Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Chevron tricks; Bush treats

Trick-or-treating through the corridors of power this Halloween? Try dressing up as Big Oil—you’re sure to get the best handouts.

U.S. Drops Bid Over Royalties From Chevron

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 — The Interior Department has dropped claims that the Chevron Corporation systematically underpaid the government for natural gas produced in the Gulf of Mexico, a decision that could allow energy companies to avoid paying hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties.

The agency had ordered Chevron to pay $6 million in additional royalties but could have sought tens of millions more had it prevailed. The decision also sets a precedent that could make it easier for oil and gas companies to lower the value of what they pump each year from federal property and thus their payments to the government.

. . . .

“The government is giving up without a fight,” said Richard T. Dorman, a lawyer representing private citizens suing Chevron over its federal royalty payments. “If this decision is left standing, it would result in the loss of tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of dollars in royalties owed by other companies.”

In return for the right to drill on federal lands and in federal waters, energy companies are required to pay the government a share of their proceeds. Last year, businesses producing natural gas paid $5.15 billion in government royalties.

But the Bush administration has come under fire on Capitol Hill for its record on collecting payments. While the Interior Department has sweetened incentives for exploration and pushed to open wilderness areas for drilling, it has also cut back on full-scale audits of companies intended to make sure they are paying their full share.

Administration officials knew that dozens of companies had incorrectly claimed exemptions from royalties since 2003, but they waited until December 2005 to send letters demanding about $500 million in repayments.

. . . .

In addition, four government auditors last month publicly accused the Interior Department of blocking their efforts to recover more than $30 million from the Shell Oil Corporation, the Kerr-McGee Corporation and other major companies.

“This latest revelation proves that the Bush administration is incapable of preventing big oil companies from cheating taxpayers,” said Representative Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, a senior Democrat on the House Committee on Resources. “The public has been systematically fleeced out of royalties that these companies owe for the privilege of drilling for oil and gas on lands belonging to all of us.”

(Pssst, America, want all the candy you’re due? One week from today, vote for a Democrat.)

Monday, October 30, 2006

ask not what your country can do for you. . .

ask what your country can do for Republicans.

(Ron Edmonds / AP)

Friday, October 27, 2006

is he bending over backwards, or just bending over?

Has he become unhinged? No, it’s just that ABC News political director Mark Halperin is on a book tour. . . and on a mission. . . .

Thursday, October 26, 2006

rain postpones moral dilemma

Rain in St. Louis last night washed away Game 4 of the World Series, and that gave my baseball-and-politics-addled brain a 24-hour reprieve.

Believing since I was knee high in the aesthetic superiority of the style of baseball played in the National League, I almost always default to root, root, rooting for the Senior Circuit in the Fall Classic. And, so, though feeling little excitement about this year’s Series (after seeing the Dodgers and Mets knocked out), I found myself—at least when it was close and late—cheering for the Cards.

(After watching Tiger pitcher Kenny Rogers do such a bad job of hiding his cheating in Game 2, it became even a little easier to tilt toward the Redbirds.)

So, imagine my dilemma when I discovered earlier in the day Wednesday that Cardinals’ scheduled Game 4 starter Jeff Suppan has felt the need to weigh in on Amendment 2, a Missouri ballot initiative that has become issue one in the show me showdown between and Republican Senator Jim Talent and Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill.

Yeah, that would be stem cell research.

This ad, which I hear was slated to run during the game, is obviously an attempt to counteract the impact of the Michael J. Fox ad that has Rush Limbaugh so bothered he’s forgetting to horde his Vicodin.

It’s good to know that on one side of the argument you have pretty much all the credible scientists in the field and people who actually could be helped by stem cell research, and on the other side you have a bunch of jocks and a pantomime Jesus.

Anyway, should the rain stop and the Series resume, and should noted bio-researcher over-performing starting pitcher Jeff Suppan take the mound, it is going to be hard to both root for a Cardinal victory and hope that the Soup Man gets the tar knocked out of him.

That would be tar, not pine tar. . . sit down, Kenny.

(h/t can’t stop the bleeding)

(cross-posted over at Daily Kos)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

g-g-g-g-g-g-google bomb!

What is Google bombing? Well, it’s a way, in theory, anyway, to influence the kind of information people get when they go and use “the Google.” You see, Google ranks or orders what sites will come up when a word or phrase is googled by the number of links to that site—the more links, the closer to the top of the results page.

As I understand it, Republicans first used this tactic back in ’04, and steered some folks who were looking to learn more about Sen. John Kerry to faulty, fact-challenged web pages put up by Bush allies.

Turn about is fair play, I suppose, and revenge is served up extra tasty when you can post a set of links to websites that actually provide useful and fact-filled articles about Republicans running for state and national office across the country this November. (I’ve learned some interesting things about some of these races by, well, um, reading some of these links—imagine!)

Chris Bowers, of MyDD, has been kind enough to do all the hard work, collecting a series of links to these sites, and coding them out for lazy, time-starved insomniacs like me to post on our own blogs, thus multiplying the number of bombs in the arsenal.

You can find more about the Google Bomb project here, and find the code for your own ammo dump here.

And, with that, bombs away!

--AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl

--AZ-01: Rick Renzi

--AZ-05: J.D. Hayworth

--CA-04: John Doolittle

--CA-11: Richard Pombo

--CA-50: Brian Bilbray

--CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave

--CO-05: Doug Lamborn

--CO-07: Rick O'Donnell

--CT-04: Christopher Shays

--FL-13: Vernon Buchanan

--FL-16: Joe Negron

--FL-22: Clay Shaw

--ID-01: Bill Sali

--IL-06: Peter Roskam

--IL-10: Mark Kirk

--IL-14: Dennis Hastert

--IN-02: Chris Chocola

--IN-08: John Hostettler

--IA-01: Mike Whalen

--KS-02: Jim Ryun

--KY-03: Anne Northup

--KY-04: Geoff Davis

--MD-Sen: Michael Steele

--MN-01: Gil Gutknecht

--MN-06: Michele Bachmann

--MO-Sen: Jim Talent

--MT-Sen: Conrad Burns

--NV-03: Jon Porter

--NH-02: Charlie Bass

--NJ-07: Mike Ferguson

--NM-01: Heather Wilson

--NY-03: Peter King

--NY-20: John Sweeney

--NY-26: Tom Reynolds

--NY-29: Randy Kuhl

--NC-08: Robin Hayes

--NC-11: Charles Taylor

--OH-01: Steve Chabot

--OH-02: Jean Schmidt

--OH-15: Deborah Pryce

--OH-18: Joy Padgett

--PA-04: Melissa Hart

--PA-07: Curt Weldon

--PA-08: Mike Fitzpatrick

--PA-10: Don Sherwood

--RI-Sen: Lincoln Chafee

--TN-Sen: Bob Corker

--VA-Sen: George Allen

--VA-10: Frank Wolf

--WA-Sen: Mike McGavick

--WA-08: Dave Reichert

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

bitter much?

The New York Times has done a little long-view analysis of statements by the Solipsism Party candidate for Senate in Connecticut, Joe Lieberman. The results?

A close examination of hundreds of Mr. Lieberman’s statements on Iraq over the past five years shows that while he repeatedly praised President Bush, he was far more likely to criticize him. But those critiques dropped off markedly in the last two years, even as the insurgency in Iraq gained strength.

At the same time, Mr. Lieberman made negative comments about fellow Democrats three times as often as he made positive comments, particularly after his failed campaign for his party’s presidential nomination in 2004.

As I've highlighted here, perhaps more interesting to me than the often wrongheaded approach Lieberman has taken to the Iraq debacle, or than the close correlation of Joementum’s shifting stands with those of the White House, is the three-time loser’s harder turn to the radical Republican right soon after his presidential ambitions were crushed by actual Democrats who like voting for actual Democrats.

Is it a w(h)ine made purely of sour grapes? That is certainly cynical and self-obsessed enough to condemn Lieberman to the scrap heap of history. But, maybe, it is the whining of a spoiled darling of several special interests (pharmaceutical companies and defense contractors come to mind) frantically trying to position himself for the highest office he can now realistically hope to attain—Secretary of Defense under (oh, so under) President George W. Bush.

Monday, October 23, 2006

you can’t take it back

Saturday saw US State Department official Alberto Fernandez telling al-Jazeera that we were “witnessing failure in Iraq.” Why?

. . . because without doubt, there was arrogance and stupidity by the United States in Iraq.

But as Monday comes around, Mr. Fernandez has had a change of heart, as it were.

Upon reading the transcript of my appearance on al-Jazeera, I realized that I seriously misspoke.

It seems Fernandez only truly knows what comes out of his mouth after reading it. . . or, more likely, he got a call from his boss, Condi Rice, who told him he had made for a very difficult weekend between her and her husband the president.

Whether Fernandez just went off the reservation or is not so subtly giving voice to raging war inside the US government between the “arrogant” architects of this fiasco, over at the Pentagon, and the theoretically more diplomatic diplomats, over at State, the shockwaves sent by this previously un-famous official’s rather straightforward comments echoed around the globe all weekend.

Know why? Because it’s true.

While the bizarre retraction might save Mr. Fernandez’s bacon (at least until after the mid-term elections), it really doesn’t put the genie back in the bottle. In fact, the initial comment seems to have liberated some of the reporters in the region. For instance, The BBC’s Baghdad correspondent reported on the World Service this morning that the retraction would be met with cynicism and chuckles throughout the region. “What are we now to believe, that the US approached Iraq with humility and intelligence?”

Friday, October 20, 2006

the holy trinity of the apocalypse

Here’s a freaky/creepy coincidence:

On Monday night, I had the good fortune to see a short acoustic set by Elvis Costello. During the show, Elvis made a little joke about the inspired efforts of “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Rumsfeld.” The joke fell a bit flat, actually, and I had forgotten it until just now when I read this:

MIAMI (AFP) - The top US general defended the leadership of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, saying it is inspired by God.

"He leads in a way that the good Lord tells him is best for our country," said Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

What to say. . . .

I know that Don of the Dead requires hem-kissing obeisance from his generals, but it seems Pete has his lips permanently placed a couple of feet higher.

And how do Pace and Rumsfeld show their love of the Lord? Maybe by sending 2,700+ additional reinforcements up to God’s Army.

(hat tip to Think Progress)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Bush thinks it’s all about him

George and George sat down for a chat yesterday. After the president gave up some time for a powwow with his electronic enablers, Bush made it look like he actually cares about everybody else by having a more public bull session with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. There’s much in the interview I could unpack, but I’m a little short for time, so I will just point you to this tidbit:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Tom Friedman wrote in the New York Times this morning that what we might be seeing now is the Iraqi equivalent of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam in 1968. Tony Snow this morning said, “He may be right.” Do you agree?

BUSH: He could be right. There’s certainly a stepped up level of violence, and we’re heading into an election.

(There’s video over at Think Progress.)

Most are making a big deal out of Bush agreeing with Tom Friedman (there’s a shocker) and how Bush has finally let the Vietnam analogy seep into his framing of the Iraq disaster, but I think it’s interesting to note that for President George, what really matters about the violence, the mass killings, the buckets of blood spilled in Iraq is that it might affect a US election.

Does Bush really, really think that Shiite militias or Sunni bombers are doing what they are doing because they have our elections on their mind? Are there no other issues there for the President?

Or does he really think about it at all?

Probably not. More likely, he just sees this the way he sees everything: through the lens of domestic politics. Why doesn’t Bush just ask Stephanopoulos straight out: How does this affect the Republican hold on power? What does this have to do with me?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

theater of blood

I call this picture: Torturers and the Men Who Love Them.

President Bush tried desperately to make his legalization of US government-sponsored kidnapping and torture a happy occasion, but some of his friends were party poopers.

Buffalo to host “taste of the big easy” week

Over thirteen months later, and it’s déjà vu all over again—only the temperatures have been changed. . . .

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The strain of last week's surprise 2-foot snowfall showed itself yesterday as people in shelters worried about flooding basements and fallen trees, and elected officials lashed out at the federal government's response to the storm.

With around-the-clock cleanup efforts continuing, nearly 150,000 homes and businesses remained without power and schools in Buffalo and surrounding towns said they would be unable to reopen until next week.

"We're four or five days into the (recovery)," Erie County Executive Joel Giambra said. "This is about the time where people's anger and frustration is at the boil-over point."

U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency's response in the region as inadequate, saying the agency had offered little guidance on reimbursement and loan programs and snubbed the city of Buffalo during a tour of damage this week.

I kind of think this should be a bigger story—especially with House seats in affected regions in play. I mean, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice. . . .

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

how do you tell a room full of millionaires to shut up?

OK, to be fair, the room was not full of just millionaires—there were film producers and movie stars, literary figures and journalists, ambassadors and former cabinet members filling out the crowd (but I’m not going to name drop, ‘cause I’m not that kind of blog)—and for all I know the millionaires weren’t the ones doing all the jabbering, anyway. But there we were, all 400 of us, or maybe more, crowded into a tenth floor reception room in the super-ugly Time Warner building, to honor producer Jane Rosenthal and Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, and to support the work of FilmAid International (more on them in a minute), and to be honored ourselves with a performance by Elvis Costello.

Yes, that Elvis Costello. Just him, an acoustic guitar, sittin’ on a stool, singing a few songs to those of us who chose to stand a few feet away. . . or, rather, to those of us who chose to listen!

OK, maybe I am just not world-weary enough.

I was lucky enough to be invited to this event (a Gala, they called it) by a friend—and I consider myself very lucky, indeed. It would have been cool to just put on the dog, drink cocktails, hear Ambassador Holbrooke speak, and see an old friend, but the chance to hear and see Elvis Costello in such an intimate setting was just outrageously exciting to me.

Clearly, I was in the minority.

Though the room was quite full, as the FilmAid board members and honorees spoke, people managed to be relatively attentive. And well they should have been. FilmAid does great work, bringing mobile, open air movie theaters to refugee camps, using the power of film to provide entertainment and diversion (via feature films and cartoons) for uprooted people, while also seizing the opportunity to promote health and community-building with educational films and public service announcements. They also do indoor educational screenings and workshops, and sponsor participatory video projects to help the displaced tell their own stories. (And more than all that, really—check out their website, and maybe even toss them a few dollars if you can spare it. Thanks.)

But after the serious matters at hand had been explained, the honorees honored, and the thank-yous exchanged, it came time for what I thought was a rather beautiful reward: a short performance by Mr. Costello.

Now, I admit, I have been a big Elvis enthusiast for decades, and I have seen him perform live countless times over the years, but whether you are big fan or a casual one, have seen him nine dozen times or never, surely you can appreciate his talent, his donation of his time, and the fact that he’s singing his heart out five yards away from your face!

I mean, I could appreciate that, but at least half the crowd (and I am probably being generous there) could not. Almost as soon as Elvis started singing River in Reverse, a loud wall of walla—noisy chitchat—went up in the room. Elvis sang louder—they all talked louder. Even (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding—a rather popular anthem these days—couldn’t get them to shut the hell up.

And it was a short set—as it was expected to be—but it was clearly too long for the glitterati who just desperately needed to talk for those twenty minutes to whomever it was they were standing next to. I mean, are they all really so jaded as to not be kind of just a little thrilled to have Elvis Costello support their cause and sing to them from a low stage within spitting distance? (Sorry, that’s the old punk in me.)

And I wanted to turn around and tell them all to knock it off, show a little respect, enjoy the privilege they’ve been permitted—but I didn’t know how. Still don’t, I’m afraid—and, gosh, if Elvis can’t get them to pay attention, I hardly expect I would have had much effect, anyway.

Still, you can’t help but want to quote that song—clichéd though it may be.

Monday, October 16, 2006

a quick word on words

I keep hearing that this election season will be a bad one for Republicans, and that bad things keep happening to Republicans that prevent them from getting their message out. This seems a little backwards to me. Bad things aren’t happening to Republicans—they are happening because of Republicans. The political climate is isn’t bad for Republicans; it is bad because of what they have done.

Reading the predicted realignment—the political “Tsunami” (as many are calling it, though I really thought we weren’t going to use that word anymore)—is not like plate tectonics or meteorology. Events are not part and parcel of some inexorable force or cosmic pattern given to analysis citing chaos theory and the phases of the moon. If voters choose Democrats over Republicans this November (and I would still counsel lowered expectations), it will be because of issues and events that have shaped voters’ opinions. The fiasco in Iraq, the Medicare drug debacle, and the Abramoff and Foley-Hastert scandals aren’t accidents of history, they are disasters of choice.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Iraq didn’t happen to Republicans, it happened because of Republicans.
  • Medicare part D didn’t happen to Republicans, it happened because of Republicans.
  • Jack Abramoff didn’t happen to Republicans, Jack Abramoff is a Republican, and his Republican friends traded political favors for cash and gifts.
  • Mark Foley didn’t happen to Republicans, Mark Foley is a Republican, and Dennis Hastert, Tom Reynolds, John Boehner, John Shimkus, Jim Kolbe, Rodney Alexander, and Karl Rove—all men who knew about Representative Foley’s actions months or years ago—are all Republicans, too (in fact, they actively conspired to hide Foley’s problems from Democrats and the general public).
  • Torture at Abu Ghraib, at Guantanamo Bay, and at secret prisons around the world didn’t happen to Republicans, it was approved and orchestrated by Republicans.
  • The failure to respond quickly and appropriately to Hurricane Katrina, and the failure since to rebuild New Orleans and care for the displaced didn’t happen to Republicans, it happened because Republicans were and are in charge.
  • Parts of Afghanistan are slipping back into Taliban hands because Republicans were hot to leave that battle unfinished in order to invade Iraq.
  • The deficit is growing because of Republicans, so is the gap between rich and poor.

And that’s just top of mind. . . .

I fully expect that analysis will continue to exist in the abstract, as will post-mortems after November 7—it would be good to remind the analysts that the Republicans, and those that have to live with what Republicans have done, live very much in the concrete.

Friday, October 13, 2006

the shit on E. coli

Well, all us spinach lovers are qualifiedly overjoyed at the possible discovery of the source of the E. coli contamination. . . almost. . .

WASHINGTON (Oct. 13) - The same strain of deadly bacteria that sickened dozens of people nationwide has been found at a cattle ranch in California's Salinas Valley within a mile of spinach fields, investigators said Thursday.

Investigators still can't be sure if the E. coli found in cow manure contaminated the fields, but said the find warrants further investigation.

"We do not have a smoking cow at this point," said Dr. Kevin Reilly, deputy director of the Prevention Services Division of the California Department of Health Services. Nevertheless, Reilly called the match an important finding.

Smoking cow—that just kills me. . . anyway. . . .

While it may look like a nice, neat, bovine bow, the fact that cows are letting it all hang out right next to the spinach patch is not, in and of itself, the problem.

Yes, in our overdeveloped, overpopulated land-o-plenty, we are crowding livestock and farmland cheek by jowl, and that ain’t good, but, if you think back to olden days, you might conjure up images of farmers with cows and crops all integrated and commingled. . . and yet, look closely, do you see any E. coli contamination?

Well, of course you don’t—bacteria are very small!

No, but, seriously, you probably wouldn’t see it because it probably wasn’t there. You see, in those happy olden days, happy golden days of yore, cows ate grass and hay, and had very little of this particular lethal strain of E. coli in their intestines, Ergo, there was very little of this nasty bacteria in their, you know, shit, either.

Today, industrially farmed cattle feed primarily on a diet of corn, because the government heavily subsidizes corn production, and there is a glut of corn. Or, to put it simply, corn is dirt-cheap.

But cows are ruminants, and corn really doesn’t agree with the ruminant tummy. They get gas, and infections, and have to be fed antibiotics to keep some really nasty gastric, uh, crap, at bay. And, worst of all in this case, the acidity of their digestive tract changes because of all this unnatural tampering. I can’t do the science justice, but the end result is that this one deadly version of E. coli, normally no match for the acid in human stomachs, has evolved to thrive in the corny cows, and thus can often endure our acid tongues (and stomachs, and intestines), too.

It gets complicated from here, but those complications are simply the result of cheap corn. No cheap corn and maybe cows go back to eating their preferred hay and such, and then they probably have much less bad shit in their shit. Then they can hang out next to the spinach, and, while I still don’t advocate casual commingling, the chances of the recent coli calamity are much, much smaller. . .

. . . like bacteria small.

Continue with current farm policy, and it is almost guaranteed that there will be plenty more smoking cows. . . and lots more shitty spinach.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bush: I was for diplomacy before I was against it. . . and vice versa

I have spent far too many hours trying to come up with a cogent way of explaining this, and I’m making myself crazy. . . .

In his Wednesday presser, President Bush said something like: the difference between Iraq and North Korea is that we had exhausted negotiations with Iraq, so we had to use force—the inference being that we had not exhausted negotiations with North Korea. Then Bush rejected negotiations with North Korea because talks won’t work because North Korea doesn’t want peace, and so, the only route to take with North Korea is to insist on six-party talks.


You don’t believe me, do you? I spent all Wednesday waiting for the transcript to be posted so that I could give it to you verbatim, and now I see that the New York Times was at least half as amused as I was; they lead with it in their coverage—it’s too long to block quote, but it’s a short article, go over and read it.

Why is Bush doing back-flips trying to explain his actions regarding a region he can’t even pronounce (over and over, he called it the “Korean Puh-nin-chula”)? Well, much to the surprise of Republicans, who initially thought that the North Korean nuke test was the best thing to happen to them since 9/11, Pyongyang’s fireworks seem to be evolving into what the Times says some presidential advisors see as “a political liability for Republicans” this election season.

Indeed, it seems that in their rush to place blame for this failure squarely on the shoulders of President Bill Clinton, the Republicans—John McCain (Asshole-AZ) being the most visible—have opened themselves up to. . . well. . . the truth.

(And if you don’t like the Think Progress analysis linked to above, you will find similar doubts in the NYT article, and an even more critical look at the Republican finger-pointing in a Washington Post piece by Glenn Kessler.)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Bush admits it’s a war for oil

Make this new Iraqi war rationale number. . . oh, hell, I’ve lost count.

George Bush is holding a press conference at this very hour (it’s still going as I write this), and he has just said that we need to be in Iraq because the region is rich with oil and we need to secure that oil to keep it and its wealth from falling into the hands of the terrorists.

Maybe I’ll write more when I stop laughing.

Update: The text of the presser is now up. Here's the exact quote:

We can't tolerate a new terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East, with large oil reserves that could be used to fund its radical ambitions, or used to inflict economic damage on the West.

the elephant in the room

WASHINGTON — In the wake of three deadly school shootings in recent weeks, President Bush convened a conference on school safety Tuesday in which Cabinet members, educators, police and students discussed ways to recognize and prevent violence.

Conspicuously absent in the all-day session was any mention of the role of firearms in the shootings, a politically volatile issue sure to inflame partisan passions in a midterm election year.

That really says it all, but I’ll add this:

If there is one thing that links together all of the horrific school shootings this year and in years past, it would be—duh!—guns. We can talk about all sorts of programs to encourage healthy communities and safe schools (and these are programs that the Bush Administration has consistently sought to cut), but if you aren’t going to talk about the damn guns, then you are just wasting our time.

The pro-shooting-people lobby will argue that it would be besides the point to talk about guns because the guy in Lancaster County had obtained his three guns legally. To this I say: That is exactly the point.

Legally or illegally, it is far too easy to buy a gun in this country. . . far too easy. And it is the pro-gun lobby—the NRA and their lily-livered supporters—that has worked overtime to make it so very easy to buy a gun (and another gun, and another gun) legally. In addition, it is those same people, with their political allies, that have worked to make the most lethal guns legal, too—do not forget that it was President Bush and his rubberstamp Republican Congress that allowed the assault weapons ban to lapse two years ago. For the President to convene yet another bullshit photo-op panel and murmur some tired clichés about violence without mentioning the instrument of the violence is not only tedious, it is hypocritical and it is offensive.

Once again, electoral politics trumps human need. Protecting Republican power supersedes protecting people—in this case, school children.

Indeed, the only thing Republicans seem interested in protecting are their own asses—not kids in schools, not pages in Congress, not soldiers in the field, not Americans from terrorism, or food-borne illness, not Africans from genocide, not Iraqis from sectarian violence, not the world from nuclear proliferation or global warming—just their own elephantine butts.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

hot and steamy bush

According to New York Daily News Washington Bureau Chief Thomas DeFrank, State of Denial and Predagate have the President all hot and bothered. Be it Bob Woodward’s pen or Mark Foley’s thumb, something has reportedly crawled up GW’s ass.

Bush is furious with his own side for helping create a political downdraft that has blunted his momentum and endangered GOP prospects for keeping control of Congress next month.

Some of his anger is directed at former aides who helped Watergate journalist Bob Woodward paint a lurid portrait of a dysfunctional, chaotic administration in his new book, "State of Denial."

. . . .

"He's ticked off big-time," said a well-informed source, "even if what they said was the truth."

. . . .

Moreover, Bush's personal disgust with the GOP sex scandal involving ex-Rep. Mark Foley has exacerbated his already-strained relations with congressional Republicans. While publicly embracing House Speaker Dennis Hastert, sources close to Bush say he thinks Hastert and other GOP House leaders have bungled their handling of the Foley affair and look like they've been engaged in a coverup.

Bush has complained, these sources said, that the scandal torpedoes furious GOP efforts to reenergize a dispirited political base - especially Christian conservatives.

"There's steam coming out of his ears over the Foley thing," someone who talks to the President regularly said. "The base is starting to get turned off again."

A few things stand out for me (beyond the amusing image of Bush turning bright red and having cartoon train whistle steam blow out of his ears): First, note that the downturn in President Bush’s fortunes is not in any way perceived by him as being his fault. Things aren’t bad because of what he’s done, they’re bad because people talked about what he’s done. He’s “ticked off” even if people told the truth.

Second, observe how little true fealty Bush has for his enablers in Congress, AKA the Rubberstamp Republicans. They have given him all the tools this unitary executive could ask for claim as his by right, and yet, when things go wrong, he’d just as soon throw them all under the bus. (And, by the way, Bush’s public embrace of Hastert is easily parsed to reveal very little support at all.)

Third, notice that nothing is about the issue at hand—Iraq, sexual predators, congressional corruption, Korean nukes (in Woodward’s book, and this article, not in the article above)—it is about electoral politics. (I actually find it a bit funny that things have transitioned so quickly from trying to attribute grand policy objectives to this administration’s actions to matter-of-factly reporting that this or that, foreign or domestic, is designed to energize the base, raise presidential poll numbers, or undercut the Democrats. It is reported without a hint of cynicism, as if it is natural, right, and fair to expect a president to act in his own self interest rather than that of the country he is sworn to protect. One step at a time, I suppose. At least reports now acknowledge the actual motivation.)

How does a president claim dictatorial powers for his office and then blame others for things going awry? How does a man reconcile a selfish “it’s all about me” worldview with a complete absence of personal responsibility for anything his worldview does to the world?

(Hat tips all around to Think Progress, AmericaBlog, and Taegan Goddard—apparently, it takes a village to get me to read my "hometown paper.")

Monday, October 09, 2006

Joe blow

What’s the expression? Success has many mothers; failure is an orphan? Well, the Los Angeles Dodgers failure to advance in the playoffs—failure to win even one game against the Mets—is far from motherless. There is plenty of blame to go around: Rich Donnelly, J.D. Drew, Kenny Lofton, Brad Penny, and Brett Tomko all had a seriously sub-par series. Wilson Betemit, Jonathan Broxton, Greg Maddux, and Rafael Furcal were mixed at best. Grady Little’s choices for pinch hitters, defensive substitutions, and relievers at any given time could easily be questioned. Even Jeff Kent, who was a hitting machine in the three games, can be called on the carpet for failing to score from second on Russell Martin’s hit off the wall in game one.

But I think, if the goat horns are going to be handed out for the mess that was the NLDS, they have to go to a Dodger that never saw game action this post-season, to a Dodger that never even made it onto the post-season roster: Joe Beimel.

Beimel managed to go from a non-roster invitee sent to AAA Vegas to start the season to an essential piece of the Dodgers relief corps, appearing in 62 games as a lefty specialist and the set-up man’s set-up man. It’s the kind of success that deserves a toast. Alas, Beimel decided to toast himself.

Reports have it that on his first night in New York, Beimel, and maybe a couple of other Dodgers, went drinking. Curfew for players was 12 midnight, but at 2:30 Tuesday morning, Beimel was still in a Manhattan bar. It was there (and not in his hotel room, as he initially told team officials) that Joe gashed open his pitching hand on a broken glass.

Napkins, towels, and, later, a team trainer’s stitches failed to stop the bleeding. Beimel could not grip a baseball and had to be left off of the Dodgers’ official 25-man roster. It wasn’t until he was sent back to LA for plastic surgery that Beimel admitted to cutting his hand in a bar, and not in his hotel bathroom. He also apparently told the LA Times before he told team officials.

With a key component to his bullpen missing, Dodgers manager Grady Little was forced to improvise—and it didn’t come out so well. . . in fact, it really sucked.

If initial comments by players and management are to be, well, interpreted, if not exactly believed, then Beimel won’t be a Dodger next year. . . but that wont settle it for me.

You see, I want to know: What Manhattan bar? What New York nightspot was so hot that this Broadway Joe had to stay for a nightcap. . . or two. . . or three? What Big Apple boite is so much fun that it supplants your first taste of playoff action?

Where did you go, Joe? I really want to know.

Now, I don’t really expect Joe Beimel to tell me, or anyone else for that matter, where he sliced open his left hand and sliced out the hearts of so many Dodgers fans, so I turn to the blogosphere: Name that bar.

I’ve googled a million permutations and read about as many versions of the same article. . . but I can’t find a name. So, you out there, loyal readers, and those that just entered search terms like “baseball,” “playoffs,” “Dodgers,” “Beimel,” and/or “total fuckup,” please help me. I am in New York and I want to know where this place is.

Hey, maybe Beimel was set up—this is hostile territory after all—maybe the bartender slipped him a dangerously cracked glass. I can research this, but only if I know where to look. Help me name that bar!

Friday, October 06, 2006

the single alcoholic theory -or- be careful what you wish for

I feel it coming on like a bad cold.

Should the Democrats manage to win enough seats to regain control of the House, it will be because of Mark Foley.

I don’t actually believe that, but that is the story you will hear—over and over—should the Democrats win a substantial number of races on 11/7. Forget the fiasco in Iraq, forget the failure to “secure the homeland,” or to catch bin Laden, forget the resurgence of the Taliban, forget the incompetence of the Katrina response, forget the 48 million without health insurance, the disastrous “donut hole,” the growing disparity between rich and poor, the failure to raise the minimum wage, forget Jack Abramoff, forget condoning torture and stripping habeas rights, forget the illegal domestic surveillance, forget Congress ceding all oversight responsibilities to a “unitary executive,” forget rubberstamping every corporate giveaway, every raiding of the federal coffers that the White House can cook up. . . .

Forget seeing the November election as a referendum on the Bush Administration and its craven cronies on Capitol Hill. . . the Republicans failed because of a lone alcoholic homosexual: Mark Foley.

Add to the mix the already far too popular myths that this scandal was orchestrated by the Democrats and that Foley was protected by a “gay cabal,” and you’ve got a two-year excuse for staying the course.

Forewarned is forearmed.

(cross-posted on Daily Kos)

senator calls for another half-Friedman

Republican Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee John Warner:

In two or three months if this thing hasn’t come to fruition and this level of violence is not under control, I think it’s a responsibility of our government to determine: Is there a change of course we should take?

Give Iraq till after the election, and then ask a question—now that’s a plan!

(Oh, what’s a “Friedman,” you ask? I’ll let FAIR explain it.)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

which comes first. . .

. . . Hastert steps down as Speaker, or the US picks a hot war with Iran?

The Eisenhower Battle Group—the “Ike strike”—sailed from Norfolk on Tuesday. They are due in the Persian Gulf on 10/21.

Not to be outdone, the bell-ringer of IL-14 was a no-show for a Wednesday night radio interview, and has scheduled a press conference for Thursday morning.

It’s October. . . surprise!

Let's add fuel to the fire: I was going to give you a link to Hastert’s IL-14 page, but, as of this posting (3am EDT), that link has stopped working. There is still the Google-cached version, complete with pre-weekend-scrubbing references to “keeping kids safe in cyberspace.”

Update: Link to Hastert’s page is back up. All the stuff about cyberspace that was taken off over the weekend is still MIA. Hastert is due to start his press conference at 12:00 1:00 after lunch 1:45 sometime soon.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

mississippi goddamn!

Senator Trent Lott is a racist. He’s not a behind closed doors racist—he’s an out loud and proud one. It’s really that simple—or at least should be.

First, there were the remarks about Strom Thurmond’s Dixiecrat run at the White House—implying that if we’d all just supported the segregationist Thurmond back in ’48, America would be a better place today. That public proclamation cost him his party leadership position.

But that was four years ago, and, at least according to the handicappers, voters have a short memory. So, let’s all thank Trent for reminding us about his worldview.

First, there was this gem, made last week after emerging from a meeting with the President and Vice President:

Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me.

I know, I know—what he really wanted to say was, “Why can’t we all just get along?” Right?

Well, Jon Stewart gave Senator Lott a chance to polish his remarks—a do-over, really. Here’s Lott’s revised assessment of the violence in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East:

STEWART: There was one other thing that you mentioned after your meeting with President Bush that I wanted you to have a chance to address. You mentioned Sunnis and Shiites are fighting each other and we don’t know why they are doing that. And why should they fight each other, and who the hell knows the difference, or something along those lines. Do you want to address that quote in some way. I was trying to be delicate about this.

LOTT: I certainly didn’t mean to offend Muslims, but one of the points that I’ve made –

STEWART: You better not.

LOTT: I never have understood why people kill each other over religion, number one.

STEWART: Nice, I appreciate that, that’s nice.

LOTT: I always had trouble understanding — Iraqis look like Iraqis, and Americans look like Americans. Now I can’t tell –

STEWART: You mean that as unity, not as what the hell, they all look alike to me.

LOTT: Methodist, Baptists, and Catholics live in my hometown. They all look the same to me, they all look like Americans.

It’s amazing, because, as you see, to read or watch it, Stewart actually tries to help Lott out—a couple of times—but the Senator keeps on going in the same direction. He truly doesn’t get it—because deep down, Trent Lott is a racist.

So, why is it that there seems to be no chance in hell that Lott will lose his bid for another term this November? Is it just, well, you know, that it’s Mississippi? I don’t want to engage in my own stereotyping. I’ve gotta think that many registered voters in The Magnolia State are offended by Lott’s vision of a lilywhite paradise. But whom are they going to vote for instead of Trent Lott?

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Honorable Erik R. Fleming, Democratic nominee for Senate from Mississippi.

I know very little about Fleming (and a night’s worth of searching hasn’t helped much). I know that he won the nomination after a hard primary battle and a run-off. I know that his website looks like it was designed by a ninth grade computer lab. I know that his Wikipedia page mentions strong ties to Lyndon LaRouche—though, Fleming, to his credit, now calls his support of “Lyn” a mistake. I know that he loves Mississippi. . . and Christ. . . a lot. And I know that he really wants to be on Oprah

Oh, and Fleming has a blog!

. . . which he doesn’t really post on very often.

I know I’m not being fair. Fleming is a Mississippi State Representative, and for all I know, he may be a really great guy. But, from looking at his site and what little else I can find, it doesn’t seem he’s a really great candidate.

So, next time you hear some beltway big shot (Rahm? Paul?) mouthing off about how DNC Chair Howard Dean is wasting Democratic Party money on his 50 State Strategy, point to Mississippi and shout, “Goddamn!”

When effective state organizations and quality candidates are in place for every race, you then have a chance to capitalize on “slips” like Lott’s—and then pick up what was considered a safe Republican seat. That’s what has happened in Rep. Mark "Maf54" Foley’s district (vote for Democrat Tim Mahoney). . . and in Senator George "Macaca" Allen’s state (vote for Democrat James Webb).


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

most guys just push their kids too hard in little league

Much has been made, and perhaps rightly so, about revelations in Bob Woodward’s latest, State of Denial, that detail an urgent July, 2001, meeting between CIA chief George Tenet, his Coordinator of Counterterrorism, J. Cofer Black, and then National Security Advisor Condi Rice (true, it’s more of the same—the Bush administration is incompetent at best, and likely was actively pushing aside warnings about an imminent al Qaeda attack—but I’m not averse to piling on when it comes to this point), but something else contained in Woodward’s book, something sent out in a teaser last week, has me just as, or maybe more, alarmed:

Woodward also reports that the president and vice president often meet with Henry Kissinger, who was President Richard Nixon’s secretary of state, as an adviser. Says Woodward, “Now what’s Kissinger’s advice? In Iraq, he declared very simply, ‘Victory is the only meaningful exit strategy.’” Woodward adds. “This is so fascinating. Kissinger’s fighting the Vietnam War again because, in his view, the problem in Vietnam was we lost our will.”

The idea that Bush and Cheney are taking their Iraq strategy cues from the architect of Nixon’s “Secret Plan™ to end the Vietnam War” (in reality, the carpet bombing of North Vietnam and Cambodia) is just about the worst case of making up for the shortcomings of a feckless youth that I’ve ever seen.

The President and Vice President—for all intents draft dodgers during the Vietnam War—are now out to prove they were not just candy-assed kids with good connections by re-enacting their Vietnam years with the lives of a new generation of American soldiers. And who’s their drill sergeant in this fantasy boot camp? Why it’s Mr. “Sideshow” himself, Hank Kissinger, out to prove that if it weren’t for the weak-kneed politicians of the Nixon era, he would not have “lost” to the Vietcong and their commie state sponsors.

Like I say in the headline, most dads are content to just ruin (in relative terms) the lives of their own kids—by pushing them too hard in one direction or another—in order to make up for their own perceived inadequacies, but that Bush, Cheney, and Kissinger are taking their frustrations out on an entire country by sacrificing the lives and limbs of thousands of other people’s the sons and daughters, well, it is not only a perfect illustration of the old axiom, “Those that do not learn history are doomed to repeat it”—or, better, this old axiom, “The sins of the father afflict unto the several generations”—it is one of the most odious and disturbing revelations in Woodward’s book.

(cross-posted over at Daily Kos)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

is it ok to blog on yom kippur?

Just asking.