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Some justice in this world

Five cases of accountability

There is some justice in this world after all. Consider:

The return of Eric Shinseki. The four-star general, while serving as Army Chief of Staff in 2003, was mocked by the Bush administration war team because he'd had the temerity to publicly suggest that the Iraq occupation would require "several hundred thousand soldiers." But on Sunday, he was rehabilitated. Barack Obama has essentially thumbed his nose at the previous regime by tapping Shinseki to head the Department of Veterans Affairs - the second largest federal agency, with the responsibilty of caring for the returning soldiers.

On Feb. 25, 2003, while testifying on Capitol Hill, Shinseki was asked to estimate how many troops he believed would be needed to secure an occupied Iraq. At first he declined. Then, when asked to provide "a range," he committed the fatal error of saying something that was at variance with the sunny neoconservative forecasts. He replied that "something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably, you now, a figure that would be required. We're talking about post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that's fairly significant, with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems. And so, it takes significant ground force presence..."

Within days, the Bush war planners struck back, voicing the delusions that would later make them infamous. Paul Wolfowitz told a House panel on Feb. 27 that "the notion of hundreds of thousands of American troops is way off the mark." (Wolfowitz believed that the occupation force would number 34,000 or less by the summer of 2003.) And Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld rebuked Shinseki on Feb. 28, declaring that the general's estimate was "far off the mark."

Shinseki soon retired; Rumsfeld did not attend the retirement ceremony. Shinseki, in his farewell remarks, rebuked the Bush planners in a not-so-veiled fashion: "Mistrust and arrogance are antithetical to inspired and inspiring leadership."

Shinseki has since kept mum, even as his '03 remarks proved prophetic. But his decision to forge an alliance with Obama speaks louder than words. Now, at the VA, he'll have the opportunity to support the troops that were so egregiously misused by the Bush team.

The departure of William Jefferson. This guy had to go down, yet it's a minor miracle that it really happened. In a House election on Saturday night, the ethics-challenged Democrat from New Orleans lost his House seat in an overwhelmingly Democratic district. In the end, not even his longtime supporters (most of whom abstained from voting) could excuse the fact that FBI agents had discovered $90,000 of bribe money packed in various food containers and hidden in his freezer.

Jefferson faces a trial on bribery and corruption charges; the basic allegation is that he offered to help some businesses on Capitol Hill in exchange for profits from those businesses; or, as one federal affadavit put it two years ago, he "sought things of value in return for his performance of official acts." Several key players in Kentucky and Virginia have already pleaded guilty.

Obama stayed away from this '08 contest, and the Democratic House campaign operation declined to put any money into the race. Reduced to pariah status, Jefferson lost by three points to Republican Ahn "Joseph" Cao, who will soon become the first Vietnamese-American in Congress. Apparently there is a ceiling on sleaze even in the Big Easy.

The arrest of Rod Blagojevich. The Democratic governor of Illinois - who was elected as a reformer back in 2002, only to wind up as the target of a multi-year federal corruption probe - was finally pinched, at his home early this morning. As U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald alleged today, Blagojevich has long been conducting "a corruption crime spree," but perhaps the final straw are the court-authorized wiretaps on which the governor is apparently trying to trade or sell Obama's vacant Senate seat, in exchange for getting something lucrative for himself and his wife. As the Democratic governor exulted on tape, referring to the vacant Senate seat: "I've got this thing and it's (bleeping) golden, and, uh, I'm just not giving it up for (bleeping) nothing. I'm not gonna do it...I want to make money."

The really juicy stuff, as opposed to just the juicy stuff, is on page 63 of the federal complaint, where Blagojevich goes into a rant at the idea that he should simply ratify Obama's choice for the seat. He cusses out Obama, referring to him shall I put it...a fornicator of mothers. The governor didn't like the idea that he should obey Obama and not get anything in return: "(Bleep) him. For nothing? (Bleep) him." And the governor said this about Obama's people: "They're not willing to give me anything except appreciation. "(Bleep) them."

By the way, Blagojevich isn't necessarily an improvement on his gubernatorial predecessor, Republican George Ryan. That gentleman resides today in a federal penitentary. The lady with the scales caught up with him, too.

The wisdom of the U.S. Supreme Court. Yesterday, with nary a word, the judges scraped some excrement off their shoes. They served justice by declining to take up a lawsuit alleging that Obama is not really a U.S. citizen and therefore not eligible to be president.

I'm not going to waste this space detailing the allegations and the persuasive refutations; it's sufficient simply to express relief that we will hear nothing more about this from the highest court in the land. Naturally, the conspiracy theorists howled yesterday about the high court non-decision, although it should be noted that the loudest howler, a Pennsylvania lawyer, is the same guy who has been claiming for years that George W. Bush "made 9/11 happen."

No doubt, judging from the emails that continue to land in my inbox, there will always be an online constituency for the view that Obama is an enemy alien plunked in our midst...but, then again, 400 years ago there were still people who persisted in their belief that the world was flat. We managed to survive them.

Bush's accountability moment, continued. His environmental record is being held to account this week, comprehensively so, in a worthy series of Philadelphia Inquirer articles. Parts one, two, and three are here. On this blog the other day, we debated whether Bush was worse than Richard Nixon. My vote for Bush has now been strenghtened. Nixon signed the law creating the Environmental Protection Agency; as this series makes abundantly clear, Bush's apparatchiks have worked to emasculate it. Note especiallly the condemnatory remarks made by Bush's Republican critics.

And finally, since we're talking today about justice, there is this. Finally. So long, fella. Keep in touch.