Friday, December 30, 2005

Strict Constructionists but...

All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

--U.S. Constitution, Fourteenth Amendment

Capt. Fogg is up early today leading off with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I'll rant a bit about the 14th Amendment. Remember all those "originalists" and "strict constructionists" when it came to the U.S. Constitution? They were all for the "strict" and "simple meaning" of the original text of the document. Recently they love to see things that aren't even there. Apparently the president as commander-in-chief has more power than we thought. As long as an undeclared war on terror is going on (and will go on forever just ask the Israelis) I guess the president can make up whatever rules he wants. Checks and balances? According to W the checks and balances are the consciences of those spying on you. The question is what if they don't have a conscience?

We could argue about what "A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State " right before "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" means. Maybe Jefferson and Franklin wanted 8 year olds to own an armory full of RPGs and 50 caliber rifles but at least you could "regulate" the rules since the actual word "regulated" appears in the Second Amendment. O.K. forget this for a minute since you could argue about what "Militia" means and before you know it you can buy as many handguns at a gun show as you can afford. Let's get to something that seems to be clear.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says, "All persons born the United States...are citizens of the United States..." Seems pretty clear. If you are born here you are a citizen, you get a blue passport, you get pizza in 30 minutes or less and you have the right to have your vote not counted in Florida or Ohio. But the American flag pin on the lapel crowd in Congress has other ideas. They know better. They know that the 14th Amendment doesn't mean what it says even though the amendment uses small words without many syllables to allow those with small minds without many thoughts to understand it. Guess it doesn't always work.

A bill recently introduced in Congress would deny U.S. citizenship to children born to illegal immigrants. Supporters said the bill, called the Citizenship Reform Act of 2005, would be a good way to control the number of people who have the right to claim citizenship ---- and the rights and benefits that come with it. Opponents said the measure was "extreme" and would be likely to face constitutional challenges. The bill is now in the House Judiciary Committee. If enacted, the bill would stipulate that children born in the United States would be considered American citizens only if born to parents who are citizens or legal residents living in the country. Under current law, any children born in the country can claim American citizenship. The bill was introduced last month by Georgia Republican Rep. Nathan Deal and was co-sponsored by 16 other representatives, including Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, (R-CA); Rep. Gary Miller, (R-CA); and Tom Tancredo, (R-CO). What a shock. I'm sure all of their ancestors were either already here. Dances with Lobbyists? Stands with a Fist of Bribes? Maybe? Or maybe they were traveling first class, paid for by jack Abramoff probably, on the Nina, Pinta or Santa Maria.

So instead of relaxing this New Year's weekend I'm going to re-read the Bill of Rights and U.S. Constitution. Maybe I can find something in there about declaring my own country so I don't have to be subject to the insane musings of the stay the course, clap louder, spy on Americans, bankrupt the country, American flag lapel pin wearing, leakers of national security secrets, cut and run, incompetent war fighting Republicans any longer. Wish me luck.

BONUS POSTING: I resolve in the New Year to be less cranky. Unfortunately under a strict constructionist interpretation of that resolution "less" actually means "more.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

McCarthy missed this one

Republicans are great at "finding" enemies of America. After Al Qaeda and the Taliban and Saddam, they "found" the Democrats, the press, Joe Wilson, Valarie Plame, Gen. Erik Shinseki, Bunnatine "Bunny" Greenhouse and American citizens to name a few. When W said "you are either with us or you are with the terrorists" I didn't think he meant the New York Times. Silly me. Now the Corrupticans have "found" another aider and abettor of the enemies of America -- the Federal Judiciary.

The attack on the judiciary from the "law and order" Republicans has been total. Whether it was in the Schiavo case or creationism or pledge of allegience cases it has always been the same - if you rule against us you are an activist judge who hates god, loves abortionists and probably worships the devil while molesting puppies and drinking the blood of Christians, Evangelicals who worship money, tax cuts, the death penalty and pre-emptive war that is. Now the White House has has upped the ante by arguing to the country that traitors and Al Qaeda sympathizers are in the Federal Judiciary.

Three years ago Jose Padilla, an American citizen, was "arrested" in America at Chicago's O'Hare airport and accused of plotting to detonate a radiological "dirty bomb." For three years he has been held as an "enemy combatant" without being charged or tried for plotting to use a "dirty bomb." So little was known about Padilla that only after three years when he finally got to talk to a lawyer did we even find out his name is pronounced Pa-dill-ah and not Pa-dee-yah. Basically this American gang member was dissappeared as an "enemy combatant" for three years without access to a lawyer or trial and all we knew was what the governement told us. Not only was no evidence offered but we didn't even know how to properly pronounce his name! Now as the Supreme Court was in the process of probably reviewing the case and the limits of presidential powers, W and his capos decide "forget it, never mind about the whole 'enemy combatant' thing, forget about dirty bombs and stuff, we'll just criminally charge him with some unrelated helping terrorists get a phone card or something. Thanks for the three years, hope you enjoyed it."

Well a three-panel federal bench, all appointed by Republicans, "questioned the government's changing rationale for Padilla's detention since the September decision, because the criminal charges do not mention a dirty bomb plot or any attack inside the United States. The court said prosecutors had left the appearance that they were trying to avoid Supreme Court review of Padilla's case and suggested that Padilla might have been "held for these years, even if justifiably, by mistake." Uh oh. Questioning the Supreme Executive? What's next? Applying the Bill of Rights to all fifty states? Then what? Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together...mass hysteria!

The Justice Department has answered this questioning of authority. The Justice Department brief said the 4th Circuit had mischaracterized the events of Padilla's incarceration and engaged in "an unwarranted attack on the exercise of Executive discretion." Prosecutors accused the court of going so far as to "usurp" Bush's authority as the nation's commander-in-chief and his government's "prosecutorial discretion." The government went on to argue, "There is nothing remotely sinister about the government's effort to pursue criminal charges that minimize evidentiary complications," the brief said, adding that "there is no basis for questioning the good faith of the government in moving forward with the indictment."

No basis for questioning the good faith of the government? The W Adminstration in a nutshell. Don't question us. Any dissent makes you an enemy of the state including now the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. One nation, under W, with liberty and justice for all except the enemies of freedom and our political interests who we'll tell you who they are thank you very much.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, Part II

This is getting sadly too easy. When I see an article or two that catches my eye I know instantly whether they are worthy of commentary. Unfortunately the quotes and articles are increasingly about Evangelical Christianity or rather a particularly extreme form of it. (Threee "lys" in a sentence? What would Strunk and White say?) The form that demands no taxation for dividends, capital gains or inheritance. The kind that brings a sack lunch to death penalty executions, suggests violence against pro-choice supporters and their doctors and thinks pre-emptive war and warrantless spying are no-brainers. Of course they insist upon teaching creationism rather than evolution and if they want to, go ahead -- in the their own living rooms of their own home schools. They lost in Dover, Pennsylvania and the Supreme Court will eventually rule against them. Unless that is if the Congress, a happy helper of the religious wrong, takes away the Supreme Court's jurisdiction to review such a case. One of the few areas besides hearings about steroid use in baseball that Congress uses it's constitutional authority.

I used to have some resepct for Sen. John McCain but no longer. "Let the student decide." With those well-chosen words John McCain summed up his view on the teaching of "intelligent design" along with evolution in public schools. While this is not new in the fact that he has said this type of thing before, it just is the latest example of the Crusaders tightening the noose around America. Capt. Fogg rails on this subject with more historical (but less hysterical) content over at Human Voices. He is fighting the good fight against bad people. The only reason I bring up John McCain's latest pandering to the religious wrong is that Gov. JEB Bush said the other day, when asked about whether he believes in Darwin's theory of evolution, "Yeah, but I don't think it should actually be part of the curriculum, to be honest with you. And people have different points of view and they can be discussed at school, but it does not need to be in the curriculum.''

Add that to the possibility of the next governor of Alabama coming from the Ten Commandments Party and I wouldn't wait so long to make your travel plans before the pre-emptive war doctrine is employed in this country against all those who are "non-believers." Sounds a lot like infidels huh? The religious wrong sees an opportunity to put into place elected officials, lifetime appointed judges, consitutional amendments and presidential powers and directives that will be difficult if not impossible to undue any time in the near future. Pardon me a moment, I have to go make some travel plans.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

I dreamed a dream in time gone by...

The inventor of television, along with the creators of contact lenses, answering machines, cell phones, tivo and cheddar fries, should get the Nobel Prize. While Newton Minow might think television is a vast wasteland I say it's more like an oasis. Besides, how many "Newts" can you name to take seriously? (Isaac Newton doesn't count who by the way was deemed "idle" and "inattentive" at school only later to create calculus before age 25 when sitting home due to his university being closed due to bubonic plague.) Some dream of mathematical discoveries I dreamed of controlling television. And my dream came true.

A few years ago a non-descript man pulled up in my driveway and said he was from A.C. Nielsen and would I like to be a "Nielsen family?" After I snapped out of my momentary euphoria I think a drooled a "yes" and my dream had come true. A couple of black boxes later and I controlled television. I represented 30,000 people and with a click of my remote that is more like a sixth finger on my right hand I could make or break Emeril or Supernanny. Who do you think did in Aaron Brown? I had power beyond reason. You get nothing Fox. A little for you Ted Koppel. A bit for you House Detective. A visit for you Iron Chef.

But alas, the dream did not last. A couple of years after being given The One Ring of statistical participation it was taken away. I cried in bed for a month. I am back to being mortal. My power is gone. This came to mind recently when I realized I no longer watch a lot of shows. The Jon Stewart philosophy sunk in. Cable "talk" shows are hurting America. Hardball, Crossfire (RIP), Scarborough Country, The Situation with Tucker Carlson - not to be confused with The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer - an equally worthless waste of time are all not worth the videotape they are printed on. Six minute segments to let two "opposing" views scream at each other. It's pro wrestling for people who consider themselves educated. It's an intellectual diet of soda and candy. It rots your brain. Want to hear what a real debate sounds like one that rips to shreds a Bush administration apologist on the issue of spying and wiretaps and the Patriot Act? Go here and listen to this.

Take the time. Listen to it. Want to hear an informed law professor debunk the urban legends and explain in simple and straightforward ways how clearly illegal an act it is to order domestic spying on Americans without a warrant? The take the time and listen. Did you know that the FISA Act only allows a maximum 15 days of warrantless wiretaps even if a war if formerly declared? You really think if war isn't formerly declared FISA allows unlimited warrantless wiretaps? You think "use of appropriate force" to go after Al Qaeda is a stronger declaration than a formal passage of Articles of War? Like I said, it's longer than 6 minutes and worth the listen.

So I'm off the screaming matches. Meet the Press is also on the chopping block. It's just MTV-like talking videos of entertainment. It's a wasteland. I'm going back to watch the end of Wife Swap. Cheers.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Republican Pantywaists

I was reading the latest cut-and-run exit plan that W has for Iraq in 2006 and it reminded me that to this day I don't get why the Republicans have such a good reputation about national security and defense issues. They don't. It's the triumph of marketing plain and simple. Sort of like how Microsoft's operating system is thought to be better than Apple's OS X. It's an urban myth like the Loch Ness-sized myth peddled by W that a news leak about monitoring Osama Bin Laden's satellite phone compromised national security.

If I remember my history it was Democrats FDR and Truman that led the U.S. during World War II. And quoting some movie (Fletch?), "Truman dropped the big one!" "He dropped two!" Democrats firebombed Dresden and Tokyo and nuked Japan twice. They created the O.S.S. which became the C.I.A. Then there was Kennedy who fought the cold war, blockaded Cuba risking nuclear war and fought the commies in Vietnam. Wasn't it some Republican who declared "victory" and pulled out? The 70s version of cut-and-run. Then there was Ronald "Iron Guts" Reagan who, after 241 Marines were killed in Beirut by a Hezbollah (a.k.a. Iran) suicide bomber on October 23, 1983 "retaliated" by cutting-and-running from Lebanon and then invaded the sleepy island of Grenada two days later. Reagan then showed the world how tough he was on terrorists and rouge regimes by Fedex-ing military parts and supplies to the Iranians to fix their weapons. A frosted cake was almost sent but the "tough" Republicans didn't want to be seen as too biatch-like with the murderers in Tehran. What lessons did Islamic "evildoers" learn about how Republicans "retaliate?" We can slaughter your Marines and you'll send us weapons and maybe even a cake.

Recently the Republican pantywaists cut-and-ran from Iraq in 1991 after W's daddy encouraged a Shiite uprising, stayed on vacation when Bin Laden was "determined to strike in US," leaked the name of an undercover C.I.A. who worked in WMD non-proliferation, cut funds for nuclear non-proliferation programs, handled Iraq as well as a monkey f-ing a football and ordered the NSA to spy on Americans without warrants. And their gravitas on national security and defense issues is wear a lapel pin of the American flag, chant "stay the course" and clap louder while labeling dissent as un-American and abetting the enemy? And half the country still votes for them? Like I said, I still don't get it.

In the words of Basil Fawlty, "Maybe it's just a dream? (bangs head on desk a few times looks up) No, its not a dream." I wish it were.

BONUS POSTING: I learned something new today, a rarity. I know about pink diamonds, blue lobsters and albino alligators but I've never heard of a purple pearl. I have now.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Lies are like potato chips....

Lies are like potato chips, you can't tell just one.

The latest lie or "urban myth" is the argument that because of a leak to a newspaper, the conservative Washington Times, in 1998 Osama Bin laden was made aware his communications on his satellite phone were being monitored and abruptly stopped using it losing a vital source of intelligence. W used it as an example of how shameful it was to leak classified information to the press and how damaging it is to national security. Too bad he doesn't feel the same way about the leak from "Scooter" Libby and Karl Rove and god knows who else at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue about Valarie Plame. W said that the leak of the Osama satellite phone was a great loss to U.S. intelligence and the exposure of the NSA spying without a warrant on America citizens is also as damaging. Of course, none of this is true.

To begin with, it should be common knowledge to the "evildoers" that their communications are always at risk of being monitored. We've been told that they even communicate through code embedded in pictures and the like so they know there is an effort to read their communications. Whether its with a warrant or not is irrelevant to them. They know every effort is being made to track them. So the fact that a warrantless search is going on versus a warrant search is meaningless. This has nothing to do with exposing sources or methods to the enemy or public at large. It has everything to do with exposing the "I can do what I want and claim its legal because I'm a war president" attitude of W. The FISA court allows emergency warrantless wiretaps as long as you request approval within 3 days. The only reason why you would engage in warrantless wiretaps is that you knew you couldn't get them approved. Why ask permission when its easier to ask for forgiveness. And W can't even do that! He says it's legal because its legal and that he would do it again and he will keep doing it.

And what about the Osama-satellite phone leak that led to Bin Laden's communications going "dark" leaving the NSA to hear nothing from the evilest of "evildoers?" Turns out its a myth. An "urban legend" so says The Washington Post. W claimed that the Washington Times "published a U.S. government leak in 1998 about Osama bin Laden's use of a satellite phone, alerting the al Qaeda leader to government monitoring and prompting him to abandon the device." W claimed the leak destroyed a valuable intelligence operation which the Sept. 11 commission confirmed. "But it appears to be an urban myth."

"The al Qaeda leader's communication to aides via satellite phone had already been reported in 1996 -- and the source of the information was another government, the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan at the time. The second time a news organization reported on the satellite phone, the source was bin Laden himself.
Causal effects are hard to prove, but other factors could have persuaded bin Laden to turn off his satellite phone in August 1998. A day earlier, the United States had fired dozens of cruise missiles at his training camps, missing him by hours.

Bush made his assertion at a news conference Monday, in which he defended his authorization of warrantless monitoring of communications between some U.S. citizens and suspected terrorists overseas. He fumed that "the fact that we were following Osama bin Laden because he was using a certain type of telephone made it into the press as the result of a leak." He berated the media for "revealing sources, methods and what we use the information for" and thus helping "the enemy" change its operations.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Monday that the president was referring to an article that appeared in the Washington Times on Aug. 21, 1998, the day after the cruise missile attack, which was launched in retaliation for the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa two weeks earlier. The Sept. 11 commission also cited the article as "a leak" that prompted bin Laden to stop using his satellite phone, though it noted that he had added more bodyguards and began moving his sleeping place "frequently and unpredictably" after the missile attack.

Two former Clinton administration officials first fingered the Times article in a 2002 book, "The Age of Sacred Terror." Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon wrote that after the "unabashed right-wing newspaper" published the story, bin Laden "stopped using the satellite phone instantly" and "the United States lost its best chance to find him."

The article, a profile of bin Laden, buried the information about his satellite phone in the 21st paragraph. It never said that the United States was listening in on bin Laden, as the president alleged. The writer, Martin Sieff, said yesterday that the information about the phone was "already in the public domain" when he wrote the story.

A search of media databases shows that Time magazine had first reported on Dec. 16, 1996, that bin Laden "uses satellite phones to contact fellow Islamic militants in Europe, the Middle East and Africa." Taliban officials provided the information, with one official -- security chief Mulla Abdul Mannan Niazi -- telling Time, "He's in high spirits."

So the claim that the media in 1998 published information unknown to Bin Laden that resulted in the loss of a vital intelligence source is untrue. Either W is once again either grossly uninformed, recklessly negligent with the truth or is simply lying. Take your pick. I've already made mine. If the past five years haven't convinced you that W and his capos believe not getting caught in a lie is the same thing as telling the truth then the latest untruth is just like another potato chip. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Thank You For Wiretapping

So I'm on the commuter train home yesterday and I get to the editorial page of the paper. A large than normal editorial, taking up nearly half a page, slapped me and the U.S. Constitution in the face with the title, "Thank You For Wiretapping." I let out a laugh and looked to the front page to make sure I was reading The Wall Street Journal rather than The Onion. Nope. It's The Wall Street Journal. Thank You For Wiretapping. Can't wait for "Thank you for Torturing" or "Thank You For Internment Camps" editorials. I thought these guys were less government, more personal freedom conservatives. I guess the only thing these guys are conservative with is common sense and an understanding of the Bill of Rights and a constitutional democracy.

It's just a continuation of defend the man, W, no matter what. If W said he was going to set up internment camps just like in World War II because it saves lives and everything is different after 9/11 cult followers like the editorial page of the WSJ would support it. It's a cult of personality. Defend the man rather than principles. Party politics over the country. Actually, if anything, Republican "principles" are plain to see. It's just a question of whether you want to be on that team. Do you want to be associated with that brand? Are you for torturing suspects? How about torturing a whole village? What about torturing the teenage son or daughter of an Al-Qaeda suspect? Is there a Torture for Dummies book I can read up on? How about wiretapping Americans without a warrant? Maybe searching all the homes in Dearborn, Michigan or Jersey City, New Jersey because many Arab-Americans live there? Full-search checkpoints in cities and roads? They'll all save lives in theory as you might be disupting some people who might be planning some attack. Is this how you want to live? Do you really trust W and his band of capos? After being wrong about WMDs, the cost of the war, the self-funding of the war through Iraqi oil revenues, the length of the war, that we would greeted as liberators or how we would exit the area, why would you trust them on anything at this point? How many times do you need to be misled or lied to before you end the relationship?

What the WSJ editorial board did was a disgrace. And it's a disgrace to see seemingly respectable people going on the screaming head shows and saying the president has all these powers and more. A "robust" executive authority Darth Cheney argues. He's not kidding. And if these issues appear to be headed for the Supreme Court? Just get your corrupt partners in the Congress to remove those issues from Supreme Court jurisdiction and review. It's the perfect crime. Make what was illegal, legal. Call black, white. Call up, down. Call night, day. But don't call the Republicans conservative, compassionate or principled.

"Thank You For Wiretapping." Could be the best inscription on the tombstone of constitutional democracy I've ever read.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A New Declaration of Independence

"when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security."

--U.S. Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

Couldn't have said it better myself. What were you doing at age 32? Thomas Jefferson was writing the Declaration of Independence. (Co-authors John Adams was 41 and Ben Franklin was 70). What was W doing at age 32? Drinking? Doing illegal drugs? I have no idea. I do know W has said that when he was young and irresponsible he was young and irresponsible. He is also old and irresponsible.

What we are seeing is a serious attack on constitutional democracy. Maybe even the end of it. The defense of approving the NSA to spy on Americans without a court warrant has been laughably pathetic. Condi Rice tells Tim Russert she's not a lawyer but then gives a grade school legal argument that the President has the authority to spy domestically without court approval under the Constitution and the Congressional authorization to use force in Afghanistan. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the President had the implicit right to wiretap without a warrant and didn't explicitly ask for the right because they wouldn't have been able to get it. Huh? We didn't ask because we knew you'ld say no? More childish arguments.

The president has two ways to wiretap people - Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act passed in 1968 and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), passed in 1978. That's it. It's not complicated. What the president ordered was a federal crime. The real reasons why it was done might be that they couldn't get a FISA warrant because the information gathered to get the warrant was gathered in an illegal manner such as torture. It also could be that the methods NSA is using to spy are far beyond what is publicly known or even surmised and such methods are so classified and sophisticated that there existence should not risk being disclosed in any manner even through a secret FISA warrant. It's certainly not clear but the real reason can't be that they had to move fast. FISA allows the president to conduct emergency wiretaps if they notify the secret FISA court within 72 hours to get approval. And since the court has approved 19,000 out of 19,005 requests in the last 26 years, it seems as if getting the warrant wasn't the issue. Maybe we'll eventually find out. I doubt it.

What I don't doubt is that after creating the fear the administration is moving to phase 2 - expand central government powers including a massive secret police. After NBC News reported last week about the Pentagon secretly spying on domestic "threats" such as a Quaker peace group in Florida, the New York Times reports today that the FBI has conducted intelligence gathering operations involving groups such as PETA, Greenpeace and the Catholics Workers group. All for your protection and all in the name of national security.

Hard to argue with "it's for national security." If you think about it everything has to do with national security. Planes, buses, libraries, the internet, email, phones, banks, colleges, political groups. Can you hear that? It's the sound of the last gasps of a constitutional democracy. We don't have to worry about some cave-dwellers destroying the idea of America. W and his crew are doing that all by themselves.

We need a new Declaration of Independence. Independence from the extremism Republicans have injected into the body politic. Wish I could say the injection was more like a vaccine rather than the poison it seems to be.

Monday, December 19, 2005

W's press conference - I laughed, I cried

From the President's press conference this morning, Dec. 19, 2005, and no this is not from The Onion:

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I wonder if you can tell us today, sir, what, if any, limits you believe there are or should be on the powers of a President during a war, at wartime? And if the global war on terror is going to last for decades, as has been forecast, does that mean that we're going to see, therefore, a more or less permanent expansion of the unchecked power of the executive in American society?

THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I disagree with your assertion of "unchecked power."

Q Well --

THE PRESIDENT: Hold on a second, please. There is the check of people being sworn to uphold the law, for starters.

There is checks and balances because the people illegally spying on Americans in America without a court order are "sworn to uphold the law?" That's some self-fulfilling checks and balances if I ever heard of any. Was Enron and WorldCom basically doing their own accounting a form of checks and balances since they had to follow the law?

More on the NSA domestic spying program:

PRESIDENT: Now, having suggested this idea, I then, obviously, went to the question, is it legal to do so? I am -- I swore to uphold the laws. Do I have the legal authority to do this? And the answer is, absolutely. As I mentioned in my remarks, the legal authority is derived from the Constitution, as well as the authorization of force by the United States Congress.

Oh and I thought "checks and balances" was going to make it past 229. W answers his own question. Is this legal? Yes! Why? Because I said so. And for all you strict constructionists out there - you like that answer that W's authority is in the Constituiton? It's just in there? Just look around it's there. It's Article II. Nice. Could you be more vague? Weren't you all the loudest about the "rule of law" when Clinton was president? Now it's "well, it's in Article II somewhere." Did you even have a nice going away party for your principles? Of the 19,000 FISA wiretap requests since 1979 all but five were approved and reports are those five were later approved.

And this. Can you hear the powers of W growing as fast as his divine infallibility?

PRESIDENT: ...So in other words, this is not a -- if you're calling from Houston to L.A., that call is not monitored.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. You say you have an obligation to protect us. Then why not monitor those calls between Houston and L.A.? If the threat is so great, and you use the same logic, why not monitor those calls?

PRESIDENT: We will, under current law, if we have to. We will monitor those calls.

Someone call NBC and get W on the writing staff to help their comedy line-up.

On Saddam and 9/11:

PRESIDENT: And guess what happened? Saddam -- Osama bin Laden changed his behavior. He began to change how he communicated.

Too bad W couldn't have mixed up Iran and Iraq as much as he confuses (purposely) Saddam and Osama. Then maybe we could have gone after a real nuclear threat instead of a phony one.

On the Valarie Plame leak:

THE PRESIDENT: Let me start with the first question. There is a process that goes on inside the Justice Department about leaks, and I presume that process is moving forward. My personal opinion is it was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy.

You've got to understand -- and I hope the American people understand -- there is still an enemy that would like to strike the United States of America, and they're very dangerous. And the discussion about how we try to find them will enable them to adjust. Now, I can understand you asking these questions and if I were you, I'd be asking me these questions, too. But it is a shameful act by somebody who has got secrets of the United States government and feels like they need to disclose them publicly.

Actually this was not about Valarie Plame but on the leak to the New York Times, which kept the story to itself for a year, that the NSA was spying on Americans domestically without a court order. What's shameful is that W didn't object in the same manner to Plame's outing by members of his adminstration. If you read his answer it applies equally to Plame who by the way wasn't violating U.S. law as apparently the NSA was.

The movie V for Vendetta coming out next summer says it best: People should not be afraid of their Governments. Governments should be afraid of their people. W sees it differently. How about you?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Long live Howard Stern

Today is the last day that radio personality Howard Stern is broadcasting on free FM terrestrial radio. He will be starting on Sirius Satellite Radio in January. I know most people think he's just a potty-mouth and a "shock jock" and a lewd pig but that is a matter of taste and it shouldn't be the government that tells you what you can see or hear. In fact, some "less government and more freedom" types in the Republican party have suggested that pay cable and pay radio content be regulated. That's HBO, that's Showtime. That's Sex and the City and Sopranos. Now that's obscene. What's next? Republican censoring the internet (or internets) because they are offended by the content? Believe me I'm sure someone wants to do it. And if they can regulate HBO they can regulate bookstores. It's not a hysterical argument.

Howard Stern talks about a lot of things and yes he talks about toilet issues and bedroom habits of his guests. But if you look on Amazon you can find "Walter the Farting Dog" which has been a top seller for fours years. How about "Everyone Poops?" Another book favorite of kids. Guess what parents of babies and toddlers ask each other - "Did he poop today? How was it? Was is big? What was the consistency?" Middle school kids? Have you listened in on their conversations? High School kids? Forget about it. They have more active sex lives than most people. This is what people talk about. All day.

Ever listen to Dr. Ruth? Oprah? The View? Watch Desperate Housewives? Fear Factor? Survivor? Believe me they are saying and doing things more "shocking " than Howard Stern. Again, it's simply a matter of taste something the government should never be allowed to regulate. A five-member panel called the FCC decides whether to issue what's called a "Notice of Apparent Liability" if they think something has been broadcasted that is obscene. Unless it is one of the famous "seven dirty words" it is only obscene if it violate contemporary community standards. Since Stern in number one in most of his markets, i.e. Miami, Chicago, New York, the community has already voted that its not obscene since it is number 1 in the ratings. The community has spoken. How can something be deemed to have violated the community's standards if the community has voted it number 1? The catch here is that the FCC also approves licenses and mergers in the broadcasting world and unless you pay your fine without challenging it in court your paperwork just might go missing. And by the way, how many of you clicked on the "seven dirty words" link? Do you feel obscene? Should you be fined? Should the government expand the list of words to ban?

After the Janet Jackson boob incident at the Superbowl, (oh dear heavens not a breast for maybe one second!) the outraged Congress took time from taking bribes from defense contractors to pass a law that would increase fines from $37,500 an incident to $500,000. So now it's more of a penalty to show a breast on the Superbowl or talk about toilet bowls than it is to reveal classified information or leave nuclear waste uncovered in the town square.

If you don't like Howard Stern don't listen to him. But 18 million people liked it on free radio and who are five political hacks on the FCC to tell them otherwise? Whatever happened to choice? You want five people to decide what you can watch and hear? You got it. Before it was Elvis and his hips, then the Beatles, then Madonna then Howard Stern. Tomorrow it will be something else that is "undermining our culture and coarsening our society." It's always something. I wonder how much Howard Stern the Catholic Priests listened to before they molested boys and girls in their churches? Maybe they just need more religion. Maybe they didn't have enough 10 Commandments on the walls. I wonder what violent video games Hitler was playing on his Xbox 360 as a kid. The real obscenity is that political decisions control what you see and hear and a bunch of blue-haired ladies and Jerry Falwell can censor the sex and doody talk on Stern's show while cherishing the epic violence of the Passion of the Christ. Once again a matter of taste.

It's legal to go to the bathroom and have sex but it's illegal to talk about it uncensored. Go figure. And go read Captain Underpants one more time before some religious political hack gets on the FCC or the Library and Internet Protection Commission and bans it too. And don't say I didn't warn you.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

It's just a movie for God's sake!

So today's pinhead who actually gets paid to write is James P. Pinkerton of New York's Newsday. His column begins "Is King Kong Racist?" Oh for God's sake. Is this some college course like Film and Idiotic Moral Comparisons? Is Pinkerton the wannabe professor?

Pinkerton writes, "Any movie that features white people sailing off to the Third World to capture a giant ape and carry it back to the West for exploitation is going to be seen as a metaphor for colonialism and racism. That was true for the original in 1933 and for the two remakes: the campy one in 1976, and the latest, directed by Peter Jackson. (In addition, a "Kong" wannabe, "Mighty Joe Young," has been made twice.)

Movie reviewer David Edelstein, writing in, notes the "implicit racism of 'King Kong' - the implication that Kong stands for the black man brought in chains from a dark island (full of murderous primitive pagans) and with a penchant for skinny white blondes." It's now racism to be into skinny white blondes? (Hopefully, Cranky's brunette Wife doesn't read this part.)

Comparing the new film with the original, The Washington Post's Stephen Hunter observed, "It remains a parable of exploitation, cultural self-importance, the arrogance of the West, all issues that were obvious in the original but unexamined; they remain unexamined here, if more vivid."

First of all it's a movie. Is Star Wars racist because the arch villain Darth Vader is dressed in black? Will PETA protest because Chewbacca was subservient to Han Solo? What about Frosty the Snowman? Every time he "woke up" or was "re-born" he said "Happy Birthday. Is that an allegory for Jesus Christ? Don't forget Frosty melted (died) and was re-made (arose from the dead?) If you want to find similarities you can. But King Kong racist? If anything Peter Jackson's masterpiece of entertainment proves the opposite.

Just as "Dances with Wolves" showed the Native American culture from their perspective, and in the process showing the mindless cruelty of the West, King Kong shows the immorality of exploitation, slavery and colonialism. It tells the story from the exploited/slave/colonized Kong point of view and shows the immorality of it rather than defending it.

If you look hard enough you'll find whatever you want. Yes Kong is covered in black fur and yes he is taken by ship in chains back to America for exploitation and then death. And yes he instills fear in the masses and yes he has a thing for a skinny blonde woman. But when people watch Godzilla movies I'm sure they think this is a cheesy monster movie rather than think about the whole destruction of Japan and Godzilla is the war or a nuclear weapon. It's just a movie! And if have a thing for skinny white blondes then I guess I'm a racist too. (Dear God I hope Cranky's brunette Wife isn't reading this.)

I think I am just as pinheaded as Pinkerton. Can't I get paid to write too?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Tomato, to-mah-to, Potato, Po-tat-o

The New York Times reports that Palestinian gunmen stormed four election offices in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank on Tuesday, adding to the political instability in advance of parliamentary elections planned for next month.

Dozens of masked gunmen belonging to the Fatah movement of the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, fired into the air and burst into election offices in Gaza City. The gunmen said they were upset with the candidates Mr. Abbas and the Fatah leadership planned to enter in the election. The gunmen eventually left.

Armed Fatah agents also charged into two other election offices in Gaza and one in Nablus in the West Bank, where they stole a computer and a television set. No injuries were reported in the incidents.

"This is a peaceful step to protest the policy of appointments within Fatah," Abu Eyad, a spokesman for the gunmen, told Reuters. You know, you really don't see the title of "spokesman for the gunmen" very often. Wonder if that's on his business cards? "Abu Eyad - Spokesman for the Gunmen." Does he have different cards when he speaks for suicide bombers?

Just two days ago President George W. "we do not torture" Bush told NBC News about Iraq, "I think we are welcomed. But it was not a peaceful welcome."

With Scott McClellan probably out the door next year I think W has found his new press secretary in the form of Abu Eyad. I wonder if their respective definitions of torture are also as similarly Orwellian as "peaceful" and "welcome."

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

It's 1787 all over again

Vice-Emperor Darth Cheney's wife, Lynne Cheney gave a "history lesson" for elementary school children Tuesday, likening this week's parliamentary elections in Iraq to America's own early struggle for democracy.

"Two hundred and seventeen years ago, we held our first vote under our Constitution," she said. "We started then on the path the Iraqis are walking now."

Besides electing a 275-member National Assembly it paves the way for amendments to Iraq's new constitution. To win Sunni Arab support for the constitution, the Sunnis were promised they could propose amendments to it during the first four months of the new parliament's tenure. Cheney said that was "a very important historical parallel" with America's early democratic struggle.

"We did much the same thing in terms of our Constitution," Cheney said in an interview on CNN. "Many were reluctant to ratify (it) until they were told there would be amendments. ... So there are indeed many parallels and I look forward to talking with kids about it."

Where do I begin? Was Vermont and New Hamshire engaged in a religious civil war at the time? Iraq as the Thirteen Colonies? No difference in constitutional conventions or militias? Excuse me, but while the period between the adoption of the Articles of Confederation in 1781 and the drafting of the Constitution in 1787 was one of weakness, dissension, and turmoil the worst thing that happened back then was states printing up their own money and imposing taxes on other states' imported goods. Unlike in Iraq where a mix of foreign terrorists, former Sunni Ba'athists now insurgents, criminal gangs and religious militias have made life practically unlivable, the militias of New Hampshire and Massachusetts didn't go on raids slaughtering the good people of Maine or Connecticut unless I missed that in history class. It's more of the unreality W and his band of crusaders will sell until people stop buying it.

And get ready for another historical comparison if Iraq descends into full-blown (no pun intended) civil war. Then W and Darth and his wife Lynne will be endlessly quoting Lincoln and Rumsfeld will approvingly tell us "we had our own civil war and it's just a normal part of the bumpy road to democracy." The sad thing about them creating this fantasy world is that they don't have to live in it.

BONUS POSTING: "I think we are welcomed. But it was not a peaceful welcome." -- President George W. Bush in NBC interview, Dec. 12, 2005. This Orwellian doublespeak pretty much sums up the the up is down, night is day irreality over the last five years that plaintively wails for regime change.

BONUS POSTING 2: Orwell introduced us to the words doublethink and newspeak. A word he didn't use - but which combines the two - is doublespeak. Maybe W, Rove, Cheney, Condi and the rest of them can trademark it and reap some royalties.

Monday, December 12, 2005

No News

There is nothing to write about today. Nothing. There is no interesting story out there to rant about. Elections in Iraq? Big deal. I've seen this before and I can't wait for the Corruptican spin that it means "victory." Haven't we had a "victory" about every week? I heard a blowhard on Faux News actually say, when asked, "what does victory in Iraq mean, how do you define it?" answered, "It means we win, they lose." He has a point. Unfortunately it's at the top of his head.

Saw the story of the Japanese trader who entered an incorrect stock order and crashed the Tokyo Stock Exchange and cost his house $225 million. Nice. Doubt he'll get a Christmas bonus.

Then there is another beacon of truth, integrity and "the people have a right to know" reporter over at Time Magazine who F-ed up the Rove investigation. Not only did she tip off Rove's lawyer that Rove probably didn't testify truthfully the first time giving him a chance to correct it the second time but she can't remember when the conversation took place - a critical factor in whether Rove might get indicted. She also didn't tell her editors at Time about her interview by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald until he wanted to have her testify a second time under oath. She is on leave from Time right now. Judith Miller, Bob Woodward, Viveca Novak. It's getting hard to not see the media as simply an arm of the insiders in D.C. and it's getting harder to trust what is written. Probably the most profound casualty in the last few years. And since the Corrupticans do well when the media doesn't its a net positive for them. Another lamentable outcome.

On the "good" side of things, there is some cooperation going on in Afghanistan where resurgent Taliban forces are working together to bring back the drug trade. Community elders and police officials said the Taliban has flooded remote villages with "night letters" ordering farmers to grow poppies. The notices are pinned to mosque doors or shop windows, said community leader Haji Nazaraullah. "They say 'cultivate the poppy or we will come and kill you,'" he said in Khanishin, a remote village bordering a vast desert criss-crossed with smuggling tracks. "A lot of people are very scared." Guess we should have had 140,000 troops there instead of Iraq but I'm not in charge. Yet.

And in a "positive" step for the GOP/Corrupticans they now embrace evolution. Well in fairness they embrace Darwinism. Well, in further clarity they actually support "Social Darwinism." It's the politics of "I've got mine" and they do it very well. Just remember when you read stories about airline cargo not getting checked or fire and police departments not able to communicate during an emergency like 9/11 or child support enforcement or student loans getting cut or tax cuts again for the top 1% or amnesty for corporations to re-patriate their profits back into the U.S. that the Corrupticans are in charge and they are here to help - themselves and their friends.

Hope something happens before tomorrow for me to rant about.

BONUS POSTING: If you're as bored as I am, check out the trailers for X-Men 3 and Superman Returns. Also, a must read here at the Onion by way of Andrew Sullivan.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

I love New York?

How prescient of me to have written on Thursday, "New York is surprisingly nice but I'm sure by the time I leave I'll have some cranky episodes to report..." Boy was I right.

Where do I begin? I arrive at LaGuardia Airport (a $35 cab fare) at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday for my 5:00 p.m. flight like a good passenger. I get through security and wonder if I can get on the 4:00 pm flight and surprise Cranky's Wife. No luck and the plane takes off. I wait knowing I'll be in the air in an hour. (Yeah, right). We hear there is snow in Chicago but we board the fully loaded plane before 5 and buckle in. Everything seems fine. We remain belted in, fully loaded and at the gate at 5:30 pm. "Attention," the Captain broadcasts, "We have two problems. A maintenance issue which is being worked on and a weather issue with O'Hare." He continues, "We are going to push away from the gate around 6:30 and sit on the tarmac until after 8 pm but we are going to Chicago tonight," giving us all hope. If you want to get off the plane to get food and water and a magazine go ahead but be back by 6:00." I race off the plane and load up like I'm going on a three-week survival hike.

As I'm walking back on the plane at 6:00 I hear the Captain say, "Well, we should be flying around 8" when another passenger entering the plane tells the pilot he just saw in the terminal that the flight was cancelled. I go back outside to figure out what to do while the more experienced travelers call their travel agents and American Airlines to book them on another flight. Turns out it didn't matter since every flight was nearly fully booked and besides as I found out the next day none of the flights took off.

So now I am stuck at LaGuardia with a cell phone that is dying with no chance of getting to Chicago standing around a few hundred Chicagoans wondering what we do next. There are hundreds of people in line trying to get to one, yes, one ticket agent who thinks she is being funny in a New York way when she says, "look, I used to have wings and fly around but not anymore so I can't fly you to Chicago tonight." After going to another gate counter I got a reservation on the 9:00 am flight for Friday. Should I stay and hope to get on stand-by? Not with 45 people on stand-by lists on each of the next few flights that night. I don't think "lucky 46" is in my future. Besides, as I said, turns out none of them left. The 9:50 pm flight was ready to take-off until the accident at Midway Airport happened when a Southwest plane landing slid off the end of the runway and out onto a street killing a 6 year-old boy in a car with his family on their way to grandma's house. Now that's a bad night to say the least.

Some stranded people started to drink and wonder how they were going to get back their checked luggage or even their carry-ons which were gate checked. Didn't look like American was going to fish them all out but just send them to Chicago whenever they could. On top of that there were no hotel rooms within 40 miles. I at least had a floor to sleep on back in Manhattan or Brooklyn but that was another $40 cab ride. My cranky level was off the charts. Then just when things couldn't get worse my cell phone dies. I am cut off from the rest of the world. The frequent flyers around me all have Blackberries and I start to ask can I send an email to my Cranky Wife? (I need to get one of those things but with my luck I'll buy one the day NTP shuts them down over patent issues.) I did manage to get my phone numbers off my cell before it died so I could reach my people in the city to ask If I could sleep on their floor. Give us your tired, your hungry, your poor huddled masses whose flights were cancelled due to snow in Chicago and have no extra pair of underwear.

A $40 cab ride back to the upper west side (woo-woo) and I am nearly out of money. After getting set with a floor to sleep on I go out and hit an ATM. "System unavailable." Another salt for the wound. Good thing NYC never sleeps and there are more ATMs than people there. I replenish my funds buy a slice of pizza and a falafel sandwich. Slept for a few hours and woke at 6:00 am. It's snowing like mad outside. I call American Airlines to find out if any flights are going out and the wait is 20 minutes. I also go online to American and Laguardia and no info is there. I mean why use the internet to distribute information to thousands of people scattered all over NY when not updating your websites is so much easier? After nearly an hour without reaching a human I hang up and get a cab to LaGuardia praying flights take off. On the way there in the cab we stop at a traffic light and to my right is the restaurant used in Seinfeld. It's neon sign says, "Tom's Restaurant" and I get a photo. After another $35 I arrive at the airport. The 8:00 am flight was cancelled. Wonderful. I figure I'm never getting out of here. Yada, yada, yada it stops snowing, a plane shows up and we take off nearly 2 hours late.

I de-plane (wenever say "de-car" or "de-elevator" why "de-plane?). and don't have a cell phone so I find pay phones to call a taxi service. Eighty cents for a local call!!?? What the F***? I have enough and dial. Wrong number. Kill me now. Just end the misery. Consider it a mercy killing. I go to a Starbucks Express. They won't make change until I buy something. This is now a real Seinfeld episode. I go back and call on the pay phone. "You have reached American Taxi, please hold." Three minutes goes buy and "please deposit 50 cents rings in my ears but my sobbing drowns it out. I go to an American Airlines luggage counter and say, "You've ruined my life over the last 24 hours, I want use your phone." Still can't get through to American Taxi. Outside O'Hare the taxi line is long and rides are $52.00 to my house. I go to the taxi van service - they aren't going to my area for hours. If I had my scissors that the TSA confiscated in New York I would have plunged it into my heart. Just then a guy comes up to me and in a "need some companionship?"-way who looked like an elderly Wal-Mart greeter said "Need a taxi? I'm with a livery service." $30 dollars later I'm on my way. He tells me on Thursday it was 3 hours from O'Hare into the city if you could have even gotten a cab. So maybe it was best that I didn't get out of NYC the night before because I might have spent a night at O'Hare.

I arrive home and after 10 minutes I'm back outside clearing my driveway of a foot of snow. At least it was Chicago snow.

So I'm glad to be home, I never want to travel again and my cranky level has returned to about a normal of 7 after hitting 13 -- as in Spinal Tap "it goes to 11." Now I can surf the net and see all the other things that would have been the subject of my crankiness had I known they were happening.

I still love New York but next time I'm bringing more clothes, more money and cell phone charger.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Ground Zero

Dateline - New York.

Greetings world from Ground Zero. The real Ground Zero. The Curmudgeon is at the center of the world near Ground Zero at Broad and Wall Street. The NYSE is quite impressive although the perimeter of heavily armed policemen with automatic weapons kind of takes the fun out of it. Ground Zero is well, awful. The whole there will be replaced but it feels like looking at a civil war battlefield. Empty and sad.

On the good side of the visit, I have wondered around Times Square, saw the Late Show with David Letterman theater, NASDAQ market site, ESPN Zone and Papaya King. Unfortunately the Naked Cowboy wasn't there. Maybe it was the windy 30 degree night that kept him away. Maybe next time.

New York is surprisingly nice but I'm sure by the time I leave I'll have some cranky episodes to report back to my loyal fans. I did forget my tie in Chicago and had to buy one here so that put me in a small cranky mood.

More later.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

If you have nothing nice to say...

Ramsey Clark, a former Attorney General and international media monger who hopscotches around the globe finding the most despicable despots to defend in war crimes trials has opened his soup cooler again giving me my blog topic today. Clark, the son of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice has basically forced himself onto the Saddam Hussein defense team in Iraq probably fearing that he hasn't had any press attention in a while. I actually don't have a problem with fading old timers like Clark, who normally would be having the early bird special in south Florida but who spend their golden years helping mass murdering dictators. It's just they way he does it.

At his trial, Mr. Hussein is charged with crimes against humanity in the killing of 148 men and teenage boys from the Shiite town of Dujail, north of Baghdad, after an assassination attempt against Mr. Hussein there in 1982. But Mr. Clark suggested that Mr. Hussein's secret police had reason to act harshly against Shiite assassins who, he said, almost certainly had political links to Shiite-ruled Iran, then in the early stages of an eight-year war with Iraq. He compared the actions of Mr. Hussein's secret police with the muscular behavior of an American president's security detail.

"Just look at how our Secret Service works," he said. "I've been knocked down several times when they see some kind of threat." In any case, he said, he could not see how Mr. Hussein could be blamed for the killings. "He was the president of the country, he was in a war, he was a pretty busy guy," he said. "I can see this as a case of some of his juniors overreacting."

So the mass murdering retaliation of Saddam's not-so secret police is just like the U.S. Secret Service shoving people and besides, Saddam is "a pretty busy guy." Yes, busy murdering masses somewhere else. I'm a pretty busy Curmudgeon but I think I would remember if I ordered the killings of 148 people. Maybe what Clark was saying was that Saddam killed so many people and ordered so many tortures and deaths that he just can't keep them all straight. Wouldn't be surprised if Clark offered that as a defense.

In any event, Saddam will be found guilty of something, he will be executed and the Earth will be that much lighter. Hey Ramsey -- just before they shoot the bullets into Saddam and bill his family for the cost just tell him it's more like being knocked down by "overreacting juniors" of a very busy president in the middle of a war. Remind me never to commit genocide and hope that Ramsey Clark will keep me from getting shoved from this world into the next.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

That's one way to get smaller government

My crankiness today has already been covered by a New York Times editorial but I had one more example and a slightly different take on it.

First there was the story that religion and politics at the F.D.A. was used when when top officials there "decided to reject an application to allow over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill [called Plan B] months before a government scientific review of the application was completed." The decision was described as "very, very rare" and "unprecedented" since the decision ignored the recommendation "of an independent advisory committee as well as the agency's own scientific review staff." And there's this, "From 1994 to 2004, F.D.A. advisory committees reviewed 23 applications to switch drugs from prescription to over-the-counter status. Plan B was the only one of those 23 in which the agency went against the committee's advice."

Then there was this story that "[a] team of Justice Department lawyers and analysts who reviewed a Georgia voter-identification law recommended rejecting it because it was likely to discriminate against black voters, but they were overruled the next day by higher-ranking officials at Justice, according to department documents."

Now this story that "Justice Department lawyers concluded that the landmark Texas congressional redistricting plan spearheaded by Rep. Tom DeLay (R) violated the Voting Rights Act, according to a previously undisclosed memo obtained by The Washington Post. But senior officials overruled them and approved the plan."

Hmmmmm. Any theme here? How about career staff or independent panel recommendations overruled by senior Bush Administration officials. While election tampering by the "legal" manipulation of re-districting, between a census, or requiring a voter ID card that some won't get or can't afford is as the New York Times says is fixing the game, the Plan B rejecting is just as despicable.

What this really is total control of the government by less people than there are fingers on your right hand. Why even have career staffs and panels to do reports and research if Cheney and Rove can make a phone call and overturn months or years of work? Why not just fire everyone below cabinet rank and rule by decree? Smaller and more efficient governement right? Exactly what the Corrupticans stand for and preach and what your seeing at work with Plan B, Georgia voting ID cards and Texas re-districting.

And you wonder why I'm cranky?

BONUS POSTING: Watch this nut-job of a woman and then ask yourself could she be up for a cabinet job herself in the W Administration.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Must be the water

What is it about San Diego? First there was the "Duke" Cunningham's implosion - going from fighter ace in Vietnam to Top Gun instructor (Remember in in the movie Tom Cruise's character's dad was named "Duke" Mitchell?) to eight-term congressman to felon sent to prison for 10 years. Breathtaking. Duke's fall started with a story in a loca San Diego newspaper about him selling his home for $700,000 higher than market value to a defense contractor who turned around and sold shortly thereafter losing the $700,000 he "over-paid" for it. Now it's a Democrats turn?

Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) "has paid at least $505,000 in campaign funds to his wife for political consulting services since 1995," the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. "For the past five years she has run her unregistered business out of their condominium in Washington, D.C.

However, the District of Columbia government has no record of Campaign Resources existing as a business, and directory assistance has no phone listing for that name.

With no public records linking Jane Filner to her company, Bob Filner's constituents have no way of knowing that some of his campaign contributions are finding their way into his household's income.

Asked to prove the existence of his wife's business, Filner's campaign provided faxed copies of a blank check from an account at SunTrust bank and a sheet of Campaign Resources letterhead with an outdated address and phone number.

It is illegal to spend campaign funds for personal use, but it is not illegal to use them to pay family members who provide 'bona fide services' at fair-market value. Still, election watchdogs question the way the Filners set up their arrangement."

I'm not saying Filner has done anything wrong. It's just another example of things running in D.C. a lot more like the Sopranos than Schoolhouse Rock's "I'm Just a Bill." Maybe what Filner's arraignment with his wife is technically legal under the relevent statutes and House rules. That shouldn't be the standard, "Well, it's legal." It reminds me of Michael Kinsley's saying that what bothers him isn't what's illegal but what's legal in this type of situation. Kinsley has just written another brilliant piece entitled, "Business as usual: Corrupt" and it's a must read.

Hard to add to Kinsley other than to say after reading stories like Filner's it makes me either want to become a "consultant" and get adopted by him or turn on ESPN and never pick up the news section again.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Bush avoids service - again

Just when I thought there was nothing to blog about today...

President W was summoned for jury duty service on Monday but didn't show up. White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Thursday that the president intends to serve, just not on Monday. Scotty went on to blather, "We have since called the court to inform them that the president has other commitments on Monday and that he would like to reschedule his jury duty. We will be working with the court to reschedule his jury duty. ... Jury duty is an important civic responsibility and it's important that people do serve." Blah, blah, blah. Maybe W was still working on the 1972 Alabama U.S. Senate campaign of family friend Winton "Red" Blount. W couldn't be busy working on any strategy for Iraq because the Corrupticans already have one - clap louder and stay the course up until the time you cut-and-race walk to the exits.

What's interesting about this is that last month Sen. John Kerry was summoned for jury duty in Massachusetts and showed up for his service. Not only that he was elected foreman of the jury which rejected a claim by two men who sued the city of Boston for injuries suffered in a car accident involving a school principal.

So once again W avoids a summons to serve as required and Kerry shows up and serves. Hmmmmmm. Where have I heard that story before? Maybe here and here for example? Seems to run in the family as just a month ago one of the president's daughters, Barbara, turned up on the jury list and also needed a postponement. No word on whether W's daughter Barbara completed her national guard duty or is also working on some family friend's U.S. Senate campaign. My guess is no.

So The story makes me cranky but the fact I found two bookend-type stories cracks a smile, internally that is. What a conflict for a curmudgeon.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

I hate everyone - except Diane M.

Well, not really everyone but I promised Diane, a high-powered intellectual property lawyer in New York City to feature her today. She is an old law school friend who I will see next week when I take my crankiness on a field trip to the Big Apple. Yes, I feel that New York isn't cranky enough so I am going to do my part and add a bit of coarseness.

Anyway, while I do dislike a lot of people I do like my blog readers, my family including almost all the in-laws, the guy who delivers my paper every morning, the Apple guy at CompUSA, any PGA Tour professional and anyone who buys me lunch. The list is longer and I will probably remember people at the after-party whom I should have thanked when I received my award but hey. Any suggestions about my list let me know.

So I'm off next week to wine and dine a foreign trade delegation (more later) and pretend I'm more important than I am. I do it everyday here in cyberspace why not in person? And Diane M. might even get a rare free meal from the Curmudgeon. I think after listening to my crankiness for nearly an hour she earned it condsidering her hourly rate (legal that is) is probably $300.00 an hour. Thanks Diane.

Off for a late lunch (not free) after a short and late posting. Apologies to my loyal fans and blog readers and especially