According to testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, as reported in the New York Times, Alberto Gonzales was involved in a discussion about the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys!
What business does the U.S. Attorney General have discussing U.S. Attorneys with anyone in the White House? It's not as if the U.S. Attorneys serve at the will of the president.
And this isn't even in the Attorney General's area of responsibility. Hiring and firing U.S. Attorneys has always been a call for the Department of Transportation to make, I think. Or maybe it's Agriculture. One of those other departments, anyway.
Besides, the job of U.S. Attorney is a sacred, non-partisan trust. Sure, everyone says that U.S. Attorneys serve at the will of the president, but as a practical matter they have lifetime appointments. Especially if they are investigating anything at all. Which -- you'd be amazed -- they usually are. Being prosecutors and all, they seem to always be investigating this or that.
But back to the sacred, non-partisan trust. U.S. Attorneys are selected by a rigorous, non-partisan process, and then they serve out their careers in scrupulously non-partisan ways.
Or so I've heard.
Look to President Bill Clinton's example. He respected the Sacred Trust.
He only fired all 93 U.S. Attorneys -- which you have to admit was fair, since nobody was left out. Besides, I'm sure the Clinton White House was careful not to discuss the firings ahead of time with Janet Reno.
Well, actually -- it was Reno who announced the decision. But that's different because --
-- it's well known that Bill Clinton was a Democrat, for starters. That's an important difference right there!
Besides, you can tell that the testimony coming out of the hearings on the U.S. Attorney firings is damaging because the non-partisan Senators who control the committee, who happen to be Democrats, say it is.
And the nonpartisan mainstream media seem to agree. With all their hearts.
Even the New York Times has reluctantly put aside its usual relentless cheerleading for President Bush and is beginning to give this story an occasional grudging mention.
On the front page.
With video, graphics, and backstory.
But they are not enjoying it. They promise.
It will be a while before these extremely important hearings wrap up -- Gonzales will be returning before the committee in two weeks (mark your calendar for that excitement) -- but I've heard enough already.
It's gotten to the point where I'm actually considering not voting for Bush when he runs for re-election.
I'm not voting for Alberto Gonzales when he runs for re-election, either.
Without the impartial, high-minded oversight of the nonpartisan Democrats in Congress now, we might never have learned that the Attorney General was aware of the fact that some U.S. Attorneys would be fired -- without the advance permission of Congress!
We've learned a lot from this whole investigation, don't you agree?
I used to think compassionate conservatives were great, but now that I've seen compassionate liberals in action, I realize just how much we were missing.
I can't wait for another day's testimony!
I sure hope the New York Times covers it.
An interesting pilot project in New York: New York City to Reward Poor for Doing Right Thing
Seeking new solutions to New York’s vexingly high poverty rates, the city is moving ahead with an ambitious experiment that will pay poor families up to $5,000 a year to meet goals like attending parent-teacher conferences, going for a medical checkup or holding down a full-time job, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said yesterday.
Under the program, which is based on a similar effort in Mexico, parents would receive payments every two months for family members meeting any of a series of criteria. The payments could range from $25 for exemplary attendance in elementary school to $300 for a high score on an important exam, city officials said.
The officials said the program was the first of its kind in the country.
The project, first announced in the fall. was scheduled to begin as a pilot program in September with 2,500 randomly selected families whose progress will be tracked against another 2,500 randomly selected families who will not get the rewards. Officials planned to draw the families from six of the poorest communities in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx.
To be eligible, families must have at least one child entering fourth, seventh or ninth grade and a household income of 130 percent or less of the federal poverty level, which equals roughly $20,000 for a single parent with two children.
The city has already raised $42 million of the $50 million needed to cover the initial program’s cost from private sources, including Mr. Bloomberg. If it proves successful, the mayor said, the city will attempt to create a permanent program financed by the government.
Likening the payments, known as conditional cash transfers, to tax incentives that steer people of greater means toward property ownership, Mr. Bloomberg said that the approach was intended to help struggling families who often focus on basic daily survival make better long-term decisions and break generational cycles of poverty and dependence.
While I am not a fan of public handouts of cash, there are certainly portions of this program that will easily pay for themselves. Schools lose a lot more than the amount of the "good school attendance" award ($25) if a child is frequently absent. Absenteeism also leads to poor school performance, which leads to failure and high dropout rates. State, federal and local governments are so heavily entrenched in handouts to the poor that there is plenty of room to reduce wasted money and wasted lives by creating a few positive incentives.
Of course, every well-intentioned program has unintended consequences. Imagine that the poor parents send their strep-throat-infected daughter to school with instructions to keep quiet about it, to make sure the family wins the much-needed $25 good school attendance award. The child develops a more serious infection, requiring more expensive medical care. How do you feel about the program now?
Or imagine that some children are found to have cheated on an "important exam" with the help of their parents, in an effort win the $300 award. These sorts of unintended consequences happen all the time, particularly if a program of cash incentives becomes too well entrenched or too laxly enforced.
Nonetheless, this program does have the virtue of offering a new approach to the problem of generational poverty. If what we are doing isn't working, trying fresh solutions makes sense.
Iran has had enough time by now to act as a reasonable nation would and release the British sailors it took hostage without making an international spectacle of their seizure. But apparently an international spectacle is just what Iran wants.
Iran is now parading the hostages in front of television cameras and has apparently forced the female hostage, Faye Turney, to "confess" that the sailors strayed into Iranian waters. Turney is taped wearing an Islamic headscarf, which lends a coercive and creepy feel to the video. Add to that an unreasonable demand from Iran that Britain admit that the sailors were seized in Iranian waters -- despite GPS readings to the contrary -- and what we have is a genuine international standoff:
Iran's foreign minister said Wednesday that Britain must admit that its 15 sailors and marines entered Iranian waters in order to resolve a standoff over their capture by the Mideast nation.
Manouchehr Mottaki also said Iran would allow British consular officials to visit the troops, but he didn't say when.Iran's embassy in London said in a statement that the crew was captured just inside Iranian waters.
"We were out in the boats when we were arrested by Iranian forces as we had apparently gone into Iranian waters," said the letter, a copy of which was sent to the Associated Press. "I wish we hadn't because then I'd be home with you all right now."
The Iranian TV footage showed Turner, 26, in a headscarf talking with someone off camera and, later, smoking a cigarette.
Britain strongly denied Iran's assertions that the crew had entered its waters. British military officials released satellite coordinates that they said showed the crew was 1.7 nautical miles inside Iraqi waters when it was surrounded by six Iranian gunboats.
Vice Adm. Charles Style said the crew was "ambushed" after conducting "an entirely routine" inspection of a merchant ship. He said the coordinates were confirmed by the Iraqi government and the merchant ship's captain.
Style said the Iranian government had given British officials two different locations for where the incident occurred. Iran's initial account Saturday placed it in Iraqi waters; Iran revised the location Monday, giving another position that placed it 2 nautical miles inside Iranian waters, Style said. Wednesday's statement from the embassy said only that it occurred one-quarter of a nautical mile inside Iranian waters.
Admissions similar to Turner's were made by British naval personnel taken captive by Iran in June 2004 and freed after three days. They recanted after their release.
British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said Britain was freezing all official business with Iran until the crew is released. That includes suspending any government support for trade missions to Iran and halting visits between the two nations by government officials, with the exception of those needed to resolve the situation with the captive crew.
She said she was concerned about the TV footage of the crew "and any indication of pressure on, or coercion of, our personnel."
. . . .
Iran seized the crew right before the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously for new economic sanctions against Iran for its refusal to halt its uranium enrichment program. The United States and its European allies say Iran is trying to development nuclear weapons. Iran says it wants to use nuclear power for energy alone.
You may recall that parading hostages before cameras and making unreasonable demands is just the sort of thing Iran has a history of doing with Western hostages. If you are too young to remember, here's a little visual reminder of what America went through when people working at its embassy in Iran were seized and held for 444 days under the well-meaning but weak and ineffectual presidency of Jimmy Carter:
The current British sailor hostage crisis helps explain why I wasn't exactly enthusiastic a few months ago when Iran announced it would pay travel agents bonuses for sending Westerners to Iran, supposedly in a "bid to reach out to ordinary Americans." Here's what I wrote on November 1, 2006 about that Iranian scheme:
Ready for America Held Hostage, Part 2?
Iran is paying cash incentives for travel agencies to bring Western tourists to Iran -- especially Americans.
Iran has said it would offer cash incentives to travel agencies to encourage Western tourists to visit the country, giving a premium for Americans, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported Tuesday.
The proposal is Iran's latest bid to reach out to ordinary Americans in an attempt by the Islamic Republic's political leadership to show that its quarrel is with the U.S. administration — not U.S. citizens.
It came as the United Nations Security Council deliberates a draft resolution that would impose sanctions on Iran for its disputed nuclear program.
"Iran's tourism department will pay US$20 (€15.7) per person to those who attract European or American tourists to the country," the agency quoted Mohammed Sharif Malakzadeh, deputy head of the department, as saying.
Now just a minute.
Why exactly is Iran suddenly eager to have Americans and other Westerners in its land?
Is it because Iran wants to enjoy more of our Western culture? Hardly! Iran is busy these days censoring Western music, smashing satellite dishes, and deliberately slowing internet access, all in an effort to keep Western culture out. . . . .
Is this just a goodwill gesture to help Americans come to know and love Iran? It's possible, but unlikely. Keep in mind that "Death to America" is routinely chanted at public gatherings in Iran. This is the same Iran that just awarded a prize to students who designed a pilotless plane for use in "suicide attacks."
Besides, if Iran just wanted better P.R. in the U.S., there are plenty of ways to achieve that goal without physically paying to bring isolated random tourists to the country (not even opinion leaders -- just random tourists who may or may not tell anyone about their impressions). That's an awfully slow way to achieve the ostensible goal of building goodwill.
I see only one reason Iran wants Americans on its soil: As potential hostages, and as "human shields" in case military options are considered against Iran.
So here we are, less than five months later and -- by golly! -- Iran has taken 15 British sailors hostage. I guess the Western tourist/hostage plan wasn't working out fast enough.
I am not happy to have been right about Iran's willingness to take hostages to get its way.
I am even less happy because I have been writing for some time that Iran is rapidly advancing its secret nuclear weapons program. Since nobody in the world community seems to have the courage to stand forcibly between Iran and its nuclear ambitions -- certainly not the U.N. -- this dire prediction of a deadly threat of unprecedented proportions is in the process of becoming a grim reality.
I've also written this:
One of the most awful legacies of the American left ultimately may be that it has undermined American and world support for decisive action to stop Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons until it is too late. By its relentless attacks on the White House centering around the Iraq war, the left has hobbled the Administration at a time when swift and unanimous action is required.
Unfortunately, that prediction also appears to have come true before our eyes.
We are doing exactly what America swore it would never do again after September 11, 2001 -- we are standing idly by while storm clouds gather and terrorist enemies of decent nations grow stronger. The Western world must find the courage to deal with the threat from Iran before it matures into a nightmare. The time left is growing shorter by the day.
Update: Iran is continuing to escalate the crisis it created. The female hostage has been forced to write another strangely-worded letter siding with Iran.
Tags: England English United Kingdom UK navy war hostage hostages female photo crisis blog comment captured 15
With the Democrat-dominated Senate moving toward a bill that would announce a date to begin America's retreat from Iraq, and with the Democrat-controlled House already in full surrender mode, it has begun to dawn on some that telling the terrorist enemy exactly when America plans to leave Iraq only helps to ensure that the retreat will amount to a full surrender.
Why, they can start planning their "Death to America" party (with bloodbath to follow!) -- right now!
The solution? One Senate Democrat has suggested that Congress stick with a firm deadline -- but keep the deadline a secret.
Yes, that will work -- about as well as it's working already:
For some time now, Democrats and a few Republicans have been calling on America to set a firm date for retreat from Iraq. One obvious objection is telling the enemy when we plan to leave ensures that such a departure would amount to a surrender. Never fear. Sen. Mark Pryor, an Arkansas Democrat, has an answer, as the Washington Post reports:
Pryor wants to keep any plans for bringing troops home a secret. . . . Pryor wants a withdrawal deadline of some kind. He just doesn't want anyone outside the White House, Congress and the Iraqi government to know what it is.
But does Pryor really think Congress and the Iraqi government can be trusted to keep a secret? Yes and maybe!
Pryor said a classified plan would be provided by the president, shepherded by Senate committees and ultimately shared with Congress and Iraqi leaders. He is confident that the plan would remain secret, because Congress is entrusted with secrets "all the time."
What if the president's withdrawal plan didn't include a deadline? Or what if it leaked, through leaders in Iraq, to insurgents?
All worth considering, Pryor said. But in the meantime, "at least you'd have a plan."
Well OK then! All we need is a plan, and this plan is nothing if not well thought out. The enemy will never see us going!
But if Congress can't retreat openly without tipping its hand to the terrorists, and if Congress can't retreat quietly without tipping its hand, then how on earth is Congress supposed to retreat from Iraq?
The answer lies in the question itself.
Congress shouldn't be doing any retreating, surrendering, or tipping of hands. Congress is not the commander in chief. There's a good reason why the Constitution places control of the armed forces in the president, not in a 535-member Congress that is torn in many different directions.
Besides, once a war has begin, there is no substitute for victory. Deliberately losing a war is both foolish and dangerous.
The Democrats know that. It's just that the kind of victory they're looking for is . . . a lot closer to home.