Bed Dinnertime For Bonzo Gonzo

Hello Americans, it’s Friday! Are you mystified, bewildered and puzzled? Well I sure as heck am. Guess who’s coming to dinner? This weekend’s White House Correspondent’s Dinner that is. From The Swamp:

But now The Sleuth reports on a certain high-value guest who will lend some enhanced interest to the Houston Chronicle’s dinner party, which is going against conventions, perhaps, but is certain to get some memos out of its guest at the black-tie fete:

Alberto Gonzales, the former attorney general in the Bush administration, which, as we’ve all been reading lately, went to some legal lengths to authorize harsh interrogations of detainees in the "war on terror" — such as waterboarding — and which, by the graces of the Obama administration, may escape any legal liability for any of that.

The Washington Post’s Sleuth suggests that "Gonzo would be a little bashful about showing up at a place that will be jam-packed full of the new guard in the Obama administration and the very Democrats in Congress who drove him from office. But no, he’ll be there all right this Saturday night. Gonzales is a confirmed guest of the Houston Chronicle, his old hometown paper.

This is a perp chump walk if I ever saw one. What kind of naive mental midget thinks this is a good idea for a social outing for himself? AGAG, that’s who. Jeebus, the jokes just about write themselves, and I invite one and all to do just that.

It has been a long week, and I was stuck in court much of the day. I will be looking at a couple of things now that I am settled in, but in the meantime consider this an open thread for a little relaxation, breaking news, trash talk, etc. Oh, and by the way F1 Circus afficinados, this weekend is the Gran Prix de Espana.

And because there is no trash without football trash, it seems the National Favre League may be back in business. Oh and one of the Deetroit Lions is promising playoffs.

"I won’t make a prediction about how many games we’re going to win, but I will say this: We will definitely make the playoffs this season. Believe it or not we weren’t far off last year. Almost every game we could have won, we were one play or one player short. Except for Tennessee on Thanksgiving, they just came out and beat us to sleep. Read more

The Value Of The Hometeam

Sports are a fickle thing, they bring out the best and the worst of people. Professional sports franchises often come, in a way, to define their cities. Pittsburgh, home of the Steelers. Boston, home of the Red Sox. Detroit, home of the Red Wings. But what is their intrinsic value? What does it mean when they leave? The City of Phoenix may be about to find out:

Less than an hour before the National Hockey League commissioner planned to broker a deal to sell the Phoenix Coyotes and strip team owner Jerry Moyes of his duties Tuesday, Moyes filed for bankruptcy to sell to his own buyer.

Moyes, as part of a Chapter 11 reorganization filing, agreed to sell the team for $212.5 million to a BlackBerry wireless magnate who plans to move the team to a yet-to-be determined location in southern Ontario, Canada.

The move is not a certainty. Already, the NHL and Glendale, which leases Jobing.com Arena to the Coyotes, have objected to Moyes’ tactics. And other investors could outbid BlackBerry executive Jim Balsillie’s PSE Sports & Entertainment LP.

But the Coyotes, who have played in metro Phoenix since 1996, habitually have lost money in the desert, first when they shared an arena with the Phoenix Suns in downtown Phoenix and most recently in Glendale.

Moyes, who since 2001 has invested more than $310 million in the team, declined to be interviewed. Earl Scudder, his financial and legal adviser, said Moyes had no option but to file for bankruptcy because that was the only way to void the team’s lease with Glendale.

There are so many threads here it is hard to know where to start. The arrogance of an owner. The bankrupt state of a national sports franchise. And not just any hockey franchise either, one run by the Great One, the greatest hockey player ever, Wayne Gretzky and playing in one of the newest most state of the art single sport dedicated stadium in the league. Oh, and hey, does the line "no option but to file for bankruptcy because that was the only way to void the team’s lease with Glendale" not sound an awful lot like the mantra of the Obama Administration and the auto manufacturers trying to shed those pesky dealership agreements?

So, apparently the market value of the Phoenix Coyotes is 212.5 million – if the team is shipped off to somewhere in Read more

The New Journalism

Sometimes tectonic shifts are underfoot and society fails to recognize the acts and effects. Such is the case with journalism and its daily outlets, newspapers and television. Newspapers are dying left and right, those that are not are struggling to stay alive and relevant. The most recent glaring example is the Boston Globe.

The Boston Globe has been published for over 137 years and, over that period, became one of the grand ladies of the news press. You would think that the purchase of, and partnership with, the Globe in 1993 by the New York Times would place the Globe in a position of strength in even these perilous times. Not so. From Eugene Robinson in today’s Washington Post:

Despite the whole Red Sox vs. Yankees thing, employees of the Boston Globe were mostly relieved in 1993 when the paper was bought by the New York Times Co. for an astounding $1.1 billion. If the era of local family ownership had to end, nestling beneath the wing of one of the world’s great newspapers seemed the best alternative. And if the Times was willing to pay so much, it must have been serious about putting quality ahead of the bottom line.

That was then. Now, after several rounds of painful cutbacks and layoffs at the Globe, the Times is squeezing a further $20 million in savings from the Boston newspaper’s unions — and threatening to shut down the paper if the demand is not fully met. The economics of our industry are cruel and remorseless, but still it’s alarming to witness what looks like an act of cannibalism.

To be fair, the Globe is reportedly on pace to lose about $85 million this year. The New York Times Co. is hardly in a position to swallow a loss of that magnitude, given that the company’s flagship newspaper is waging its own fight against a rising tide of red ink.

So that is the background for the discussion I want to have. My proposition is that it is not just the financial status of the major newspapers in decline, it is also, and even more significantly, the quality of content. Quite frankly, the traditional press has become deficient in both content and quality. I am not sure that it has ever been so apparent as in the last two to three weeks on the issue Read more

The Clarion Call Of Gideon’s Trumpet

images5thumbnail1.thumbnail.jpegA few days ago, on March 18, fell the 46th anniversary of a momentous day in American jurisprudence, the day the decision in Gideon v. Wainright was rendered. Prior to Gideon, criminal defendants in the United States had a right to be represented by counsel, but not the right to have counsel appointed if they could not afford their own attorney. It was a watershed moment of enlightenment that is worthy of a fresh look.

Clarence Gideon was wrongly charged with breaking and entering a pool hall that had been burglarized, all based on a false accusation. Gideon was a poor man who lived in a rooming house and literally had but $25 to his name. From Wiki:

He appeared in court and was too poor to afford counsel, whereupon the following conversation took place:

The COURT: Mr. Gideon, I am sorry, but I cannot appoint Counsel to represent you in this case. Under the laws of the State of Florida, the only time the Court can appoint Counsel to represent a Defendant is when that person is charged with a capital offense. I am sorry, but I will have to deny your request to appoint Counsel to defend you in this case.

GIDEON: The United States Supreme Court says I am entitled to be represented by Counsel.

Gideon was forced, therefore, to act as his own counsel and conduct a defense of himself in court, emphasizing his innocence in the case. Nevertheless, the jury returned a guilty verdict, sentencing him to serve five years in the state penitentiary.

From his prison cell at Florida State Prison, making use of the prison library and writing in pencil on prison stationery, Gideon appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in a suit against the Secretary to the Florida Department of Corrections, Louie L. Wainwright. He argued that he had been denied counsel and, therefore, his Sixth Amendment rights, as applied to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment, had been violated.

But what the Supreme Court gave in Gideon is under an attack that is destroying one of the tenets of the modern due process guarantee in the American criminal system. In a chilling opinion piece in the March 10, 2009 Washington Post, former Vice-President Walter F. Mondale, who as Minnesota Attorney General participated along with AGs from 21 other states in amici support of Gideon’s demand for appointed counsel, details just how far the nation has regressed:

Yet states across the country routinely fail to appoint Read more

Two BIFFOs Celebrate St. Paddy’s Day

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Given that today is St. Paddy’s Day, I thought I would remind you all of the cutting edge journalism I provided last May when I reported from the home of Barack Obama’s Irish forebears, Moneygall, County Offaly. (Obama’s hometown paper is just now catching up and they don’t even have such a swell photo, taken by my father-in-law with the bustling metropolis of Moneygall in the background.)

As I reported then, Offaly is not only mr. emptywheel’s home county, but also the home of Ireland’s Taoiseach (pronounced "Tea-shack"), Brian Cowen. 

There’s a slur used for Offaly men in Ireland (Cowen is, as I understand it, sort of proud of it): BIFFO, or, "Big Ignorant Fucker from Offaly). 

As luck would have it, the BIFFOs running both countries of which I am a citizen got together today and–just now catching up the cutting edge reporting I did last May–they spoke of their mutual ties to Offaly.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Hello, everybody. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

I just want to say that we are incredibly honored to have the Taoiseach here, and his entire team. This is an affirmation of one of the strongest bonds between peoples that exist in the world. You know, when you think about the history of Ireland and the enormous impact it has had on our own history, and the fact that you’ve had people from Ireland who have shed blood on behalf of this country’s independence and its freedom, that it has had probably as much impact on our culture and our traditions as any country on earth.

The bond and the friendship that is felt between the United States and Ireland is something that I think everybody understands, but as the Taoiseach just mentioned, we can’t take for granted and we have to continually build upon.

And so this visit gives us an opportunity to talk about some of the very important bilateral issues that we face; also to talk about some of the global issues that both the United States and Ireland want to take leadership in. We are grateful for the lasting friendship that exists between us.

I, personally, take great interest on St. Patrick’s Day because, as some of you know, my mother’s family can be traced back to Ireland — and it turns out that I think our first Irish ancestor came from the same county that Taoiseach once represented. Read more

Getting Their Kicks: The American-Saudi Go Around Come-Around

Despite a decent amount of negativity roiling around the socio-political scene lately, on a fine Saturday night right here in the ole USA, this gives me a lot of heart somehow:

Then, with a scream of revving engines, it begins: a yellow Corvette and a red Mitsubishi go head to head, racing down the road at terrifying speeds, just inches apart. Shouts go up from the sidelines, and another pair of racers shoot down the road, and another.

This may be the most popular sport of Saudi youth, an obsessive, semilegal competition that dominates weekend nights here.

For Saudi Arabia’s vast and underemployed generation of young people, these reckless night battles are a kind of collective scream of frustration, a rare outlet for exuberance in an ultraconservative country where the sexes are rigorously segregated and most public entertainment is illegal. They are, almost literally, bored out of their minds.

“Why do they do it?” … “Because they have nothing else to do. Because they are empty.”

Despite all the shrieking of teh military-industrial class, the iron curtain fell and the cold war subsided because of information, lifestyle and ethos penetration into the supposed enemy. Thing was, they were not the enemy, they were people just like us. And so the walls came down. The Rolling Stones, Beatles and Beach Boys had as much, if not far more, to do with the victory as military might (not to mention the start of the internet and satellite teevee).

The United States government and tunnel visioned world press were too slow to figure out what was really up the first time, and lo and behold, they are biting off on the same steel fisted bunk again. It is cultural progression that is softening the underbelly of yet another clash of the civilizations. Who’d a thunk it? Who will realize it?

Then the car leaps forward, accelerating furiously, and breaks into a sudden skid, spinning around, nearly colliding with a concrete barrier and leaving thick black marks on the pavement. A stifling smell of burnt rubber hangs in the air.

It is not the bombs. It is La Bamba.

Louisiana Gubernatorial Sitcom

Graphic by Twolf
Graphic by Twolf

I tell you what, those Republicans may not have squat for rational ideas, but they sure have some humor. Heck, it was less than two days ago we were watching Crockett and Tubbs Steele and Boner in "DC Vice". Fear not intrepid viewers, these jokers are bringin da funny all over. Our latest episode involves that wacky character Urkel Jindal, Governor of Louisiana. From Yahoo/Politico:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announced Friday that he will decline stimulus money specifically targeted at expanding state unemployment insurance coverage, becoming the first state executive to officially refuse any part of the federal government’s payout to states.

In a statement, Jindal, who is slated to give the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s message to Congress on Tuesday, expressed concern that expanding unemployment insurance coverage would lead to increased unemployment insurance taxes later on.

Wow, the fine folks in Louisiana must find this hilarious since most governors are constantly scrapping to get their states funding they are in dire need of. And, as you may have heard, there are needs in Louisiana, part of Katrina ground central. Too bad they no longer have Dollar Bill Jefferson around to keep that stimulus money on ice.

What the hell though, life must be a hoot in a state run by a guy named Piyush who changed his name to Bobby because he identified with a character on the Brady Bunch. Personally, I don’t get it. He looks like Urkel to me.

[Awesome graphic by Twolf!]

Down On The Border: State Of War In Mexico

Via Laura Rozen comes reference to a chilling piece by Sam Quinones in Foreign Policy on the drug smuggling violence that has escalated to a total state of war rivaling levels in Iraq.

There are so many hot spots for attention these days – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Gitmo, not to mention the ops that are being run on US citizens by their own government as a result of the Bush/Cheney decision to gin up a military rationale for surveillance domestically – that it is easy to forget what is going on just across the border. Easy, at least, until you take in Sam Quinones’ tale:

That week in Monterrey, newspapers reported, Mexico clocked 167 drug-related murders. When I lived there, they didn’t have to measure murder by the week. There were only about a thousand drug-related killings annually. The Mexico I returned to in 2008 would end that year with a body count of more than 5,300 dead. That’s almost double the death toll from the year before—and more than all the U.S. troops killed in Iraq since that war began.

But it wasn’t just the amount of killing that shocked me. When I lived in Mexico, the occasional gang member would turn up executed, maybe with duct-taped hands, rolled in a carpet, and dropped in an alley. But Mexico’s newspapers itemized a different kind of slaughter last August: Twenty-four of the week’s 167 dead were cops, 21 were decapitated, and 30 showed signs of torture. Campesinos found a pile of 12 more headless bodies in the Yucatán. Four more decapitated corpses were found in Tijuana, the same city where barrels of acid containing human remains were later placed in front of a seafood restaurant. A couple of weeks later, someone threw two hand grenades into an Independence Day celebration in Morelia, killing eight and injuring dozens more. And at any time, you could find YouTube videos of Mexican gangs executing their rivals—an eerie reminder of, and possibly a lesson learned from, al Qaeda in Iraq.

This is neither new nor isolated. When I was younger, I used to go down to Tijuana, it was a great time. It really was easy and fun; what Chinatown was to LA, Tijuana was to San Diego. No longer is even the formerly relatively civil Tijuana docile and appropriate for casual strolling about. Long ago, back in the sixties, on our way back to Read more

Why GM Matters: Inside the Race to Transform an American Icon

[As I indicated yesterday in the post "Why American Industry (And Its Future) Matters", we have the privilege of having author William J. Holstein today at Emptywheel and Firedoglake. Mr. Holstein has a long and rich history as a journalist and author. Most importantly for today, he has plunged into the history and ethos of General Motors and produced an incredible work detailing just how critical General Motors, the American auto industry, and American industry itself is to the United States economy and way of life.

As Michael Fitzgerald observed at bnet.com, "Holstein is using GM as a symbol for whether it makes sense for the U.S. to bother with manufacturing. That might sound odd for a country that for now probably remains the world’s largest manufacturing economy. But Holstein argues that our political and financial leaders don’t get manufacturing, and don’t think it’s important. This is the crux of the Main Street vs. Wall Street debate, and it is shaping up as the core fight of economic policy over the next few years: do we get a justifiable return if we invest in making things, or should we focus on information-driven innovation?"

I think that is right. Since we cannot layout the entire book in the intro here, Bill and I decided to focus on the emerging technology, and specifically battery/electric technology, and the new product lines, that GM is producing. With that said, what follows are prepared remarks in that regard by Bill Holstein. Take a look, and then join us in discussion. I am looking forward to the best and brightest that inhabit our little corner of the world participating in and driving this. Oh, and visit Bill anytime at his blog WilliamJHolstein.com Also, I heartily recommend purchasing his book, it is a fascinating look into a critical issue of our time, not to mention a great read. – bmaz]

*****
By: William J. Holstein:

It’s time to cut through all the nonsense about General Motors “not making cars that Amrericans want to buy.” The truth is that GM has seized design and performance leadership over its longtime nemesis, Toyota. Toyota’s cars these days resemble appliances, i.e. refrigerators on wheels. They don’t break, but they hardly inspire.

In terms of their physical appearance, GM vehicles have real attitude. The new CTS has a very bold and aggressive front end that designer John Manoogian came up with at the last moment. He and his team decided to take the V-shape that used to stop at the bumpers and let it plunge below the bumpers toward the ground. They also inserted grilles on the right front panels merely for decorative purposes. That nearly drove the engineers crazy because of the challenge of stamping a piece of sheet metal with an odd hole in the middle of it. But they did it. At first, the competition could not believe that GM had figured out how to achieve that.

Read more

Toyota Sings The Mercury Blues

As the Republicans in Congress, most notably the Senate, fixate on emasculating the stimulus package, stripping it and the country of hope for success in heading off the economic death spiral we are witnessing, I want to return to another recent example of the un-American activities and bent of the Republican Caucus of legislative geniuses. I refer to this same group’s actions and illogic in relation to the American Auto manufacturer bridge loan issue that roiled little more than a month ago and still percolates near the surface of our economic woes.

Remember how Richard Shelby, Bob Corker and a pack of GOP loons made their bones by preening against the American auto industry and trying to cram American autoworker and union wages down to, and below, the level of foreign transplant wages? Of course you do because you remember the big Republican "Lizard Lie" on the myth of the $73/hr wage rate. It was all predicated on the supposed superiority of the foreign automakers. The Republicans literally were willing to make the American auto industry grovel and beg, and even talk about killing them outright, based on their claims of the superiority of the foreign automakers.

So how are those vaunted foreign automakers, that are so much more brilliant and perfect than GM and the other American manufacturers, doing these days? Well let’s check in on Toyota, which along with Honda is the supposed gold standard to the lizard brained GOP. From the New York Times:

Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, said Friday that it expected to suffer a loss this year, thanks to rapidly declining sales around the world, especially in the United States. The company is expecting its first full-year operating loss since 1937 — 350 billion yen ($3.9 billion) — more than double its previous forecast.

The company’s 2008 fiscal year ends on March 31.

It widened its forecast for an operating loss on its main automotive business to 450 billion yen, or $5 billion, attributing the larger loss to both steep declines in global auto sales and strong gains by the Japanese currency, the yen, which lowers the yen-denominated value of overseas earnings.

Ouch; not so good.

So, times are bad for even the precious to the GOP Toyota, just like GM. So what kind of implications does this news portend for Toyota’s short and long term future? Ah, glad you asked:

“Toyota is going to Read more

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