Tuesday, June 26, 2007

doubled down

(photo-edit by dave hill)

and meanwhile, brick by brick, the house that jack built continues to fall ... painfully.

new york times: a federal judge chastised the interior department's former no. 2 official and doubled his proposed prison term to 10 months tuesday for lying to senators in the jack abramoff lobbying scandal and making excuses about it in court.

j. steven griles, who was the department's deputy secretary, had pleaded guilty to obstructing a congressional investigation, and a federal judge said he continued to make excuses about his lies.

"even now you continue to minimize and try to excuse your conduct," u.s. district judge ellen segal huvelle told griles before doubling the five-month person prison term he and prosecutors had agreed on.

griles admitted to lying to senate investigators about his relationship with abramoff, the central figure in a corruption investigation that has led to convictions of a former congressman, legislative aides, lobbyists and officials in the bush administration.

griles had asked to be spared prison time. under his plea deal with prosecutors, the justice department recommended he serve five months in prison and five months in a halfway house or under house arrest.

asks atrios @ eschaton:

remind me how many clinton administration officials were convicted for acts they committed while in office?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

why jack bauer always gets his man

now i know justice antonin scalia has a great love for theatrics, but his recent use of a fictional tv character, tough guy government agent jack bauer of the popular series 24 (which i will disclose that i've never watched), to enthusicastically bolster his justification for torture as a crime-fighting tool, has left me wondering if the good judge has any sense at all of the profound irony he's just fallen victim to. (though in the classic use of irony the victim is always oblivious to his predicament — irony is the writer's gift to the reader.)

in fact, if i may allow myself to appropriate a tv personality of my own, it was the daily show's host jon stewart who remarked, in his report on the graceless exit of former deputy secretary of state randall tobias, a casualty of this spring's dc madam scandal, that "there is nothing the administration can do that is not ironic."

the globe and mail: senior judges from north america and europe were in the midst of a panel discussion about torture and terrorism law, when a canadian judge's passing remark — "thankfully, security agencies in all our countries do not subscribe to the mantra 'what would jack bauer do?'" — got the legal bulldog in judge scalia barking.

the conservative jurist stuck up for agent bauer, arguing that fictional or not, federal agents require latitude in times of great crisis. "jack bauer saved los angeles. ... he saved hundreds of thousands of lives," judge scalia said. then, recalling season 2, where the agent's rough interrogation tactics saved california from a terrorist nuke, the supreme court judge etched a line in the sand.

"are you going to convict jack bauer?" judge scalia challenged his fellow judges. "say that criminal law is against him? 'you have the right to a jury trial?' is any jury going to convict jack bauer? i don't think so.

"so the question is really whether we believe in these absolutes. and ought we believe in these absolutes."

what should disturb everyone is that scalia takes import from the fact that jack bauer wins. jack bauer always gets his man. he saved california, fer chrissakes!!! and jack wins because he's willing to torture. it is of course the classic "ends justifies the means" argument, and disappointingly, not a particularly sophisticated example, considering that its source is supposed to be one of the smartest jurists in the country.

but how can scalia credit jack's willingness to torture for jack's success when the reality is that — and here is where the irony i so subtly foreshadowed kicks in — as a fictional character, jack's success or failure has absolutely nothing to do with the merits of anything he does but instead depends entirely on the desires of his scriptwriters!

the reality is that jack bauer has never saved anything or anybody. he's not real. bauer wins because the scriptwriters want him to. likewise, torture works only because the scriptwriters want it to.

in america's fight against terrorists, we don't need jack bauer. what this country needs are his scriptwriters.

torture has perhaps saved some at the expense of honour, by uncovering 30 bombs. but at the same time it has created 50 new terrorists.
— albert camus

Sunday, June 17, 2007


according to the urban dictionary (with a minor revision of my own):

a form of government with [an idiot] exercising absolute power and unrestricted control and regularly disregarding opinions, petitions or mandates of the people or elected representatives.

q:well, what do you say to critics who believe that you're ignoring the advice of retired generals, military commanders, who say that there needs to be a change?
bush:i say i listen to all voices, but mine's the final decision. and don rumsfeld is doing a fine job. he's not only transforming the military, he's fighting a- a- a war on terror. he's helping us fight a war on terror. i have strong confidence in don rumsfeld. i hear the voices, and i read the front page, and i know the speculation. but i'm the decider, and i decide what is best. and what's best is for don rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

do not pass "go"

(art © mike luckovich)

AP: a federal judge said thursday he will not delay a 2½-year prison sentence for i. lewis "scooter" libby in the cia leak case, a ruling that could send the former white house aide to prison within weeks.

... no date was set for libby to report to prison but it's expected to be within six to eight weeks. that will be left up to the u.s. bureau of prisons, which will also select a facility.

"unless the court of appeals overturns my ruling, he will have to report," walton said.

Friday, June 08, 2007

a moment of clarity

well yeah. i was just sitting here, eating my muffin, drinking my coffee, when i had what alcoholics refer to as a moment of clarity.

— hitman jules winnfield, pulp fiction (1994)


after spending the last six years crazy drunk on all fear all the time!®, has the mainstream media sobered up?

matthews: well, i'll tell ya one thing — i agree with what fareed zakaria wrote in newsweek this week, which is: terrorism isn't explosions and death. terrorism is when you change your society because of those explosions. and you become fearful to the point where you shut out immigration. you shut out student exchanges. you shut people out of buildings. you begin to act in almost a fascist manner because you're afraid of what might happen to you. that's when terrorism becomes real and frighteningly successful. that's what i believe, and that why i question the way giuliani has raised this issue. he raises it as a spectre. in a weird way he helps the bad guys.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


r.i.p. steve gilliard (1966-2007).

i did not know steve, but those who did say that his online papa-don't-take-no-mess analysis was matched only by his in-person charm. i agreed with a lot of what he wrote — and to that extent felt a certain kinship — and made reference to a number of his posts:

"we" are not amused

send in the clowns

a good old-fashioned space opera

my condolences to his friends and family.