White House Aides Must Testify

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Judge John Bates has ruled against the Bush administration today declaring that:

Harriet Miers is not immune from compelled congressional process; she is legally required to testify pursuant to a duly issued congressional subpoena.

YES! A great day for the rule of law. This ruling will compel Miers, Josh Bolten, and Karl Rove to appear before the House Judiciary Committee and testify under oath. The Bush administration is likely to appeal, and, as I wrote yesterday, I think this whole thing is going to wind up in the Supreme Court (though frankly, this ruling looks very strong, so maybe it won’t make it past appeal).

At any rate, I can’t wait for Rove to testify. I want these criminals indicted and put in jail. If we’re lucky the whole thing will drag on until after Bush leaves office, thereby eliminating the chance of a pardon.

P.S. Sign a petition to put Karl Rove in jail.


A Recession In All But Name

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Economists give the technical definition of a recession as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. With the Commerce Department downwardly revising the fourth quarter of 2007 to reflect a .2% drop in GDP, and with the first quarter of 2008, I’m guessing, soon to follow suit (it already dropped to .9% growth from a previous 1%), we are in a recession in all but name.

The second quarter of 2008 clocked in at a revised 1.9% (down from 2.3%) on the strength of the rebate checks. But most economists (including this amateur one) expect a further downturn.

Right now, due to the weak dollar, the only bright spot in our economy is exports.

Is Google Making Us Stoopid?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Nicholas Carr’s article in the Atlantic Monthly has got a lot of people talking about the changes Google, or, more accurately, the Internet (they’re practically synonymous), is making to the way we think. There is the usual hand-wringing that accompanies any new technology or medium, and worries that some part of our basic makeup will be lost forever. Others dismiss these concerns and cite the existence of this kind of worrying whenever society changes.

In truth, they’re both right. The Internet has and will continue to change the way we live, work, and think. And as a result, some part of the way we’ve done things in the past has changed. Biologically speaking, it is certain that routine use of the Internet will shape our neural circuitry and continually reinforce those pathways. Short attention spans, browsing, and what-have-you might be a natural result, if, in fact, the Internet is the prevailing medium through which you extend your brain.

But wherever you fall in this debate, there is an important point that should not be overlooked. Humans (and life, in general) are amazingly adaptable. It has only been a dozen years or so since the Internet really became deeply entrenched in our lives. In that time, many people have gone from the old way of doing things to so pervasive a new way of doing things that articles can appear that question the new way. 12 years!

This ability to adapt ensures that nothing is really lost forever. These abilities are just dormant. The human brain is constantly pruning old and reinforcing new neural pathways. If all the electricity disappeared tomorrow, I exaggerate only slightly by writing that within a few years we’d see a renaissance of long-form journalism and the return of the 19th century novel.

In the meantime, the use of Google and the brain functioning that it encourages are simply a new form of intelligence. Is it an advance? Sure. Like the first monkey to pick up a rock and smash a nut, it will likely be built upon and new modes of thinking and communication will come into existence. Is it ultimately good?

My guess is yes. But one thing is for sure, Google (and the Internet) is not making us stoopid. It is simply making us different than before. And that’s what evolution is all about.

Here’s a number of thinkers on this topic from Edge.org

“Easy” Ehud Olmert To Resign

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

He’s out in September, and it’s about time, too. Tzipi Livni is waiting in the wings.

Judiciary Committee Finds Rove in Contempt

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

This is the latest step towards the resolution of an issue that will ultimately be settled by the Supreme Court (unless they duck it): whether or not political advisors appointed by the president are legally permitted to invoke executive privilege.

Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten have already been cited for contempt of Congress for doing so. Attorney General Mukasey did not refer those matters to a federal grand jury. Subsequently, the House sued to get Mukasey to act and, I believe, the case is still pending.

Karl Rove is almost certainly headed in the same direction, though there is another alternative: jailing Rove in the capitol and putting him on trial there. It is legal, plausible, and, I suggest, defensible to the American people. Here’s more on the procedure of “inherent contempt.”

Please God, Anyone But Evan Bayh

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The man is a haircut posing as a senator. I don’t know how he’s done it thus far, but his success doesn’t speak well for the people of Indiana (hello Dan Quayle). Here are the reasons Barack Obama should NOT pick Evan Bayh as his VP.

No Foreign Policy Credentials. This now seems less imperative than it did before Obama’s successful oversea trip, but it is still an important consideration. Watching Bayh question David Petraeus in April, I was left with two distinct impressions. The first was that Bayh posed needlessly hostile questions to a man who outclasses Bayh just by breathing. The second was that Bayh was out of his depth in military matters. His questions were not insightful or probing, nor did he seem genuinely interested in the answers. It was as though he was putting on a performance. I swear I think I saw him run his fingers through his hair.

He Supported Hillary Clinton. Obama seems very capable of forgiving and forgetting, but Evan Bayh did bet on the wrong horse. It makes for easy work when Republicans can make commercials depicting your own VP being critical of you.

Indiana Borders on Illinois. I know I dismissed this issue when discussing Feingold for VP (after Webb dropped out, Feingold became my pick), but you have to be an outstanding VP candidate to dismiss regional proximity altogether. The Chicago media market penetrates well into Indiana and Obama is ahead already there according to RCP by a half a percentage point. There is a good chance that he’ll win the state anyway.

He Voted For Iraq. Unlike Feingold, Bayh voted for the Iraq war. This, obviously, conflicts with Barack Obama’s principled opposition to the war, and makes him a difficult fit on the ticket. If, as Obama has said, he really wants an independent Washington outsider, Bayh would not be your choice. His father, Birch Bayh, was a senator from Indiana for almost 20 years.

He’ll Lose in 2016. I’m guessing that feasibility as a successor has something to do with Bayh’s name cropping up all the time. As far as I can tell, the only reason for this is because he’s tall and good-looking. The problem with this is Americans only like tall and good-looking (in politicians) when it’s coupled with intelligence and masculine charisma. Kennedy, Clinton, Obama – they all have/had it. John Edwards, Dan Quayle, Evan Bayh – not so much. Like Edwards, Bayh is cloying and false; like Quayle, he is not the sharpest tool in the shed.

The bottom line here is that Evan Bayh is a John Edwards/Dan Quayle pick that brings nothing to the ticket except someone who the ladies find attractive. America does not need an all GQ ticket. Though it may not hurt Obama this time around, Bayh could be a serious problem in 2012. These next four years are going to be tough. And no one likes the pretty boy who’s had it easy his whole life when they can’t afford milk and bread.

The right choice is Feingold. And if not Feingold, then Biden. And if not Biden, than anybody but Bayh.

Merrill Lynch Steps Up and Takes A Hit

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

By writing down the value of $30 billion in CDOs to the tune of 22 cents on the dollar, Merrill Lynch may have positioned itself to begin moving beyond the subprime mortgage crisis. The action, which some believe may set-off a chain of similar discounts, can’t be easy for Merrill’s shareholders, but it does, at least, put a price on some of the previously impossible-to-value debt obligations.

Now we’ve got to watch and see if Citi, UBS, Lehman, and whoever else, follows suit. There are buyers out there willing to take this kind of debt off the banks’ hands at that price. It ain’t pretty, but it may mean a fresh start. And right now, the banks desperately need to get out from under it.

It is a tough but good move by Merrill.

Update (7/30/08): This deal is looking less good. Merrill has apparently given up all profits, but remains on the hook for potential losses because they lent most of the purchase price to the private equity firm (Lone Star Funds) that bought the CDOs. D’oh! Read about it here.