Happy Blogversary

I was looking for an old post recently and discovered that May 26, 2006 was the beginning of this blog.  I've actually been surprised at how consistently I've been able to post for most of the past year.  I am pleased that most weeks have not been like this one, where readjustment to teaching summer school every day has slowed me down.  I've had lots of posts in the past year– many I am quite proud of, others that I hope are at least interesting.   I re-read my second entry, which outlined my basic approach to the blog, and I am pleased that it seems to have delivered what I promised– not just impassioned rants against George Bush, but all sorts of interesting tidbits.  I like to thing of this blog as kind of a dose of Steve.  Anyway, one year down, and I think, going strong, so thanks for reading this and stick with me.

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Impeach ourselves?

Salon's Gary Kamiya makes a very intriguing argument in a column today.  In a nutshell, the reason that the American public has no interest in impeaching Bush is that to do so would force us to seriously confront our own flaws.  The highlights:

But there's a deeper reason why the popular impeachment movement has
never taken off — and it has to do not with Bush but with the American
people. Bush's warmongering spoke to something deep in our national
psyche. The emotional force behind America's support for the Iraq war,
the molten core of an angry, resentful patriotism, is still too hot for
Congress, the media and even many Americans who oppose the war, to
confront directly. It's a national myth. It's John Wayne. To impeach
Bush would force us to directly confront our national core of violent
self-righteousness — come to terms with it, understand it and reject
it. And we're not ready to do that.

The truth is that Bush's high crimes and misdemeanors, far from being too small, are too great.
What has saved Bush is the fact that his lies were, literally, a matter
of life and death. They were about war. And they were sanctified by 9/11.
Bush tapped into a deep American strain of fearful, reflexive
bellicosity, which Congress and the media went along with for a long
time and which has remained largely unexamined to this day. Congress,
the media and most of the American people have yet to turn decisively
against Bush because to do so would be to turn against some part of
themselves. This doesn't mean we support Bush, simply that at some dim,
half-conscious level we're too confused — not least by our own
complicity — to work up the cold, final anger we'd need to go through
impeachment.

It is quite worth reading the entire thing. 

The Democrat’s best is on A4

Bill Richardson officially announced his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president yesterday.  Sadly, all you really need to know about it is captured in the image:

As you can see, it is not front page news.  This despite the fact that Richardson has a presidential resume to die for: successful two-term governor, former ambassador to the UN, former energy Secretary, former Congressman.  Plus, he's moderate and he's Hispanic.  Alas, Obama and Hillary Clinton have pretty much sucked all the air (and the money) out of the room, except for Edwards' game effort which benefits from his place on the '04 ticket.  Still, it just really bothers me that the man who is demonstrably so much more qualified than his competitors gets short shrift.  Based on my conversations with friends, I'm going to conclude that Richardson is the thinking person's Democratic nominee.  That and $50 million might get you the nomination. 

This very flattering profile in the Post Style section only increased my support for his candidacy.  He really has an amazing background.  It may be hopeless, but I'm sticking with Richardson for now. 

I’m doing my part

Most of the news coverage about West Nile Virus has focused on the fact that, unfortunately, it is occasionally fatal for humans.  Sadly, for birds, it is not just occasionally fatal, but a real epidemic:

Several common species of North American birds have suffered drastic
population declines since the arrival of the West Nile virus eight
years ago, leaving rural and suburban areas quieter than they used to
be and imposing ecological stresses on a variety of other animals and
plants, a new study has found.

In Maryland, for example, 2005 chickadee populations were 68 percent lower than would have been expected had West Nile not arrived, and in Virginia chickadee populations were 50 percent below that prediction…

It shows that the post-1998 declines were greatest at times and places
in which the virus was especially prevalent — as indicated by the
number of human infections diagnosed. As expected, American crows were
among the worst hit, suffering declines of as much as 45 percent in
some regions and wipeouts of 100 percent in some smaller areas. Other
species that suffered included the blue jay, the tufted titmouse, the
American robin, the house wren, the chickadee and — unexpectedly —
the American bluebird.

On the positive side, as you can see here

I'm doing my part to help with the bluebird numbers as these two little chicks are in a bluebird box but 12 feet from my kitchen window.  It is quite rewarding to watch the parents build the nest, incubate the eggs, and then quite devotedly feed the hungry baby chicks for the next two weeks.  Amazingly, these scrawny little things in the picture will grow enough to fly off on their own in about 10 days. 

Impeachable offenses?

Okay, I know that, unfortunately, Bush is not going back Crawford for good until January 2009.  Nonetheless, I think we've reached a level where he is probably nearly as impeachable as Nixon was, and certainly much more so than the ridiculous charade of impeaching Clinton for trying to hide a personal sexual impropriety.  The testimony of former Deputy Attorney General James Comey this week has been incredibly damning.  As always, Slate's Dahlia Lithwick is right on top of things and writes a column that really lays out the issues at stake.  In short:

Glenn Greenwald contends that “the President consciously and
deliberately violated the law and committed multiple felonies by
eavesdropping on Americans.” The Wall Street Journal insists
that no law was broken because the surveillance program put the
president above the law. Greenwald believes in an immutable legal
architecture that binds even the president. The White House contends
the president answers to nobody. There is no midpoint between these two
arguments. The president is either above the law or he isn't.  [emphasis mine]

Think about that.  I don't know about you, but terrorists, wars, whatever, I do not want to live in a country (nor I think do most Americans) where our president is above the law.  Its that simple.  Only the most pathetic Republican sycophants and cowards completely cowed by the threat of radical Islamists could possibly support this position (this would include Bush, Cheney, and Gonzalez).  From Kevin Drum:

Marty Lederman points out today that this team ? John Ashcroft, Jack
Goldsmith, and James Comey ? was no bunch of weak-kneed liberals. They
were, under every other circumstance, hardnosed conservatives dedicated
to an expansive view of executive power in wartime. What's more, the
NSA program was one the administration considered critical to the war
on terror; repudiating a previous finding is highly unusual; their
actions undermined a key legal tenet of the president's wartime powers;
and they knew that both the president and vice president would be furious at what they had done.

And yet not only would Ashcroft, et al., not budge ? they were prepared to resign their offices if the President allowed this program of vital importance to go forward in the teeth of their legal objections.

In light of all these considerations, just try to imagine
how legally dubious the Yoo justification must have been that John
Ashcroft was so profoundly committed to its repudiation.
It's
staggering, really ? almost unimaginable that anything such as this
could have happened, especially where the stakes were so high.

The Post has an editorial today calling Bush to task for evading this issue, but there is no front page coverage in either the Post or the Times.  Still, its time for the media to get a lot more aggressive in calling a spade a spade and pointing out the level of lawlessness, venality, corruption, and incomparable hubris in this administration. 

Impeach Gonzalez

Honestly, its his boss who really and truly deserves to be impeached (next post), but as that's never going to happen in this political world, we can hold out hope that at least that pathetic excuse for an Attorney General is held to account.  Law professor Frank Bowman lays out a very compelling case for Gonzalez's impeachment in Slate.com:

Congress could and should impeach Alberto Gonzales. One ground for doing so, as I have previously suggested
(subscription required), is the attorney general's amnesiac
prevarication in his testimony before the Senate and the House. But if
Congress wants more, it need look no further than the firing of David
Iglesias, former U.S. attorney in New Mexico. The evidence uncovered in
Gonzales' Senate and House testimony demonstrates that he fired
Iglesias not because of a policy disagreement or a management failure,
but because Iglesias would not misuse the power of the Department of
Justice in the service of the Republican Party. To fire a U.S. attorney
for refusing to abuse his power is the essence of an impeachable
offense.

After providing the requisite details about the shenanigans in the firing of Iglesias (which you should read if you are not familiar with), Bowman explains that Gonzalez has already hung himself with on the record statements:

Showing that Gonzales knew that the only real reasons
for dismissing Iglesias were improper ones is critical to the case for
impeaching the attorney general. Remarkably, Gonzales has effectively
admitted as much. In his testimony, Gonzales provided three
explanations for his decision to fire Iglesias: 1) Iglesias “lost the
confidence of Senator Domenici,” 2) Karl Rove and President Bush
complained, and 3) “the consensus recommendation of the senior
leadership.”

The last explanation is misleading…Thus, when Gonzales said to Congress, “I was not
surprised that Mr. Iglesias was recommended to me, because I had heard
about concerns about the performance of Mr. Iglesias,” he was
admitting, however grudgingly, that he knew Iglesias was being fired
either for failing to bring voter fraud cases or failing to indict New
Mexico Democrats before the 2006 election.

Gonzalez deserves more than the “no confidence” vote that's been talked about.  He deserves to be fired.

Mmmm, Kangaroo

Faced with an overpopulation of Kangaroos, the Australian government has decided to cull (i.e., kill a bunch) them:

CANBERRA, Australia — Authorities said Monday they want to shoot
more than 3,000 kangaroos on the fringes of Australia's capital, noting
the animals were growing in population and eating through the grassy
habitats of endangered species.

The Defense Department wants to
hire professional shooters to cull the kangaroos at two of its
properties on the outskirts of Canberra, where some areas have as many
as 1,100 kangaroos per square mile– the densest kangaroo population
ever measured in the region.

The Defense Department said the 6,500 kangaroos at its two sites
were not only threatening their own survival, they were destroying the
habitat of endangered species including the grassland earless dragon,
striped legless lizard and golden sun moth.

Officials have
conducted periodic culls of the fast-breeding kangaroo, which is
Australia's national symbol but also a pest in agricultural areas,
eating pastures intended for livestock.

Reading this made me think of a recent Quirks and Quarks podcast I listened to that made a very compelling case for Australian farmers giving up on livestock and instead hunting kangaroos for meat.  It is actually much better stewardship of the Australian environment.  Kangaroos have evolved successfully for millions of years to thrive in this environment whereas imported livestock have not and therefore place much greater demands on the environment and are much more likely to die.  An interesting point to think about. 

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