Monday, August 27, 2007


Some significant dates in the career of Alberto R. Gonzales, the nation's 80th U.S. attorney general who announced his resignation today.

1979: Receives bachelor's degree from Rice University, after enlisting in the Air Force in 1973 and serving at Fort Yukon, Alaska.

1982: Earns law degree from Harvard University; joins the Houston-based law firm Vinson & Elkins, whose client list included Enron and Halliburton.

1995-1997: Served as general counsel to then-Gov. George W. Bush of Texas.

Dec. 1997-Jan. 1999: Named Texas Secretary of State. In the post he serves as an adviser to the governor and as Bush's liaison on Mexico and border issues.

1999: Appointed by Bush to the Texas Supreme Court.

January 2001: Named President Bush's White House legal counsel.

Jan. 25, 2002: In a memo to Bush, Gonzales contended that the president had the right to waive anti-torture laws and international treaties that provide protections to prisoners of war. Critics, including some Senate Democrats, have said the memo helped lead to abuses of the type seen at Abu Ghraib.

June 18, 2004: Gonzales is questioned by a federal grand jury in the criminal investigation into who in the Bush administration leaked the name of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Feb. 3, 2005: Confirmed and sworn in as 80th attorney general of the United States, replacing John Ashcroft, who resigned. The Senate approved the nomination, 60-36, on a largely party-line vote. His confirmation hearings grew contentious over his 2002 memo waiving anti-torture laws.

April 27, 2005: While seeking renewal of the broad powers granted law enforcement under the USA Patriot Act, Gonzales told the Senate Intelligence Committee, "There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse" from the law enacted after the 9/11 terror attacks.

July 24: Gonzales says he notified White House chief of staff Andy Card after the Justice Department in 2003 opened an investigation into who revealed a covert CIA officer's identity, but waited 12 hours to tell anyone else in the White House.

Dec. 15: The New York Times reports on its Web site that Bush authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States without getting search warrants.

Feb. 6, 2006: The Times reports that U.S. long-distance carriers cooperated with the NSA's warrantless wiretapping of international calls.

Feb. 6: Gonzales tells Congress the president is fully empowered to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants as part of the war on terror.

April 6: The Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee says Gonzales is "stonewalling" Congress on the warrantless eavesdropping program.

May 21: Gonzales says he believes journalists can be prosecuted for publishing classified information.

June 7: Gonzales defends the FBI's search of a Democratic congressman's office, saying it was an "unusual step" but necessary in a bribery investigation.

Nov. 18: Gonzales says critics of the administration's warrantless surveillance program define freedom in a way that poses a "grave threat" to U.S. security.

Jan. 17, 2007: Gonzales changes course and puts the government's terrorist spying program under the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Feb. 8, 2007: Former U.S. Attorney John McKay of Seattle says his resignation was ordered by the Bush administration without explanation, seven months after he received a favorable job evaluation.

March 6: Another fired federal prosecutor tells a Senate committee he felt "leaned on" by Republican Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., who hung up on him when told indictments in a corruption case against Democrats would not be issued before the fall elections.

March 9: Gonzales orders an internal Justice Department investigation into the FBI's use of the USA Patriot Act after an audit found that agents had improperly and, in some cases, illegally obtained personal information about people in the United States.

March 11: Citing the FBI's illegal snooping into people's private lives and the Justice Department's firing of federal prosecutors, Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer says it's time for Gonzales to step aside.

March 13: Gonzales accepts responsibility for mistakes in the way the Justice Department handled the dismissal of eight federal prosecutors. Gonzales says he was not closely involved in the dismissals and rejects calls for his resignation.

March 29: A former top aide to Gonzales says the attorney general was briefed regularly over two years on the firings of federal prosecutors, disputing Gonzales' claims.

April 19: At a contentious hearing, Gonzales struggles to convince skeptical senators he did nothing improper in firing eight federal prosecutors. He loses ground as a second Republican senator joins the calls for his resignation and others question his credibility.

April 23: Bush offers fresh support for Gonzales, saying "This is an honest, honorable man, in whom I have confidence."

May 10: Gonzales is questioned by the House Judiciary Committee, but seemed to weather the interrogation better than during his earlier appearance before the Senate. House Republicans echo Gonzales' call for Congress to move on from the issue of the fired prosecutors.

May 17: Two Senate Democrats say they will seek a no-confidence vote on Gonzales over accusations that he carried out President Bush's political agenda at the expense of the Justice Department's independence.

May 21: Bush calls an upcoming Senate vote of no confidence in Gonzales "pure political theater" and stands by his embattled friend.

May 23: The former Justice Department liaison to the White House, Monica Goodling, testifies before the House Judiciary Committee, saying she believes Gonzales did see a list of U.S. attorneys to be fired. She also says that during a private conversation Gonzales "laid out for me his general recollection of ... some of the process regarding the replacement of the U.S. attorneys." She says she felt the conversation was not appropriate and didn't contribute to the dialogue.

June 11: Republican senators block a symbolic vote of no confidence against Gonzales. The 53-38 vote fell seven short of the 60 votes required under U.S. Senate rules to move the nonbinding resolution to a formal debate. Gonzales says, "I am focused on the next 18 months and sprinting to the finish line."

July 10: Democrats raise new questions about whether Gonzales knew about FBI abuses of civil liberties when he told a Senate committee that no such problems occurred. Lying to Congress is a crime, but it wasn't clear if Gonzales knew about the FBI's action before he testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee seeking renewal of the broad powers granted law enforcement under the USA Patriot Act.

July 19: Gonzales is questioned in a closed-door session of the House Intelligence Committee about Bush's wiretapping program and the administration's response to congressional subpoenas. Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes says members were especially interested in the reasons behind Gonzales' controversial 2004 visit to the Ashcroft's hospital bedside, reportedly to pressure the ailing attorney general to endorse Bush's surveillance program.

July 23: Gonzales tells Congress in a statement that he's troubled that politics may have played a part in hiring career federal prosecutors.

July 24: In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee Gonzales denies that he and former White House chief of staff Andy Card tried to pressure hospitalized Attorney General John Ashcroft to re-certify Bush's domestic eavesdropping program. Gonzales' credibility was at issue throughout the proceedings, with senators of both parties growing exasperated and at some points accusing the attorney general of intentionally misleading the committee.

July 25: The Associated Press reports on documents it obtained showing that eight U.S. congressional leaders were briefed about the Bush administration's terrorist surveillance program on the eve of its expiration in 2004, contradicting sworn Senate testimony the day before by Gonzales.

July 26: FBI Director Robert S. Mueller says the government's terrorist surveillance program was the topic of a 2004 hospital room dispute between top Bush administration officials, contradicting Gonzales' sworn Senate testimony.

July 30: The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee advises Congress to hold off on a perjury investigation of Gonzales over his apparent misstatements about warrantless spying.

July 31: In a carefully worded letter to Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., that never mentions Gonzales, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell notes that the administration first acknowledged its controversial surveillance activities and used the phrase "terrorist surveillance program" in early 2006. Also, Democratic House members introduce a measure directing the House Judiciary Committee to investigate whether to impeach Gonzales.

Aug. 2: Senators in both parties concede that they don't have enough evidence to make a perjury charge stick against Gonzales.

Aug. 3: In a two-page letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, Gonzales declines to provide more information about discrepancies in his sworn testimony about the purge of federal prosecutors and its aftermath.

Aug. 11: Gonzales arrives in Baghdad for his third trip to Iraq to meet with department officials who have been there to help fashion the country's legal system.

Aug. 16: The House Judiciary Committee releases partially censored notes from Mueller, dated March 12, 2004, describing a distraught and feeble Ashcroft in his hospital room just moments after being visited by then-White House counsel Gonzales and Card, the president's chief of staff at the time.

Aug. 24: Gonzales telephones Bush at his ranch and says he is considering resigning. Bush says this is a conversation they should have in person.

Aug. 26: Gonzales arrives at Bush's ranch near Crawford, Texas, and they discuss the resignation over lunch. Gonzales signs letter of resignation.

Aug. 27: Gonzales announces his resignation and Bush publicly accepts.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Gripe Sheet

In case you need a laugh: Remember it takes a college degree to fly a plane but only a high school diploma to fix one. That's real reassurance for those of us who fly routinely in our jobs.

After every flight, Qantas pilots fill out a form, called a "gripe sheet," which tells mechanics about problems with the aircraft. The mechanics correct the problems; document their repairs on the form, and then pilots review the gripe sheets before the next flight. Never let it be said that ground crews lack a sense of humor. Here are some actual gripe sheets submitted by Qantas' pilots (marked with a P) and the solutions recorded by maintenance engineers (S). By the way, Qantas is the only major airline that has never, ever, had an accident.

P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.

P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

P: Something loose in cockpit.
S: Something tightened in cockpit.

P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.

P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent.
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.

P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That's what friction locks are for.

P: IFF inoperative in OFF mode.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you're right.

P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

P: Aircraft handles funny. (I love this one!)
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious.

P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.

P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.

P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer.
S: Took hammer away from midget