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Dec 25 2008

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

Yes, even though it’s Christmas, there’s still a wee bit o’ news. Sorta.

There’s been quite the dustup over Bush’s attempted pardon:

Yesterday President Bush abruptly revoked a pardon he gave New York real estate developer Isaac Toussie after reports disclosed that Toussie’s immediate family contributed nearly $40,000 to Republicans. The White House said the Justice Department did not review Toussi’s clemency application because it “was filed less than five years after Toussie completed his sentence,” thus making him ineligible for a pardon according to the department’s guidelines. Instead, the White House counsel’s office considered Toussie’s application as a special case. But not only has press secretary Dana Perino repeatedly stated that the White House would follow DoJ’s pardon guidelines, but so has President Bush himself, in a Jan. 2007 interview…

Which, for most politicians, would be controversy enough. But this is Bush we’re talking about. You know there’s got to be a little something more:

Perhaps the most intriguing matter is the process by which the White House decided to issue the pardon. Toussie had hired Bradford Berenson, a former top lawyer in the White House counsel’s office from 2001-2003, to handle the case.

Berenson may have been responsible for persuading his former White House colleagues to bypass the normal procedures. It wouldn’t be the first time Berenson has acted in that manner. In Angler — an introspective book on Dick Cheney’s vice presidency — author Barton Gellman documents an earlier attempt by Berenson to pull a fast one.

In Nov. 2001, with Berenson’s assistance, Vice President Cheney hastily pushed a legal memo through the White House which ordered that all terrorism suspects in U.S. custody could be detained indefinitely without charge. Berenson skirted normal vetting procedures:

After leaving Bush’s private dining room, the vice president took no chances on a last-minute objection. He sent the order on a swift path to execution that left no sign of his role. After Addington and Flanigan, the text passed to Berenson, the associate White House counsel. Cheney’s link to the document broke there: Berenson was not told of its provenance.

Berenson rushed the order to deputy staff secretary Stuart W. Bowen Jr., bearing instructions to prepare it for signature immediately — without advance distribution to the president’s top advisers. Bowen objected, he told colleagues later, saying he had handled thousands of presidential documents without ever bypassing strict procedures of coordination and review. He relented, one White House official said, only after “rapid, urgent persuasion” that Bush was standing by to sign and that the order was too sensitive to delay.

In an interview, Berenson said it was his understanding that “someone had briefed” the president “and gone over it” already. He added: “I don’t know who that was.”

[snip]

The Toussie case isn’t over yet. “The president believes that the pardon attorney should have an opportunity to review this case before a decision on clemency is made,” Perino said. And that means Berenson will have an opportunity to continue to bill Toussie for another few weeks in an effort to secure an illegitimate pardon, again.

That’s more like the corruption we’ve come to expect from our Clown in Chief.

The Bush bandits may try to tell us that they’ve changed their minds based on new facts, etc. etc., all in an attempt to sound less like self-interested fucktards and more like Responsible Adults, but Digby’s here to remind us that self-interest is still their primary motive:

In case anyone’s wondering why Bush retracted the pardon of his contributor’s son, it’s not because he had an attack of conscience or even because it looks bad politically to pardon a mortgage scammer.

It’s sadly because the pardon would have made it harder for the Republicans to tank Eric Holder’s nomination on the basis of the Marc Rich pardon. One of their most substantial hissy fits was that that Holder signed off on it when it hadn’t gone through proper channels (something that was not unprecedented then either.) It turns out that this Bush pardon was granted under similar circumstances.

Kinda hard to call the kettle black when you’re standing neck-deep in the same muck. Not that they wouldn’t have tried. It’s just that someone finally got hit with a particle of sanity and realized that after eight years of straight bullshit, it’s getting harder to get the public to swallow.

Speaking of straight bullshit, Faux News is busy spending the holiday trying to blow smoke up the nation’s arse:

I appeared on Fox News yesterday to discuss both the Blagojevich flap and the imminent economic recovery package from the Obama administration. You can watch the clip here. As you’ll see, on that latter issue, Fox News is starting its campaign to stop Obama’s big spending plan by stating – as assumed fact – that “historians pretty much agree” that Franklin Roosevelt prolonged the Great Depression, and that therefore, Obama shouldn’t try another New Deal.

When I say Fox News’ assertion about historians is patently false, they literally laugh at me as if I’ve said something so clearly untrue, something Americans supposedly assume is so obviously stupid, that it’s worthy of ridicule.

I hope they enjoyed that chuckle, because it’s their ridiculed guest who gets the last laugh:

Now, it’s true – back in 2004, two UCLA professors published a little-noticed report claiming the New Deal’s government intervention prolonged the Great Depression. But that assertion has been subsequently eviscerated by, ya know, actual data.

Here’s University of California historian Eric Rauchway:

For a start, New Deal intervention saved the banks. During Hoover’s presidency, around 20 percent of American banks failed, and, without deposit insurance, one collapse prompted another as savers pulled their money out of the shaky system. When Roosevelt came into office, he ordered the banks closed and audited. A week later, authorities began reopening banks, and deposits returned to vaults.

Congress also established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which, as economists Milton Friedman and Anna Jacobson Schwartz wrote, was “the structural change most conducive to monetary stability since … the Civil War.” After the creation of the FDIC, bank failures almost entirely disappeared. New Dealers also recapitalized banks by buying about a billion dollars of preferred stock…

The most important thing to know about Roosevelt’s economics is that, despite claims to the contrary, the economy recovered during the New Deal. During Roosevelt’s first two terms, the U.S. economy grew at average annual growth rates of 9 percent to 10 percent, with the exception of the recession year of 1937-1938…

Excepting 1937-1938, unemployment fell each year of Roosevelt’s first two terms. In part, the jobs came from Washington, which directly employed as many as 3.6 million people to build roads, bridges, ports, airports, stadiums, and schools — as well as, of course, to paint murals and stage plays. But new jobs also came from the private sector, where manufacturing work increased apace.

This basic fact is clear — unless you quote only the unemployment rate for the recession year 1938 and count government employees hired under the New Deal as unemployed, which conservative commenters have taken to doing.

So, as Rauchway says, the hard data about bank closures, job creation and overall economic growth rates proves the regulations and spending of the New Deal helped end the Great Depression. In fact, Rauchway notes that the data actually suggests that the major, data-driven criticism of the New Deal is that it didn’t spend enough money fast enough.

But, OK – let’s say you want to cherry pick the unemployment numbers like a right-wing pundit. Let’s say that, as Rauchway notes, you are a conservative dittohead totally comfortable dishonestly “quot[ing] only the unemployment rate for the recession year 1938 and count[ing] government employees hired under the New Deal as unemployed.” Shouldn’t you be blaming conservative ideology, and not New Deal-ism, for those numbers? After all, as Paul Krugman recently explained to a stunningly ignorant George Will on ABC News, 1937-1938 was the period Roosevelt dialed back the New Deal in the name of conservative demands that he stop spending…

I hope they keep attacking like this. It’s really just too fun using their own stupidity against them. I’m going to thoroughly enjoy trotting out the above factoid the next time some neocon dumbshit tries to argue using Faux News talking points.

Not that they’re likely to notice the blow – the sort of people who take Faux News as the gospel truth have already kicked Mr. Reason out of their house, and they never were on speaking terms with Mr. Reality or Ms. Evidence. Still, there’s a certain satisfaction to be gained by simply watching them sputter.

Lest you think outrageous political stupidity is only Made in the USA these days, have a look at Israel’s Prime Minister:


Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is appealing to Palestinians in Gaza to stop the Islamic militant group Hamas from launching rocket attacks.

Olmert, speaking directly to Gaza residents during an interview Thursday on the Arab satellite station al-Arabiya, told viewers, “I say to you in a last minute call, stop it,” The Jerusalem Post reported.

Ian Welsh gives Olmert’s heartfelt plea the proper context:

What Olmert doesn’t note is that there was a long cease-fire, during which Israel kept blockading Gaza, so that they don’t have enough food or water. He’s been starving them because he doesn’t like their democratically elected government. Not launching missiles hasn’t worked for citizens of Gaza. From their point of view there’s little reason not to fire missiles at Israel. Being shot by Israeli soldiers probably doesn’t seem like a much worse way to go than starving… or watching their children starve.

Can I just add, if a majority of American citizens couldn’t get their president to get the fuck out of Iraq, much less stop breaking the damned law, how much clout do you think Palestinian citizens have with the people holding the rocket launchers?

Sadly, Olmert’s peace plea rhetoric seems like so much window dressing. He’s posing himself as trying to stop what he actually wants to do:

Pencil in another appointment with chaos in the Levant. Reports are now solid that Israel, which has blockaded Gaza since November, is set to invade Gaza. Thursday they canceled an aid truck amidst increasing mortar and rocket fire, even though a ship ignored the Israeli blockade to deliver supplies, its crew knowing they would be arrested as a result. Israel also struck at a rocket launcher, while Hamas backed militants continued to fire into Israel.

This is in the wake of the Egyptian brokered cease fire ending, and a growing perception that if Israel’s governing party wishes to win elections against rightist Bibi Netanyahu’s Likud Party, scheduled for February, that it must prove that it can strike with force. For its part Hezbollah seems unwilling to continue a cease fire without ta
ngible benefits for its cooperation. According to Hamas this meant re-opening the Gaza, which was exactly what Turkey pressed for earlier this week.

Hezbollah has begun deploying rockets in Southern Lebanon. This means that Israel will likely face a two front war, and on one of those fronts, against an enemy that was able to inflict severe losses in their last military encounter.

So much for peace on Earth, then.

But stupidity on Earth is alive and well:

When a reporter asked him about the recent Supreme Court decision not to hear a similar case [challenging Obama's citizenship] from New Jersey, Wiley Drake speculated the justices were fearful of riots and as evidence he cited the fact that they didn’t post their decision until Monday:

“I’ve been pretty keenly aware of what’s going on in the Supreme Court. You’ll notice the date when they decided the case would go to conference was on a Friday. Typically, if you go to conference, you take a vote, thumbs up and down, whether to schedule for a hearing. They knew that a lot of people would be discouraged if they made an announcement Friday that they would not take the case. Washington, D.C., is a powder keg. They knew they’d already be at happy hour Friday afternoon and be drunk. Even if a ballgame goes one way or another, they start burning stuff because they are drunk. I think the Supreme Court put the case off until Monday because they knew people would have hangovers and not be drunk.”

I’d like to know where Pastor Wiley goes on Friday afternoons (I’ll bet it isn’t church).

I’ll bet it is. If this loon had ever actually ventured out into the real world on a Friday night, he’d have to confront the fact that he’s living a paranoid little fantasy. “Pretty keenly aware” my arse.

Sod this for a game of larks. It’s time for me to be off making me Christmas fajitas.