Tuesday, February 28, 2006

running numbers

If only we lived in a parliamentary system, eh?

The latest CBS News poll pegs G-dub’s approval rating at an all-time low of 34%. How bad is that? If Bush were an NBA franchise, he’d be, like, the Toronto Raptors (bet you thought I was going to say the New York Knicks—but it’s almost statistically impossible to be that bad).

Only 30% approve of the President’s handling of Iraq, while two-thirds think the war is going badly—the worst assessment to date—and, not to tie the two things together or anything, but half now disapprove of how Bush is fighting the “war on terror.”

But the most interesting number to me—the most important number, I think—is in response to the question: “Does George Bush care about people like you?”

A lot: 17%
Some: 30%
Not much: 51%

The “people like me” test is a telling one. Almost every research poll I do or discussion I have includes some version of the “people like me” question because it personalizes approval/disapproval to a point that makes it a better predictor of behavior. In this case, it gets to feelings about the administration’s effect on day-to-day life, while also exposing the absurdly important (but important all the same) question of whether or not you’d like to have lunch with the guy (or dinner, if you must). For the first time in his tenure, a majority of Americans feel Bush does not care about them (and fewer than one in five thinks he really cares).

If professional political pollsters think anything like I do, then a lot of Republican candidates are getting a memo this week, and it will read something like this: “Put daylight between you and the President. Highlight where you differ. Nothing to be gained from appearing to be a Bush loyalist.”

All that said, Democrats please note: it is not enough to sit by and watch the Republican’s scramble for new (higher? lower?) ground. And, it is not enough to just be “not Bush.” I’ve said it before, “not” brands are unappealing brands. Wishy-washy, un-motivating, not aspirational, unmemorable. So, boys and girls, get out there and show voters how, exactly, you do care about people like them. Got it?

(t.o.t.h. to kos for the heads up on the poll)

Saturday, February 25, 2006

a divider—not a uniter. . . by choice

New York is currently being swept up by a mini-wave of nostalgia for the days of Mayor Edward I. Koch. When you look at what we get to compare him with since, maybe it’s understandable. . . but not if you were paying attention.

People who were here during the fiscal crisis associate Koch with the remarkable comeback, but many overlook the damage that his divide-and-conquer style of leadership did here in New York. Most also seem not to understand the blame he at least shares for the overly permissive attitude this city has towards real estate developers. (There is currently a show on Koch up at the Museum of the City of New York; it is interesting to note that Forest City Ratner is a major underwriter.)

By dividing and conquering, Koch, though nominally a Democrat, practiced classic conservative politics. And, by keeping his door, his mind, and his wallet open to the developers and big business groups, he was able to practice those politics for three terms.

Oddly, perhaps, the Dubai Ports scandal is making me think more and more about Koch these days. . . can you guess why?

Friday, February 24, 2006

some red meat to chew on over the weekend

I am trying to develop a unified theory on “portgate,” but every time I read more, I have to go back and expand the theory. It may seem like an overly wonky scandal, but it is deep, real, and rife with examples of the way the Bush has abused his office (even if he “didn’t know” he was abusing it in this case).

Until I can put it all into a nice narrative, take a look at this piece by Anacher Forester over at Daily Kos—it goes into amazing detail about the financial serpent with the head of one James A. Baker.

Also note that Karl Rove’s new strategy of giving lawmakers “time to get used to” the DP World deal is nothing more than lip service. The deal still stands, this just gives Republicans time to get back in line. . . which, I predict, they will.

Alas, agreeing to any delay means that Rove and Bush are aiding the terrorists. Really. Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England said so.

Of course, a 45-day wait is actually what is mandated by law—so is briefing Congress on the deal—but why should that stop them? (Sound familiar?)

Then again, laws only matter if it’s a government of the people—but it’s not. As George explains:

The more people learn about the transaction that has been scrutinized and approved by my government the more they will be comforted that our ports will be secure.

Also, lost in this debate about foreign versus domestic is the question I keep asking, “Why is this port administration privatized at all?” The only person to approach this, as best I can tell, is California Senator Diane Feinstein (and even she doesn’t quite get it spot on).

There is so much more, really, but I gotta get me some sleep—I have a lunchtime appointment with a very special burger.

déjà vu all over again

Guess what, the Florida Presidential vote count in 2004 is completely unreliable. Bev Harris at Black Box Voting has uncovered scads of irregularities in Florida touch-screen voting machines that throw hundreds of thousands of votes into question. No telling which way those votes really went—which is exactly the point.

2004 is over, but 2008 is just around the corner. There is really only one acceptable replacement for all the antiquated, flawed, and/or corruptible voting systems out there, and that is Paper Ballot/Optical Scan (PBOS). PBOS yields the fewest tabulation errors, gives you a paper trail in the voter’s own hand, and is the cheapest of all the systems to administer. With HAV(R)A—the Help Americans Vote (Republican) Act—forcing the hands of many states, now is a good time to check with your local board of elections and demand PBOS.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

‘bout sums it up

Bush at cabinet meeting: "And so people don't need to worry about security. This deal wouldn't go forward if we were concerned about the security for the United States of America."

(t.o.t.h. to Josh Marshall)

make “working poor” an oxymoron

SusanG over a dKos ties together two stories and asks, “could this report: ‘Family incomes dropped 2.3% 2001-2004, Fed says’ Have anything to do with this report: ‘Food Bank Network Served Over 25M in ‘05’?” She then, correctly, I think, answers her own question with this excerpt from the second story:

The new report, being released Thursday, found that 36 percent of people seeking food came from households in which at least one person had a job.
In Washington, the Capital Area Food Bank served more than 383,000 people last year, a 39 percent increase over 2001, said Kasandra Gunter Robinson, the food bank's spokeswoman.

Of those people, nearly half had jobs, she said.

"It is the working poor who are struggling," Robinson said.
"Even though the economy might be changing, it isn't creating the kinds of jobs that allow people to make ends meet," Koch said.

I would like to join with SusanG in proposing that the Democrats seize this as a central issue for legislative initiatives and, I’ll add, the fall campaign. If you work, you shouldn’t need a soup kitchen—I think that’s a pretty easy sell. As SG sums up, “the words, ‘working’ and ‘poor,’ should never have a legitimate, fact-based place in the same sentence in the richest country in the history of the world.”

sure, you laughed at my muffin then. . . .

I will start off by acknowledging that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, yes, yes, and will also acknowledge that someone has to actually know it was your idea first to “flatter” you, but, that said, GAWKER TOTALLY STOLE MY MUFFIN TEST!

Backstory: Ten years ago (shit, ten years. . . ), when I first started in consulting, I was very amused by a discussion technique called “personification.” This is where you try to get at intangibles by talking about tangibles; try to get at ethereal qualities by talking about concrete things. “What kind of a brand is it?” Hard to answer. “If this brand were a person, what kind of car would he/she drive?” A little easier.

Anyway, I now understand how useful an exercise this is, but when I started, I was a little embarrassed, maybe, to play this game. As a sort of cynical take on personification, I came up with the “muffin test.” Instead of asking what kind of “person” is this brand, I’d ask, “What kind of muffin would it be?” Blueberry? Corn? Bran? Gourmet and fresh-baked or artificial and shrink-wrapped? You get the idea. I also started doing it with people. (You’d be surprised how well this works.)

Well, that was, as I say, ten years ago. Cut to: tonight. I’m looking at Gawker’s takedown of New York Mag’s pump-up of Ralph Lauren Jeans designer Ai Ly, and I see that Gawk’s “panelists” are asked, “What kind of muffin is Ai? Because she is not a ragamuffin.”

I did a little mental jumping up and down (then just decided to blog about it) because, sure, I’d like a little credit where credit is due, but mostly, I just wish I still worked with the folks who laughed at me ten years ago so I could throw down a copy of NYM and say, “take that, you day-old, store-bought, made-from-a-box-mix, don’t-really-have-any-dietary-fiber-in-you-but-still-taste-just-as-bad bran muffin, you!”

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

how’s that going, by the way?

Apparently, love will get you like a case of anthrax. . . love of drum making, that is.

A maker of African drums from the West Village is in a Pennsylvania hospital with a case of inhalation anthrax, Mayor Bloomberg announced today. While it looks like this man was infected by working with un-tanned animal hides, and terrorism is not suspected, it did remind me of those halcyon days when Chemical Judy had to stop opening her own mail:

In the weeks following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, letters laced with anthrax were discovered in several locations around the country, including in New York City. The attacks, which remain unsolved, killed five people and sickened 17.

That made me wonder how the investigation of those 2001 cases was going, so I searched around on the web. . . all I found that’s new has to do with the wrongly accused and their pending lawsuits against the Federal Government.

That’s how it’s going.

I didn’t know

OK, this is the actual, official reason why George Bush went ahead with the secret approval of the Dubai Ports World deal: He didn’t know about it.

While Bush has adamantly defended the deal, the White House acknowledged that he did not know about it until recently.

"He became aware of it over the last several days," [Press Secretary Scott] McClellan said. Asked if Bush did not know about it until it was a done deal, McClellan said, "That's correct."

That is just so large and in charge!

Don’t believe Scottie? I have found an actual audio clip of the conversation with the President.

you’ve got a friend

Well, you know there is always going to be one Senator that George Bush can count on. . . Joseph Lieberman:

Dubai and the United Arab Emirates are allies of ours in the war on terrorism, so I don't think we want to just because it's a Dubai company, even owned by the government, we want to exclude them from doing business here.

Bush-hugger Joe actually said that Sunday on ABC’s This Week, but he has been saying it over and over today—just to make sure we all know whose side he’s on.

So, now it’s time to show Joe whose side we’re on.

gosh, he really is a uniter and not a divider

President Bush has finally found an issue that can get Hillary Clinton, Bill Frist, Bob Menendez, Dennis Hastert, Chuck Schumer, and Lindsey Graham all on the same side.

Unfortunately for George, he’s on the other side.

quick! look! over there! terrorists!

From today’s Washington Post:

The Justice Department accused three Ohio men yesterday of plotting to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq, allegedly by seeking to set up a Middle Eastern terrorism camp where insurgents would be trained and equipped.

One of the men also was charged with threatening to kill or hurt President Bush. It is not clear, however, how close the trio came to carrying out any of their alleged plans or whether they intended to fight in Iraq themselves.

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Is anyone still buying this crap? Don’t the kids from the big white house know: The Boy Who Cried Wolf isn’t just a ripping good yarn, it’s a powerful life lesson, too!

“Luckily,” this one didn’t seem break through the misdiagnosed Port scandal, a big fat world of real violence, and the unfortunate news that everything we all said about what would happen to abortion rights should Alito make it to the Supreme Court is about to come true.

And then there’s the ongoing displeasure with the illegal domestic spying. . . but don’t think Abu Gonzales didn’t try to work that in.

Gonzales did not answer directly when asked whether the government's controversial warrantless surveillance program was used in the case.

If you saw the tape of the press conference, Gonzales all but said “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” when asked about whether the NSA dragnet helped snare these poor schmucks. And, by letting that slip, the AG is either lying, or he is committing treason by divulging top secret sources and methods. . . at least that’s how Gonzo himself would see it, right?

Anyway, back to the “Ohio Cell.” It sounds like the usual dodgy half-case that has become the industry standard for this administration’s DoJ. Even FBI Deputy Director John Pistole openly compares these guys to the “Lackawanna Six”—and that’s far from what anyone would call a “slam dunk.” (Even George Tenet.) Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a Justice Department that actually wanted to protect us rather than distract us?

Yeah. . . sorry about that last part. . . hallucinating.

(PS This is my 100th post on guy2k. . . woohoo!)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

burning the midday oil

Much to his chagrin, George Bush “worked” on President’s Day. He gassed up Air Force One for a taxpayer-financed PR tour of a few far-flung locations to highlight his plans to wean America off our addiction to Mideast oil. . . except that he didn’t say that. You see, since the State of the Union speech where he made the catchy promise, some influential friends with the initials O.P.E.C. complained to the President, and more than one cabinet-level official said that Bush didn’t mean his promise “literally.”

Instead, it’s now just an “addiction to oil” we all have to kick. So, Curious George got all golly gosh and gee wiz about cars you can plug in (imagine!) and other futuristic alternative fuel technologies he’s not actually supporting in his proposed budget.

Back on the switch grass trail today, Bush hit the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO. . . unfortunately for the President, his budget priorities hit them first. It seems the lab had to pink slip 32 workers (including eight researchers) just two weeks ago because of deep budget cuts. Bush’s advance team apparently hadn’t coordinated with the budget guys. . . or is it the Energy Department. . .or is it the White House Political Office. . . .

Anyway, have no fear, the shell game presidency is here. Over the weekend, the White House declared the layoffs a budgeting “mix up,” and transferred $5 million from another lab so that all of the workers could be rehired in time for the President’s photo op.

“I recognize that there has been some interesting, let me say, mixed signals when it comes to funding,” Bush said. “The issue, of course, is whether good intentions are met with actual dollars spent.”

No shit. In fact, the five mill reallocated to Colorado is purely cosmetic since the original cut was $28 million. “The $5 million stopped the bodies from going out the door, but it doesn't provide the money for the (renewable energy) programs," said Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, in today’s Washington Post.

I’d also like to point out that the cut came two weeks ago—that would be a week after Bush made big promises about the alt fuels studied at this facility. That’s because, as I noted at the time of the SOTU, the one with the real oil problem is George Bush himself.

do as I say, not as I said

Our man in Baghdad issued a stern warning to the newly, duly elected Iraqi government yesterday.

"The United States is investing billions of dollars" in Iraq's police and army, said the ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad. "We are not going to invest the resources of the American people to build forces run by people who are sectarian."

Is he fucking kidding? The United States has done everything—everything—to bring just this very situation about. From Bush 41’s empty promises to Iraqi Shiites to every poorly planned and mismanaged step taken by Bush 43, from the power vacuum created in the wake of the rapid invasion to the halls of Abu Ghraib, from the force-fed elections timetable designed to suit US domestic politics to the corrupt and corrupting support for traitors like Ahmad Chalabi, the current Iraqi government (and its behavior) bears a great big label reading “made in the USA.”

But ZK goes further:

"I have said to Iraqis that we do not seek to impose our differences with Iran on them," Khalilzad said. "But we do not want Iranian interference in Iraq."

From the perspective of five years back, the worst thing for American interests in the region would have been to drive Iran further away while allowing an Iranian client state to take form in Iraq. Well, that’s exactly what has happened—and it has happened because, and only because, of actions taken at the behest of Bush & Co. For Khalilzad, no doubt at the direction of the Bush administration, to now threaten Iraqis with a cessation of aid because what any rational actor could have predicted has actually come to be is not the height of hypocrisy only because hypocrisy doesn’t even begin to describe the offense.

I guess this is what happens when you use “intelligence not to inform decision-making, but to justify a decision already made.

it’s like getting punk’d, only even less funny

When I was a kid, the show was called Candid Camera, but the idea was more or less the same: see how long someone would acquiesce to a ridiculous situation before saying “what the fudge is going on here?” It was a show based on gullibility, humiliation, and the willing suspension of disbelief.

Back then, they’d say, “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!” Now, it’s “You’ve been punk’d!” Either way, it’s a great big “I can’t believe you fell for that shit!”

I keep waiting for the Democrats to say “What the fudge is going on here?” Until they do, you sure as hell ain’t going to see a whole lot of Republicans saying, “I can’t believe you fell for that shit!” It’s like getting punk’d without Ashton Kutcher popping out from behind the curtain. . . ever!

In fact, it’s worse. . . so much worse, it needs a new name.

Monday, February 20, 2006

the minimum wages of sin is. . .

The problem with your vice president shooting people is that you just miss so much. . . .

Here’s something I heard nothing about until I caught a reference to it on Sirotablog. New Fed Chief Ben Bernanke was on the Hill testifying before the House Financial Services Committee when he was questioned by Vermont Representative Bernie Sanders (I) about the minimum wage.

SANDERS: Chairman Bernanke, should the Congress raise the minimum wage so that every worker in America who works 40 hours a week escapes from poverty? A very simple question, sir.

BERNANKE: I'm going to be an economist and give you the one hand, the other hand. On the minimum wage, it's actually a very controversial issue among economists. Clearly, if you raise the minimum wage, then those workers who retain their jobs will get higher income and therefore it helps them. The concerns that some economists have raised about the minimum wage are first, is it as well targeted as it could be? That is, how much of the increase is going to the teenage children of suburban families, for example? And secondly, does it have any employment effects? That is, do higher wages lower employment of low-wage workers?

SANDERS: And your response is?

BERNANKE: My response is that I think it doesn't lower employment.

That loud crashing sound you heard (OK, would have heard if it hadn’t been drowned out by the sound of a pricey Italian shotgun) is the conservative argument against the minimum wage falling to ground. . . again.

Bernie, by the way, is running for the Senate seat now occupied by the retiring Jim Jeffords (I-VT). It would be great to see a guy like Sanders in the Senate. Check him out. Help him out.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Drinks, Shoots & Leaves

My one regret this morning is that I am not good enough with the whole Creative Suite thing to actually execute this. . . but I couldn’t just keep it to myself, either.

Anyone want to help?

#1 Runaway Birdshooter

Drinks, Shoots & Leaves

The Zero Tolerance Approach to Honesty

With forward by Alberto Gonzalez
Author of Abu Ghraib’s Ashes

. . . or something like that.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

stay away from whiskey and wild, wild women. . .

. . . or beer and ambassadors to Switzerland.

So, the question is out there, was it the booze, or was it the other woman? Did the secret service and the Kenedy County Sheriff conspire to keep Cheney and his little mishap under wraps for the better part of a day in order to let him sober up or to let his special friend get away?

Alan Dershowitz and numerous law enforcement officials think it’s a good bet Vice President Cankles needed some time to get that “one beer” out of his blood. But Bob Cesca and RJ Eskow both have more than a sneaking suspicion that we should be looking at Dick’s dick.

Faux-eyewitness Katherine Armstrong’s all-over-the-map explanations about the beer really seem to say that drinking was involved. But the fact that the name of the third hunter, Ambassador Pamela Willeford, didn’t surface for days, the fact that she hasn’t been seen since Saturday, and the fact that Lynn Cheney—usually all too willing to put in her two cents—is also strangely quiet this week all seem to point to une liaison dangereuse.

Your vote? (I guess if your answer were “both,” it wouldn’t be the first time.)

choose your metaphor

There is no lack of blogging on the lack of a competent police investigation into Dead Eye Dick’s hunting accident. Cheney was not interviewed (till the morning after the shooting), the crime scene was not examined, alcohol and drugs were not tested for, and now, it turns out, the previous local Chief of Police is now an employee of ranch owner Katherine Armstrong.

So, I (and many others) start to wonder about the best metaphor for the either bungling, negligent, or criminally conspiratorial current police chief of Kenedy County,
Ramon Salinas III.

Redd, over at fdl, has taken to calling Salinas Chief Wiggum, and the Simpsons’ cowardly, donut-loving, and lovably corrupt top cop seems like a good fit at first. . . .

The complete abdication of responsibility, followed by a “move along, nothing to see here,” stonewalling made me seize on the arrogant and dimwitted Officer Barbrady from South Park. . . .

But the coziness of the Armstrong clan with the local cops, and the still-missing official police report (update: a partial one has just surfaced on The Smoking Gun), has made my metaphor bend sinister. Add in the setting—a stark ranch in a border state—and I become surer than ever that the appropriate corollary for Chief Salinas is Orson Welles’s portrayal of the wily, filthy, and dangerous Captain Hank Quinlan.

And who can beat the title of the film for an overarching description of the shooting incident: Touch of Evil.

over 325,000 served

Well, not exactly. Saying that they were “served” implies some sort of above board, out in the sunshine, legal process. . . and little could be further from the truth.

Two headlines placed near the top of the Washington Post website Wednesday morning (pushed down the page by that other story). One trumpets the revelation that the government watch list of alleged international terrorists has grown to 325,000; the other warns that a congressional probe of the NSA’s illegal domestic spying is now in doubt.

The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) maintains a “central repository” of 325,000 names that it culls from a number of places, but a source tells the Post that most come from the NSA. Though that source says few of those names are of American citizens, the story makes it clear that, since the list is secret, we have no way of knowing.

With the NSA conducting its White House-ordered illegal dragnet, it seems unquestionable to me that the tripling in size of the NCTC list owes something to warrantless domestic eavesdropping.

How will we ever know? Maybe with congressional investigations, but that prospect grew more unlikely in the last week thanks to an “all-out White House lobbying campaign.” Again, according to the Post, there were enough Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee last week who were willing to vote with Democrats to pass a Democratic-sponsored motion to start an inquiry, but now passage in a Thursday vote seems unlikely.

“Closed door” briefings delivered by administration officials last week appear to have given some of those previously pro-investigation Republicans enough cover to reverse their position. And a special Republicans-only visit from Dead Eye Dick Cheney on Monday seems to have provided the necessary closed door arm-twisting to make sure the political cover will be used.

Now, Olympia Snowe (R-ME) is saying that investigations are not “essential or necessary,” and Mike DeWine (R-OH) is saying this can all be fixed by making the FISA by-pass legal with a revision to the 1978 act. Putting aside that the law has already been broken, and Congress, according to the Constitution, can’t make retroactive changes to law, the abdication of legislative authority and oversight in DeWine’s proposal is scandalous (and makes you wonder what was said behind closed doors to DeWine, who is in for a big electoral fight from Democrat Sherrod Brown come November).

Alas, what will make the reversal, abdication. . . and betrayal. . . even easier is that other story, which has pushed NSA spying off of most front pages altogether.

secret ABC/FOX merger reveals ugly face. . .

hope springs. . .

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

while you were out. . . shooting friends

While I don’t think this was a planned misdirection play, the Veep’s gunplay has managed to distract a whole lot of us from some even more serious shots fired by—and at—Dead Eye Dick.

As reported Friday, an exchange about three weeks ago between Patrick Fitzgerald and Scooter Libby revealed that Libby had been directed by “superiors” (meaning at least Cheney, as reported by the National Journal) to leak portions of the National Intelligence Estimate to members of the press. Yes, Scooter claims outright that the Vice President told him to leak classified information—in this case, the identity of Joe Wilson’s wife, CIA NOC Valerie Plame—just to discredit a perceived political enemy. These reports came on the same day Cheney renewed his criticism of the New York Times’ revelations about the NSA’s illegal domestic surveillance program.

The Washington Note reported Monday (on a piece that originally appeared on Raw Story) that in blowing Plame-Wilson’s cover, the Vice Presidentially authorized leak not only put sources and methods at risk and essentially ended Plame’s career, it severely crippled US intel capabilities vis-à-vis Iranian Nuclear programs. . . and not just a little bit. The piece also notes that while Joe Wilson did not find any evidence of an Iraqi-Niger deal on yellowcake, he did report that Iran had made inquiries in Niger (this was reported in the Washington Post in the summer of 2004, but received little play at the time).

So, to recap these inglorious Cheney moments (and what we should definitely get back to talking about): the Veep had his henchman break the law and disseminate classified information, and this leak not only ruined a career, it ruined our future security by impeding intelligence gathering on a real nuclear threat while propagating a crap story about a false threat.

All this is not to say that the “hunting accident” is completely inconsequential. As they say in the movies, “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.” Bad enough that Cheney was not immediately interviewed by Texas law enforcement or administered a test for alcohol as the state requires after such incidents, it has now come out that there are competing versions of how this all came out. While Katherine Armstrong said it was her idea to contact the local Corpus Christi paper on Sunday, Scott McClellan initially stated that it was Cheney who directed her to approach the press. Later, though, the White House issued a report—as noted in the New York Times—that had Karl Rove coordinating with Armstrong 90 minutes after the Saturday afternoon shooting. Yes, that’s right, the White House is now “bragging” that Karl Rove knew about this “peppering” almost a day before the rest of America.

In a related story, the Bush administration spends over a billion dollars a year on PR, and that doesn’t include the salary of Karl Rove. . . or Katherine Armstrong.

Monday, February 13, 2006

shooting even makes Matt Cooper funny

“He might have had better aim if he’d served in Vietnam.”

So said Cooper on CBS News’ Early Show (he was “predicting” what late night comics would say—nice one, Matt). Cooper notes that these sorts of things can become a metaphor for an administration, and, it seems, we don’t have to wait for tonight’s Leno & Letterman. Here’s today’s LA Times:

The Bush White House and the president himself are known for limiting information to not only the press but also to members of Congress, as seen in the debate over the domestic surveillance program by the National Security Agency and the congressional investigation of the administration's handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

Meanwhile, CBS News White House correspondent Peter Maer reports Texas authorities are complaining that the Secret Service barred them from speaking to Cheney after the incident. Kenedy County Texas Sheriffs Lt. Juan Guzman said deputies first learned of the shooting when an ambulance was called.

(t.o.t.h. to firedoglake. And, they are all over the gun safety issues that arise from this canned shoot.)

Update: That old gray link just ain’t what it used to be. As reported over at fdl, and at many other places, the CBS link I provide above has been scrubbed. All references to Matt Cooper's prescient joke have been “disappeared.” Does this mean Matt’s sense of humor is gone for good, too? And, really, what in the sam hill is CBS up to? Don’t they know half the blogoshpere already copied the story?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Cheney fires first shot in battle over lobbying reform

Vice President Cankles took the fight to reduce the influence of big campaign donors into his own hands Saturday, shooting wealthy Austin lawyer and longtime Bush-Cheney contributor Harry Whittington in the face, neck, and chest while purportedly aiming at a covey of quail.

Never one for the spotlight, Cheney tried to keep his reform efforts secret (just as he has done with energy reform and constitutional reform). Whittington survived the Vice President’s reform agenda, however, and, against government wishes, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times exposed the program 24 hours later.

CNN is reporting that the influential Austinite was “alert and doing fine” in a Corpus Christi hospital, and it is likely Whittington will survive Cheney’s attempts to change the culture of Washington Politics. “Nobody wants this to happen, but it does,” said Katharine Armstrong, owner of the ranch where the reform summit was staged.

In a related story, Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi thinks he’s Jesus.

Update: In all seriousness, as the night has progressed, this story has become a gruesome metaphor for the way the current administration does business. Josh Marshall has digested many a hunter’s account of such accidents, pointing up Cheney’s almost certain incompetence in whirling and firing behind him. The hunters are also collectively incredulous when it comes to the “blame the victim” account of the accident. Editor & Publisher reports that the vice president’s office and the White House were in full cover-up mode until that cover was blown by Armstrong when she called a reporter friend 18 hours after the accident occurred. (And, BradBlog reports that Katherine Armstrong’s mother Anne helped get Cheney his job at Halliburton. She also served on President Reagan’s FISA Advisory board and was a Bush 43 Pioneer. Kos and Shakespeare’s Sister also add threads to the tangled web.)

The New York Times reports that in 1999, then Texas Governor Bush appointed Whittington to head the state Funeral service commission: “When he was named, a former executive director of the commission, Eliza May, was suing the state, saying that she had been fired because she investigated a funeral home chain that was owned by a friend of Mr. Bush.”

So, to sum up: Special access and favors for cronies and big money donors. Incompetence, first covered up, then replaced with a “blame the victim” strategy. Classic Bush-Cheney.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

digital age 1; 1984 0

Do you see what I see: President Bush shaking hands in 2001 with Chief Raul Garza of the Kickapoo tribe of Texas. In the background at left is the lobbyist Jack Abramoff; Karl Rove, the president's top adviser, is at the right.

Well, the White House has withheld all photos that include both President Bush and Influence Peddler-in-Chief Jack Abramhoff, and a Florida photo archive has scrubbed all of its files that included events where Bush and Jack-off were seen together (the archive was run by a big Bush campaign contributor), but all that work still leaves Abramoff’s clients with copies of their treasured keepsakes.

The Chief of the Texas Kickapoo Indians, currently under federal indictment for embezzling tribal funds, made this photo available to the New York Times to prove, he said, that he has nothing to hide (though he did stipulate that the photo could only be reproduced in black and white—score one for old-school aesthetics. . . or vanity). I’m guessing the Chief went to the Feds first, in an attempt to cut a deal, and when they said no dice, he got all vengeful n’ shit, but that’s just speculation on my part.

But perhaps the most interesting angle on the story is (of course) the reaction of White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, who said that Abramhoff doesn’t appear on the log for the May 2001 event celebrating the passage of Bush’s tax cuts, and that he can’t explain how Abramhoff got into the White House for the gathering.

What are we to assume from that? Was White House security so lax that any guy in a suit and tie could wander into grip-and-grin? Or, was Jack Abramoff such a regular sight at the White House that he could slip in and out without going through the official rigmarole. Or, just maybe, the White House logs have been scrubbed, too. . . . I guess 1984 gets a conditional point, afterall.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Olympic flame or disco inferno?

Can somebody please explain the musical choices made for the opening ceremonies at the 2006 Winter Olympics? Really. I beg you. It is 100% made up of English-language disco and pop hits from the late 70’s and early ‘80’s.


Video Killed the Radio Star.

I Feel Love.

I just saw the team from the Islamic Republic of Iran enter to the inspirational strains of Funky Town.

I am totally serious.

is bad news the new good news?

What a week, huh? And the last day or so—whew!

In the last 24 hours, we've seen troubling reports that Dick Cheney directed "Scooter" Libby to release classified information to discredit critics of the war in Iraq...we've heard hard-to-ignore accusations from a former top CIA official that the White House "cherry picked" intelligence to make the case for war...and we've received stunning evidence that the president sat on his hands and did nothing for 12 hours after the White House had been informed that the levees broke in New Orleans.

—John Kerry

Yeah, that’s all amazing stuff. . . amazingly awful stuff! And there’s more, actually: new Abramoff-Bush revelations, a pending re-vote—because of a clerical error—on the draconian budget cuts, the media actually using the term “playing the fear card” when talking about Bush’s Los Angeles speech. . . .

If this somehow brings down the Republican regime, great. But, remember, when the shit hits the fan, it’s still shit. . . and it still blows.

three's company

Need I say more? Not when Vanity Fair guest editor Tom Ford has a mouth:

"People won't believe me," he is quoted as saying in Vanity Fair's "Behind the Scenes" feature story, "but I did not plan on being on the cover." On Tuesday, he told "Good Morning America's" Diane Sawyer that he is in the photograph because the intended third subject, actress Rachel McAdams, got cold feet and decided not to disrobe for photographer Annie Leibovitz. "I think she felt uncomfortable," Ford said, "and I didn't want to make anybody feel uncomfortable."

The reason he jumped into the shot, he explains in the magazine, is this: "Three girls in a bed is a bedful of girls. Two girls in bed are lesbians."

The LA Times article continues, “It's not exactly clear what two girls and a gay man add up to.”

Who wrote this thing, Mr. Roper?

what I did for love

Oh, Scottie, whatever you’re making, it’s not enough! Really, what’s a soul worth on the open market (or eBay) these days? And what’s fair compensation for getting beat up by girls?

Helen Thomas: You -- this is supposed to be a war on terrorism, and by his own admission, the President has said there's been -- there was no link between Iraq and terrorists. So why are we still in Iraq killing and being killed?

Scott McClellan: Well, I think the President talked about it earlier today. The stakes are high in Iraq. And he talked about where we are focused --

HT -- why were they high --

SM: Well, Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism. All you have to do is look at the letter that Zawahiri sent to Zarqawi. They recognize how high the stakes are. So do we. And we must continue to move forward on the plan we have for victory. That's why we're focused on --

HT: Why did you go into Iraq?

SM: Well, the President is --

HT: There were no terrorists.

SM: I'm not trying to relitigate what we've -- the decisions that were already made.

HT: I am.

SM: We've already spelled out the reasons why we went in there, and it was Saddam's --

HT: -- given has turned out to be wrong.

SM: It was Saddam Hussein's choice to make. He continued to defy the international community. And the President made the decision after September 11th that we were not going to wait for threats to fully materialize. We were going to confront them before it was too late. And as he said again today --

HT: It was Iraq, and they weren't there.

SM: Well, I think you ought to pay attention to what the President said in his remarks again today.

HT: I did.

SM: He talked about the importance of freedom overcoming terrorism and tyranny and the power of freedom to prevail. The Middle East is a dangerous region of the world. What we are trying to do --

HT: Why was Iraq attacked?

SM: What we are trying to do is help transform that troubled region of the world by providing a more hopeful future. That's what freedom does. Free societies are peaceful societies. And a free Iraq will help inspire the rest of the Middle East, as well.

Then Helen gets a rare assist.

Martha Radatz: Can I go to something on Iraq? Just following up on something Helen said. The President and you often say that it was Saddam Hussein's decision to make. What could he have done, given the fact that you haven't found weapons of mass destruction, to stop the invasion?

SM: Well, Martha, I don't think we need to go back and relitigate all this, but it was spelled out very clearly what he needed to do, and he continued to defy the international community -- 17-some resolutions. And it was a threat that we could not ignore. The world is better off with Saddam Hussein out of power. And we have clearly talked about that previously. Now --

MR: Could he have stopped the invasion by --

SM: What's important -- what is important to do now -- well, he didn't cooperate with the international community. You can go back through all that -- through that whole time period. He did not comply with the resolutions that were passed....

Seriously, the women of the White House Press Corps did a great job on Thursday. . . as did many others in the room. But Scottie Mac wasn’t one of them.

First Draft picks out some of the highlights of Thursday’s gaggle, and it’s well worth a read. It’s really funny, honestly. NBC should consider using the daily briefing to replace Four Kings. . . honestly.

In a related story, Georgie Bush is overpaid.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

of course, I blame George Bush

Nothing says anti-Americanism is on the rise like excluding baseball and softball from the Olympics. (OK, maybe some things do.) The International Olympic Committee, meeting in Singapore, reaffirmed their vote of seven months ago to remove these grand and noble sports from the Olympics in 2012.

Sure, some will tell you this happened because these sports require large outdoor venues, and I might concede that some blame goes to European athletes not being able to hit the curveball, but all of this was true when baseball and softball were voted in a couple of decades ago. No, you gotta look at the equation: Bush likes to talk up his (5%) ownership of the Texas Rangers baseball team, his dad played first base for Yale, and the US President is responsible for a downward spiral in global security, so, let’s, says the world, stick it to his “favorite” sport.

Meanwhile, everyone knows that W rides golf carts around his “ranch,” and, as a cowboy, he’s all hat and no cattle. So, almost as an audible, Nelson Muntz-like “ha ha,” the IOC will include the new sport of Reining in future games. Reining.

Fuckin’ Bush.

I was looking at a black and white world. . . .

It seemed so exciting.

It seems like my friend Leah and I have a disagreement on some aspects of the whole issue of "cartoon violence," as our moronic Commander in Chief called it.

I fear we are not all Americans (as was said after 9/11), or all Danes (as Leah said this morning); I fear that what events such as these do is make us all fundamentalists.

I bloody hate fundamentalists. . . on all sides (and there are not just two).

Leah has posted below, and I have posted a quick response in the comments section. What do you think?

Update: Leah has moved her post over to ChezLeah (it was apparently posted here by accident). The comments I had added to the original “We are all Danes” post that I refer to above read as follows:

I gotta say, right out, I have severe differences with Jeff Jacoby. While I think the reaction to the anti-Muslim cartoons is an example of viral marketing at its worst, I think the publication of the cartoons by the Danish paper--and the subsequent re-printing by numerous others--is a whole lot more about provoking Muslims than it is about freedom of the press.

As I understand it, many governments--the Danes, the French, and, yes, the Americans--stand to gain from demonizing Islam and provoking Muslim rage. I don't endorse the violence, I can't even really begin to understand it, but I can begin to understand the role played by the west in provoking and perpetuating it.

I am still quite open to a discussion in the comments section. . . .

all the fat that’s fit to eat

Just a coincidence? The Wednesday edition of the New York Times led with this story, top right, above the fold:

Low-Fat Diet Does Not Cut Health Risks, Study Finds

The largest study ever to ask whether a low-fat diet reduces the risk of getting cancer or heart disease has found that the diet has no effect.

And, on the very same day, this:

McDonald's Fries Got Even Fattier

(AP) The world's largest restaurant chain said Wednesday its fries contain a third more trans fats than it previously knew, citing results of a new testing method it began using in December.

That means the level of potentially artery-clogging trans fat in a portion of large fries is eight grams, up from six, with total fat increasing to 30 grams from 25.

Can this really be attributed to chance? Notice that Mickey D’s says the change in fat numbers comes from a “new testing method.” By that logic, the fries aren’t actually fattier than they were last year, McDonald’s is just “advertising” that they are fattier. Does their evil super-sized genius know no bounds???

Not to be outdone, it seems the US Military is also pushing the benefits of getting stuffed full of food.

fasten your seatbelts, it’s gonna be a bumpy “meal”

I’m just going to quote the NY Times:

United States military authorities have taken tougher measures to force-feed detainees engaged in hunger strikes at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, after concluding that some were determined to commit suicide to protest their indefinite confinement, military officials have said.

In recent weeks, the officials said, guards have begun strapping recalcitrant detainees into "restraint chairs," sometimes for hours a day, to feed them through tubes and prevent them from deliberately vomiting afterward. Detainees who refuse to eat have also been placed in isolation for extended periods in what the officials said was an effort to keep them from being encouraged by other hunger strikers. . . .

Some officials said the new actions reflected concern at Guantánamo and the Pentagon that the protests were becoming difficult to control and that the death of one or more prisoners could intensify international criticism of the detention center. Colonel Martin said force-feeding was carried out "in a humane and compassionate manner" and only when necessary to keep the prisoners alive. H e said in a statement that "a restraint system to aid detainee feeding" was being used but refused to answer questions about the restraint chairs. . . .

. . . other measures used to dissuade the hunger strikers included placing them in uncomfortably cold air-conditioned isolation cells, depriving them of "comfort items" like blankets and books and sometimes using riot-control soldiers to compel the prisoners to sit still while long plastic tubes were threaded down their nasal passages and into their stomachs.

And, just in case you were looking for the chairs on DWR:

In a telephone interview yesterday, the manufacturer of the so-called Emergency Restraint Chair, Tom Hogan, said his small Iowa company shipped five $1,150 chairs to Guantánamo on Dec. 5 and 20 additional chairs on Jan. 10, using a military postal address in Virginia. Mr. Hogan said the chairs were typically used in jails, prisons and psychiatric hospitals to deal with violent inmates or patients.

But read the whole article—it’s a story that will make you lose your lunch.

I abhor cliché

But sometimes it’s just too damn easy.

Senate Nerve Agent Scare

Cleaning solution sets off alarms

Evacuees from the office building were taken to a nearby garage where they stayed for more than two hours.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Aaaaaaah, Kelly Clarkson!

If there is still one of you out there that thinks that the Grammys have any credibility or that the record industry it purportedly celebrates isn’t completely moribund, please go download another ring tone (and then put your phone on vibrate, ferchrissake!).

American Idol winner Clarkson snagged two awards, one for best pop vocal album, and one for best female vocal performance. . . for a song titled “Since U Been Gone.” Since U? “U?” Who the hell still does that outside of a text message?

(Oh, and, what the hell is she sporting on the lower half of her body?)

Listen, I know the Academy Awards pretty much suck, too, but I don’t expect to see the latest Project Greenlight win the Oscar for best picture anytime soon.

The biggest winner tonight? Bono & co. I guess nothing compares 2U, U2.

Dickerson: I will not be ignored

I guess I could have referenced Oscar Wilde instead of Basic Instinct since Slate political correspondent John Dickerson says right off the bat in his two-parter about his brush with the Blame Plame Name Game that the only thing worse than being subpoenaed by Patrick Fitzgerald is not being subpoenaed by Patrick Fitzgerald.

My beef with Dickerson’s previous silence aside, his current revelations make interesting reading. Jane and Redd at firedoglake do yeoman’s work picking out all the bits of bombshell from this latest addition to the Plamegate oeuvre.

With all that seems to be brewing here, and with what has been bubbling up from latest back-and-forth between Fitz and the team Libby, I can’t help but wonder if, finally, Rove’s goose may be cooked.

I hope its done before November.

George Bush, ultimate Keynesian

Forgive me for getting to this late, but it’s not like I’ve seen this anywhere in the big boy press.

Dceiver pointed me to this Economic Policy Institute graph that demonstrates quite, um, graphically that all of the claimed job growth during the Bush 43 era comes from government spending. Yes, federal government spending; not tax cuts to private industry. Not even close.

Follow the link to the EPI site for the full explanation, but the bottom line is that military spending created 1.495 million jobs in the private sector since 2001, and non-defense discretionary spending resulted in an additional 1.325 million. That equals 2.82 million private sector jobs created by federal spending since 2001.

But—by the administration’s own account—the private sector has only grown by 2 million jobs in that time. So, the rest of the private sector—those in private industry that have “benefited” from Bush’s tax cuts but have not benefited from the federal spending—have actually lost jobs! Maybe they cut ‘em, maybe they shipped ‘em overseas, but they sure as shit didn’t create jobs here in the US with their newfound wealth.

Where did that money go? Maybe the next time some supply-sider gets all up in your grill about the magic of super low corporate taxes, you can just point to the graph and say, “you do the math,” and then, “show me the money.”

results now in: “liberal” media helped re-elect Bush

Media Matters reports that former Time Magazine White House correspondent and current Slate political correspondent John Dickerson worked with correspondent Matt Cooper and Washington bureau chief Michael Duffy on an October 2003 story that perpetuated the myth that Karl Rove had nothing to do with leaking the identity of Valerie Plame, even though all three of them knew that Rove was directly involved.

Add reporter Viveca Novak, who also knew that Rove and Cooper had talked, and that makes four at Time that went through the 2004 election season without telling the truth about White House involvement in the outing of Mrs. Joseph Wilson.

Now, put that together with the New York Times’ Miss Run Amok, Judy Miller’s relationship with Scooter Libby, and that makes five reporters that failed to expose a scandal before the presidential election.

But wait, there’s more. New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and Editor Bill Keller also sat on the story of illegal domestic wiretaps—at the request of the White House—for more than a year—waiting until December of 2005 to publish.

(Yeah, there’s syndicated columnist Bob Novak, too, but I won’t even bother to count him.)

Perhaps everyone understands each of these cases individually, and, perhaps, individually, they seem like academic scandals. But string them all together, and have these stories break naturally during the summer and fall of 2004, and then tell me it wouldn’t have swung the very close presidential election.

So, Dickerson, Duffy, Cooper, Novak, Miller, Sulzberger, and Keller, thank you. Thank you for four more years of cronyism and corruption. Thank you for cutting aid for the poor and taxes for the rich. Thank you for John Roberts and Sam Alito. Thank you for Michael Chertoff and Heckuva-job Brownie. Thank you for continued death, destruction, and failure in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thank you from the bottom of George Bush and Dick Cheney’s one mechanical heart.

Update: I can’t believe I forgot to mention Washington Post Toastie Bob Woodward and NBC’s bag of Bush-loving blubber Tim Russert in my litany of journalists (or, in Russert’s case, pretend journalists) that helped re-elect W with their. . . you know, I was going to say “silence,” but in both of these cases, these guys actively lied about what they knew and their involvement with the Wilson/Plame story.

And Jane Hamsher has more on how Time spiked the Plame Story at HufPo.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

what is the matter with Kansas, anyway?

No, this is not performance art. These fine folks, er, freaking idiots are members of a little Kansas church called Westboro Baptist. For fun, they like long walks to Wal-Mart, reading the bible, and harassing the families of fallen soldiers at said soldiers’ funerals.

The 75 or so members of the church—most of them related to the church’s pastor (no, I don’t know how)—travel all over the country to let one and all know that god struck down their loved ones for fighting to defend a country that “harbors homosexuals and adulterers.” They also showed up in Sago, WV, a couple of weeks ago, because god also apparently smites those that mine coal for a country that harbors homosexuals.

These children of the lord got their start menacing the families of AIDS victims—and no one paid them all that much never no mind—but now that they have broadened their wrath to include the armed forces, they’ve got over a dozen state legislatures doing constitutional back-flips trying to write laws that ban protests at funerals.

I can’t even begin to understand people that get some sort of perverse joy out of torturing folks on their worst day, let alone the logic that says an angry god doesn’t strike those that offend him, but instead kills off unrelated third parties, but, you know what, the joke’s on the Westboro boys (and girls). Those soldiers aren’t dying to protect a country that harbors homosexuals and adulterers—nope—they’re dying to protect the fragile ego of man-child George W. Bush and the wallet of sclerotic Veep Dick Cheney.

Ha. Ha.

reminder: John McCain is still an asshole

You know from last month that I’ve got less than warm feelings for Senator McNasty, but the racy rationalist has now chosen to reveal his very poison pen (no, not that one) to a fellow Senator.

On a weekend when his party was air-testing the “Hillary Clinton is too angry to be president” message, Republican presidential hopeful John McCain publicly rebuked Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) in what Matt Stoller called “the single most bitter, nasty letter I have ever seen from any Senator.”

Obama had approached the Senator from Arizona about working together on ethics legislation, and then sent a letter asking if McCain would think about co-sponsoring a plan drafted by moderate Democrats.

"I would like to apologize to you for assuming that your private assurances to me regarding your desire to cooperate in our efforts to negotiate bipartisan lobbying reform were sincere," McCain writes.

When you approached me and insisted that despite your leadership's preference to use the issue to gain a political advantage in the 2006 elections, you were personally committed to achieving a result that would reflect credit on the entire Senate and offer the country a better example of political leadership, I concluded your professed concern for the institution and the public interest was genuine and admirable. Thank you for disabusing me of such notions with your letter. . . . I'm embarrassed to admit that after all these years in politics I failed to interpret your previous assurances as typical rhetorical gloss routinely used in politics to make self-interested partisan posturing appear more noble. Again, sorry for the confusion, but please be assured I won't make the same mistake again.

And just to make sure Obama really, really understood how he felt, McCain closed with:

I understand how important the opportunity to lead your party's effort to exploit this issue must seem to a freshman Senator, and I hold no hard feelings over your earlier disingenuousness. Again, I have been around long enough to appreciate that in politics the public interest isn't always a priority for every one of us. Good luck to you, Senator.

And McCain’s motivation in breaking with the time-honored tradition of not publicly criticizing other members of the millionaire’s club? Atrios puts it this way:

The real subtext of this story is that McCain wants an opportunity to preen in front of the cameras and an adoring media as he waxes nonsensically about ‘reform’ for months as we head into the presidential primary season. Oh, and that McCain is pretty much an asshole.

Pretty much.

(t.o.t.h. to Shakespeare’s Sister for turning me on to all this)

Monday, February 06, 2006

I should be proud. . .

. . . that I scooped the New York Times—by a week—but, instead, I’m just a tad frustrated. OK, more than a tad. . . .

Sunday, February 05, 2006

what’s in a name?

From the Guardian’s reporting on the supplemental request for additional funds to fight the war in Iraq (emphasis mine):

The spending on the Iraq conflict alone is now approaching the cost of the Korean war, about $330bn in today's dollars. Meanwhile the cost of the overall "war on terror" - relabeled The Long War in the Pentagon - is already close to half a trillion dollars, and will soon equal that of the 13-year Vietnam war.

I am certainly upset by the amount spent on this war (see yesterday’s post), but I am, in a way, more dismayed by its new name. It just sounds like something you read about in your European History class.

Friday, February 03, 2006

all you need is $440 billion and a dream

The White House plans to ask Congress for an additional $120 Billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing the total post-9/11 expenditure for military operations in those countries to $440 billion. (Yeah, with a B.) That’s the equivalent of $1,500 for every man, woman, and child in the United States. What could you do with an extra $1,500? What could our country do with an extra 440,000,000 large?

The PRI program The World ran a piece that puts it in some perspective. With $440 billion, you could acquire Bill Gates—nine times over. You could buy the Yankees and the Red Sox, the Dodgers and the Giants, the Steelers and the Seahawks. . . and Nike Corporation. . . and the Principality of Monaco. . . and you wouldn’t have spent half.

But the PRI piece doesn’t attempt to quantify what $170 million a day could buy in terms of health care for our citizens, or in numbers of primary school classrooms—complete with well paid teachers—or in tuition aid for the college bound. Or what could it get us in terms of real homeland security? Port safety, urban infrastructure, airline cargo screening? How about Head Start, AFDC, unemployment insurance, and job training? The list goes on and on, and what’s even more horrifying is that you wouldn’t have to choose just one of the things on the list. With $440 billion, you could have many of them—and isn’t it about time this country had its own principality!

Of course, there are some things that money can’t buy. . . .