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It appears that I was more prescient that I suspected when I speculated that the confrontation between Great Britain and Iran would be resolved shortly. Today brings news that Iran will be releasing the fifteen British sailors and marines that were captured some two weeks ago. While there was some inital confusion about when the British servicemembers would be released, it now appears that this particular crisis will be resolved by the weekend. Despite this good news, I could not help but notice Vice President Cheney’s comment in the story that I linked to. If anyone needs additional evidence that Cheney is a “glass half empty” kind of guy, I’d say that his comments on this story seal the case.

Today also saw Barack Obama, or at least his campaign, announcing that he raised almost as much money as Hillary Clinton during the first three months of 2007. While everyone agrees that fundraising is crucial to any presidential campaign, there seem to be as many takes on the early fundraising numbers as there are commentators. One point that seems to be attracting a fair bit of attention is whether the money the various campaigns is for the primaries or for the general election in 2008. Obama’s campaign says that most of the $25 million that is in its coffers is money that can be spent in the primaries, which may give him a leg up on Clinton in the Democratic primaries.

This weekend the Masters will be played in Augusta, Georgia. As an (extremely) sub-par golfer I’ll probably try to watch some of the tournament on television. But I would be at least as interested in learning more about the high tech, and apparently highly secretive, infrastructure of Augusta National. My guess is that I’m far more likely to watch the entire tournament than I am to learn about what goes on behind the scenes at Augusta National.

Tuesday’s Musings

Betwen Iraq and Iran today’s news sugests to me that one war of words is heating up while another is cooling off and headed toward a possible resolution.

To begin with the good news, it seems like the confrontation between Iran and Great Britian may be resolved peacefully. This morning Prime Minister Tony Blair indicated that the next forty-eight hours would be critical to resolving the crisis that was touched off when Iran captured fifteen sailors and marines more than a week ago. Hopefully, Blair will be proven correct. If Blair is correct and there is a resolution to the confrontation in the next couple of days, I cannot help but wonder whether the release of Iranian diplomat Jalal Sharafi was part of a tacit quid pro quo.

But enough with the good news, the White House and Congress appear to be headed for a showdown over Iraq. On the one hand, you have a president insisting that he will veto any legislation that includes deadlines for withdrawing troops from Iraq and on the other hand you have a Congress that is determined to hold Bush accountable for the debacle in Iraq. Both sides seem to be playing the same card, namely that if you don’t support our position, you don’t support the troops, but it seems to me that Congress has the better side of this argument, especially given the American public’s waning support for the war in Iraq.

In an opinion sure to be welcomed by American citizens concerned about global warming, the United States Supreme Court held today that the EPA has the authority to regulate the emissions of greenhouse gasses. That’s the good news, the bad news is that the Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to the Constitutionality of the Detainee Treatment Act, thus ensuring that Guantanamo Bay will remain (at least for now) the legal black hole that Dick Cheney and others in the Bush administration wanted it to be.

Speaking of Dick Cheney, and with no offense intended, how low has Cheney’s popularity sunk when students at Brigham Young University are protesting Cheney’s invitation to speak at commencement? Perhaps I’m overestimating the conservatism of the BYU student body or underestimating its decency, but when a (very) conservative vice president’s invitation to speak at commencement is challenged by BYU’s student body, I can’t help but to speculate about a possible schism in the conservative movement.

Taking a step back from the blue-state/red-state divide that seems to lurk behind nearly every story in the news, I would like to applaud an article in Slate that points out that it is possible to cross an ideological divide to educate and inform the public. While may not be easy to discuss our differences with those who do not agree with us, this sort of dialogue is the only thing that will save us from those, both on the left and the right, who would divide us based on our political differences. Hopefully the next two years will see bipartisan approaches to the very real problems that are facing our nation.

Follow up to a post from a couple of days past, are the “peacemakers” in Northern Ireland worthy of our praise, or do they have too much blood on their hands? Do the ends justify the means in this case? I would say no, and it saddens me to think that even one innocent life was lost because political/religious leaders were unwilling to compromise.

Sunday’s Update

Sorry for the dely in updating, I’ll try to do better in the future.

I’ll go out on a limb and predict that Alberto Gonzales’ days as Attorney General are limited. Thursday saw Kyle Sampson telling the Senate Judiciary Committee that Alberto Gonzales’ statements that he was not involved in the firing of U.S. Attorneys were not accurate. While it was apparent that Mr. Sampson was not looking to sell Mr. Gonzales out, what with his repeated insistance that there was nothing improper about the firings, the reluctance of his testimony made it all the more damning. Between Mr. Sampson’s testimony and Mr. Gonzales’ eroding support on Capitol Hill, it’s hard to see how much longer he can hold on.

One more point on the Attorney General scandal. After watching Sampson testify on Thursday, I could not help but feel a little sorry for him. While Sampson clearly played a pivotal role in firing the U.S. Attorneys, it seemed clear to me, at least, that Sampson was merely implementing his bosses’ decision. This makes me wonder what happens to disgraced former chiefs of staff in Washington, is it a Hollywoodesque “you’ll never work in this town again” situation, or will Sampson land on his feet as a K Street lobbyist? Not sure how I want this one to work out, ideally Sampson would discover religion and spend the rest of his life ministering to the destitute, but I suppose that I would settle for anything that does not reward Sampson for his role in this scandal.

Iran continues to release video of the British sailors and marines who were captured more than a week ago. It seems apparent that this crisis will not be resolved soon and I’m still at a loss to understand what the Iranian government hopes to accomplish by releasing these videos. I can’t help but feel that these statements are coerced and that the Iranians are actually undermining their position by releasing these videos, but that’s just me.

Well, tomorrow promises to be a big news day with Kyle Sampson, Alberto Gonzales’ former chief scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. While it’s not clear exactly what Mr. Sampson will say, at least one source has opined that he will have to choose between “I was out of control” and “My boss is untruthful.” Hard to see how either option helps Gonzales or the Bush administration.

The confrontation between Great Britain and Iran appears to be heating up with the British Foreign Secretary announcing that Great Britain will suspend all bilateral talks with Iran except for those aimed at gaining the release of the detained sailors and marines and the Iranian government releasing a videotaped statement/confession from one of the British sailors apparently intended to show that the British military personnel were in Iranian waters when they were captured. Am I the only one who views these presumably coerced statements as further proof that the British servicemembers were captured in Iraqi waters? If I am, can anyone explain why statements such as this should be given credence?

Finally, the Final Four will take place this weekend, an event that fills me with apathy. Part of it is that I’m not a basketball fan (call me a heretic, but most of the time when I watch basketball all I see is a bunch of really tall guys running back and forth unable to stop the other team from scoring) but mostly I have serious qualms about the commercialization of college athletics. I won’t deny anyone’s right to root for their alma mater (though I will posit that when it’s been more than ten years since you graduated that diehard support (think facepaint, jerseys and all out parties on gameday) for your college or university’s athletic teams is somewhat pathetic; if you want to support your alma mater at that point, give cash) but it seems to me that NCAA Division I athletics is all about the money these days. Between the prospects looking to be drafted into the pros, the rich alums donating large sums to ensure that the best recruits wind up in the “right” program, the TV contracts, and merchandising efforts, it’s hard for me to believe that the “student-athletes” who will be playing in the Final Four this weekend will be doing so solely for school pride.

A Bad Week Continues

If the Bush administration was thinking that the weekend defection of several GOP Senators was the worst that would happen this week, it appears that they were wrong, and we’re not even to the point where Justice Department officials are due to testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the firing of U.S. Attorneys.

FBI Director Robert Mueller was on Capitol Hill today, trying to convince members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that, despite the apparent inability of the FBI to use their newfound powers under the Patriot Act in anything approximating a responsible manner, that the FBI should retain those powers. I heard some audio of the hearing on the radio today and it was clear to me that ranking Republican Arlen Specter, for one, was not buying Director Mueller’s claim that the problem was with the FBI and not with the legislation. Given that the FBI can access a wide range of personal information without judicial oversight under the Patriot Act, I would argue that the FBI’s failure to use its new powers responsibly makes it clear that giving the Executive Branch untrammeled power is simply a bad idea.

Further bad news for the Bush Administration came from the Senate as a whole, which approved a spending bill for the Iraq war which includes non-binding deadlines for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq. While this bill has to be reconciled with a House bill that includes binding timelines for the withdrawal of U.S. forces, it seems clear that President Bush will soon be faced with a Catch-22 wherein he can either “support the troops” by signing a spending bill that provides money for the war in Iraq while setting a timeline for troop withdrawal or else veto a bill that provides funding for the war because it attempts to set a timeline for troop withdrawal. Whatever course President Bush takes, it will be interesting to watch the spin.

On an overseas note, 15 British sailors and marines are still being held by Iran. Not quite sure how this situation will play out, but if I were the head of a nation faced with international sanctions for failing to comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s efforts to inspect my nation’s nuclear power program I would not be doing anything to upset one of the five permanent members of the UN’s Security Council, but that’s just me.

Quick note on a story in yesterday’s paper reporting on a study that indicates that children who spend time in day care are more likely to be disruptive in school. My gut reaction, from the perspective of a father of three who has already sent two children to day care, is that this is another one of those studies that will be used as a bludgeon against those who, often out of necessity, have to put their children in daycare while they work. While it might be ideal for children to stay at home with their parent(s) until they are ready for school, I see no need to make working parents feel bad (or worse) about sending their kids to day care; especially if the choice is between day care and putting a roof over their child’s head.

Finally, it was reported today that White House Press Secretary Tony Snow’s colon cancer has recurred and spread to other parts of his body. Coming so shortly after Elizabeth Edwards’ announcement that her breast cancer has returned and spread, it seems apropos to note that whatever our political differences may be, we are all human and subject to the frailties of the flesh. May God bless Tony, Elizabeth, and all cancer patients.

A New Beginning

Pardon the Star Wars reference, but if the shoe fits, you might as well wear it. This past week I was on vacation and, even though I had more free time on my hands than ususal, it seems that I was no more successful in keeping my blog up to date than I was in doing any of the productive things I intended to do during my week off. On the plus side, I can recommend a biography of Horatio Nelson, for whatever that’s worth.

On to, or back to, if you prefer, the events of the day. It was a bad weekend for the Bush adminisration, with three Republican Senators (Chuck Hagel, Arlen Specter, and Lindsay Graham) publically questioning Gonzales’ account of his role in the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys (any suggestions as to a viable shorthand for “the eight U.S. Attorneys” are welcome. TEUSA, while playing on the government’s penchant for acronyms, seems a little unwieldly; I’m hoping for something along the lines of the “Keating Five,” but the “Gonzales Eight” doesn’t seem to fit). Seems that every time the Justice Department releases additional documents about the firing of the U.S. Attorneys the documents undermine what Attorney General Gonzales and/or his spokespeople have said about his role in firing the eight U.S. Attorneys. I will be the first to confess that I have zero experience in covering up governmental malfeasance, but were I put in charge of such an effort, rule number one would be to look at the paper trail before talking to the press. In spite of the newly damning documents, and increasing opposition to Attorney General Gonzales in his own part, President Bush remains supportive of his Attorney General. I’m not trying to be overly cynical, but when the statements that your own Attorney General has made are contradicted by internal documents and the liason between the Attorney General and the White House is refusing to testify to the Senate on Fifth Amendment grounds, it seems to me that President Bush’s confidence in Attorney General Gonzales is misplaced.

The first trial to be conducted by the military tribunals at Guantanamo resulted in a guilty plea today. Although some may view David Hicks’ guily plea as a vindication of the military tribunals set up by the Bush administration to try “enemy combatants,” the story leading up to Mr. Hicks’ guilty plea, including the fact that the presiding officer ordered Hicks’ two civilian attorneys to leave the hearing, leads me to conclude that these hearings are nothing more than kangaroo courts where the deck is stacked heavily in the favor of the prosecution. In light of the fact that the Common Law system of justice has always placed the burden of proof on the government, and provided safeguards to criminal defendants, I cannot view Mr. Hicks’ guilty plea as anything close to legitimate.

On a less depressing note, it was announced today that the major Protestant and Catholic parties in Northern Ireland have reached a power sharing agreement which will allow an Irish government to govern Northern Ireland instead of the British government. Let’s all hope that this agreement paves the way for a reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. Is a future reuniting of Ireland in the future? Only time will tell.