Topic: Couldn't be so...
Changes: Just when you thought you knew the players and the rules...
There is much unease in the Middle East as a key player has been sidelined from the game - as in this from the BBC -
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat - "I'm really worried that the competition to replace Mr Sharon will be marred with more escalation against the Palestinians whether in the form of assassinations, arrests, incursions of settlements and that worries me a lot."
And here Kenneth R. Timmerman in Front Page Magazine argues the old general was holding back on an aerial attack on Iran to take out their nuclear program to build a bomb and a delivery system to hit Israel - he saw the problems with that, if though we just provided Israel with a whole lot of new and shiny "bunker-busting" bombs. Now whoever replaces him may be less reluctant to carry out "The Cheney Plan." Maybe so - Timmerman provides a whole lot of detail.
But no one knows what will happen now, and with no one knowing, you get some really odd filler material from what one fellow, Andrew Sullivan, calls the two leading fundamentalists in the world.
Pat Robertson says this -
God got him good! This is punishment for giving up Gaza.
From Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the newly-elected leader of Iran, we get this - "Hopefully the news that the criminal of Sabra and Shatila has joined his ancestors is final."
God is very mysterious. Both these guys think He is acting here with some sort of cardiovascular retribution. Given that Pat Robertson is a frequent guest at the White House and one of those influential "movers and shakers" important to Karl Rove, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected to lead Iran, you see we're not so far apart after all. We both believe in a vengeful God. And here, as in Iran, politicians who claim to be the instruments of an angry and vengeful God stay in power. That works.
Note that the hyper-intellectual, mad-for-war, atheist Christopher Hitchens here provides the secular assessment of Ariel Sharon - he used to be a very bad man but he improved. As in this -
But, finally, Sharon "did begin to acknowledge the contours of Palestinian statehood, and this counts as one of the better ironies of history." He made things better a bit, but realistically he had no choice. That was the only "opportunity." The Sabra and Shatila massacres he arranged were youthful exuberance?
We shall see what happens now, as we have a classic power vacuum. All bets are off.
In the interim we see here, in The Guardian (UK), Pat Robertson and the Israeli government are developing a Jesus theme park in Israel -
And note these details from the ABC Travel pages -
The Guardian reports a mixed reaction, locally -
It hardly seems like the twenty-first century. After the enlightenment we had all sort of war about territory and resources and just raw power. Now, we're back to competing fundamentalists. What happened?
It doesn't matter. The Rapture is coming. The index is now at 151 and rising - and anything over 145 is "fasten your seatbelts." It'll all be over soon enough.
As mentioned in Washington 90210 - the background piece on Jack Abramoff (Beverly Hills High School, Class of 1977), the lobbyist who pled guilty to all sort of the felonies and will, in return for a lighter sentence, reveal just what congressmen and staffers he sort of bribed - this whole investigation is being overseen by one Noel Hillman, "a hard-charging career prosecutor who heads the Public Integrity Section and who has a long track record of nailing politicians of all stripes." But we're also told "politics almost certainly will creep into the equation" as Hillman's new boss is one Alice Fisher, "who is widely respected but also a loyal Republican socially close to DeLay's defense team." As noted, Alice Fisher was appointed to this post in a "recess appointment" last September - Carl Levin, a senator from Michigan, and a Democrat, had been blocking the nomination. Some agent had named Alice Fisher in an email saying we really were torturing folks down in Guantánamo, and he wanted to look into that. Did she have something to do with saying that was fine and dandy? Levin didn't get to ask the question. Like John Bolton at the UN, Alice Fisher was appointed through the procedural back door, and no one can do anything about either one of these two until 2007.
Alice Fisher has no prosecutorial experience - her last job was as a registered lobbyist for HCA, the famous Hospital Corporation of America founded by the father of Senate Majority Leader Bill First, and the source of Bill Frist's issues with the SEC and Justice Department over illegal stock transactions - that insider trading charge now under investigation.
How did she get to be head of the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section? The senate would never approve her. After Michael Brown at FEMA, that would look just dumb - they wouldn't be performing their "oversight" function to "advise and consent" on key nominations to high office. They learned their lesson.
The president used his "recess appointment" powers. And he just did it again. Wednesday, the 4th, he made seventeen more.
Here's the list -
Do these names mean anything to anyone?
As the Associated Press reports here -
So there is some heartburn. John McCain complains that the regular confirmation process should be used "so the Senate can be assured that nominees are qualified." Ted Kennedy says there's a problem with Hans von Spakovsky going to the FEC - von Spakovsky is the Justice Department lawyer who was Republican Party chairman in Fulton County down in Georgia, the guy who argued Georgia voters should be required to have photo identification, and many said that was an effort to keep out black voters who wouldn't go through the process of getting the ID cards and couldn't afford them. Black voters don't usually vote Republican of course. And this Hans was also involved in a decision that rejected a recommendation of career Justice Department lawyers in a Texas redistricting case - as you recall, the lawyers had concluded that the redistricting plan violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because it eliminated several districts where minorities had substantial voting power, and illegally diluted black and Hispanic voting power. Hans said that didn't matter.
Peter Kirsanow to the National Labor Relations Board? Kennedy - "He is an ardent foe of basic worker protections, including the minimum wage and prevailing wage laws, and is a vehement opponent of affirmative action."
Yeah, so? Who isn't?
The appointment of Ellen Sauerbrey to be assistant secretary of state for refugees, population and migration ticked off a lot of people. She's now our ambassador to the United Nations Commission on the status of women - and argues all aid be stopped to any country where abortion is legal and condoms are available. She articulates our new official position that all population and AIDS and STD issues can only be address by encouraging abstinence and Judeo-Christina values. You'll find a complete discussion of all that here.
Even I'd-rather-be-a-Republican, Bush-is-my-hero, things-in-Iraq-are-quite-rosy Joe Lieberman has problems the nomination of deputy associate attorney general Tracy Henke to be director of state and local government coordination and preparedness at the Homeland Security Department. Lieberman said Henke's decision to delete statistics about racial disparities in traffic stops from a draft press release "may have undermined the office's reputation for objectivity and independence."
Like it matters?
The Washington Post notes, here, some other issues, like Julie L. Myers to head the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau at the Department of Homeland Security, in a maneuver circumventing the need for approval by the Senate. -
Well, she's never run anything this big, and as the Post noted last September -
Right. And I'm the pope.
But this week the Post did point out that the president "avoided an abortion rights battle with the recess appointment of former Maryland Republican gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey as assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration." Sauerbrey is an opponent of abortion rights. She's not held office or done much of anything - in 2000 she was the Maryland state chairman of Bush's presidential campaign - but then John Ashcroft lost a senate race to a dead man and found himself Attorney General. .
Gordon England's appointment as Deputy Secretary of Defense, to take the Paul Wolfowitz slot, makes sense. He used to be a top executive at both General Dynamics and at Lockheed. He'll keep them happy.
As for J. Dorrance Smith, of Virginia, to be Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), note this -
That Wall Street Journal opinion article is available here - he blasts all the major US television networks and the government of Qatar for cooperating with Al-Jazeera in showing "gruesome battlefield footage" obtained in Iraq. He just hates "the ongoing relationship between terrorists, Al-Jazeera and the networks" - and suggested maybe our government shouldn't maintain normal relations with Qatar - as long as they continued to subsidize Al-Jazeera.
Carl Levin of Michigan - "I have deep concerns about whether or not he should be representing the United States government and the Department of Defense with that kind of attitude and approach."
Well, we shouldn't see what we shouldn't see. And no one should take feeds from Al-Jazeera. And note this - "A Republican National Convention planner and former ABC News executive, Smith was quoted in a September 7, 2004, PBS Online NewsHour article as saying "the networks were to blame for their dwindling viewership and called Fox's triumph during the GOP convention 'truly a seminal event.'"
Well, Smith was a senior advisor to Bush's father - Assistant to the President for Media Affairs (1991-1993), and as a staff assistant to President Gerald R. Ford. He was media adviser and consultant to FEMA under Allbaugh in June 2001, when Allison hit Houston, Texas. He also "recently served as a media consultant for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies." But he did have an amazing news career at ABC, as you'll see if you click on the last link.
So, what should one make of all these appointments?
Well, the president already told the congress that, yes, he had ordered the NSA to spy on American citizens without warrants or court orders or any of that stuff, in spite of the FISA law they passed in 1978. He didn't need probably cause. The law was clear but no longer applied to him. And he certainly wasn't going to stop.
And he signed the McCain Amendment in to law, that one banning torture, but issued a "signing statement" saying he reserved the right, as commander-in-chief, to ignore it when he felt he should.
Now he made these back-door appointments, some rather odd and some really "Brownish" - and once again said to the legislative branch they really don't matter very much.
He's in charge, and he's kind of redefined the government. And as long as he says "terrorists" and "Boo!" - he knows folks are so afraid that no one will argue, and Fox News and the rest will explain to all that this is how things must be.
More of the same. It's a new world, or at least a new country. Love it or leave it.