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Panel votes to hold two Bush aides in contempt of Congress

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

International Herald TribunePanel votes to hold two Bush aides in contempt of Congress
By Neil A. Lewis
Thursday, July 26, 2007

WASHINGTON: The House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines on Wednesday to hold President George W. Bush's chief of staff and the former White House counsel in contempt of Congress.

The issue now goes before the full House, where the Democrats who control the chamber suggested it would not be taken up until after the August recess.

In the debate before the 22-to-17 vote to pass the contempt resolution, Democrats on the committee firmly rejected the White House argument that the invocation of executive privilege blocked Congress from obtaining information from Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, or Joshua Bolten, the chief of staff.

The Judiciary Committee had issued subpoenas seeking testimony from Miers and documents from Bolten as part of an investigation into whether there was any improper political influence in the dismissal of several federal prosecutors.

Representative John Conyers Jr., the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the committee, said the action was needed "not only to gain an accurate picture of the facts surrounding the U.S. attorneys controversy, but to protect our constitutional prerogatives as a co-equal branch of government."

Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, the committee's ranking Republican, dismissed the contempt citation as part of a political game and a waste of public money. Citing administration officials' comments about the dismissals, Smith said they demonstrated that "there was no evidence of wrongdoing" in firing the prosecutors. In the full House, the Democratic leaders made it clear that they fully intend to use their majority to vote the contempt citation in September unless the White House relents.

What would happen after that is unclear.

A Justice Department official on Tuesday affirmed earlier comments from a White House spokesman that any effort to enforce the contempt citation would be futile. To do so, the House or Senate would have to ask the United States attorney for the District of Columbia to convene a grand jury with the aim of indicting Miers and Bolten.

But in a letter to the Judiciary Committee, Brian Benczkowski, the principal deputy assistant attorney general, cited Justice Department internal legal memorandums from both Democratic and Republican administrations, saying "the criminal contempt of Congress statute does not apply to the president or presidential subordinates who assert executive privilege."

James Hamilton, a Washington lawyer and leading authority on congressional powers of investigation, said that while the White House view might be flawed, it could still prevail.

"The notion that executive privilege automatically trumps a congressional subpoena is not supported by precedent," said Hamilton, who has written widely on the subject. A new report from the nonpartisan congressional Research Service concurred with him, saying that the internal Justice Department memorandums are open to question on factual, legal and constitutional grounds.

Nonetheless, Hamilton said the administration probably has the ability to order the federal prosecutor not to bring contempt charges.

Congress could conduct a trial, but that procedure would be cumbersome and has not been used in nearly a century. Beyond that, Hamilton said Congress might be left with only the option of seeking political recourse. "Congress has lots of arrows in its quiver," he said. "If Congress gets stiffed, it could respond in many ways" including rejecting some of the president's legislative programs.

In a letter on Wednesday to Fred Fielding, the White House counsel, Conyers implored officials to seek a compromise with Congress. The White House has refused separate requests for information from the House and the Senate, citing executive privilege, which courts have recognized as the right of a president to withhold information in some circumstances to ensure that aides can offer candid advice free from worry that their words might later be disclosed.

The White House has offered to have Miers and others answer questions in a closed session that would not be transcribed and would not require those being questioned to do so under oath. Democrats have rejected that proposal as inadequate, but Conyers told Fielding that he still hoped "that we can resolve with you the committee's need for information from the White House in our investigation."

The Supreme Court first formally recognized the notion of executive privilege in 1974. But in the same ruling, the court said the privilege could be overcome in some circumstances, and it ordered President Richard Nixon to turn over to a special prosecutor secretly recorded audio tapes made at the White House, saying the criminal investigation trumped executive privilege.

The court has never ruled on whether such privilege outweighs a request from Congress performing oversight of the executive branch. In the handful of cases that have arisen since then under several presidents, the White House has reached a compromise with Congress or others.


Gov. Bill Richardson's Energy Plan

The more I hear from Bill Richardson, the more I like what he has to say. He seems like a man who is not only going to say what needs to be said, but also do what needs to be done. Isn't that a trait we want in our politicians?

Here's a video and supporting documentation for Gov. Richardson's energy plan.

Supporting Information:


Edwards's Campaign measures success in bytes

International Herald TribuneEdwards's campaign tries to harness Internet

By Adam Nagourney
Wednesday, August 1, 2007

WASHINGTON: Most presidential campaigns mark their progress by how they are doing in the polls and how much money they are raising.

John Edwards's campaign has another barometer of success: a 90-day calendar that tracks, in a jumble of red, green and black numbers, the spikes and dips in traffic to the campaign's Web site. The calendar is taped on the wall of Joe Trippi, a senior campaign adviser, who can connect each spike to some effort to stir voters, including the video Edwards showed at a Democratic debate mocking the media for writing about his $400 haircut, and the time Elizabeth Edwards confronted the conservative commentator Ann Coulter on television.

After running a decidedly traditional race for the White House in 2004 and in the early stages of this contest, Edwards has quietly overhauled his campaign with one central goal: to harness the Internet and the political energy that liberal Democrats are sending coursing through it. In a slow but striking power shift, advisers who champion the political power of the Web have eclipsed the coterie of advisers who long dominated Edwards's inner circle, both reflecting and intensifying his transformation into a more populist, aggressive candidate.

"They want me to shut up," an unsmiling Edwards said to an audience in Creston, Iowa, on Thursday — remarks that were videotaped by an Edwards campaign worker and posted both on YouTube and the popular liberal Web site "Let's distract from people who don't have health care coverage. Let's distract from people who can't feed their children. Let's talk about this frivolous, nothing stuff."

"They will never silence me," he continued, not explaining who "they" were.

At the vanguard of the change is Trippi, something of a celebrity in the Democratic Internet world after managing Howard Dean's 2004 campaign. Trippi — who left Dean's collapsing campaign in a storm of recriminations — has returned for an unexpected Round 2 at the urging of the Edwardses, breaking a vow Trippi says he made to himself not to return to presidential politics.

His role has been to help Edwards find ways to connect his message to the party's liberal base in a campaign in which the traditional media channels have been clogged with news about Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, his two main Democratic rivals. The populist message that Edwards offered with a sunny face to living rooms of Iowans in 2004 is this time offered with indignation and anger, replete with us-against-them attacks on President George W. Bush, establishment Washington, the wealthy and the news media. And his campaign is methodically pitching it on the Web.

"The Internet is the principal way we are communicating with voters right now," Elizabeth Edwards said in an interview.

Over the past month, Trippi has brought two of his associates from his last job — as a media consultant to a union-financed and highly effective Web-driven campaign against Wal-Mart — to manage communications and political organizing for Edwards. With the express approval and urging of the Edwardses, they have taken steps like using the Edwards Web site to gather signatures for a petition demanding the impeachment of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales while urging Edwards to press his tough-edged populist message even harder.

These days the Edwards campaign has taken on the appearance of Dean 2.0, and listening to Edwards is often akin to reading the postings on an angry blog.

Elizabeth Edwards said she had been posting messages on the Internet since before there were blogs, and had increasingly seen its power as a tool in political campaigns.

She described Trippi as a "free thinker," and contrasted him with political strategists grounded in past campaigns who she said at most grudgingly accepted the Internet as a political tool, instead arguing that campaigns should stick with proven methods.

"Joe came from the same tradition, but when he was confronted with somebody saying, 'Why don't we do it this way?' he'd be like, 'Let's explore it,' " she said. "That's the difference." Inevitably, this shift has produced something of a culture clash as Trippi — an ambling 51-year-old college dropout from Silicon Valley with chronic diabetes — has pressed the campaign to try unorthodox tactics.

"Yeah, there are a bunch of differences," Trippi said in an interview at the headquarters in Chapel Hill. "It was — it is — a more traditional campaign than the Dean campaign. The one thing is in a strange way, Edwards and Elizabeth — Elizabeth in particular, but Edwards, too — get it that the old way doesn't work. That you need to use the Internet, blogs, technology, YouTube, to reach out to people."

"She's much more into it than he is, but he gets it in a way that Howard didn't," Trippi said. "I mean Howard got it, but he didn't get into it. You would never get a call from him saying: 'Should I call Ann Coulter? Or should I blog on this today?' What I'm trying to say is she and John think about it more."

By all accounts, this is not simply the story of another power struggle in another campaign. Instead, it reflects a decision that Edwards could not rely on traditional means to get his message through in a Democratic field where the Clinton-Obama battle sometimes threatens to reduce him to an afterthought.

"We're in a different world than last time, with two big celebrity candidates," said Jonathan Prince, who is also a senior campaign adviser and one of the few holdovers from the 2004 campaign. "And we have the message that is most change-oriented and empowering. So we both need to use the channel to reach people and should be using the channel that's the most empowering thing out there."

Trippi has been working in political campaigns for 30 years, but has become so closely identified with the Internet political community since 2004 — "it totally erased like 30 years of my life," he said — that he is regularly accosted for autographs at events attended by bloggers. It was his status in that world that led the Edwardses to Trippi, as part of their effort to figure out how to channel the attitude of Democrats who are angry at compromise, eager to take on powerful institutions in Washington, fiercely antiwar and generally very supportive of the untrammeled populism that is coming to define Democratic politics.

Like Elizabeth Edwards, who is undergoing treatment for cancer, Trippi suffers from a form of neuropathy, a condition that causes sharp pain in his extremities, in his case as a result of his acute diabetes and for her an apparent side effect of treatment. "We bonded over neuropathy," she said.

The video about Edwards's hair, shown at a debate where most of the other candidates made more conventional appeals for support, suggested the extent to which Edwards was willing to take risks.

Among those arguing against the effort, campaign officials said, was Harrison Hickman, Edwards's pollster. Hickman did not return calls. The video was met with perplexed silence from Democrats sitting in the hall in Charleston, but Edwards aides declared victory the next day after noting that 124,000 people had watched their video on YouTube, far more than clicked onto the Clinton or Obama videos.

"The hair commercial was Joe's idea," Elizabeth Edwards said. "Your choice on the hair stuff is to say this is not important, or make a joke at yourself or get angry at it because you know who is pushing it — we know who is pushing it and what campaigns are associated with it," she said, without elaborating. "He thought of a 30-second way to make the point."

There are risks to this strategy: As Edwards's aides said, it is critical that he not throw out the best of the old in his search to harness the passion and money that can be raised through the Internet. And of course, Dean 1.0 did not take Dean even through Iowa.

But Edwards is not Dean. And the Internet is an entirely different force today from what it was when Trippi and Edwards ran their last campaigns.


Impeach Dick Cheney

Here's a GREAT video from Robert Greenwald. Check out the website HERE, and let's get the bum out of office before he can do any more damage.


Dingell Favors Automakers and Big Oil Over Environment and Sustainability

We all need to write and/or call ((202) 225-4071) Rep. John Dingell's office, and tell him to take a stand and do what's right. This just makes me sick. "Less painful for Detroit automakers"? Is this man serious? The Detroit automakers ARE the problem! Everyone knows that we could have had cars and trucks that cruise along at 45-50mpg. Too expensive the car makers whine. Oh, is that so? Well you've been doing it in Europe for 20 years! Give it a rest already. Everyone knows that the automakers are in cahoots with the oil companies. Admit it already, so we can move on to solutions. (The following article is from the New York Times).

Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI)July 21, 2007

Veteran House Democrat Guards Turf on Energy

WASHINGTON, July 20 — He just turned 81, his voice has become frail and his hands often shake uncontrollably. In recent weeks, he has walked with crutches because of leg pains. But make no mistake: Representative John D. Dingell of Michigan has not mellowed.

As chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, first elected to Congress in 1955 when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, Mr. Dingell has probably fought more fights, intimidated more adversaries and pushed through more legislation than any other Democrat in the House.

But House Democratic leaders, hoping to pass an “energy independence” bill this month, have had to delay taking the measure to the floor for weeks. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her allies want a hefty increase in fuel-economy requirements for cars, light trucks and S.U.V.’s, but they are finding that it is not easy to maneuver around Mr. Dingell, who wants a smaller increase that would be less painful for Detroit automakers.

The power struggle pits a towering committee chairman, long accustomed to running his own show, against the first female House speaker, who has her own ambitious agenda.

When Ms. Pelosi, of California, created a new committee on energy independence and global warming in January, Mr. Dingell attacked it as a potential encroachment on his turf. Though she assured him the new panel would have no legislative authority, he remarked that it would be an “embarrassment” and “as useful as feathers on a fish.”

Behind the scenes, Mr. Dingell fumes that Ms. Pelosi and other comparatively young House leaders are trying to dictate his schedule and his priorities. He grumbles about colleagues who are too “ideological,” too impatient and too unrealistic about the costs of slowing global warming. He implies that Ms. Pelosi cares more about being “green” in California than about blue-collar workers in Michigan.

“I’ve had conflicts with speakers before,” he said in a lunchtime interview, as he wolfed down a peanut-butter sandwich in an antechamber next to his committee’s hearing room. “This is not the first time.”

Were younger House leaders trying to push him aside?

”Let them try; let them try,” he replied. “They won’t be able to do it.”

The first big showdown will be the pending energy bill, which House leaders originally hoped to pass soon after July 4. Mr. Dingell’s committee has approved a measure that omits any change in fuel-economy requirements. Ms. Pelosi and many other Democrats want to add a tough requirement, much like one the Senate passed in June, as an amendment on the House floor.

But they are loath to try until they are sure they have enough votes to win. If they cannot muster the votes, House Democrats figure they can adopt the Senate measure during a House-Senate conference. But even that is dicey: Mr. Dingell is likely to be the senior House Democrat in that conference.

Despite the open conflict, environmentalists say Mr. Dingell can be either a crucial ally or an implacable foe — and no one knows which he will be this time.

“This is a completely different place now, and I don’t think John gets that,” said Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia., the liberal political activist group, recently ran radio advertisements in Mr. Dingell’s district accusing him of being a “dinosaur” — a “dingellsaurus” — on environmental issues.

Last month, Mr. Dingell infuriated Ms. Pelosi and many Democrats on his own committee by drafting an energy bill that would have blocked California and other states from passing their own restrictions on carbon-dioxide emissions from automobiles.

After an outcry from many Democrats and a sharp no from Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Dingell postponed what he called the “more controversial” issues until his committee took up a global warming bill in the fall.

Gone was any requirement for higher mileage in cars and S.U.V.’s, which Ms. Pelosi wanted. Gone was any prohibition against states setting their own emission rules for cars, which Mr. Dingell wanted. Gone were all the subsidies for coal-based diesel fuels, which Democrats from coal-producing states wanted. What is left is a comparatively bland bill that would impose higher efficiency standards for electrical appliances, machinery and buildings, increase loan guarantees for companies producing renewable fuels and provide research money for new energy technology.

By contrast, the Senate last month approved energy legislation that would increase average mileage standards to 35 miles per gallon for cars and S.U.V.’s alike by 2020. Cars now must average 27.5 miles per gallon, and light trucks and S.U.V.’s need to get 21.6.

Even environmentalists say Mr. Dingell is a masterful legislator who has helped pass landmark environmental laws like the Endangered Species Act and the Superfund program to clean up toxic waste sites.

“I use him as a sterling example of an effective legislator,” said Philip Sharp, a former Democratic representative from Indiana who served for years on Mr. Dingell’s committee and is now head of Resources for the Future, an environmental policy research group.And despite his own misgivings about rules that might hurt automakers, Mr. Dingell was instrumental in a major expansion of the Clean Air Act in 1990 to reduce pollution that causes acid rain. “I’ve gotten more legislation passed on conservation and the environment than anybody else in this place,” Mr. Dingell boasted. “I know how to build legislation from the center.”

He also knows how to keep his adversaries off balance.

In a nod to his environmental critics, Mr. Dingell vowed to come up with a major bill in the fall to reduce heat-trapping gases 60 percent to 80 percent over the next four decades. But a few days later, he declared that his legislation would include a steep “carbon tax” on fuels that emit carbon dioxide — an approach that many Democratic leaders view as political suicide — in part to highlight the unpopular cost of slowing global warming.

Three weeks ago, Mr. Dingell took pains to look collaborative as he stood next to Ms. Pelosi at a news conference to promote a package of “energy independence” measures drafted by almost a dozen separate committees. “Let me say how proud I am to work with you and work under your leadership,” Mr. Dingell said. “I do want to congratulate you, Madame Speaker, on the work that you are doing.”

But where Ms. Pelosi says global warming is her top domestic priority, Mr. Dingell as recently as December expressed doubt about the scientific consensus on global warming. He has not seen “An Inconvenient Truth,” the Oscar-winning documentary on global warming starring former Vice President Al Gore.

Today, Mr. Dingell says he is convinced that global warming is an urgent problem, but doubts that most people understand the enormous costs involved in addressing it.

“First of all, I think the scientific question has been resolved,” he said in an interview. “Second of all, I think the political question has been resolved. Our problem now is to write the best legislation we can.”

Beyond tactical calculations and nose-counting, Mr. Dingell almost certainly has his eye on bargaining for other kinds of Congressional support for automakers. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler have all pleaded for help in reducing health care and pension costs for employees and retirees — a cost that has been estimated at about $1,000 per vehicle and is not borne by car companies in most other countries.

Mr. Dingell is cagey about what he truly wants to accomplish. “We’ll see to it that we produce the rules that are needed,” he said. “We’ll see to it that it doesn’t cost jobs and doesn’t hurt the economy. We’ll see to it that we don’t throw away jobs or our industrial leadership.”

But when pressed to name his own personal wish list, he balked.

“Do I know what the hell is in this bill?” he retorted when pressed about his goals. “No, I don’t know. The process will produce it. I’m going to lead so they can come up with sound policy.”


Nominee for the Joint Chiefs tows the Party-Line

Of course we can still win in Iraq. Let's keep saying the same old bullshit, day after day after day. Maybe if we say it enough times it'll become reality. Are you kidding me? What follows is an article from the International Herald Tribune.

Michael Mullen testifies before the Senate Armed Services CommitteeJoint Chiefs nominees see no limits on militants in Iraq
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
WASHINGTON: President George W. Bush's choices to lead the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the senior uniformed leadership of the armed services, said Tuesday that they were concerned about the seemingly inexhaustible numbers of Sunni Arab militant fighters in Iraq and about the Iraqi government's failure to take control of the country.

Admiral Michael Mullen, the nominee to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and James Cartwright, the marine general nominated for vice chairman, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that the United States could still win in Iraq - and that it cannot afford to lose there.

Perhaps the most sobering assessment of the campaign came during an exchange with committee members about the definition of victory in Iraq and the nature of the enemy.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, asked Cartwright if the recent increase in American troop strength in the country was "diminishing Al Qaeda's presence and viability in Iraq."

"We are challenging it," Cartwright replied. "And in that challenge, in areas we are diminishing it, for sure."

But the general went on: "They are resilient. They seem to have an unlimited pool from which to draw from if you're on the battlefield. In other words, as we defeat, others come in behind."

The increase in American strength, he said, "is challenging their ability to be resilient."

When Graham asked Mullen how he would define "winning in Iraq," the admiral said he worried about specific definitions. He said he hoped to see "a stable Iraq which can govern itself," reconcile the feuding factions within the country and not be a haven for terrorists.

Pressed to gauge the chances of an American victory, Mullen acknowledged that he was troubled about the Iraqis' failure to come together politically. "I would be concerned about whether we'd be winning or not," he conceded.

Cartwright said he thought victory was achievable. "It's going to be a challenge," he said.

A mid-September progress report from General David Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, will offer a chance to determine whether the path "we're on is the right path or whether we want to make adjustments," he said.

The admiral said he saw the struggle in Iraq as one with global impact. Asked whether he believed that "this is a war really we can't afford to lose, when it's all said and done," as Graham put it, he replied, "Yes, sir."

The military leaders' testimony may have offered grist both for supporters and opponents of Bush's policy. The president himself has said that the war is one that must be won, not only for peace in the Middle East but for American security worldwide.

But Cartwright's comments about Sunni Arab militants' strength in Iraq may be seized upon by critics of the war, many of whom have said that Al Qaeda was not even present in Iraq before the American invasion of 2003 and that the invasion created an opportunity for terrorists.

Mullen, who would succeed General Peter Pace as Joint Chiefs chairman, and Cartwright appeared certain to win the committee's endorsement for confirmation by the full Senate. The panel's chairman, Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, who has been highly critical of the administration's Iraq policy, called the nominees "outstanding individuals with exceptional military backgrounds," and other committee members offered similar praise.


US to send 26,000-strong force to Darfur

All I can say is that it's about time! This tragedy has gone on for long enough. What do you want to bet that the U.S. is not going to be able to send troops though? We've more important things to do, like fight a needless war in Iraq.

UN to send 26,000-strong force to Darfur
By Mark Turner and Jean Eaglesham at the United Nations

Published: July 31 2007 14:54 | Last updated: August 1 2007 02:42

The United Nations Security Council unanimously agreed ­on Tuesday to a 26,000-strong joint UN-African Union force for Darfur, as Gordon Brown, the prime minister, hailed the creation of the world’s largest peacekeeping operation during a speech in New York.

The decision follows months of negotiations over the “hybrid” force’s command structure and mandate. Sudan gave its consent earlier this year.

Jamie Balfour-Paul, humanitarian policy adviser for Oxfam, welcomed the decision, but warned that force would not deliver the immediate help people needed because “it will not be in place for many months”. To win agreement, the latest UK-French draft stepped back from earlier threats of new sanctions if the warring parties did not co-operate and deleted the right to the “seizure and disposal” of illegal arms. The force will monitor arms instead.

But it retained references to Chapter 7, under which the UN can authorise the use of force, for self-defence, to ensure the free movement of humanitarian workers and to protect civilians.

Speaking at the UN, Mr Brown called Darfur “the greatest humanitarian disaster the world faces today”, with 2m displaced and 4m dependent on food aid.

The conflict, between forces backed by the Sudan government and rebel groups, has killed more than 200,000 people since 2003. “The plan for Darfur is to achieve a ceasefire, including an end to aerial bombings of civilians; drive forward peace talks [in Tanzania] and, as peace is established, invest in recovery and reconstruction,” he said.

The resolution calls for a force of up to 19,555 soldiers and 3,772 police, alongside 19 “formed police units” of 140 people each. Command and control will be provided by the UN but day-to-day decisions will be taken by an African general. The aim is for most troops to be African.

In a separate development, the US House of Representatives passed legislation requiring the US Treasury to maintain a list of companies whose dealings directly benefit the regime.



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