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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

Friday Roundup: Blackwater Down

Breaking news: a bill passed the House yesterday that Bush may not veto. Maybe.

The House overwhelmingly passed the so-called "Blackwater bill" yesterday, which makes military contractors in Iraq subject to U.S. military law. Despite the strong opposition from the White House — but no direct veto threat — the bill passed with every Democrat and 164 Republicans voting in favor, including the entire Republican House leadership. Senate Democrats have indicated that they plan to approve the bill quickly as well and get it to the President as soon as possible.

Really, it's little surprise that Bush didn't threaten a veto, considering the level of support the bill had. I'm sure there was someone on his cabinet that realized what a political train wreck it would be for the administration to suffer such a visible loss to Congress when the seemingly inevitable veto override came to pass — especially with another potential override in the wings with the SCHIP bill, ready to be attempted.

You can tack yet another item onto the list of scandals in the White House. House Democrats yesterday called for the Justice Department to release the two secret memos Josh reported on yesterday which gave carte blanche to some of the harshest interrogation tactics the CIA has ever been permitted to use on detainees. Now, I know, we're the liberals, and Republicans like to tell us that we're supposed to be the elitist ones — strange, then, that the administration is trying to tell Americans that what they know is torture, isn't actually torture, because, after all, a lawyer chose to define torture differently. I wonder how that will float with their base.

Of course, the White House denies that they relaxed the torture ban. Of course they didn't "relax" the ban. I could see that bit of spin coming from a mile away. Nothing was "relaxed" — the earlier ruling was simply "clarified." That's a classic bit of spin. And by "classic" I mean "heavily overused." Boy, that line gets old quick.

So now that Minnesota Senator Larry Craig's bid to withdraw his guilty plea has been officially denied, there seems to be only one thing left for him to do — resign... eventually. In a move that can't possibly make the Republican leadership happy, Sen. Craig announced that he would serve out his full term as Senator before resigning. This puts the smackdown on the plans to fill his early vacancy with a Republican appointee who then would've had a much better shot in the '08 elections. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Schumer could be seen beaming with glee as he added another tally mark to a scoreboard well-hidden behind a revolving wall in his Capitol office.

I kid.

Did you know that Smith County was exempt from the jurisdiction of the federal government? Yeah, neither did we. Fortunately, however, District Judge Cynthia Kent was in the loop on that one. You may recall that just recently the U.S. Supreme Court has recently blocked a couple of executions in the state while they review claims that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment. Well, that didn't stop Judge Kent from scheduling another execution, for November 6. The county district attorney defended the move as a "procedural" one, saying that it was simply the next step in the case. The executive director of the Texas Defender Service, a non-profit firm representing the defendant in this case and other death row inmates, pointed out that this would simply lead to completely unnecessary litigation challenging the execution.

And finally today, Gallup released a poll that is very, very different from your average poll. The poll measures personal well-being in 131 countries. How do you possibly compare well-being across multiple countries with potentially disparate ideas of what "well-being" constitutes? And why would one put that much effort into something like this anyway? Why does it matter? I had those same doubts before I read the article, and all I can say is: read the article. It's really a fascinating view of global opinion which reveals some surprising trends opposing conventional wisdom and may be a better indicator of things like economic trends than anything we currently have. (And which, of course, Gallup hopes can be hugely profitable in the future.)

Blackwater and its clones

It's about time these "contractors" were given some oversight. There was a danger (and maybe still is) that they might defy attempts to rein them in. Remember when Louis XVI of France couldn't trust his own troops and had to hire the Swiss Guards?

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