Saturday, August 18, 2007

Geaghan: Saturday snippets

A rainy day here in northwestern Oregon has encouraged me to cancel a camping trip. So I've consoled myself with an extended tour of my bloglist. A few topics du jour:

Leapfrogging into absurdity

Matthew Yglesias writes:
The primary leapfrogging sweepstakes seems to have really taken off now that Michigan's moving to January 15. This means that if New Hampshire and Iowa try to maintain the usual spacing, Iowa's going to wind up in 2007. One can only hope this means the Iowa-Newhampshire-ification of American politics has reached some kind of a breaking point and we won't stick with this farcical nominating process in 2012.

Right now the parties effectively control the nominating process, which has produced the growing absurdity of balkanized campaigns that begin in mid-term.

Other countries manage to regulate campaigns more effectively. In (gasp!) France, for example, there's a cap on total spending (€20 million) and matching public financing of 50% for candidates with more than 5% of the vote. Minor parties, whose candidates received less than 5%, get €800,000 (with €150,000 paid in advance). TV advertising is prohibited, but public TV sets aside ample time for candidates to use. An independent agency supervises elections and public financing. A runoff election takes place if no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote.

Such a rational system of regulating elections would be difficult to import into our chaotic process, but it could produce a better overall result—and end the competition for undue influence by individual states in the nominating process.

Escape Hatch for Rove

Digby at Hullabaloo speculates that Karl Rove's resignation may suggest rapid progress in a Hatch Act investigation that began with a complaint filed against Rove by fired U.S. Attorney David Iglesias in April. She writes:
These Hatch act investigations may end up being more potent than anybody realizes. Remember, Watergate started out as a third rate burglary.

The Office of Special Counsel website describes the meager penalties for violations of the Hatch Act, which would seem to have no application to a federal employee who has already resigned from the government:

An employee who violates the Hatch Act shall be removed from their position, and funds appropriated for the position from which removed thereafter may not be used to pay the employee or individual. However, if the Merit Systems Protection Board finds by unanimous vote that the violation does not warrant removal, a penalty of not less than 30 days' suspension without pay shall be imposed by direction of the Board.

Of course an investigation of Iglesias' allegations could conceivably turn up something more damaging to Rove than Hatch Act violations. The OSC site also points out that "certain political activities may also be criminal offenses under title 18 of the U.S. Code..."

But I don't see any basis to conclude that the OSC even has jurisdiction to investigate former employees under the Hatch Act. So the Iglesias complaint has been rendered moot. Any offenses under title 18 would probably have to be investigated by a grand jury, and none has yet been convened for that purpose.

Even if Congress amends the Hatch Act (as some have suggested) to stiffen the penalties and/or make violations a criminal offense, Rove still walks. A revised Hatch Act couldn't apply retroactively, since Article I, Section 9, of the Constitution prohibits ex post facto laws.

Then there's the small matter of a presidential pardon, which will be instantly available on request.

The Flat Brain Society

Discredited "Middle East expert" Thomas L. Friedman was back on "Charlie Rose" on Thursday, peddling the paperback version of The World is Flat. Now that Friedman's credibility on Iraq has been reduced down near absolute zero, he's shamelessly repositioning himself as an expert on globalization and the vast corporate profits to be had through environmental awareness. But he puts me in such a rage that I couldn't watch more than the first minute.

Atrios provides a link to a Rose interview with Friedman on May 3, 2003—after five weeks of war in Iraq—in which his guest spouts such gems as:
I think it [the invasion of Iraq] was unquestionably worth doing, Charlie.
We needed to go over there, basically, um, and um, uh, take out a very big state right in the heart of that world and burst that bubble, and there was only one way to do it.
What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, um and basically saying, "Which part of this sentence don't you understand?"

You don't think, you know, we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we're just gonna to let it grow?

Well, Suck. On. This.


That Charlie was what this war was about. We could've hit Saudi Arabia, it was part of that bubble. We coulda hit Pakistan. [1] We hit Iraq because we could.
A special niche in hell is reserved for guys like Friedman, who should be forced to spend eternity watching reruns of his many performances as one of the lead pimpmeisters for Bush/Cheney.

And the perfect roommates for Friedman? Christopher Hitchens [2] and Michael Ignatieff [3].


[1] The very same Pakistan that has had nuclear weapons since 1998? It's interesting that a realpolitiker like Friedman believes that Pakistan would've politely kept its nukes on the shelf while Bush/Cheney proceeded to overthrow its government.

Hitchens' new book (God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything), in which he aggressively defends his atheism, might be interpreted as an attempt to reassure himself that he'll never be held accountable for his support of the criminal conspiracy that led to the war in Iraq. He apparently sees no contradiction between his support for Bush/Cheney and the administration's assaults on the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Ignatieff made an unconvincing attempt to repent for his role in pimping for the war, including his express support for torture, in a recent column in the The New York Times Magazine (sorry, but for once I refuse to provide a link—look it up if you want to read it). The Toronto Star simply notes in passing that Ignatieff "supported the Iraq war when it suited him and opposes it when it doesn't."

[Note: Portions of the above were cross-posted as comments on the blogs noted.]

PHOTO: IVotronic voting machine, one of many types used in 2007 French elections (Wikipedia Commons)

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