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Archive for March, 2007

There is a story that has been making the rounds about Mitchell Wade’s first contract with the White House.  Wade, you’ll remember, is one of the guys involved in the massive Abramoff / Cunningham / CIA money-laundering network.  Wade pled guilty in 2006 to a number of counts of bribing Duke Cunningham and various other folks in Congress and the Executive branch.

Wade’s first contract with the Office of the Vice President was for $140,000 of office equipment and computer programming services.  Someone happened to notice that $140,000 happened to be one of the dollar figures in Wade’s guilty plea last year. Wade bought a boat from someone for $140,000 and gave the boat to Cunningham.

Apparently people are getting all worked up about this match– and while $140k is a nice round number, I don’t think it’s necessarily cause-and-effect.  If they were planning the graft to pay for the boat, you would think Wade would build a profit margin into the deal instead of making it a 100% pass-through (say, charge the VP’s office $150k to buy the $140k boat, and pocket the $10k difference).  I think it’s more significant that this $140,000 contract is the one that allowed Wade and his company MZM to get their foot in the door.

Based on the work I’ve done with large payers who allow their procurement organizations to use blanket purchase orders, that first contract is the hardest one to get.  But if you don’t screw it up, it might just open the floodgates.  More on this later.

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Remember when, on Rudy’s recommendation, Bush nominated Bernie Kerik to be director of the Department of Homeland Security? Yeah, I thought you might. Remember how that worked out? That’s right, Kerik had to withdraw when it came out that he was having extramarital affiars with two different women at the same time. They were trysting in one of the Manhattan apartments reserved for firefighers and resuce workers cleaning up after the 9/11 disaster. Oops. And I’m sure the hints of mob ties had nothing to do with it either. (more…)

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And really, that’s the more serious problem here. Sure, eight prosecutors were fired because they failed an abhorrent political loyalty test. And sure, high officials in Justice and EOP are guilty of obstruction of justice, at a minimum. But the real long-term effects of the prosecutor purge and the corruption it reveals are yet to be felt.

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John Dean put up a new post last week, giving his readers the rundown on the latest application of Bush’s theory of the ‘unitary executive.’  Bush and Gonzales are trying to use that theory now to keep their deputies and advisors from testifying in the attorney firing scandal.  Dean concludes that Bush will force Congress to send members of the executive branch to jail for contempt, rather than allow them to testify under oath.

In short, all those who have wanted to see Karl Rove in jail may get their wish, for he will not cave in, either — and may well be prosecuted for contempt, as Gorsuch was not. Bush’s greatest problem here, however, is Harriett Miers. It is dubious he can exert any privilege over a former White House Counsel; I doubt she is ready to go to prison for him; and all who know her say if she is under oath, she will not lie. That could be a problem.

I’m going to hazard a guess that shat Dean means by “problem” is that if Miers testifies truthfully, she will reveal that, for the past six years, the White House has ordered officials in the Justice Department to engage in widespread and deliberate obstruction of justice.
This is an excellent primer on what the idea of the unitary executive means to the Bush gang.  Jennifer Van Bergen is more plain-spoken:  “the phrase ‘unitary executive’ is a code word for a doctrine that favors nearly unlimited executive power.”  I don’t think Congress, especially a Democratic Congress, will agree to that interpretation of the Constitution.  I do think we’re going to hear a lot more about this theory as the US Attorney scandal continues to play out over the next few weeks.

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I know, I know, this has nothing to do with school. I’m on spring break. Cut me some slack.

Jonah Lehrer has a post up at frontal cortex discussing Bush’s reading habits, and how they betray a bewildering (if not shocking) lack of intellectual curiosity. From the comments:

One of the points that Tetlock makes is that being a hedgehog is quite productive when you are right because you will never, ever give up. On the other hand, when you are wrong being a hedgehog can be a disaster because you will ride that horse into the ground no matter what the cost.

Go read the article– it’s interesting and it’s short. If you begin with the premise that Dubya started his Presidency with a world-view that has turned out to be wrong, and that rather than change his world-veiw, he’s used all the power and resources of his office in an attempt to remake reality to better fit his concept of what the world should be like, I think it explains quite a bit about the last six years. I’d like to add a point to Jonah’s article- the horse Bush is riding into the ground belongs to Grover Norquist and the Conservative movement. (more…)

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Some high school students in Virginia are suing Turnitin, a company that helps schoolteachers detect plagarism by running each student’s paper through their database of source material.  Apparently Turnitin also adds these student submissions to its database, without compensating the students.

Now, I haven’t taken classes in copyright yet, but this is pretty much a textbook example of how to violate someone’s copyright- take someone else’s work, wholesale, without their permission, and use it to generate revenue for yourself.

The prediction I made last September still holds: if this case is allowed to go forward (and it seems to have merit, since the company admits to copying the students’ work into their database), and the students win (again, the company admits the violations, so there is no reason the students should NOT win here) the company is effectively out of business immediately, becuase every student in every public school using the service has exactly the same claim.   Each of these students are claiming $150,000 in damages.  I had about 1400 students in my high school at any given time.  Do the math yourself: $150,000 x 1400 = $210,000,000.  That’s more than TWO HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS worth of liability, just from one year’s worth of students in one high school.  That’s the kind of class-action money that makes white-shoe law firms willing to work for contingency, especially when it’s a slam-dunk case like this one.

How many high schools are there in the United States?

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Texas has enacted a law allowing people to use reasonable deadly force to protect themselves and their property. The majority rule has been that if you are attacked, you have a duty to retreat if you can reasonably and safely do so, except if the attack happens in your home- thus the “Castle Doctrine,” because a man’s Home is his Castle. The new law extends the defense to vehicles and workplaces, which practically means that you could drive up next to someone and then shoot them dead, and claim that they threatened to attack you in your car. This seems preposterous, although it is an interesting experiment. If violent crime rates in Texas go down after this law takes effect, I would expect to see similar laws passed in many other states. The arguments as to whether or not it is proper to kill somone who breaks into your house are left as an exercise for the reader.

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