 million trees through its carbon sequestration program. Over the next 100 years, these new forests will capture an estimated 13.5 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from the atmosphere.”

One of the reasons we like the Conservation Fund is that it appears that they do a lot of work in the Eastern United States, where we actually live.

We’ve also bought some carbon offsets from TerraPass . They take our money, give us a bumper sticker for our car, and invest in projects concentrating on wind energy, biomass (methane use), and industrial efficiency.

The New York Times article tends to denigrate the entire “carbon offset” movement as a complicated system of “indulgences” that allow people to continue to “take private jets and stretch limos.”


I am sure I speak for virtually all 250,000,000 of us private jet flying, stretch limo driving Americans. We will be happy to cut back on our addiction to these environmental dangers immediately if it helps save the planet. From now on I will limit my stretch limo driving to emergency trips to Price Club.

Beyond the cheap veiled pot shots (roughly ½ the article) at Al Gore and the other billion plus people who are trying to come to grips with climate change without throwing themselves off the roof, the New York Times article is right on one point. Not all carbon-offset providers provide equally good services. Like new markets everywhere, some are better than others.

The article references a report The Consumers Guide to Carbon Offsets , put together by a group called “Clean Air/ Cool Planet”. The group is unknown to me, but among the corporate sponsors of the report is Stonyfield Farms Organic Yogurt . Beyond having a tasty product, Stonyfield Farms helped turned us on to the entire carbon offset process in the first place.

The report lists 8 companies that they like more than the others. 5 of them are outside of the United States. The 3 in the United States are:

Climate Trust


Sustainable Travel/ My Planet

We will certainly take a look at these providers in our next purchase of carbon offsets.


The other point in the article, beyond debating, is that purchasing carbon-offsets is not going to be enough, and is probably not enough now.

Like everybody else, we are trying to do more. We just joined a fruit and vegetable coop which promises us to provide produce from local farmers (the East End of Long Island, I suppose).

And like everybody else, we just got here. When we renovated our coop in early 2005, we did not consider green issues at all. We put in halogen track lighting in our kitchen. There are no compact fluorescent alternatives to that yet. We have ceiling fans and light fixtures for which there are no compact fluorescent bulbs yet either. We did buy energy saver appliances, but solely in the name of saving money, but that’s it.

In late August of the same year, Hurricane Katrina changed my wife’s thinking 180 degrees. Of course, under the circumstances, my thinking changed a little as well.

The most important thing we do for the environment is live in a co-op in Queens where we are 2 minutes from the subway and 5 minutes from the railroad. I bought my current car (a Honda Accord -- no power windows) in October, 2001. It has just over 30,000 miles.

Obviously, living in an apartment will always be more environmentally efficient. We have over 100 families and only one lawn. There are limits, too. We can not unilaterally demand that the building immediately put up solar panels. It will also be a long time before the building is in a position to allow us to switch from plastic to paper in throwing out garbage.

All-in-all, the New York Times does its readers, and the planet, a tremendous disservice by suggesting that people who are beginning by buying carbon offsets are driven by sloth and the pleasure principle, and that the alternative to doing everything all at once is doing nothing at all.