Wednesday, May 31, 2006

tea party time

It seems the Bush Administration and its rubber-stampers on the Hill have taken the old battle cry of “No Taxation without Representation,” and reinvented it as a cynical political strategy.

In spite of claims that he would never raise taxes, this President Bush has also failed the lip-reading test. By signing the latest tax “cut” bill into law, GW Bush raised taxes on groups that can’t vote or tend not to.

As the New York Times reported last week, the law that will again cut taxes for the richest Americans, triples the rates paid by teenagers on college savings funds.

And, as pointed out by the Times this week (via Think Progress and AmericaBlog), the new tax law also raises the amount paid by Americans living abroad.

Once again, the Republicans in Congress and the White House have used the Federal Tax Code as a campaign tool. The newest cuts serve to energize the base (“This is an impressive crowd—the haves and the have mores. Some people call you the elites; I call you my base.”) by reminding them of why they vote Republican, and Republicans pay for those irresponsible tax cuts by increasing taxes on teenagers, who don’t have the vote, and on ex-pats, who tend to vote at one-quarter of domestic rates.

The Battle Hymn of the Republican: No representation? Ripe for taxation.

Monday, May 29, 2006

lessons learned, my ass

For memorial day. . .

This face.

This quote:
Saying, "Bring it on"; kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong signal to people. I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner, you know. "Wanted, dead or alive"; that kind of talk. I think in certain parts of the world it was misinterpreted. And so I learned from that.

These numbers:

2, 463


Comedy v. Satire

On Friday, over at Huffington Post, Rachel Sklar writes of (dare I call it) a phenomenon of which, I’m afraid, many of us are all too aware, bad politics make for good humor. Sklar mentions Stephen Colbert’s now infamous speech, Robert Smigel’s recent edition of “Fun with Real Audio,” and a new book from Sam Seder and Stephen Sherrill, F.U.B.A.R.: America’s Right-Wing Nightmare, and concludes it’s all “damn funny stuff,” “until you consider the source material.”

There is lots of good political humor these days, but it would be a whole lot funnier—and I agree with Rachel here—if we were laughing at a miserable period that we had now put solidly behind us. The fact that we are still listening to these jokes in Bush World ™, makes it hard to just let go and laugh. As Sklar concludes, “Carol Burnett said ‘comedy is tragedy plus time.’”

Now wait a minute, I thought, I was with you, Rachel, until you said "Carol Burnett." I read the “tragedy plus time” construction and exclaimed, “That’s not Carol, that’s Lenny!”

Well, I got to Googling, and it appears we’re both kind of right.

Burnett does seem to get the lion's share of the credit for "Comedy equals tragedy plus time," but she essentially stole the line from Lenny Bruce, who said, "Satire is tragedy plus time." Carol's version is a little more user-friendly and multi-purpose, I suppose, but, as I thought about it, I wondered, is there any comedy that stems from the "tragedy plus time" equation that isn't satire?

All three of Sklar’s examples are, indeed, solidly in the satire camp. In fact, I am hard pressed to think of any political humor that isn't essentially satire.

Now, I was going to say that I am hard-pressed to find any comedy that isn't satire, or, by reduction, tragedy plus time. . . but then it hit me like a Sledge-O-Matic: Gallagher.

Not a lot of tragedy in smashing watermelons.

Unless you're the watermelon.

And speaking of watermelon, happy official unofficial beginning of summer, everyone.

Update: I was just thinking, America is kind of the watermelon to Bush’s Gallagher. . . and the President practices statecraft with about as much subtlety as Gallagher practices the comic arts.

Give it two-and-a-half years. . . it’ll be funny.

(I hope.)

Friday, May 26, 2006

I get up every morning have pancakes for breakfast

Desmond Dekker, ska and reggae pioneer, rude boy icon, influential mod, and the “Desmond” that Paul McCartney refers to in “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” died this week. He was 64.

Dekker’s song, "Israelites," was the first purely Jamaican reggae song to make the charts in the United States (it topped the UK charts), and is one of the few reggae songs I can actually say that I love.

"Israelites" is also the parent of perhaps my most ridiculous mondegreen. I really don’t know what the first line to this song is (few do, I discovered, when I heard the remembrance on Friday’s All Things Considered), but what could be more inspiring than pancakes?!?

it’s Friday, and you need a Fitz fix. . . .

Go read this piece in the National Journal.

Novak and Ashcroft and Rove—oh, my!

at least teens don’t tend to go bankrupt (I think)

Woe unto you if you are a Veteran or a teenager.

In the news this week:

The missing Veterans Affairs laptop that contained the names and birthdates of some 26.5 million vets (19.6 million of those names come with Social Security numbers) is still missing.

Though there is no evidence that this is anything but a common burglary with a very lucky score, the owner of said laptop made a habit of taking home veterans’ personal information, and there are rumors in a couple of comment threads that this is an intentional identity theft scheme gone bad. . . I’m waiting for a solid source to link to. . . watch this space, as they say.

And, while we’re trading in link-free “news,” I just heard a report on the hourly headlines that a couple of guys were arrested in California for hacking in and stealing personal info from MySpace, and then trying to extort MySpace for “return” of the information. (Yes, it sounds a little half-baked, but the report named two guys who were arrested, I have searched and searched for a written version, but I have yet to find one. . . um, yeah, watch this pace.)

Of course, if you are a victim of this 21st Century crime, and you have to declare bankruptcy because identity theft has just destroyed your finances, you needn’t worry, because we just “updated” the bankruptcy code. . . right?


Though such protection was talked about during last year’s debate, an amendment to the bankruptcy bill that was specifically designed to protect identity theft victims was voted down by the Senate.

Update: OK, I know, I know. . . MySpace isn’t just for teenagers anymore. Call me old fashioned.

Update 2: OK, I promised a link and follow-up on the MySpace story. It seems the two teens tried to extort money from MySpace by threatening to tell everyone how to steal personal information off of said site unless MySpace (owned by NewsCorp) paid them a big fat $150,000. $150,000--that’s what to NewsCorp? They probably spend more than that on Vegemite. Like I’ve said before, never steal anything small.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

think fast, Mr. Gonzo

Actually, you don’t have to be the foxiest Attorney General of them all when you have the Washington Post asking the questions.

who gets thrown under the bus?

The AP is reporting that a recent court filing by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald suggests that Vice President Dick Cheney could be called to testify in the trial of his former henchman Scooter Libby.

Cheney would be a logical government witness because he could authenticate notes he jotted on a July 6, 2003, New York Times opinion piece by a former U.S. ambassador critical of the Iraq war.

Fitzgerald said Cheney’s “state of mind” is “directly relevant” to whether I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the vice president’s former top aide, lied to FBI agents and a federal grand jury about how he learned about CIA officer Valerie Plame’s identity and what he subsequently told reporters.

Libby “shared the interests of his superior and was subject to his direction,” the prosecutor wrote. “Therefore, the state of mind of the vice president as communicated to (the) defendant is directly relevant to the issue of whether (the) defendant knowingly made false statements to federal agents and the grand jury regarding when and how he learned about (Plame’s) employment and what he said to reporters regarding this issue.”

So what do you think? If (and I think this is a big, big “if”) Vice President Cankles is called to the stand, do you think he’ll back up his former loyal servant on this, or contradict him? Or, will he take the 5th? (That would be a good one, no?)

Or, will he just grunt, say “9/11” a couple of times, and then use the witness stand as a soapbox to once again lie about the non-existent connections between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda?

Yeah, I’m feeling that one, too. I guess when the Veep is involved, the truth gets thrown under the bus.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

turn, turn, turn. . . .

Can’t Bush at least wait a month before he repeats his hackneyed homilies?

Why, it was only three weeks ago when I noted that I was tired of “turning,” and yet, on Monday:

There have been setbacks and missteps, like Abu Ghraib. They were felt immediately and have been difficult to overcome. Yet, we have now reached a turning point in the struggle between freedom and terror.

[emphasis added]

I hereby declare that we are going around in circles in Iraq. . . and I think the President does, too.

Moving right along, is anyone else out there as offended as I am at hearing Bush call Abu Ghraib a “setback” or a “misstep” (take your pick)? American soldiers torturing people under the color of authority is not a “misstep”; irreparably damaging US credibility and ceding the moral high ground is not a “setback.” I am amazed that even the talking heads of the establishment media could play this clip without spitting fire.

And, in related a related story:

Lord I’m one, lord I’m two, lord I’m three, lord I’m four. . . .

Not content with turning corners again, Bush’s Monday speech also managed to claim that Iraq had reached a “milestone”—again. How many miles is that now, Mr. President? According to dday, it’s at least twelve.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

what Al Gore doesn’t want you to know. . . about wine

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a pro-hydrocarbon front group funded by big oil, has produced two commercials to counteract what they term a “smear campaign” against carbon dioxide. The commercials, which were released in response to the new Al Gore vehicle, An Inconvenient Truth, pretty much scream “Saturday Night Live commercial parody” in an effort to defend the much-maligned gas—so, if nothing else, they should remind us that CO2 can be fun.

The problem with the ads, from a marketer’s standpoint, is that they only sell the benefits of current carbon dioxide levels. In order to overcome existing “barriers to use” (as we call it in the biz), the CEI needs to explain the benefits of rising levels of greenhouse gasses.

Which brings us to a little grape known as Cabernet Franc. In his ode to this underappreciated varietal, Mike Steinberger of Slate writes of the red wines of the Loire Valley, which depend heavily on Cab Franc. The reds of Loire are often dismissed as thin and weedy, which is, in large part, due to the cooler climate of the region. The problem is that the grapes do not get enough warm weather in which to ripen. . . or, at least, that used to be the problem.

. . . as it happens, the weather in the Loire seems to be getting more agreeable. Kermit Lynch, who has been importing Joguet into the United States for 30 years, recalls that during his first decade representing Joguet, there was one outstanding red-wine vintage, four reasonably good ones, and five difficult years (cool weather, lots of rain). But between 1995 and 2004, there wasn't a dog to be found; by Lynch's reckoning, the decade featured seven excellent red wine vintages and three good ones. He says better viticulture is one reason for the region's improved batting average, but a bigger factor is more consistently dry and warm weather, a development he puts down to global warming.

It’s a perfect case, really. The largest consumers of fossil fuels—the largest producers of greenhouse gasses—are relatively affluent people in relatively affluent countries. Who could possibly care more about improved Loire vintages? You couldn’t get better-targeted data if you asked the George Tenet to compile it himself.

Of course, an out-of-touch, super-rich, elitist guy like Al Gore who can pop open a $400 Cheval Blanc anytime he wants doesn’t understand the needs of your average, upwardly mobile, SUV driver. What does he care about a better $20 bottle of Chinon? Why, he’s probably worried about protecting the value of his own, no doubt first growth-heavy, cellar.

Who really has our best interests at heart? It’s up to the CEI to tell us.

Friday, May 19, 2006

casting a Paul over the party

I once met Paul Begala, briefly, years ago, and I liked him. His handshake was a little weak, but he looked me in the eye and seemed sincere when we talked, and that goes a long way in my book.

So, I’m having a hard time understanding Mr. Begala’s behavior these days. He’s a committed Democrat, I think he thinks he’s a progressive, and I know he likes winning. There are probably a lot of people in the party who would love to benefit from his knowledge and hands-on experience, but instead of working constructively with the current party leadership to stick it to the Republicans come November, he seems oddly eager to stick it to some Democrats instead.

Paul is very concerned about the state of the Democratic National Committee’s bank balance, but rather than look the DNC Chairman in the eye and ask sincere questions, Begala has decided to “help” the Party through sarcasm and rumor.

thank you, Michael Weiss

I’ll happily excuse the misspelling, and thank the author of Today’s Blogs for reading and appreciating my capitoilette piece on Adam Nagourney. . . and for sending all those Slate readers my way!

New York lefty "Guy2K" at Capitolette [sic] pounces on Nagourney's hypothetical fear of Democratic "payback" as one justification for repainting the House red: 'Payback' also sounds like 'politics as usual'—divisive, inside-the-beltway squabbling—rather than governing in the interests of those outside the beltway."

Weiss has links to some other good posts about AdNags, so click on over and take a look.

Update: Rachael Larimore, editor of Today’s Blogs, has been kind enough to post a correction and add the missing “i”—thanks Rachael!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

brief encounter

The White House and its Puppet Senator, Pat Roberts (R-KS), are making a big show of their sudden decision to brief all members of both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees (something they have always been required to do by law, but who’s going to let a silly little thing like a law gum-up the works?) on the NSA phone and data surveillance program that, of course, they can’t confirm or deny (though blabbermouth traitors like President Bush and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) have confirmed it).

Woohoo! Break out the bubbly. In order to insure a smooth confirmation for Michael Hayden, the administration caves to bipartisan congressional pressure, right?

Wrong. It occurred to me the minute I heard about this, and after surfing through a few reports, I have found complete confirmation of my suspicions:

Republican lawmakers cited ancillary benefits to the expanded briefings. The White House had previously expressed concerns that details of the program might leak out if more lawmakers were briefed on it. But senior congressional aides said that because of the rules of handling classified information, members who are briefed will likely have to be more circumspect in their public discussions of it, blunting their ability to criticize it. The aides spoke on condition of anonymity, citing a lack of authority to address the press.

"When they know about it, they are obligated to be quiet," said one senior Republican Senate aide.

I can’t put it any more simply—thank you “Republican Senate aide.”

It will smooth confirmation, all right, but not by encouraging Senate-White House cooperation. The administration is out to silence critics and thwart oversight. . . again.

Though, I must admit, I don’t know why the White House goes to so much trouble trying to avoid coming forward with the truth. Why not just make it legal to lie? Oh, they already did.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

happiness is a warm pupa

File it under the most delicious thing I never want to eat again.

Near the corner of Lafayette and Broadway is an Asian stall mall (if I can call it that), and in one stall is DeliManjoo, home of two crazy machines that bake and package the tasty morsels pictured above. The machines are almost worth the price of admission all by themselves (especially since it’s free to just watch), but for a mere $3, you can get a bag containing a dozen freshly baked, individually wrapped cakes. . . cakes filled with piping hot custard!

The custard is actually dangerously hot, but the cake is so warm and moist that you feel compelled to risk it—over and over—because you know they won’t be nearly as good once they cool down. (And they’re not, I “checked.”) So, you keep peeling away the crinkly cellophane, and you keep eating the hot, little. . . they’re supposed to be little ears of corn, but sitting there, in their shiny, steamed-up cocoons, they really do resemble adolescent moths. . . . Hmmm, best not to think about that.

Or maybe you should, since it might discourage you from eating all twelve. Because, while I do recommend a trip to DeliManjoo, I recommend that you go with hungry friends, and share your bag of steaming hot custard-filled pupae. I ate all twelve by myself and learned a hard lesson: Like swimming and drinking, DeliManjoo is something you should learn to do, but never do alone.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Stix Nix Bush Ticks

And you thought that live Will & Grace sucked!

George Bush’s attempt to recapture pre-Katrina ratings glory got off to a rocky start Monday when the President began his speech too soon, stopped, made one heck of a goofy face (cue laugh track!), and then started again from the top. If the reason behind this former media star’s live hiccup wasn’t immediately obvious, the metaphor it embodied for a long-running series now out of good storylines was.

5th amendment, we hardly knew ye

Magorn, a diarist over at dKos, posted a story last night that made me go “wow”—not just because of the striking content, but because almost no one seems to have paid this any attention.

Last Tuesday’s Washington Post (yes, last Tuesday’s) ran a story on page A16 about the case of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri:

A federal magistrate judge yesterday recommended rejecting a petition by the sole remaining enemy combatant being held on U.S. soil, finding that Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri had not offered persuasive evidence rebutting the government's allegations against him.

Marri, a Qatari national, has been held in a military brig in South Carolina since being accused in June 2003 of being an al-Qaeda "sleeper" agent sent to the United States to mount attacks after the Sept. 11, 2001, jetliner hijackings. Marri has filed a petition in federal court alleging that he is being held unlawfully and deprived of rights of due process.

But in a sharply worded 16-page report, Magistrate Judge Robert C. Carr of the U.S. District Court of South Carolina upbraided Marri for declining to address detailed allegations contained in a declassified government report outlining his alleged links to al-Qaeda.

"The petitioner's refusal . . . is either a sophomoric approach to a serious issue, or worse, an attempt to subvert the judicial process and flout due process," Carr wrote. "The petitioner has squandered his opportunity to be heard by purposely not participating in a meaningful way."

(emphasis mine)

As Magorn makes clear, it’s a right, guaranteed by the Constitution, to remain silent in the face of charges—it is the government’s responsibility to charge you and prove that you are guilty before they permanently deprive you of your liberty. Marri has neither been charged nor tried in open court; he is simply being held indefinitely, inside the United States, as a so-called “enemy combatant.”
(Marri has one of the messiest wiki pages I’ve seen, so read this link for background only.)

Maybe this story has gotten short shrift because the magistrate in this case has only an advisory role, and his ruling is still subject to review by a higher-ranking judge, but Judge Carr is an officer of the court, and is duty-bound to uphold the Bill of Rights. . . which, the last time I checked, still included the Fifth Amendment.

Monday, May 15, 2006

quit making me look sane!

Every time I throw out some worst case scenario about something the Bush Administration is up to, thinking, “I know I sound like some crazy conspiracy theorist, but I’m just saying. . .” the gang at the White House makes me look cautious and naïve.

Last week, I put out the idea that NSA data-mining is being used for something other than the so-called war on terror. Well:

Federal Source to ABC News: We Know Who You're Calling
May 15, 2006 10:33 AM

Brian Ross and Richard Esposito Report:

A senior federal law enforcement official tells us the government is tracking the phone numbers we call in an effort to root out confidential sources.

"It's time for you to get some new cell phones, quick," the source told us in an in-person conversation.

We do not know how the government determined who we are calling, or whether our phone records were provided to the government as part of the recently-disclosed NSA collection of domestic phone calls.

Other sources have told us that phone calls and contacts by reporters for ABC News, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post, are being examined as part of a widespread CIA leak investigation.

One former official was asked to sign a document stating he was not a confidential source for New York Times reporter James Risen.

Our reports on the CIA's secret prisons in Romania and Poland were known to have upset CIA officials.

People questioned by the FBI about leaks of intelligence information say the CIA was also disturbed by ABC News reports that revealed the use of CIA predator missiles inside Pakistan.

PS You gotta love the last two paragraphs where Ross and Esposito pimp some of their own reporting. . . seems to me ABC was a little late to the CIA prisons story (the report came long after Dana Priest’s WaPo story). It reminds me of the Nixon years—you’re nobody if you’re not on the list.

(t.o.t.h. to Atrios)

there is no such thing as a joke

When I heard that President Bush was set to announce the deployment of National Guard troops to “police” the Mexican border, I joked, “Why are we sending troops when we could pay Custer Battles to do the same job?” Well, sure enough, I just heard on Morning Edition that under the President’s proposal, the Guard deployment will only be temporary—just long enough to allow for the hiring of private contractors.

I’m not laughing.

let “x” equal “x”

I have a math problem for all of you:
  • Count the number of times you hear the establishment media use the word “payback” when referring to what will happen should Democrats regain control of Congress.
  • Then subtract the number of times you here a current Democratic member of Congress talk of “payback.”
  • If the result is something less than the original count of media references, please let me know.

To get your count started, read Adam Nagourney’s latest exercise in pretend journalism from yesterday’s New York Times. Then read my piece over at capitoilette.

Friday, May 12, 2006

a made up word for a made up idea

I am right now listening to Bryan Cunningham (on The NewsHour), a former aid to then national security adviser Condi Rice, go on and on about how the current revelations about NSA data-mining shouldn’t disturb us because the data is “anonymized.”

Anonymized. Don’t you just love it?

What Cunningham claims his neologism means is that names and addresses have been stripped from the toll records that have been collected from the three major Telco’s, and, so, the government can’t trace our calls back to us. . . .

Cunningham is not the only guy I’ve heard express this idea today, to which I have to say, “Are you fucking kidding me?”

Try this.

Or, if you have an account, try a LexisNexis search.

And these are just the consumer products—I know law enforcement and the intelligence community have access to much more powerful “reverse search” tools. Does Cunningham think we’ve never seen a computer?

WaPo: time for Alphonso to go

Today’s Washington Post sums up the state of affairs at HUD under “anecdotal” strongman Alphonso Jackson:

Either Mr. Jackson broke the law and then lied about it, or he lied that he had broken the law. Which of those actions makes him fit to be secretary of housing and urban development?

be afraid? be very afraid?

Well, if I wasn’t in some spook’s database before, today’s repeated calls to Germany (for work) and the headline on my latest capitoilette post should cinch it.

I’m not proud of this—I’m pissed!

. . . and a little afraid. . . .

I was buying it all until I saw the picture

I always find these sorts of social psych, nature/nurture stories interesting, and this one, posted over at the BBC, had me from the start.

Women 'sense qualities in a man'

Women are fine tuned subconsciously to detect the qualities they are looking for in a man - just by looking at his face, US research suggests.

Women can spot subtle signs of interest in children in a man's face, and accurately assess his level of the sex hormone testosterone, it claims.

Child-friendly men were rated as good long-term bets, masculine men as ideal for a more short-term fling.

The piece explained the methodology of the study—something I always want to know—and it said that men were shown various pictures of adults and kids, and their interest levels were gauged. They were also swabbed for testosterone levels. Then women were shown pictures of the guys, and the women pegged the men who had shown interest in children as good long-term relationship material, while the guys that had high testosterone levels were called more masculine and more attractive by the women who, again, only saw pictures of faces.

As I said, I was interested. And, it was making sense to me. . . until I saw this:

Mickey Rourke: Defined by the researchers [as] having a masculine face

Eeeeeeyeah! Ladies, if this is an example of an attractive, masculine face, um, well, I question this study. . . and your judgment. (OK, I really question the judgment of the photo editor over at, but looking at it the other way does a so much better job of explaining high school.)

(By the way, I saw Mr. Rourke in the airport last year, and he looked pretty much like this picture, except freakier.)

PS A friend pointed out another possible flaw: what if the men who expressed interest in the pictures of kids were just pedophiles? Hmmm.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

case in point: both cases; both points

(I posted this as an addendum to an earlier post over at capitoilette, but I feel so strongly about this, I’m going to add it here as a stand alone.)

The splash headline on AOL’s “welcome” page today is “Bush Denies Breaking Law.” For those that need a little hand-holding on this, that’s the President’s name and law-breaking in the same sentence. Further, the denial is messy:

"Our intelligence activities strictly target al-Qaida and their known affiliates," Bush said. "We are not mining or trolling through the personal lives of innocent Americans."

That’s completely untrue—on two counts. By definition, if you want to log every phone call made in the US, then intelligence activity is not strictly targeting al Qaeda, and, again, by definition, looking for patterns in records of all calls and e-mails is both mining and trolling. In addition, as georgia10 has noted, Bush’s “explanation” directly contradicts Gen. Hayden’s own stated goals for the program:

I have met personally with prominent corporate executive officers. . . . And last week we cemented a deal with another corporate giant to jointly develop a system to mine data that helps us learn about our targets.

Still, the Democratic leadership is having trouble getting upset about this. Raw Story reports that 72 members of the House have filed amicus briefs in two federal courts challenging the legality of the NSA’s warrantless eavesdropping. The briefs emphasize that Congress never authorized such behavior. And yet, neither Minority leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) nor whip Steny Hoyer (MD) has joined the brief. (hat tip: nowheredesign) Is Rep. Pelosi afraid that Tim Russert will once again call standing up for the laws of the land “payback?”

And speaking of laws, let’s not forget that once again, no matter what Bush “denies,” the law has been broken. How do we know? Qwest Communications has refused to participate in this program. As Glenn Greenwald quotes from deep in the USA Today article:

Unable to get comfortable with what NSA was proposing, Qwest's lawyers asked NSA to take its proposal to the FISA court. According to the sources, the agency refused.

The NSA's explanation did little to satisfy Qwest's lawyers. "They told (Qwest) they didn't want to do that because FISA might not agree with them," one person recalled. For similar reasons, this person said, NSA rejected Qwest's suggestion of getting a letter of authorization from the U.S. attorney general's office. A second person confirmed this version of events.

Now, if Quest has the guts to stand up for congressionally mandated oversight, why doesn’t Congress? And if AOL can associate the President with breaking the law, why can’t the Democrats?

a really big secret. . . and painfully obvious

The revelation that a trio of giant phone companies have helped the NSA spy on “tens of millions” of Americans without any real oversight from Congress or the courts got me thinking about math. . . and the Democrats’ persistent inability to do it.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

action Jackson

Is there a cabinet-level department in this government that is not attached to some scandal or other? (Seriously, I’m asking. . . tell me!)

Tuesday saw HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson do the Texas two-step right into a pile of his own steaming bullshit. Perhaps you’ve heard about his very detailed “hypothetical story” about yanking a government contract given to a minority-owned business because the owner expressed his dislike of President Bush.

Why should I reward someone who doesn't like the president, so they can use funds to try to campaign against the president? Logic says they don't get the contract. That's the way I believe.

Those were Jackson’s words to the Real Estate Executive Council, but a spokeswoman for the secretary, who initially said it was a real story, now says Jackson was just making an “anecdotal” point.

Were you lying the first time, or are you lying now?

Either way, here is a really interesting point raised by one of Josh Marshall’s readers over at TPM:

Why on earth would a contractor bidding for a contract come out and say 'I do not support your President'.

There is only one circumstance I can think of where that reply would come up in a sales call - IF THE CEO WAS ASKED FOR A CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTION.

I certainly would never bring up politics with any customer unless I knew what their politics were in advance and that they were compatible.

The politics issue has to have come from Jackson.

That is why he is making this peculiar statement, what he is really doing here is repeating his internalized self-justification for demanding a bribe and being rebuffed.

Or, as Marshall puts it:

Maybe the whole conversation Jackson recounted was a fictive one, meant to communicate a message without being literally true. Speech-making gives some license for that sort of thing, I suppose.

But why would anyone volunteer such a statement unprompted? Hopefully, a government contractor who didn't support President Bush wouldn't reduce him or herself to kowtowing. But if you're a businessman working hard for a government contract, would you bring up your opposition to the president, unprompted, to one of his chief appointees, when the whole topic isn't even appropriate to discuss?

I think Jackson was recounting a real conversation (that's the way I believe)--after all, he wasn’t chosen for this job because of his stunning intellect--but I do think that this last point was probably part of the initial back-and-forth between the secretary and the contractor. One can only hope that this contractor is not content with only one side of the story being in the media stream, and that he comes forward to tell us his version. . . . Or, can it be too long before a handful of dedicated reporters and/or thousands of bloggers with too much time on their hands figure out who this contractor is and just ask, “Did Jackson ask for a little action?”

how many days is Abramoffukah?

So, today’s the day, the day by which the Secret Service has been ordered to turn over the records of Jack Abramoff’s visits to the White House--all of his visits.

Can you guess how many times Jack-off paid his pals at 1600 a call? If you read this early in the day--or if the administration stonewalls, again--then head on over to TPM Muckraker and enter the contest!

Monday, May 08, 2006

and I never did find out how that goat book ended, either

Most people are focusing on George W. Bush’s “best” moment as president--and perhaps rightly so. You see, in an interview given to German news-weekly Bild um Sonntag, the Bush was asked about the high-water mark of his first five years in office:

I would say the best moment of all was when I caught a 7.5 pound perch in my lake.

Leader of the free world, and what gives him the greatest sense of accomplishment? Healing the sick? Feeding the hungry? Helping--in some way--other people? No, you see, it’s not about you (whoever you might be), it’s about, as Bush would see it, “me.” Catching a really big fish, for himself, from his private lake--which is probably pre-stocked with fish by his employees (or, seeing as he is our president, are they our employees?) every time he’s on the “ranch”--that’s what’s great about being Mr. Big.

But, you know what? Even though that “revelation” about our nation’s head ass master (oops, I meant to say, “bass master”--but leaving out the “b” will do wonders for my hit rate) is really upsetting, the second half of the quote, which has been getting less play, is possibly worse.

When then asked about his worst moment as president, Bush responded that it was September 11, 2001:

In such a situation it takes a while before one understands what is happening. I would say that this was the hardest moment, once I had the real picture before my eyes.

How long did it take before you could grasp what was happening, Mr. President? Did it take you those five minutes after you were told by Andy Card that America was “under attack,” and you sat reading The Pet Goat? Did it take you those many hours after that, when you played hide and go seek on Air Force One? Or, maybe, noting your "best moment," maybe you still don’t have a real picture of what’s going on.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Porter Goss loves his wife

Hours after the Justice Department subpoenaed records of the Watergate Hotel in the investigation of what I think we should all now be calling “Forni-gate,” CIA director Porter Goss has resigned.

As I noted last week, Goss had been rumored to be a key “player” in the poker and prostitution scandal that has been slowly, um, coming to a head ever since Republican (now former) Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham was sent off to the hoosegow and started cooperating with the FBI.

At the minimum, Goss is tied to Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, a guy Goss promoted out of obscurity to the number three spot at CIA. Foggo has admitted attending poker games set up by defense contractors at the Watergate, but he denies there were prostitutes (well, the female, sex-selling kind, anyway). At the maximum, there are photos of Goss and some lovely ladies.

As georgia10 puts it:

It may not be the hookers. It may not be his possible participation in a million-dollar bribery scheme affecting our national security. It may be that he hated his job, and the CIA hated him. Or it may just be that Goss decided to [spend more] time with his family.

But the press has a duty to find out why one of our nation's top intelligence officials just up and quit all of sudden on a Friday afternoon.

we can’t kill them because we already tortured them

Dahlia Lithwick of Slate called the decision by the jury in the Zacarias Moussaoui case “perfect justice,” and said it was an example of a jury that was “much more sophisticated in its thinking than the government, itself.” (audio only—link here)

Lithwick says the government wanted to give the country “an eye for an eye,” but this jury understood you couldn’t execute someone for being happy 9/11 happened—in America, you are punished for the crimes you commit. “Thank god,” Lithwick added, “we don’t live in a country where we believe in scapegoats”

Lithwick was asked if she thought the government was looking for a scapegoat. “I’m quite sure of it,” she responded.

Lithwick called Moussaoui a “bumbling punk,” and asserted that the government knew so. She then said:

There are many other people who are much more directly involved with 9/11 who the government won’t put on trial. . . .

I for one think it’s time to bring the real criminals to trial, and let’s do this trial the right way.

Who are the real criminals? Lithwick suggests three now in custody: Ramzi bin al-Sheib (who allegedly coordinated the 19 hijackers), Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (who reportedly came up with the idea of flying airplanes into buildings), and Mohamed al-Kahtani (whom the US now claims is the real “20th hijacker”). But don’t hold your breath. As Lithwick plainly states:

The reason they’re never going to come to trial is because they have been tortured. . . . We have real constitutional problems that may preclude trials.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Bush bird-flu plan: it’s your problem, not mine

Should we have ever expected anything else from the “buck stops anywhere but here” administration?

The White House released its plan for handling an influenza pandemic yesterday, and here’s what they’ve decided:

The impact of a severe pandemic may be more comparable to that of war or a widespread economic crisis than a hurricane, earthquake, or act of terrorism. The center of gravity of the pandemic response will be in communities [and] the support the federal government can guarantee to any state, tribe or community will be limited.

Or, as the Washington Post put it:

[The plan] acknowledges that the federal government cannot—and should not try—to fully manage the response to an event that is likely to start overseas, eventually take hold in even the smallest U.S. communities, and last for months.

Should not try? Really? Granted, some health professionals have called this basically appropriate, and I know I would so very much rather have the World Health Organization coordinating a response to a pandemic, rather than the Bush Administration, but doesn’t this just feel like a total cop-out?

And, if not a cop-out, than certainly this is the mother of all unfunded mandates.

Sure enough, no sooner do I think this, than the New York Times updates its online article to include this:

State and local health officials said they welcomed the federal government's latest plan for dealing with a pandemic flu outbreak, but some complained that the Bush administration had failed to provide the money needed to pay for the plan's long list of recommendations.

So, what do you think—do you think the Bush Administration and the rubber-stamp Republican Congress are going to pony up the funds necessary for implementation of this “plan?” Don’t hold your breath.

Or, on second thought, do. That’s probably the best plan a lot of us will have.

oops, how about best of three?

The Bush Administration’s very own climate study concluded that the atmosphere was indeed getting warmer, and that there was “clear evidence of human influences on the climate system.”

And how did the administration respond?

But White House officials noted that this was just the first of 21 assessments planned by the federal Climate Change Science Program, which was created by the administration in 2002 to address what it called unresolved questions.

I’m sorry, but what year will we be done with study 21? Is it whoever gets to 11 first? If we get to something like 7-0, is there a mercy rule?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

move over Colbert, here’s Kobe

Everyone’s all a-twitter about Stephen Colbert’s nasty (in a good way) speech at the White House correspondents’ dinner (if you haven’t seen it, I recommend you do—here’s part one, two, and three), but just to prove that he will not be denied in any arena, LA Lakers’ star Kobe Bryant took it hard to the comedy hole himself after being ejected near the end of a playoff game with Phoenix suns on Tuesday night.

Bryant was tossed by referee Leon Wood after complaining that a hard foul against [Lakers center Kwame] Brown should have been called flagrant.

"He didn't like my toneage, if that's a word." Bryant said. "He's the decider. Is that a word, decider?"

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

flag day

Over a million people* turned out across the country to protest the House immigration bill, HR 4437, and to support some sort of what can loosely be called “immigration reform” (more on what that should mean, soon, I think), but for the life of me, I can’t find any citation on what part of that million took to the streets in lower Manhattan.

I was one of that part—not so much to pay homage to my own turn-of-the-last-century immigrant roots as to support more recent immigrants in their struggle for permanent status, proper wages, and, well, plain old respect. The marchers were energetic and good-natured, as were those who stood on the sidewalks and cheered.

I have to say that, in New York, reactions to this movement (it’s a movement now, you know) have ranged from enthusiastic support to harried indifference—I have seen little of the racist hostility or political “backlash” that I read about in the papers and keep hearing them pump up on the nightly news. I don’t doubt that the racism is there (family in Los Angeles reports seeing a lot of “Mexican go home” graffiti on Latino-owned shops), but I wonder to what extent the political backlash that is supposed to result is just somebody’s wishful thinking. . . you know what I mean?

*The New York Times, for reasons that are beyond me, refused to join the consensus, using the woefully inadequate “hundreds of thousands” instead.

(Photos by me)

Monday, May 01, 2006

here we go ‘round in circles

President Bush was “briefed” by his Secretaries of Defense and State today and announced that Iraq had reached a “turning point.”

Now, I’m not sure I have the computer skills to check this out, but it seems to me that this is, like, the eighth time Bush has declared that Iraq had reached a “turning point,” and I’m just wondering: With all that turning, in what direction is Iraq now headed?

Plus: take a look at that picture of the brain trust—look at each of their faces—Does Gen. Pace look like a man brimming with optimism? Does Don of the Dead look like believes a damn thing Bush is saying? Does Bush look like he knows what he’s saying? Does Condi look like Bush knows what he’s saying? (Photo: Doug Mills/NYT)

I keep having to write eulogies

This one is going to be for The US Constitution:

WASHINGTON -- President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ''to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to ''execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.

This appalls me, in great part because the Congress, much of the establishment media, and a whole lot of people who should know better seem not to really care. I hate sounding like one of those nerdy leftists, angrily spitting out words like “totalitarianism,” but. . . this is totalitarianism!

(t.o.t.h. to mcjoan)

tokenism for fun and profit

OK, no profit, really, but I had a big spike in hits yesterday, and it turns out that a couple of blokes at the Wall Street Journal, of all places, threw together a real quickie on the blogasphere’s reaction to the death of JK Galbraith—and they linked to my piece over at capitoilette.

I am one of, um, two left-leaning blogs mentioned out of eleven quotes (though I’m credited with being “liberal”—not sure the kids over at WSJ quite understand the difference between “liberal” and “the left.” JKG would have had something to say about that.) And, not to look a gift link in the mouth—I am thrilled that more people are finding their way to capitoilette—but shouldn’t the Journal be doing some reporting or analysis or something rather than just cutting-and-pasting a bunch of out-of-context excerpts?

I mean, I assume they are actually in it for the profit.