Friday, October 19, 2007

Mukasey & Friends (Updated link!)

Update: I fixed the link to the latest hearing 'not-so-live blogging.' Sorry about the error!

The US Senate Judiciary Committee continued its second day of confirmation proceedings for Judge Michael Mukasey, Bush's nominee for US Attorney General. After the committee had their crack at Mukasey, several witnesses dropped by to lend their thoughts and feelings about the Judge. You will find my summaries of Thursday afternoon's hearing over at this blog.

This morning's hearings are available over here (yesterday's hearings here & here).

I have some more general thoughts I'd like to share with you about the substance of these hearings--stay tuned!

Read on, MacDuff!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mukasey Hearings, Day 2: More, more, more! How do you like it?

The US Senate Judiciary Committee began Day 2 of its confirmation proceedings this morning for Judge Michael Mukasey, Bush's nominee for US Attorney General. I've 'published' my notes from this morning's proceedings over at this blog. You will find my summaries of yesterday's hearings here & here. As with yesterday's notes, I've attempted to add links wherever possible. I hope you find them useful!

This morning was a much tougher slog than yesterday--some of the Senators were speaking much too rapidly for my comfort (I'm lookin' at you, Sheldon!). Not that I can stay mad at Harrison Ford Sen. Whitehouse, you understand ;)

These notes were first compiled on this message board, with the help of skdadl, my partner in all-things-Harrison-Ford ;)

Read on, MacDuff!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mukasey after hours: Part II of the Senate Confirmation Hearings

The US Senate Judiciary Committee began its confirmation proceedings this morning for Judge Michael Mukasey, Bush's nominee for US Attorney General.

Woo-doggy, was that a doozy of a hearing! I've posted my notes from this afternoon over here. I've made a modest effort to add links and annotate as much as possible.

(my notes from this morning's hearing can be found here)

Read on, MacDuff!

Mukasey in da Mornin'

The US Senate Judiciary Committee began its confirmation proceedings this morning for Judge Michael Mukasey, Bush's nominee for US Attorney General. I've posted my notes from this morning's festivities (first compiled on this message board). I've added loads of links, in case anyone's interested.

I'll update the blog later tonight, with this afternoon's monkey-bizness ;)

(Mukasey photo courtesy of

Read on, MacDuff!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The World According to King Steve

Tonight, Her Excellency, the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean opened the 2nd Session of the 39th Parliament of Canada. Although I don't have a laptop, and my teevee is much too far away from my 'puter for "live" blogging, I wanted to have a record of my rather frenzied notes on the Throne Speech. I am gradually transcribing over here, for future reference...even if it's just future reference ;)

My usual *snerk*s and *snort*s might be somewhat delayed as I'm still shaking my head at the whole bizarre phenom.

Oh: A reminder for non-Canadians: this speech was written by our Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. Yep. This guy.
  1. Speech from the Throne: Part I
  2. Part II
  3. Part III
  4. Part IV
  5. Part V
  6. Part VI

Read on, MacDuff!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

MMP: Democracy or Bust

10/10 has arrived! And today's the day Ontario makes it's Big Decision. Mr. Kitty and I will be casting our vote for electoral reform. On accounta the fact that the polls will close in a few hours, I'm gonna keep this post brief. And yes, by 'brief,' I mean lazy ;)

I am reprising my original endorsement of MMP. Please take the time to read it and consider casting your vote for REAL democracy!

Mark it down: Democracy is Coming to Ontario on Oct. 10, 2007:

Yes, 10/10 is the date: Ontario is the place.

Question: Aren't you sick of elections where a party can win 60% of the seats, and 100% of the power, with a paltry 40% share of the vote? And what if I like Candidate X, but I know his/her Party leadership doesn't have a snowball's chance in...Cancun? I's all very silly.

Come October 10, 2007, Ontarians will have a chance to change all of this.

You know, a few weeks ago I put up a "Vote for MMP" button on my sidebar (it's ok if you didna notice...*sniff*). I uploaded the button shortly after learning about this campaign on Facebook, but I neglected to 'splain what it was all aboot. So. What is this MMP you speak of? Is it another vaccine? Do I have cooties?

It's Mixed Member Proportional Representation. Panic not, mes amis, this campaign's low on wonk and high on...uh...tonk? In any case, MMP is so easy a kitteh could figgur it out ;)

Step 1. Cut a hole in the box... Sorry.

Step 1: Vote for your "preferred local candidate"
Step 2: Cast a second vote for your "preferred political party."
Step 3: Elections Canada pixies will descend on the scene and take it from there:
The share of these votes that each party wins will determine its overall share of seats in the legislature.
If after the 90 riding seats are filled, a party has fewer seats than its portion of the party vote, that party wins some of the additional 39 provincial (or at-large) seats to ensure it has its fair share of the total seats. These at-large representatives are elected from provincial lists of candidates nominated by each party in advance of the election. Voters can judge these at-large candidates, as well as local candidates, and vote accordingly.
Huh? Lists? "At-large representatives?!" Whatchu talkin'bout Willis?:
Here's an election example: Party X gets 30 per cent of the party votes, but when riding results are tallied, they have a share of seats that is 10 short of the 30 per cent of the seats they deserve. In that case, Party X will also gain 10 at-large seats, with their top ten at-large candidates winning those seats.
But wait! I'm still worried: I'm not sure I trust Party X to fill their list with the people I like. What do I do?
I have confidence that Dr. Dawg and CuriosityCat will assuage your fears. Here's Dr. Dawg:
The Ontario Citizens' Assembly specifically recommended that parties be required to make public their method of list creation by submitting their selection process to the non-partisan Elections Ontario, which would then publish that information widely. Electors could see, for example, if backroom party hacks or cronies of the Premier have been awarded the list positions, or if, on the other hand, the parties have a more democratic and open process, that does something, for example, about the representation of women and minorities, geographic balance, and so on.
...and the Cat:
The fact that the MMP system proposed does not lay out rules for the names on the individual list being chosen is not a negative at all. In fact, it allows individual parties to decide on their own criteria, and voters will be better served by this happening. If you feel that the Liberals are not doing enough to ensure that women are represented in Parliament, and their list continues this trend, but the Tories, for example, are, you can cast your vote accordingly. Only those who fear the power of the ordinary voter should be running scared of this wonderful grassroots democratic option.
Ah yes. Dawg and Cat bring up an important point. A more diverse legislature is one of the best byproducts of MMP. Equal Voice and Fair Vote Canada have studied this issue and found that, compared to our clunky first-past-the-post system, women are bound to gain much better representation under PR. And bonus: wouldn't it be cool to kick Sweden's ass?


(Sample MMP ballot image courtesy of Equal Voice)


Read on, MacDuff!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Stand not amaz’d: the prince will doom thee death

"Nobody shot at them and nobody attacked them. They (Blackwater) just started shooting people at random. Many people died right there. I got in my car and started driving away but they kept firing heavily at me. That's when my car flipped over. I lost consciousness then. They fired at least 24 bullets in my car, four of them hit me in the back."---Hassan Jabir, Iraqi citizen (speaking with the Real News Network following the September 16, 2007 Blackwater shootings in Baghdad)

"We're a private company, and there's a key word there -- private"---Erik Prince, CEO of Blackwater USA, responding to a question from Congressman Murphy (D-CT), US House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, October 2, 2007.
Yes, Blackwater USA has made the Big Time. Tuesday morning it was Lights! Camera! Hearings! for the private mercenary's security firm's 38 y/o CEO, Eric Prince.

Congressman Harry Waxman, the tireless Chairman of the US House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, presided over 3+ hours of Prince's testimony. While the committee was anxious to ask about the September 16th shootings of Iraqi civilians, they were constrained by the current US Dept. Justice investigation of same.

Make no mistake: there were plenty of other things to discuss. You see, after 6 years of constant war in Afghanistan and Iraq (and don't forget Haiti!), the US has found plenty of 'use' for a firm like Blackwater USA. In fact, the US government has found them so useful, they've all but put them on their speed-dial. "Break Glass in Case of Embarrassing Troop Shortfall"

And that's really the problem. It isn't just that the US is using Blackwater's 'security' personnel to supplant uniformed military service members. It's so much more than that, as the world's foremost (non-evil) Blackwater-expert, Jeremy Scahill discovered:

Need to guard an oil pipeline? Send Blackwater.

Are those Katrina evacuees gettin' ya down? Send Blackwater.

Too many I-leegals sneakin' into San Diego? Send Blackwater.

Oh! I almost forgot: Do you have a BS war you'd like to fight? Well, what if I told you that you could have the war of your dreams, without all those names read on the evening news?
Act now, sir, and we'll throw in what's left of Pinochet's old army and some death-squad veterans from Honduras. Yes, yes, I like to think of us as an 'Instant Coalition of the Willing.' We call this "The President's Package." Of course...

What? What's the catch? understand, o'course, that we can't just give The President's Package away. Each of our guys is gonna run you 'bout 5x as much as one of your regular guys...

Aww, that's ok. You're Erik Prince! You're a Bush Pioneer!

Well, gee, that's great to hear, Mr. President. Now, there is one more thing...

Oh. Right...don't you worry about that. I'll hide you guys under the State Department. Nobody ever digs around over there, anywayz. And Bremer? Ya, he's m'boy! I'll make sure he's gotcha covered. Frankly, I can't see what could possi-Bly go wrong...

Yeah. we are, it's October 2007 and The Prince is before Waxman's Oversight Committee. Personally, I couldn't wait to hear what this guy had to say for himself, so I sat, and watched, and listened, and...typed for over 3 hours. By mid-afternoon I realized I had very nearly transcribed the testimony! And while I was tapping away in the BnR war thread (well, one of our war threads), my dear colleague skdadl was equally busy reporting on the Senate Judiciary hearing in our 'prosecutor purge' thread. With some gentle nudging from Alison@Creekside, I decided that it wouldn't be a bad idea to copy my rough Prince/Blackwater notes into my poor, neglected blog :)

This is NOT a true transcript. I did mah best, but tis rife wif tpyos. I have added links where I feel they're most necessary. If nothing else, please make sure you read about Blackwater's role in training NATO members, like, oh...I dunno...CANADA!

To proceed to my annotated notes and rough-transcript: I bring you my new sub-blog, "Foul deeds will rise"

Oh! And please take a moment to cast your mind back to Spring 2006...

April 10, 2006: President Bush takes a question from a student (VIDEO HERE)
Q Thank you, Mr. President. It's an honor to have you here. I'm a first-year student in South Asia studies. My question is in regards to private military contractors. Uniform Code of Military Justice does not apply to these contractors in Iraq. I asked your Secretary of Defense a couple months ago what law governs their actions.
THE PRESIDENT: I was going to ask him. Go ahead. (Laughter.) Help. (Laughter.)
Q I was hoping your answer might be a little more specific. (Laughter.) Mr. Rumsfeld answered that Iraq has its own domestic laws which he assumed applied to those private military contractors. However, Iraq is clearly not currently capable of enforcing its laws, much less against -- over our American military contractors. I would submit to you that in this case, this is one case that privatization is not a solution. And, Mr. President, how do you propose to bring private military contractors under a system of law?
THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate that very much. I wasn't kidding -- (laughter.) I was going to -- I pick up the phone and say, Mr. Secretary, I've got an interesting question. (Laughter.) This is what delegation -- I don't mean to be dodging the question, although it's kind of convenient in this case, but never -- (laughter.) I really will -- I'm going to call the Secretary and say you brought up a very valid question, and what are we doing about it? That's how I work. I'm -- thanks. (Laughter.)

January 14, 2007: Bush speaking to Scott Pelley, 60 Minutes
I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude, and I believe most Iraqis express that. I mean, the people understand that we've endured great sacrifice to help them. That's the problem here in America. They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that's significant enough in Iraq.
(April 2006 video via Scruffy Dan)

Read on, MacDuff!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Happy update: Kevin Yourdkhani's family can stay in Canada!

This is such a tremendous relief! Kevin Yourdkhani & his family are allowed to remain in Canada! Last February, a 9 year-old Canadian boy was imprisoned with his Iranian parents in a Texas 'immigration' prison. Their story was followed with tremendous anxiety and interest in many Canadian blogs, including this one (AnnaMarie and Liberal Catnip were particular relentless, bless them!!).

The Yourdkhanis were held in what could only be described as inhumane conditions for 45 days, before receiving a temporary (6 month) permit from the Canadian Minister of Immigration and Citizenship, Diane Finley. Knowing the permit expired on Sept 20, 2007, I anxiously setup a Google Alert for 'Yourdkhani'...and waited.

Well: October 2nd rolled around and, Boy! Did my Inbox a-jingle with the 'alert' I've been waiting for...the Yourdkhanis have received "an approval in principle" for permanent residence (Unnati Gandhi, G&M):
"Approval in principle is the difficult step to meet and that normally takes two or three years," Andrew Brouwer [their lawyer] said. "The remaining step is to do the security, criminality and medical screening ... and I don't anticipate any problems with that."

Majid Yourdkhani and Masomeh Alibegi could become permanent residents as early as next month. "I'm very happy now because my mom and my dad is happy," Kevin said yesterday.

The decision marks a new beginning for the family who, just months ago, had found themselves in international limbo.

Now? Kevin is back in school, having missed 2 years. His dad and mom can now apply for an "open work permit." (Mr. Yourdkhani has been working as a temp in a pizza place since arriving in Canada)

There is a sad strain to Kevin's return to Canada after such a prolonged absence. He couldn't stay at his old school, due to the stigma of jail, but he appears to be quite happy in his new "digs:"
He says he is happy at his new school and likes his teacher.

"It's way better. Nobody knows about ... anything that happened. I can relax a little bit. I have got some new friends."

Boy, does that do my heart good. Congratulations, Kevin & family!

Read on, MacDuff!