Wednesday, July 30, 2008

5.4 quake? eh, big deal

Actually, in at least one way, it is. . . .

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I thought it was his obscenely rich yet insubstantial flavor

Everyone was all up in arms Monday because former Justice Department flack Monica Goodling was revealed to have asked prospective job candidates, “What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?” This was interpreted to be an inappropriate question because aspirants to career DoJ positions are not supposed to have to pass a partisan litmus test for what are intended to be apolitical jobs.

While Goodling might still have been feeling around for some sort of fealty, I think that folks are reading her question all wrong. Not unlike the folks at Star-Kist, this star-struck Regent University grad wasn’t looking for people that thought GW Bush had good taste; she wanted employees that thought GW Bush tasted good.

C’mon, why don’t you think about it: What is it that makes you want to serve Bush? Is it that his meat is so lean? That he is stuffed with government pork? The years of marinating in beer and bourbon? The fact that he comes packed in oil? His (artificially flavored) country-style gravy? Please let me know.

And, if you have any recipes for how to serve Bush, please post them below. You’ll be doing Monica and your country a great, uh, service.

(cross-posted on Daily Kos and The Seminal)

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Friday, July 25, 2008

NYT crops photo to make me look stupid

OK, so it turns out that this picture of Obama addressing 200,000 in Berlin is not flipped as I originally suspected. As noted by commenter brendan1963, a different shot of the same event shows other written signs that read correctly even though the “ANGOLA” sign remains in reverse.

However, the New York Times and/or the photographer still made a conscious choice to frame and crop the picture as they did, with Obama on the left, looking left, with his arm raised to the crowd. . . and they still ran the photo under the headline “Obama, Vague on Issues, Pleases Crowd in Europe,” and all of the words in the article remain the same, so I think the image and the article still deserve analysis, though perhaps with an ever-so- slightly less-raised eyebrow. So, flip over to capitoilette and have a read.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

flashback 2006: “team torture” hard at work

Jamie Rose for The New York Times

When I first posted this photo back in September 2006, I wondered aloud about what was going on here. This week, an article in the New York Times has perhaps shed a little light on this scene:

[McCain] likes trading jokes about colleagues with a small group of friends that includes Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. . . . Entertaining guests at his property in Sedona, Ariz., [McCain] invariably drags them for long walks to indulge his passion for bird watching. “If you took all the people at Gitmo, put them in the cabin for the weekend and made them listen to John talk about the birds, they would all spill their guts.” Mr. Graham said.

Perhaps Senator Graham had developed some sort of reflective tedium shield that bounced McCain’s stories right back at Arizona’s pre-eminent snooze button.

If McCain surrogate Graham does indeed posses such technology, I urge him to share it with the rest of America with all due alacrity. The consciousness of the electorate may depend on it!

To read more about my suggestions for what Graham and McCain can do to help America, please head on over to capitoilette.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

my one-line summary of Howard Dean’s keynote at netroots nation:

Dean: “For those who are about to Barack, we salute you.”

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

the writing’s on the wall

Just in case anyone was wondering what the hell happened to me this week. . . well, I have made my way to Austin, home of Netroots Nation 2008.

I snapped this picture when I walked into the hotel. . .

. . . and then promptly forgot to take any more pictures. (Sorry.)

There is a full schedule of meetings and events, and the wifi in my room costs a king's ransom and pretty much sucks. . . and of course there’s always that barbecue that I keep taking about. . . so I might not be the most dependable correspondent this week. (Again, sorry.) But you never know, so check back one in a while, OK?

In the meantime, you know where to find me—and if you’re in Austin, be sure to come say “hi.”

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Friday, July 11, 2008

hard logic

I finally understand the rationale for the latest FISA revisions.

When George Bush signed into law the Fourth Amendment Abrogation Act of 2008 (known to some as the FISA “compromise”) he praised the bill for granting him the powers necessary to fight the “ter’ists” who “hate us for our freedom.”

By enacting a piece of legislation that eliminates much of our freedom, the terrorists now have less reason to hate us.

QED. GWOT™ won. Mission accomplished.

. . . .

Earlier this week, John McCain made a joke after being asked about the high volume of cigarettes that the US exports to Iran. “Maybe that’s a way of killing them,” said Senator Chuckles.

McCain caught flack, and rightfully so, for throwing more impolitic fuel on the tinderbox that is US-Iranian relations—but we already know how bad a mercurial, hot-tempered, loose-lipped President McCain would be for a world that has already suffered too much at the hands of bellicose Republican foreign policy.

The thing that caught my attention about the McJoke—the thing that made my ears prick up—was that McCain just conceded that cigarettes kill people.

McCain later went on to brag that he hadn’t had a cigarette in—"How long has it been, Cindy?"—twenty-four years. On the flip side, we know that Barack Obama still likes to enjoy the occasional cigarette.

So, who out there is suddenly feeling better about Obama’s chances in Virginia and North Carolina?

. . . .

Speaking of jokes: President Bush. . . .


But seriously—speaking of jokes, President Bush had some heeeeeeelarious parting words for other world leaders at the G8 meeting.

The American leader, who has been condemned throughout his presidency for failing to tackle climate change, ended a private meeting with the words: "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter."

He then punched the air while grinning widely, as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock.

Shameful, right? I mean, if the guy is going to joke about our status, he could at least get his facts straight. Not that the US doesn’t do its part, but, as with so many things during the Bush years, America has lost its leadership role, this time to a booming China, which now coughs up even more greenhouse gasses than the good ol’ U.S. of A.

They’re, like, drinking our milkshake and burping it up, too.

(I’m sure GW would have found that joke funnier if I had made reference to the other option for gaseous emissions, but this is a classy blog, so I won’t go there.)

(cross-posted on The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

one amendment down; nine to go

Oh, hell, why stop with the Bill of Rights—why not go for the entire Constitution?

Here is a less than comprehensive assortment of clips on Wednesday’s Senate vote to gut the Fourth Amendment. . . .

New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau:

The Senate gave final approval on Wednesday to a major expansion of the government’s surveillance powers, handing President Bush one more victory in a series of hard-fought clashes with Democrats over national security issues.

. . . .

Even as his political stature has waned, Mr. Bush has managed to maintain his dominance on national security issues in a Democratic-led Congress. He has beat back efforts to cut troops and financing in Iraq, and he has won important victories on issues like interrogation tactics and military tribunals in the fight against terrorism.

Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office:

This [new legislation] represents a fundamental shift in the notions of freedom and democracy that have defined our nation for well over 200 years. Americans will no longer have any expectation of privacy in our communications - leading many to be fearful about what they say and write so it is not misconstrued by some computer data mining program or overzealous government agent.

Glenn Greenwald:

With their vote today, the Democratic-led Congress has covered-up years of deliberate surveillance crimes by the Bush administration and the telecom industry, and has dramatically advanced a full-scale attack on the rule of law in this country.

. . . .

Will Democrats ever learn that the reason they are so easily depicted as "weak" isn't because they don't copy the Republican policies on national security enough, but rather, because they do so too much, and thus appear (accurately) to stand for nothing? Of course, many Democrats vote for these policies because they believe in them, not because they are "surrendering." Still, terms such as "bowing," "surrendering," "capitulating," and "losing" aren't exactly Verbs of Strength. They're verbs of extreme weakness --- yet, bizarrely, Democrats believe that if they "bow" and "surrender," then they will avoid appearing "weak." Somehow, at some point, someone convinced them that the best way to avoid appearing weak is to be as weak as possible.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY):

There is little disagreement that the legislation effectively grants retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies. In my judgment, immunity under these circumstances has the practical effect of shutting down a critical avenue for holding the administration accountable for its conduct. It is precisely why I have supported efforts in the Senate to strip the bill of these provisions, both today and during previous debates on this subject. Unfortunately, these efforts have been unsuccessful.

What is more, even as we considered this legislation, the administration refused to allow the overwhelming majority of Senators to examine the warrantless wiretapping program. This made it exceedingly difficult for those Senators who are not on the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees to assess the need for the operational details of the legislation, and whether greater protections are necessary. The same can be said for an assessment of the telecom immunity provisions. On an issue of such tremendous importance to our citizens – and in particular to New Yorkers – all Senators should have been entitled to receive briefings that would have enabled them to make an informed decision about the merits of this legislation. I cannot support this legislation when we know neither the nature of the surveillance activities authorized nor the role played by telecommunications companies granted immunity.

Congress must vigorously check and balance the president even in the face of dangerous enemies and at a time of war. That is what sets us apart. And that is what is vital to ensuring that any tool designed to protect us is used – and used within the law – for that purpose and that purpose alone.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT):

Today, the United States Senate faced a very fundamental question that has been asked for generations: Does America stand for the rule of law, or the rule of men? But by passing FISA legislation that grants retroactive immunity to the telecom companies that allegedly participated in President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program, we gave the wrong answer.

. . . .

I believe we best defend America when we also defend its founding principles.

. . . .

By sanctioning retroactive immunity, we have allowed the actions of a handful of favored corporations to remain unchallenged in a court of law. The truth behind this Administration’s unprecedented domestic spying regime will now never see the light of day.

Bruce Afran, a New Jersey lawyer representing several hundred plaintiffs suing Verizon and other companies:

The law itself is a massive intrusion into the due process rights of all of the phone subscribers who would be a part of the suit. It is a violation of the separation of powers. It’s presidential election-year cowardice. The Democrats are afraid of looking weak on national security.

And, last but not least, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) with Rachel Maddow and on Countdown:

You will notice there is no comment from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). That is because he didn’t have one—he skipped Wednesday’s proceedings (just as he has skipped previous FISA debates) to campaign. McCain has made it clear in the past that he supports the Bush policy, but just in case, he decided to keep it off the record.

You will also notice there is no comment from Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). I didn’t see anything new from Obama on Wednesday, but honestly, with his votes in favor of this capitulation, he’s already said more than enough.

. . . .

This sad chapter is almost over, but the fight is just beginning. Both the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation plan to challenge the constitutionality of this law. You can sign a letter in support of the ACLU here. Strangebedfellows continues to organize around this issue to fund primary challenges to Democrats that fail to defend our core beliefs. They are planning an August 8th moneybomb, and you can find out more about that here.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

the fix is in

Professor Jonathan Turley appeared Tuesday on MSNBC's Countdown to bemoan the imminent capitulation by Democrats on new FISA legislation.

Please listen to what Turley has to say. . . then please click over and read my thoughts on capitoilette.

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writing to the radio

Most broadcast programs have done a less than spectacular job covering the Bush Administration’s illegal domestic surveillance programs or the ongoing fight over FISA revisions. Sadly, WNYC’s Brian Lehrer has been part of the poorly informed pack. I am hoping that the appearance today, in the 10am EDT hour, of Glenn Greenwald will help improve matters some, but with a vote on final passage of a terrible bill possible at any hour, it is most certainly too little too late.

With all that in mind, though, I was still inspired to shoot off this e-mail to Mr. Lehrer (much) earlier this morning:

In listening to the late night broadcast of the Tuesday show, I was quite surprised by Brain's remark that it was news to him to hear that the illegal domestic surveillance program was initiated by the Bush Administration prior to the attacks of 9/11. This was suspected for some time, and was confirmed during the trial last year of Qwest head Joseph Nacchio. Such information has previously been reported in the Rocky Mountain News and the New York Times, and discussed on To The Point (which WNYC aired daily prior to last week).

I, myself, have been writing about this for much of the last year (I humbly ask that you read a few of these posts, listed here. In those posts, I link to more reports about pre-9/11 domestic surveillance and some of its possible targets.), and I am sure that one as expert as your guest Glenn Greenwald would be happy to shed more light on the subject if asked.

Believe me, I hate even sounding vaguely like a conspiracy theorist, but I am well within the mainstream with my belief that the Bush Administration’s illegal domestic surveillance program is not and has never been primarily about keeping us safe from foreign terrorists. Senators Russ Feingold, Chris Dodd, Ron Wyden, and Ted Kennedy have expressed similar doubts. So have NYT reporters Risen and Lichtblau. Mr. Greenwald and many other very prominent bloggers have plumbed the depths of this subject, as has Wired magazine and Editor and Publisher.

The ACLU’s legislative director, Caroline Fredrickson, protested the speciousness of administration arguments for expanded spy capabilities with minimal oversight back when it became apparent that the NSA started domestic spying early in 2001, “How then will that keep us safer if 9/11 followed the expanded capability?”

There are many, many problems with this FISA "fix"--not just retroactive immunity for the telcos and the Bush Administration--but the fact that it codifies a program that was started, illegally, mind you, before 9/11/01 proves this to be a capitulation, and not a compromise. We already had a working FISA law when the Bush team took over, with provisions for surveillance in advance of a hearing, and a super-secret court that almost always approved executive branch requests. Yet, the White House still went outside the system, and did so when it had demonstrably little interest in the likes of al Qaeda. It makes you want to ask: what then is all this spying for? That a Democratic Congress--and now, the Democratic Party's presumptive standard bearer--would choose political convenience over asking this one tough question is both disheartening and disturbing.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

persuasive nonsense. . .

Thursday, July 03, 2008

sign of the tim€s

Taken yesterday on Prince Street. . . in SoHo. . . in New York City. . . in the United States.

Pretty much says all you need to know about our economy.

And New York City.

Update: OK, I am going to say a little more. I didn’t plan this, but word just out this morning: The US dollar has dropped 41% when compared with that euro up there:

When President George W. Bush went to his first Group of Eight summit in 2001, a dominant issue was the dollar -- the strong dollar, that is. The U.S. currency was on a record-setting streak, and the free-marketeering president wasn't going to stand in the way.

On the eve of Bush's last G-8 appearance, the dollar's gyrations are again in the crossfire. This time, it is a weak currency, upended by slumping growth, a housing recession and record gas prices, that is gnawing away at the world economy.

The dollar's 41 percent drop against the euro during Bush's term writes the economic epitaph of an administration that set out to restore American preeminence. Instead, Bush heads to Japan next week for his final international summit with diminished leverage as Russian and Chinese influence grows.

Also, we
have now officially entered bear-market territory, according to the WSJ.

An economy in the crapper—signed, sealed, and delivered by George W. Bush.

(cross-posted on The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

*spoiler alert*

Click through to capitoilette. . . if you dare.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Mayor Mike gives First Amendment a bad name (bad name)

In the summer of 2004, protestors wanting to demonstrate against the policies of the Bush Administration during the Republican National Convention’s visit to New York City were denied a permit to gather on Central Park’s Great Lawn. The city, we were told, could not afford the cost of repairing the damage done to the lawn by such a large crowd.

I didn’t buy it—no one really did—but the city could at least point to the $130,000 worth of damage that happened as a result of a 2003 Dave Matthews concert as some sort of object lesson. Concert crowds were bad for the lawn, protest crowds were bad for the lawn, crowds were just bad for the lawn, or so the story went. . .

. . . until Monday:

The rock band Bon Jovi will give a free concert on July 12 to as many as 60,000 people on the Great Lawn of Central Park in honor of Major League Baseball’s 79th All-Star Game, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced at a news conference on Monday afternoon. . . .

At a City Hall news conference, the mayor, who has been trying to drum up excitement around the July 15 All-Star Game in the last season at the current Yankee Stadium, pointed out that it will coincide with a baseball convention at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and a July 15 parade on the Avenue of the Americas, with Hall of Famers like Yogi Berra and Willie Mays. Mr. Bloomberg said that Bon Jovi would be “following in the footsteps of Simon & Garfinkel, Barbra Streisand, Garth Brooks and the Metropolitan Opera.” (Actually, Mr. Brooks performed on the North Meadow, not the Great Lawn, in 1997.)

Garfinkel, Garfunkel, whatevs. . . . What Bloomberg was really saying is that the lawn can be used for private commercial ventures dressed up to look like public events, but real public gatherings—the kind that this country was built on—are strictly verboten.

“Getting together to shout and hold up signs about some politicians you don’t like,” remarked the mayor, “what’s the point in that? How does the city benefit? I mean financially benefit.”

OK, Mike Bloomberg didn’t really say that, but if he had, it would have been wholly consistent with the way he has governed the city so far. So, instead, we will have tens of thousands from Bon Jovi’s mostly white, mostly suburban fan base getting together on the Great Lawn to shout and hold up signs declaring their love for a band that is two decades removed from its heyday.

It is mostly irrelevant, totally whitebread, and blatantly commercial—much like the mayor himself.

I don’t want to cast aspersions on John Bon Jovi—he may be a perfectly nice guy, with progressive politics maybe even (I don’t really know)—and I don’t want to dismiss his importance as a cultural icon (well, OK, maybe I do), but the issues at hand are: Who has a right to Central Park, what constitutes a gathering worthy of the damage and clean up costs, and since when does a mayor get to mete out the people’s First Amendment right to free assembly based on his idea of what’s good for his image?

Of course, the NYC Law Department sees it some other way. There is a convoluted paragraph in the NYT piece I link to above that supposedly spells out a policy. The Bloomberg Administration calls it a set of formal rules designed to protect the park’s grass, but I think we all know it’s just a pile of fertilizer.

(cross-posted on The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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