Tuesday, July 31, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Colombia admits army infiltrated

Drug traffickers and guerrillas have infiltrated senior levels of the Colombian armed forces, seriously compromising their work, officials say.

Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos said the Farc rebels and the main drugs cartel had bribed officials to get information and so avoid capture.

His admission confirms the suspicions of many Colombians, correspondents say.


Mr Santos’s comments come after two incidents pointed to serious leaks in the security forces.

The first was the arrest of a senior defence department official for allegedly passing information to the powerful Norte del Valle drug cartel.


The second was earlier this year when sensitive government material was found on guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) who had been killed in combat.

The computer files contained classified information going back several years that would be available only to an informant with very high-level access, officials said.

Sadly, none of this is surprising. The amount of money available to use in bribes is so immense in Colombia that it is a miracle that there isn’t more of this going on.

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By Steven L. Taylor

The Vice President was interviewed by CBS News’ Mark Knoller and continues to defend his ill defined theory of the “unique” position of his office in the constitutional order.

Here’s the relevant bit of the transcript from Think Progress (which has the full transcript plus the audio)

Mark Knoller: Are you part of the executive branch, sir?

Vice President Cheney: Well, the job of Vice President is an interesting one, because you have a foot in both the executive and the legislative branch. Obviously, I have an office in the West Wing of the White House, I am an adviser to the president, I sit as a member of the National Security Council. At the same time, under the constitution, I have legislative responsibilities. I’m actually paid by the Senate, not by the executive. […]

KNOLLER: But you are principally a part of the executive branch, are you not?

CHENEY: Well, I suppose you could argue it either way. The fact is I do work in both branches.

Now, at this stage of the game I suppose that Cheney has no choice but to defend this position, still you’d think he’d have a better way to explain it in a way that transcended “I suppose you could argue it either way.”

I will wholly allow that the veep does have legislative responsibilities–that is indisputable. However, most of those responsibilities are ceremonial and aren’t even engaged in on a day-to-day basis. The Vice President is the presiding officer of the Senate under the Constitution, but he only performs those duties on rare occasions (e.g., the start of a new Congress, the swearing in of new Senators, the State of the Union Address, etc.). The only assigned power that is truly legislative is that he can break ties–something that doesn’t happen too often. According to the Senate, there were all of 243 total tie-breaking votes from 1789 to December of 2024 (see here [PDF]). Many veeps never cast a tiebreaker. All of the other duties are wholly administrative/ceremonial.

Quibbling over things like where the check comes from is silly, as ultimately all the money comes from the taxpayers and is allocated via the Congress, even the President’s pay.

I would note that the President also has a power that is legislative in nature: the veto. The veto directly inserts the president into the process of whether a bill passes or not, and is thus like a “super vote” that can nullify the will of numerous members of the legislature. However, no one would argue that the President is part of the legislative branch. Of course, that power is ultimately part of the checks and balances built into the Constitution. One could argue that the VP’s presence in a legislative body is likewise part of that mechanism, but that does not make him part of the legislature. Beyond that, I can see an interesting academic argument over the exact nature of the office.

Regardless of all of that, I could live with Cheney opining on his uniqueness, except that he uses his theory to protect himself from responsibility and oversight. While he claims to be part of the legislative branch, he believes that his work is protected by executive privilege. And when did this whole discussion begin about which branch the VP’s office is in? It emerged when Cheney didn’t want to follow an executive order regarding the handling of classified documents earlier this year (indeed, it would seem that the “unique creature” theory was specifically formulated because of that situation, making it appear to be something other than a principled position on the theoretical nature of the constitutional order).

As such, Cheney wants to have it both ways, being in whatever branch suits him at the moment, answering to whom he wishes whenever he wishes and not doing so if he does not.

It also strikes me that given a) this administration’s (and Cheney’s) clear desire to expand executive power, it is odd to unmoor the VP from the presidency, and especially b) this administration’s view of the “unitary executive”–as Cheney is saying he is the only officer in the White House who is not part of the president’s basic executive power, which is an odd position to take given this administration’s theory that all executive power emanates from the president.

The bottom line is that under the rule of law, and especially in democracies, there has to be clear lines of responsibility and Cheney’s slippery version of the constitutional position of his office makes the issue of to whom he is responsible subject not to the law or clear constitutional definition, but rather leaves them to him to decide given his perception of the situation. That shouldn’t be an acceptable manor of operation for any public servant.

Cheney’s argument would be easier to swallow, by the way, if he thought that his membership in the legislative branch actually meant that he thought he was responsible to the Senate. However, the only way he has used his membership in the legislative branch was to shield himself from an executive order. As such, I have a hard time taking the position as a credible one. While he states you can “argue it either way” and that he “ha[s] a foot in both” branches, the bottom line is that he clearly does not behave as if his job (and loyalties) are split evenly between the two branches.

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Monday, July 30, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via CNN: Chief justice tumbles after seizure

Chief Justice John Roberts suffered a seizure at his summer home off the coast of Maine, causing him to fall, the Supreme Court said Monday.

Roberts was conscious after the fall, which happened at his vacation home near Port Clyde, Maine, Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg told CNN.

The chief justice was taken to a nearby hospital where he is expected to stay overnight.

Roberts has “fully recovered from the incident,” and a neurological evaluation “revealed no cause for concern,” the Supreme Court said.

It sounds as if everything is ok, but the story would remain in the “developing” category, one would think.

The troubling part is that this isn’t the first such incident:

Roberts, 52, experienced a similar episode years ago. Sources close to the chief justice said Roberts suffered an unexplained seizure in 1993, soon after his first nomination to the D.C. circuit stalled in the Senate.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the Dallas Morning News: Former 49ers coach Walsh dies

Bill Walsh, the groundbreaking football coach who won three Super Bowls and perfected the ingenious schemes that became known as the West Coast offense during a Hall of Fame career with the San Francisco 49ers, has died. He was 75.

Walsh died early Monday following a long battle with leukemia, according to Stanford University, where he served as coach and athletic director.

I really would’ve guessed he was younger than that, but as I stop and think about it, it has been sometime since his heyday in coaching.

He 49ers teams drove me nuts, I must confess!

May he rest in peace.

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By Steven L. Taylor

I have been a skeptical of the Thompson run at the GOP nomination from the beginning, seeing it as nothing more than a Rorschach blot where seemingly many others saw the Great Hope of the GOP.

As Thompson continues to play the “I’m gonna announce soon (maybe)” game, I have to wonder if his heyday hasn’t already passed. Given his inability to commit (there have been, IIRC, at least two pending announcement dates, including the 4th of July that have come and gone) and reports of interference from his wife in the campaign organization (via the NYT, Thompson’s Race Hasn’t Quite Begun, but Turmoil Has) and now reports of fund -raising disappointments (Via the Politico: Fred’s funds raise fear of flop), I have to wonder if my initial instincts on Fred weren’t correct, which is that he is simply serving a role of the “none of the above” candidate who, once in motion would really get nowhere.

So, what do you all think?

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Third of Iraqis ‘need urgent aid’

Nearly a third of the population of Iraq is in need of immediate emergency aid, according to a new report from Oxfam and a coalition of Iraqi NGOs.

The report said the government was failing to provide basics such as food and shelter for eight million people.


It suggests that 70% of Iraq’s 26.5m population are without adequate water supplies, compared to 50% prior to the invasion. Only 20% have access to effective sanitation.

Nearly 30% of children are malnourished, a sharp increase on the situation four years ago. Some 15% of Iraqis regularly cannot afford to eat.

The report also said 92% of Iraq’s children suffered from learning problems.

It found that more than two million people have been displaced inside the country, while a further two million have fled to neighbouring countries. Many are living in dire poverty.

Coupled with the report I noted yesterday on the state of the rebuilding effort, the overall picture for Iraq is not especially rosy, even if there have been improvements in the security situation (see today’s NYT: .A War We Just Might Win).

However, it would seem to me that a lot of boosters of The Surge and Petraeus are trying to switch the conditions of the debate by focusing solely on the security situation in specific areas. That things have improved in some areas is good news, but to focus solely on that as it is the answer to the Gordian Knot that is Iraq is to ignore other very grave problems. Further, the purpose of the invasion was not to make sure that Anbar was pacified, the object of the invasion was, amongst a list of things, to establish a viable state in Iraq.

Along these lines, Joe Klein, blogging at Swampland, gets it right:

you really can’t write a piece about the wae [sic.] in Iraq and devote only two sentences to the political situation, which is disastrous and, as Petraeus has said, will determine the success or failure of the overall effort.

It is an utter re-definition of the problem to ignore the problems of state construction, yet it appears that the remaining boosters of the war are doing just that (the administration included).

See, also, this CSM piece (via Sully): Iraqi government in deepest crisis

“We are frankly in the midst of the worst crisis,” says Fakhri Karim, a close adviser to Messrs. Barzani and Talabani who also publishes the independent Al Mada newspaper. He says he doubts the Friday meeting will find any resolution because of the new political tussle with the Iraqi Accordance Front.

“Most of the political blocs have failed to operate within the framework of national consensus. They can’t even properly formulate their positions and proposals, let alone realize the very serious dangers that surround everyone.”

The gravity of the situation was underscored by several officials. “We have a governmental crisis. Our people expect better performance,” said Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.

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By Steven L. Taylor

From Bob Schieffer’s commentary yesterday:

The Iraqi Parliament is heading off to a month-long vacation next week. If you are wondering how much all this will cost us while they are away, key members of Congress are being told $200,000 a minute.

h/t: Juan Cole.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Based, at least, on yesterday’s Fox News Sunday it would seem that the only defenders of Alberto Gonzales are a handful of hardcore pro-administration bloggers and the occasional commenter. Think Progress has the video.

The money quote, from host Chris Wallace (right after Newt Gingrich was rather critical of the AG):

“By the way, we invited White House officials and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee to defend Attorney General Gonzales,” said Wallace. “We had no takers.”

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via Reuters: Talk show host Tom Snyder dies: media

Talk show host and newsman Tom Snyder has died in San Francisco from complications of leukemia, Entertainment Tonight reported on Monday.

Snyder, 71, was said to have died on Sunday afternoon. He announced on his Web site about two years ago that he had been diagnosed with leukemia.

His publicist was not immediately available for comment.

As I noted over two years ago when it was announced that he had been diagnosed with Leukemia, Snyder will always have a warm place in my heart as he became a late night companion for me and my wife when our oldest was an infant who didn’t want to go to sleep. As such, Snyder has a place in the early history of Oldest Son’s childhood. He, no doubt, has a similar place in the hearts of many insomniacs out there.

May he rest in peace.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Fujimori loses Japan election bid

Ex-Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori has failed in his bid to win a seat in the upper house of Japan’s parliament.

Mr Fujimori – who has dual Japanese and Peruvian citizenship – ran his campaign from Chile where he is under house arrest, fighting extradition to Peru.

The 68-year-old was running for office with a small opposition group, the People’s New Party, formed in 2024.

Mr Fujimori sought asylum in Japan after his government collapsed amid a corruption scandal seven years ago.

This was the expected outcome. A shame, as I think this is the last time I can refer to Fujimori as the Last Samurai (a designation I find rather amusing, although I will allow that I may be the only one thus amused).

Here is the current seat count via the BBC:

*There are 242 seats in the upper house, half of which were up for grabs
*Pre-polls, the LDP-led coalition controlled 133 seats
*The coalition won 46 seats (LDP: 37, New Komeito: 9)
*Opposition DPJ won 60 seats
*LDP-led coalition now controls 105 seats
*Source: Kyodo news agency

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