Thursday, June 7, 2007

Tony Soprano, Dick Cheney, Mitt Romney, and Victoria Toensing

Come this Sunday, Tony Soprano will be gone. Whether or not rival mob boss Phil Leotardo bumps off Tony in the final episode, the HBO series will be over. But Tony's spirit will live the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.

Let's review the recent news about Cheney. First, we learned he is keeping secret the logs recording who has visited his office. These records have been public until Cheney changed the rules last year. He wants meeting at his office to be covert. And today we learned that in 2004 Cheney pressured top officials of the Justice Department to approve a warrantless wiretapping program that could target American citizens. The problem was that Justice officials had concluded the program was illegal. (This is the dispute that led to the bizarre scene of then-White House chief of staff Andrew Card and then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales rushing to the hospital room where then-Attorney General John Ashcroft lay gravely ill and trying to force Ashcroft to reauthorize the program. Ashcroft said no.) Later, Cheney's office engaged in payback by blocking the promotion of one of the Justice officials who had raised concerns about the wiretapping program. And, of course, there's Scooter Libby. Cheney's former top aide was sentenced to 30 months in prison and slapped with a $250,000 fine because he lied to federal investigators to cover up his--and perhaps Cheney's--role in the CIA leak case.

Secrecy, revenge, criminal behavior--it's not HBO, it's the Bush-Cheney White House.

THE FAT MAN SINGS. How will The Sopranos end? Once upon a time, I thought the natural finale for the show would be for Dr. Melfi to kill Tony. Get it, therapy is lethal. And two seasons or so back, there was that stretch of tension--near-violent tension--between the conflicted shrink and her mob patient. But the penultimate episode seemed to resolve their on-again/off-again relationship. So here's my best guess of the moment: Paulie Walnuts murders Tony Soprano.

First, you have to ask, can executive producer David Chase resist the temptation to kill off one of the most interesting and well-developed television characters in years? Then again, Chase prides himself on not doing the predictable. Since it would be unpredictable for most producers to snuff out their lead character, we can expect Chase to do just that. But because that's what we expect, he might chose to do the opposite. But if we think he's so unpredictable he would do the predictable, then....In any event, if you select the Tony-dies option, the question is who pulls the trigger? A Leotardo henchman? Not much drama there. Paulie is the last member of Tony's main crew still alive. He was always the most weasely of the bunch. And Phil deliberately told his lieutenants not to kill him. Trying to outguess Chase is a mug's game, but I'm speculating (at least today) that the final words will be something like this, "Sorry, Skip. Good-byes are a bitch."

WHEN WILL LYING START TO COUNT IN '08 RACE? Paul Begala had a good gotcha after Tuesday night's GOP presidential race. He writes:

In a 2000 debate, Al Gore said that during wildfires in Texas he'd met with the director of FEMA. In fact, Vice President Gore had met with the deputy director of FEMA. Although I had been at the meeting as well, I didn't remember it either. But the press, spoon-fed by the Republican smear machine, used the misstatement to damn Gore as a "serial exaggerator."

So I expected the 600 journalists covering the GOP debate at St. Anselm's College to spank Mitt Romney when, in answering the first question of the night -- knowing what you know now, would you have invaded Iraq? -- Romney said that if "Saddam Hussein had opened up his country to IAEA inspectors, and they'd come in and they'd found that there were no weapons of mass destruction...we wouldn't be in the conflict we're in."

As Begala notes, Saddam had allowed WMD inspectors into Iraq in the fall of 2002, and these inspectors had not found anything prior to the invasion (though they said they needed more time to conclude that Iraq was WMD-free). The inspectors had to leave because of George W. Bush's invasion. Romney may have caught a break from the media because at this stage he's merely one of ten GOP contenders and not yet the nominee. But perhaps a questioner at a future debate will remember to ask Romney about this major-league whopper.

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE KIDS. There's been much tittering about the scores of letters sent to federal district court Judge Reggie Walton by friends of Scooter Libby who asked for leniency in Libby's sentencing. Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Kissinger, Bolton, Perle, Matalin, Carville, Wieseltier, and many Washington notables did what they could. (See Rick Perlstein's take-out here.) The notes generally fell into one of two categories. Libby deserved a break either because (a) he had saved the United States from terrorists countless times or (b) Libby really, really is a good dad who loves his kids and even other kids. Some letters said both.

One of Libby's most ardent champions has been GOP lawyer Victoria Toensing, who has repeatedly made statements about the case (and about me) that are not only untrue but silly. (See here.) So I was mildly surprised when I read the testimonial letter she and her husband, Joe DiGenova, sent to Walton. It took the family-man route:

One incident stood out to us that we want to share with the Court. On a particularly rough trial day, Victoria approached Scooter at a break and invited him and Harriet [Grant, his wife] to come over for dinner as a social break from the pressure. One could tell by looking at Scooter's expression that he would have loved to do so. Yet, he immediately replied, "No, Harriet and I need to be with the kids. It's important we spend time with them now." We were so touched that in the midst of his ordeal, his priority was his family.

This priority reflects a man of deep commitment to those dependent upon him and to a set of values worthy of recognition by the Court. We respectfully urge the Court to impose a sentence of probation on this honorable and caring man whose history of valued public service is equally worthy of consideration.

I am sympathetic to the pain the Libby family has endured due to his actions and convictions. He has young kids; his wife once worked for the Democrats in the U.S. Senate. It's not easy to sit in a courtroom for months and watch someone else be judged, convicted, and sentenced to jail--even if he or she is guilty as charged. It's rewarding to see the system work as it should. But if you don't feel a twinge of sadness, check your soul.

That said, the Toensing testimonial is rather weak beer. Because Libby--who was facing the prospect of being forcibly separated from his kids for several years--preferred to see his kids rather than dine with Toensing and her husband, he deserved special consideration from Walton? Most non-sociopathic criminal suspects would make the same choice. Declining the dinner invitation from Toensing signified nothing special about Libby. What's striking is not Libby's desire to spend time with his kids but that Toensing couldn't come up with a better argument.

Posted by David Corn at June 7, 2007 11:42 AM


capt said...

Mr. David Corn,

"But if you don't feel a twinge of sadness, check your soul."

As with ALL crimes and convicted criminals nobody wins. The victim suffers the injustice and the criminal violates the social order and contract.

Justice is just a stab at striking a balance when the balance of social order is upset.

Is the sentence fair? Too long or short? Will Scooter ever spend a single day in jail?

I checked my soul and it might suffer more than a twinge of sadness if Scooter walks so I guess it works on both ends.



capt said...

When Pardons Turn Political


A former senior administration official with his own ties to the case said Mr. Libby had failed to meet the general standard for a pardon by not showing contrition or serving any time. This official also noted that Mr. Libby had also been found guilty of lying to investigators, the same offense that led to the impeachment of Mr. Clinton.

The former official, who requested anonymity to speak frankly about the president, said: "It would show a deep disregard for the rule of law if he was to do it right now, when there has been no remorse shown by a convicted felon and no time has been served. How's this going to fit in his long-term legacy?"

Though they can be ignored by presidents, the guidelines for pardons and clemency recommended by the Department of Justice say that a convict should generally have to wait five years after conviction or release from confinement before being pardoned. Those who received pardons are also generally expected to accept responsibility for their criminal conduct, and should be seeking forgiveness rather than vindication. Presidents can also commute sentences without granting an underlying pardon, although that action is rare and is generally taken after a sentence has begun.


*****end of clip*****

Interesting take from Germany.


capt said...

Goodling In Private Email: ‘Send Directly Up To Me, Outside The System’

New Justice Department communications released tonight include an email from Monica Goodling, former counsel to Alberto Gonzales, directing another official to draw up a directive giving her unprecedented authority to hire and fire political staffers. Goodling tells the official, assistant attorney general Paul Corts, to "send [it] directly up to me, outside the system."

Read the exchange:


*****end of clip*****

Read it all and chase through the links. Ms. Goodling (like all of her cohorts) is a liar and just another garden variety criminal that lies without conscience.

Is it just me or does it seems like the "God Squad" (Regency and Liberty Univ. types) are the worst liars? I thought swearing to God was important to them.


capt said...

Hans Koning

Hans Koningsberger (Hans Koning), writer: born Amsterdam 12 July 1921; married 1947 Henriette Waterland (one daughter; marriage dissolved), 1952 Elizabeth Martinez (marriage dissolved), 1963 Katherine Scanlon (one son, one daughter); died Easton, Connecticut 13 April 2007.

"To see a young woman naked, with the knowledge that you are going to make love to her, seems the happiest experience on earth, antidote to everything, even to death," avers the narrator of The Kleber Flight (1981), a novel by Hans Koning, whose end at 85 partly disproves that theory.

Such a spirit, however, animated a series of erotically charged novels, beginning with The Affair (1958). That incisive eye for human behaviour and sense of place soon also brought Koning wide-ranging travel writing, and he became so "radicalised" by the Vietnam war that his non-fiction took a new turn which led to a forthright take on the bicentennial with the influential Columbus: His Enterprise: exploding the myth (1976).

He was born Hans Koningsberger in Amsterdam in 1921, and saw in the decoration of his grandparents' house an echo of earlier centuries - and "directly before that, you are in the tail end of the Middle Ages". In the here and now of the 20th century, on the cusp of another war, he was brought up in some poverty, selling one book to buy the next and looking for lost poodles in hope of the offered reward.

While at the University of Amsterdam, he joined the Dutch resistance. "I am glad I went through those years. They almost provide an alibi for finking out: some things you can do only once". This led him to Zurich and internment, when he worked on swamp drainage. He studied maths and physics at Zurich university before joining the French underground in 1943. After the Liberation he volunteered for the British Army in France. As the narrator of The Affair put it, this was not a brave deed. He had never dreamed of conceiving it in that way. It was something he had to do for a number of undefined reasons, and for several childish and vain ones, which didn't bother him because he was sure everybody who did a thing like that had them too and it was part of the game that no one ever spoke of them. Perhaps they were all that courage was made of.

In late 1944, in pretending "to tie my shoe, I put a hand flat against the ground to feel England". London seethed. The night before a date with a waitress, he availed himself of the services of a six-bob tart; as a friend told him, "It's so cheap, you can't do it for less yourself". To some, such a city may have sounded "drab and shabby, but it wasn't. Everything we did then was right . . . it seemed as sensuous a city then as some imaginary Baghdad".

Koningsberger was sent with the Army to Germany - "a feudal pleasure, and yet legitimate (for the last time in history, I'd assume), in that feudal landscape, being a conqueror". After three years' journalism back in Holland, he then, in 1950, saw the dying days of Empire with work on culture radio in Java. There he was shot at, when overtaking something which turned out to be a hearse, after which he survived typhoid fever. To return home, he joined a merchant vessel via Los Angeles, where he took a Greyhound bus to New York. Before long, in Amsterdam, in a movie theatre watching Born Yesterday with my mother, I suddenly had tears in my eyes with longing to get out of there and back to New York. Western Europe, sliding back into its pre-war smugness, bored me to distraction.

Now with another culture job, at the United Nations, he partly lived on food at receptions and began to establish himself as a writer; he later called this domestic set-up "stale years, shabbily comfortable" but, spurred by the loan of a flat in rakish Haiti, he produced The Affair, an elegant evocation of Zurich: "a closely knit machine with a little glass window through which to peek at a pre-war century".

Deplored by its publisher, Alfred Knopf, but praised elsewhere, it led to several brisk accounts, often in the first person, of fraught relationships, such as the short chapters of a euphoric-turned-claustrophobic marriage in An American Romance (1960). TransAmerican affairs are related unblushingly by a woman in I Know What I'm Doing (1964); in New York, she reports, "things which took up most of your energy in England seem to get accomplished here almost unnoticed". There had been a rather less convincing diversion along similar lines in A Walk With Love and Death (1961), filmed in 1969 by John Huston with his daughter Angelica in the lead role.

Koningsberger was now regularly writing for The New Yorker, from which came Love and Hate in China (1966). His growing anger at America brought involvement in protest movements which he later described in Nineteen Sixty-Eight (1987). To help the effort, he chose to change his name to Hans Koning (as the narrator of The Kleber Flat says, "people who change their names rarely do it drastically, they like to hold on a bit to the old one"). What's more, most oddly, he thought it only right to give up fiction.

After a while, though, he realised that his place was at a desk, and reflected on his life so far in The Almost World (1972). After accounts of such places as Russia, Egypt and Cuba, he returned to fiction with Death of a Schoolboy (1974), about Gavrilo Princip who in June 1914, in Sarajevo, shot the heir to the throne, himself dying a virgin in prison towards the end of the war he had precipitated. Such was Koning's mind that this idea came to him after thinking about the man who, on Christmas Day 1942, was executed by the Vichy government for shooting, in Algiers, Darlan, the Nazi French admiral who had agreed an armistice with the Allies.

Koning's was a restless, cosmopolitan intelligence, finding inspiration everywhere, a quality well caught in the blistering first-person novel America Made Me (1979). That America's origins were described in the book on Columbus, which offers an unflinching account of Indians' hands being chopped off if they did not return with enough gold dust. It caused uproar, all the more so as in it Koning said of such things, "in Brazil, it is going on even now". As for the Nazis, he said, "they did the subject races of the world a favour. The great white-race civil war which we call World War Two weakened Europe and broke its grip on Asia and Africa".

For Koning, mankind was always in flux, but it would be a mistake to think him forever riled. His large, varied and varying output is that of a man as beguiled as he is horrified by everything about him.


Gerald said...

Is Victoria Toensing a member of the feminine gender or the it gender? Members of the it gender are women who do not possess the characteristics of nurturing and sensitivity. I believe Victoria Toensing is a member of the it gender.

Gerald said...

4.2 million Iraqis are

War with Iran is underway

Gerald said...

Bill Clinton may be popular with the people but I have serious doubts about his record as president. He may have been overrated.

capt said...

Stolen keys delay start of military mission

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland's 1,200 troops assigned to NATO forces in Afghanistan will not achieve full combat readiness for up to several weeks due to stolen vehicle keys, the defense ministry said Thursday.

"We had been told a 10 percent theft rate was likely in convoys brought in from Pakistan, but we had not expected the spare car keys to go missing," defense ministry spokesman Jaroslaw Rybak told news channel TVN24.

"We shall have to send away for spares, so it may take from several days to several weeks for our contingent to become combat ready."

According to media reports, Polish troops taking part in NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan have been assigned to patrol the mountainous border area with Pakistan to search for Taliban guerrilla activity.

The military vehicles used by Polish forces include Poland's Land Rover-like Honkers and U.S.-built Humvees.


capt said...

Bill Clinton was/is both challenged and troubled. He has issues and does/did some very dumb things but all in all Bubba was and still is ten times the man Dumya is in both character and moral fiber.

(and you will seldom hear me say anything good about politicians)


David B. Benson said...

capt --- Only ten times?

capt said...


TEN is probably a huge understatement.


capt said...

Researchers Catch Motion Of A Single Electron On Video

To observe the motion of an electron – an elementary particle with a mass that is one billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a gram – has been considered to be impossible. So when two Brown University physicists showed movies of electrons moving through liquid helium at the 2006 International Symposium on Quantum Fluids and Solids in Kyoto, they raised some eyebrows.

The images, which were published online on April 28, 2007, in the Journal of Low Temperature Physics, show scattered points of light moving down the screen – some in straight lines, some following a snakelike path. The Matrix it’s not. Still, the fact that they can be seen at all is astounding. "We were astonished when we first saw an electron moving across the screen," said Humphrey Maris, a professor of physics at Brown University. "Once we had the idea, setting it up was surprisingly easy."

Maris and Wei Guo, a doctoral student, took advantage of the bubbles that form around electrons in supercold liquid helium. Using sound waves to expand the bubbles and a coordinated strobe light to illuminate them, Guo was able to catch their movements on a home video camera.

A free electron repels the atoms that surround it, creating a small space, or bubble, around itself. In conventional liquids, the bubble shrinks to nothing because the surface tension of the liquid works against the repulsive force. Superfluid helium has very little surface tension, so the bubble can become much larger. The two opposing forces balance when the diameter of the bubble is about 40 angstroms – still far to tiny to see.

The researchers used a planar transducer – basically, a loudspeaker that produces flat, not focused, sound waves – to pummel the whole volume of liquid helium with sound. As each wave overtook an electron bubble, it alternately increased and decreased the surrounding pressure. Under negative pressure, the bubbles expanded to about eight microns, the size of a small speck of dust, then shrank again as the next wave of high pressure washed over them. A strobe light, synchronized to the sound pulse, illuminated the bubbles without overheating the chamber.

Running a camcorder in "super night mode," Guo and Maris were able to record the approximately 2,000 photons they estimate were scattered by the expanded bubbles, producing a series of electron-bubble images on each frame of videotape.

"The results are very original and really spectacular," said SĂ©bastien Balibar, research director for physics at l’Ecole Normale SupĂ©rieure in Paris, "imaging single vortices of atomic size with a sound wave is an astonishing achievement."

To be sure they were seeing electron bubbles and not just trapped dust, the researchers gradually increased the power to the transducer. They detected no points of light at low power and then a rapid increase in the appearance of bubbles at a particular voltage, just as their calculations predicted. Dust particles would exhibit no such threshold.

The researchers had planned to introduce streams of electrons into the chamber from a radioactive source, but found that even without a source, a number of electrons could be seen moving through the chamber. Most traveled in a fairly straight line leading away from the transducer, which produces a flow of heat down through the liquid.

A few of the electrons, however, followed a distinctly different snakelike path. Maris and Guo hypothesize that those electrons are following the lines of superfluid vortices – a phenomenon akin to a tornado in which the liquid spins at high velocity around a line. "The vortex is like a piece of string running through the liquid," said Maris. "The electron bubble is attracted to the core of the vortex and gets attached to it. It’s as though it’s sliding down this rope that winds through the fluid." By following the path that the electron takes as it slides along the vortex, the researchers were able to observe vortex lines for the first time. "People never thought it would be possible to visualize the vortex lines," said Guo, "but then, almost by accident, we saw them."

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Brown University.


*****end of clip*****

WOW, how cool!


capt said...

Paris Hilton is out of jail and going to be put under house arrest (mansion manacles?).

Something about "health" issues.


capt said...

The Real Reason for Bush’s Invasion of Iraq Is a National Security Secret

American soldiers have been fighting and dying in Iraq since 2003, and Americans do not know why.

All the reasons President Bush gave us for his war are false. Bush said he invaded Iraq "to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people."

We now know that these were false claims. Disinformation about Iraq was produced by a special unit within the Pentagon run by Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith. The unit operated outside the normal intelligence channels of the CIA and DIA. Its purpose was to create false intelligence to enable Bush to initiate war with Iraq.

Did President Bush know that the claims put into his speeches by his speechwriters was false?

Who instructed Bush’s speechwriters to incorporate known lies into the President’s speeches?

Why did Vice President Cheney, the Secretary of State, the National Security Advisor, and the Secretary of Defense all lie to the American people and to the entire world?

What is the real agenda?

Millions of Americans have come to their own conclusions about the reasons for Bush’s invasion: (1) Oil: the US government wants to hold on to power by expanding its control over oil, and Bush and Cheney want to reward their oil company cronies. (2) Military-security complex: Police agencies favor war as a means of expanding their power, and military industries favor war as a means of expanding their profits. (3) Neoconservative ideology: Neocons’ believe in "American exceptionalism" and claim that America’s virtue gives the US government the right and the obligation to impose US hegemony on the rest of the world, especially in the Middle East where independent Muslim states object to Israel’s theft of Palestine. (4) Karl Rove: Rove used the "war president" role to rescue Bush from attack by Democrats as an illegitimate president elected by one vote of the US Supreme Court. (5) American self-righteousness over 9/11 and lust for revenge.

All of these reasons came together to make a cruel war on an innocent people.

There may be other reasons about which we know not.

As it is now recognized that every reason for the war is false or illegitimate, the question is: why does Bush insist on persisting with a costly war, the express reasons for which are now known to be mistakes? There were no weapons of mass destruction, no connections to al Qaeda, and Bush has installed a puppet Iraqi government that cannot venture outside the heavily fortified and US protected "green zone." The Iraqi government governs nothing.

War without cause is murder, not war.

That Bush persists with a war for which he can provide no legitimate reason indicates that there is a secret agenda that has not been shared with the American people. Are we experiencing the privatization of the US government by police agencies, the military-security complex, and the Israel Lobby?

That the American people and their elected representatives continue to tolerate a war that has killed and maimed thousands of their own soldiers, destroyed the infrastructure of a country, killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians and created 4 million refugees for no known reason raises serious questions about the morals of the American people.

Is the impotence of the peace movement due to the power of the Israel Lobby or have Americans become morally degenerate as commentators increasingly assert?

One indication would be the response of presidential candidates to the gratuitous and failed war. What we saw at the Republican presidential candidates’ debate on June 5 is inconsistent with the self-esteem of the American people. All of the leading Republican presidential candidates openly and nonchalantly endorsed using nuclear weapons against Iran unless Iran abandons its right to enrich uranium under the non-proliferation treaty, to which Iran is a signatory (unlike nuclear-armed Israel, India, and US puppet Pakistan).

What is moral degeneracy if it is not using nuclear weapons to murder masses of innocent civilians and spread deadly radioactivity over vast areas merely in order to force a country to do as we order? If this isn’t barbarism, what is barbarism?

Do the American people realize that the frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination are monsters who want to murder people who have done us no harm?

After five years of war that has achieved no noble purpose, no valid aim, indeed, no aim at all except perhaps Osama bin Laden’s aim of stirring up uncontrollable strife in the Middle East, how can Republicans cheer for candidates who preach a wider war and the use of nuclear weapons against defenseless people?

Is the approval lavished on Republican presidential candidates, who are willing to use nuclear weapons as means of terrorizing Muslim peoples, an indication that the American people have morphed into inhuman monsters?

If not, what does it indicate? Ignorant fanaticism? Paranoia? Blind hatred? The belief that no one is of any value but Americans?

For six and one-half years the Bush Regime has relied on coercion, intimidation, war, and threats of war. Diplomacy and good will have been shunned. The regime’s blatant warmongering has resurrected the nuclear arms race. China and Russia regard America’s drive for world hegemony with great alarm. China has put nuclear ICBMs on mobile platforms to increase their survivability in event of an American attack. Russia has developed new multi-warhead ICBMs, which can penetrate any known missile defense, and new cruise missiles that Putin says will be targeted on Europe if the US persists in its aggressive military encirclement of Russia.

An administration that resurrects the threat of nuclear Armageddon so that its cronies in the military-security complex can become still richer is evil beyond compare.


*****end of clip*****

PCR on point again today. Me thinks the good doctor rocks!


capt said...

Um, go Spurs

I could swear we used to have a Spurs fan or two posting. . .


micki said...

Sheesh. I saw all those "coincidental" quotes disparaging scientists and couldn't help but wonder about the motivation.

Just saying...

carol said...

The motivation seems to be Capt hates Dr. B.

Capt, you never miss a chance to take a shot at him and that's too bad.

capt said...

New Thread