Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Danger! Danger! Will Robinson!

Apparently warnings of imminent danger to the United States are routinely ignored. We all remember Condi Rice's answer at the 9/11 commission when asked about the title of the Presidential Daily Briefing memo dated Aug. 6, 2001. She looked up as if trying to recall and then said, "I believe the title was, "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States." Then she and W went back to clearing brush at the Crawford ranch. Two years before her "Who's on First" testimony at the 9/11 hearings she had said, "I don't think anybody could have predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile." After the recent Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections Condi once again shrugged and said, "I don't know anyone who wasn't caught off guard by Hamas' strong showing." I'm afraid to think of all the other things that escape her imagination. "No one imagined bird flu could kill people. I mean it says 'bird' right there in the name!" Sssshhhhh. Genius at work.

Now it appears this condition is genetic in the DNA of Republicans even if they don't believe in the science of genetics or DNA for that matter. Former defense secretary Caspar Weinberger says he implored Ronald Reagan to put Marines serving in Beirut in a safer position before terrorists attacked them in 1983, killing 241 servicemen.

"I was not persuasive enough to persuade the president that the Marines were there on an impossible mission," Caspar Weinberger says in an oral history project capturing the views of former Reagan administration officials. He said one of his greatest regrets was in failing to overcome the arguments that "'Marines don't cut and run,' and 'We can't leave because we're there'" before the devastating suicide attack on the lightly armed force. "They had no mission but to sit at the airport, which is just like sitting in a bull's-eye," Weinberger said. "I begged the president at least to pull them back and put them back on their transports as a more defensible position."

Ignore warnings. Stubborn refusal to re-visit bad decisions. Paper it over with spin and slogans. Put politics over national security. The 2006 platform of the Republican Party. Rah-rah.

BONUS POSTING: James Kuhn, Reagan's second-term executive assistant, said Nancy Reagan was hard to please. He described her as a first lady who "could ask questions that there were no answers to." For example, she would demand details of the weather in whatever place the Reagans were going. "And she'd say: 'Rain. Why is it raining? Why is it raining in Cleveland?'" Kuhn related. "I'd say, 'Well, I guess there's a low pressure system that came in.'
"'Well, why?' "I'd think, 'Oh God, I'm getting in deeper here.'" Birds of a feather.

Monday, January 30, 2006

This stuff writes itself

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

--Fourth Amendment, U.S. Constitution

From the "you can't make this stuff up" department:

Lt. Gen Michael Hayden, the head of the National Security Agency (NSA) from March 1999 through April 2005 and currently the principal deputy director of National Intelligence with the Office of National Intelligence recently defended the warrantless domestic spying on Americans at the National Press Club. Hayden was NSA Director when the warrantless spying began in 2001 and when pressed on the legal and Constitutional standard to conduct such surveillance gave an explaination that would make proudly uninformed, well, proud.

QUESTION: Jonathan Landay with Knight Ridder. I'd like to stay on the same issue, and that had to do with the standard by which you use to target your wiretaps. I'm no lawyer, but my understanding is that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution specifies that you must have probable cause to be able to do a search that does not violate an American's right against unlawful searches and seizures. Do you use --

GEN. HAYDEN: No, actually -- the Fourth Amendment actually protects all of us against unreasonable search and seizure.

QUESTION: But the --

GEN. HAYDEN: That's what it says.

QUESTION: But the measure is probable cause, I believe.

GEN. HAYDEN: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.

QUESTION: But does it not say probable --

GEN. HAYDEN: No. The amendment says --

QUESTION: The court standard, the legal standard --

GEN. HAYDEN: -- unreasonable search and seizure.

QUESTION: The legal standard is probable cause, General. You used the terms just a few minutes ago, "We reasonably believe." And a FISA court, my understanding is, would not give you a warrant if you went before them and say "we reasonably believe"; you have to go to the FISA court, or the attorney general has to go to the FISA court and say, "we have probable cause."

And so what many people believe -- and I'd like you to respond to this -- is that what you've actually done is crafted a detour around the FISA court by creating a new standard of "reasonably believe" in place of probable cause because the FISA court will not give you a warrant based on reasonable belief, you have to show probable cause. Could you respond to that, please?

GEN. HAYDEN: Sure. I didn't craft the authorization. I am responding to a lawful order. All right? The attorney general has averred to the lawfulness of the order.

Just to be very clear -- and believe me, if there's any amendment to the Constitution that employees of the National Security Agency are familiar with, it's the Fourth. And it is a reasonableness standard in the Fourth Amendment. And so what you've raised to me -- and I'm not a lawyer, and don't want to become one -- what you've raised to me is, in terms of quoting the Fourth Amendment, is an issue of the Constitution. The constitutional standard is "reasonable." And we believe -- I am convinced that we are lawful because what it is we're doing is reasonable.

Like I said, you can't make this stuff up. This from a guy who has a master's degree in American History. Of course it's from Duquesne University and it was modern American history so maybe they didn't study the Bill of Rights. Too ancient. Like the 1978 FISA law that W decided he didn't have to follow because it was so old. Or maybe hayden hasn't ever really read the 4th Amendment but still likes to consider himself an expert on the subject. All that reading is for policy wonks. Too elitist. It's just another example of the truth being murdered by people who are in charge and who should know better. And if they shouldn't know better then they shouldn't be in charge.

Friday, January 27, 2006

A ray of hope?

I attended a large Roe v. Wade Anniversary event at the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago last night which celebrated choice for women while we still can. Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Congresswoman Melissa Bean, Commissioner Forrest Claypool, Illinois congressional candidates Dan Seals, Tammy Duckworth and a number of other elected Illinois officials were there to proudly and openly support the group.

Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL) was also there and had the political sense but not the guts to even wear a name tag identifying himself as a member of a party that equates choice with murder and probably just got the fifth and deciding vote on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. Over 800 other people at the event had no problem wearing a name tag but Rep. Kirk wanted to have it both ways again - attending a Planned Parenthood event without bringing too much attention to himself when he's there. Perhaps it's because he has given campaign contributions to fellow congressional Republicans who are strong opponents of womans' reproductive rights. Or perhaps it's because he doesn't want to remind people that he is simply a good little foot soldier in the army of W, Delay and Hastert. Since 58% of Americans now view President Bush's second term a failure and 52% see his entire presidency a failure I can understand Rep. Kirk's embarrassment of his party. In 2004 John Kerry got 53% of Illinois' 10th Congressional District and Americans are now more likely to vote for a candidate in November's congressional elections who opposes President Bush according to a poll released Thursday. Can you say former Rep. Mark Kirk?

The poll went on to tell us that fewer people consider Bush to be honest and trustworthy now than did a year ago, and 53 percent said they believe his administration deliberately misled the public about Iraq's purported weapons program before the U.S. invasion in 2003, the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found.

Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed in the latest poll -- 62 percent -- said they were dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States and 64 percent said things in the United States have gotten worse in the past five years. A majority of those polled said the president -- who campaigned as "a uniter, not a divider" -- has been a divisive leader.

So there is a ray of hope that people have had enough and see a Republican Party rotting from corruption, incompetence and the inability to talk honestly to the nation. They've damaged our national image, they've eroded our civil rights, they've weakened our military, they've betrayed a CIA operative, they've invaded Iraq and Iran won, they haven't been able to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mullah Omar, they haven't prevented Iran or North Korea from pursuing nuclear weapons, they've given subsidies and tax breaks to the oil industry as it make record profits, they've sent billions of petrodollars to the worst terror funding regimes in the world, they've lost an entire American city, they've sold our children's future to the Chinese through deficits and they tell you they are a success. With that measure of success I'm the greatest, most hit and most profitable blog site on the internet. The "internets" if you believe W and a majority now don't. Welcome to club.

BONUS POSTING: Yesterday I commented on W's lame excuse during his press conference that the 1978 FISA law was "too out of date" to be effective today. Helen Thomas had a great question ready for W if he had the guts to have called on her. If the 28 year old FISA law was too old to be effective and thus "out of date" then what about the U.S. Constituion? It's over 200 years old. Is it out of date too?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Million Little Lies

It's bad enough that W interrupted Oprah's interview of James Frey finally admitting he is an olympic liar and that his fabricated book "A Million Little Pieces" should be in the fiction rather than non-fiction section of Border's but then I have to listen to the fiction of W.

W stood up before the White House press corps and said he really didn't know Jack Abramoff. I'm sure he knew his money very well. Next W said he had the right to spy on Americans in the U.S. because we are at war. Sounds a lot like Nixon explaining that, "When the President does it, it means that it is not illegal." So much for a nation of laws. W said that, well, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the law that allows wiretapping either after getting a warrant from a secret court or three days after you've started your emergency wiretap, was enacted in 1978 and well, this is 2006 and he didn't have to follow it. Someone should ask W what other laws that were passed in the "ancient days" of say the 70s, 80s or 90s that he deems as being too old or quaint to keep up with modern times that he doesn't need to follow anymore. Never mind that FISA goes so far as to anticipate the nation at war and states, "Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence information for a period not to exceed fifteen calendar days following a declaration of war by the Congress." So if Congress declares war you can only engage in warrantless wiretaps for 15 days but if don't declare war W thinks you can order warrantless wiretaps for four years and counting. Makes sense.

Let's take a refresher course. There are two ways to wiretap people in the U.S.. - Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act passed in 1968 and updated in 1986 and FISA, passed in 1978. That's it. It's not complicated. If you think FISA didn't give you enough flexibility to conduct wiretaps then the Republican President could have asked the Republican House and Republican Senate to change the law. W didn't. Guess he's weak on terror. In fact, Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) proposed a change in the FISA law in 2002 to make it much easier to wiretap in the U.S. but W and his adminstration opposed it. Another soft on terrorist position.

So I can't watch Oprah talk to an admitted liar explaining his fiction but I can watch W explain his fiction and deny he is a liar. What a morning.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Deja Rove

The 2006 elections are going to be rerun of the last three. Vote Republican or the terrorists will win. Haven't I seen this movie before? Karl Rove, vigilantly watching not the borders for terrorists but whether he'll get indicted for betraying an undercover CIA operative said the other day, "Republicans have a post-9/11 worldview" on national security, "and many Democrats have a pre-9/11 worldview." Republicans are Jack Bauer and Democrats are Osama Bin Laden according to The White House. It's a rerun of the propoganda peddled by the chickenhawks in the Republican party but as long as it works they'll use anything and everything as a means to an end. Nothing original here. It works in D.C. and L.A.

Apparently Hollywood has no original ideas either. I'm not talking about sequels although there are a number coming out. (Can't wait for X-Men 3) I'm talking about remakes/reruns. First there was "Fun with Dick & Jane" a remake of the 1977 movie with Jane Fonda and George Segal. There is "Dirty" which looks and sounds pretty darn close to "Training Day." "Annapolis?" Try "An Officer and a Gentleman. There is also talk of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon remaking "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" because, obviously, they didn't get it right the first time. And then there is the remake of "When a Stranger Calls" a remake of the 1979 movie of the same name. Remember "The call is coming from inside the house" line? Well the call in politics is coming from inside the house. The terror and fear marketed by the Republicans is to make you forget the bad story line of corruption, cronyism and incompetence. Fear can't kill you, incompetence can. Just ask the people of New Orleans.

The 2006 is shaping up to be a fear-based fear-mongering retread of the last few elections. The Republicans, having failed to prevent 9/11 and then failed to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mullah Omar, failed to secure Iraq or prevent the orgy of slaughter going on there, failed to protect a U.S. CIA uncover operative named Valarie Plame, failed to adequately respond to Hurricane Katrina and failed to offer anything but fear and loathing to the country and the world are now happily ready to produce the 2006 election into a movie we've all seen before. Are you going to buy a ticket?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Size does matter

For some male bats, sexual prowess comes with a price - smaller brains. A Syracuse University research team found that in bat species where the females are promiscuous, the males with the largest testicles also had the smallest brains. Conversely, where the females were faithful, the males had smaller testes and larger brains.

"It turns out size does matter," said Scott Pitnick the research team leader. The study offers evidence that males - at least in some species - make an evolutionary trade-off between intelligence and sexual prowess. "Bats invest an enormous amount in testis, and the investment has to come from somewhere. There are no free lunches," said David Hoskens, a biologist at the University of Exeter.

Pitnick's team looked at 334 species of bats and found a convincing contrast in testes size. In species with monogamous females, males had testes starting at 0.11 percent of their body weight and ranging up to 1.4 percent. But in species where the females had a large number of mates, Pitnick found testes ranged from 0.6 percent to 8.5 percent of the males' mass (in the Rafinesque's big-eared bat).

Promiscuity is known to make a difference in testicle size in some other mammals. For example, chimpanzees are promiscuous and have testicles that are many times larger than those of gorillas, in which a single dominant male has exclusive access to a harem of females.

Large brains, meanwhile, are metabolically costly to develop and maintain. Pitnick's research suggested that in those bat species with promiscuous females, the male's body used more of its energy to enhance the testes - giving it the greater adaptive advantage - and lacked the energy it needed to further develop the brain.

The study found that in more monogamous species, the average male brain size was about 2.6 percent of body weight, while in promiscuous species, the average size dipped to 1.9 percent.

It takes big balls to invade a country based on phony intelligence. It takes big balls to engage in domestic surveillance of Americans without warrants. It takes big balls to say you want Osama bin Laden dead or alive and then say you don't think about him much anymore. It takes big balls to proclaim "Mission Accomplished" when it wasn't. It takes big balls to say the insurgency is in its last throes. It takes big balls to say "stay the course" before you cut and run for political reasons. It takes big balls to bankrupt the country just so a small percentage of people can live like royalty. It takes big balls to use a national tragedy as a political weapon.

I knew the Republican Party was blind as a bat on just about every issue. I just didn't know they actually were bats. Big balls, little brains.

Monday, January 23, 2006

No doubt

"The President does not know him, nor does the President recall ever meeting him,"

--White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan
regarding admitted felon Jack Abramoff

No one recalls anything. Apparently it's easy to forget a guy who is an elite Pioneer fundraiser for your last campaign a little more than a year ago. Or a guy who was on the transition team for the Department of the Interior and put in all those people to help him on the Indian casino issues. Or the guy you met at the White House numerous times and shook his hand and met his children. The guy who was the lobbyist in D.C. who was flying around the world with the Republican House Majority leader Tom Delay and Rep. Bob Ney, among others, to play golf. The guy who had hired former Delay staffers and funneled millions of dollars to Ralph Reed the boyish looking devil of the religious right. The guy who owned the infamous Signatures restaurant in Washington where the fat cats of the Hill got fatter on Kobe steak for free. The skyboxes at Washington's MCI center used to throw fundraisers while watching basketball. The decades old relationship with Grover Norquist. The guy who gave millions of dollars in "campaign contributions" to Republican Members of Congress. Oh yeah, that guy. But according to the White House, W doesn't know him and doesn't remember him.

Then the photographs of W and Abramoff surfaced. They haven't been published but Time magazine and The Washingtonian have seen them. And what does the White House say now? “He doesn’t have a personal relationship with him,” White House counselor Dan Bartlett said of Bush and Abramoff. Of course I believe the White House since they have been completely reliable in the past.

The weapons of mass destruction were a "slam dunk" in Iraq. Cheney told us "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us." What there really is no doubt about is the doubt you should have listening to anything Cheney has no doubt about. (Calling Dr. Seuss?) The war would only cost $1.7 billion and be self-funding with oil profits from Iraq; we would be welcomed as liberators; the looting was just the same vase being stolen 20 times; the insurgency were dead-enders and in its last throes and court approved warrants were required for wiretapping in the U.S. I actually think the "Mission Accomplished" banner had a small asterick with fine print to explain the "catastrophic success." (Mercifully I've left out the phony estimates of the cost of Medicare "reform," troop level pronouncements and voting rights or more accurately non-voting rights policy statements by this gang. I only have so much blog space you know.)

The denial that W didn't know Jack Abramoff and doesn't remember him reminds me of an Eddie Murphy bit explaining how far men will lie to get out from under a bad situation. After being caught in bed in the act with another woman by his girlfriend a man will even say things like "It wasn't me." That's what we can expect next from this world-class bunch of fabricators and liars. The meetings, photos and relationship between W and Abramoff will be explained away by Scott McClellan or Dan Bartlett by telling the world "it wasn't President Bush." Seems as reasonable and reliable as anything else they've told us so far. I have no doubt.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Dueling Realities

Do people care about the corruption by Republicans in Congress? If you read The Washington Post the answer is no. The AP by way of The Las Vegas Sun says yes. You be the judge.

The Post has an article entitled, "GOP Contest Prompts Yawns Outside Beltway" and describes how voters don't seem to care much about Jack Abramoff or Delay or Duke Cunningham or....I could go on forever. "I don't get the sense many people are paying attention," said Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), who has been hoping party activists would lead demands for a shake-up. "Corruption is still 90 percent an inside-the-Beltway" issue. GOP Rep. John R. "Randy" Kuhl Jr., said he has held 22 town meetings this month in his moderate New York district. He said the leadership race and the related ethics cloud have come up exactly once, when someone jokingly asked him, "Are you best buddies with Abramoff, and is that how you pronounce it?"
A Diageo/Hotline Poll released yesterday found that 72 percent of registered voters said corruption is equally bad inside the two major parties. Less than one in five said Republicans are more corrupt.

Click the mouse and you read the AP story that a growing number of Republican voters are frustrated by congressional spending and scandal, according to GOP leaders from across the country who worry that an "enthusiasm deficit" could cost the party control of Congress in November. Some rank-and-file Republicans wonder what happened to the party that promised to reform Washington after taking control of Congress in 1994 for the first time in 40 years. "We've seen the enemy, and he is us," said Tom Rath, a Republican National Committee member from New Hampshire describing the sentiments of some GOP voters. Some GOP party strategists expressed the concerns about voter turnout in November. "They do love the president, but they have seen a Congress that doesn't seem to function well and they wonder what the heck is going on," said consultant Joe Gaylord, who helped Republicans seize control of the House in 1994 as an adviser to then-Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.

So which is it? Do people care about wholesale corruption in Washington or not? Personally it's getting harder and harder to get up the strength to fight about it everyday. As long as the system is so fundamentally wired in favor of incumbents and Republicans there won't be any change. Whether a lobbyist can buy a $500 dinner or a $400 dinner for a Member of Congress isn't going to change anything. And the "reform" packages and ideas offered by Democrats are just as phony as the Republicans. If it continues to be business as usual it won't matter who is in charge. I know corruption will continue. I know there will always be corruption but it's the difference between jaywalking and a fatal hit and run. The system can tolerate jaywalking. It can't survive with ethically drunk drivers in charge.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Let the bidding begin

Tough one today. Nothing in the news that peaks my interest. Bin Landen audiotape? Big deal. Violence in the Middle East? Yawn. American Idol twin contestants arrested for fraud? What else is new? Then a story from a couple of days ago got me thinking. If Capt. Kirk's kidney stone is worth $25,000 how much is my crankiness worth?

So I will offer my crankiness in its entirety to the highest bidder. Although it has been used every day for a lifetime it is in very good shape. In fact, I'll provide a lifetime guarantee. Think of the joy you'll lose by owning my crankiness. The bidding is open so don't wait. If the auction is a success I'll have an additional auction to sell my boredom. After that my cynicism, loathing and general malaise.

Do I hear a dollar?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Am I getting better or worse?

I don't know if I'm getting better or worse. I used to be a news junkie. I read four papers a day, (Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, New York Times and Wall Street Journal), along with internet papers (L.A. Times, Washington Post, Ha'aretz, Maariv, etc.). I monitored CNN and Fox News like I was waiting for breaking news that Osama had been caught. I tivo-ed Nightline, Meet The Press, This Week without David Brinkley and CNN Special Presentations. I'd watch a bit of Chris Matthews or Bill O'Lielly just to see the latest in professional ranting and how we were doing in the "War on Christmas.". In the car on my way to do errands I'd listen to Sean Hannity to see what an insane college dropout sounded like and what kind of spin he could put on things. During the day I'd listen to Air America radio via the internet. But things have changed.

I am disgusted by Tim Russert and Judith Miller and Bob Woodward and CNN. I no longer waste time reading the Trib since it mainly re-prints NYT wire feed. I no longer tivo Nightline or This Week with former Democratic boy "genius" George Steph-something or other. I refuse to listen to Sean Hannity or Rush or Bill O'Lielly. I will no longer let Chris Matthews darken my living room. I've had it.

Jon Stewart had it right when he appeared on Crossfire and told Tucker Carlson that he and the show were "hurting America." They are. Stop watching and listening to these con men and you won't miss it. They really don't debate anything. You learn nothing new. They only are a platform to repeat talking points. There is not an honest argument or an original thought between them. Nothing will be accomplished in a six minute segment except to keep you watching the "respectable" form of professional wrestling. Everyone has a character to play and they do it while getting rich. In short it's crap.

So good-bye Tucker Carlson, Kate O'Beirne, Peggy Noonan, Howard Fineman, Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin. I bid you adieu. I will not waste another brain cell on you. Hello Wife Swap, American Idol, Nanny 911, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and "24." And if I ever have the need for childish programming I'll just watch "Miffy and Friends" with Cranky Jr. At least Miffy is longer than six minutes and you actually learn something.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I'm better off dead

I give up. I crank out my cranky thoughts every weekday seeking not fame and fortune, although I wouldn't be against it, but rather to speak to a large audience. To give people something to think about it and if I blog it right maybe in a way they hadn't considered. I guess I should just "die" myself, have my wife take pictures of me and post them on a blog and get hundreds of thousands of hits, an award and an agent.

Chuck Lamb became Dead Body Guy on Dec. 5, when he put up his Web site, DeadBodyGuy.com. The site features photos of Lamb playing dead in various scenes around his house. Crushed by his garage door. Electrocuted in the bathtub. One series shows Lamb lying face-down in a bowl of chicken soup. His wife took the photos.

Some people dream of being a doctor or an astronaut or president but Lamb had a more modest dream - he always wanted to become a famous actor. Alas, things didn't go to plan and Lamb, age 47, father of six, is a computer programmer with bags under his eyes, pale skin, precious little hair and no acting experience. No problem.

In a Newtonish eureka moment Lamb realized that anybody could play dead. By posing as a corpse on the Internet, he thought, perhaps he could win a role as a lifeless extra on "CSI: Miami." He took two days to build the Web site, then waited for someone to notice. In its first three weeks, DeadBodyGuy.com received 300,000 hits! Are you f-ing kidding me? I've been going for nine months and have barely 300 hits.

CNN labeled DeadBodyGuy one of its Web sites of the week. USA Today ran a small story. Lamb has been deluged with interview requests. The Dead Body Guy soon appeared on more than 100 local TV stations, in places like Nacogdoches, Tex., and Honolulu. He has also been mentioned on more than 300 radio shows. Lamb has also been invited to the Los Angeles Film Festival in June, where he will be presented with the Special Achievement Award for Self-Promotion. He also will play dead on the red carpet as film actors step over his body.

Lamb hired a publicist for $35 to write his first press release and now she is trying to represent him as he sends demo tapes to Jay Leno and "Saturday Night Live." He is waiting to hear back from a producer at the Conan O'Brien show and has booked a flight to New York to meet with an agent.

Could Lamb be the next Kevin Costner? Maybe since Costner got one of his first movie roles playing a corpse in the opening credits of The Big Chill. Sounds crazy? No crazier than Iran hosting a conference on the Holocaust although its official government's position is that the Holocaust is a myth.

I'd rant more but I have to plan my conference on inner happiness and my fake death. Then maybe I'll get some attention.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Republican Math

I figure out why this country is in such bad shape under Republican control. Under Republican "jack booted heels" is a little strong but check back with me after the hearings on NSA spying on Americans without warrants. Drum roll please....The reason why this country is in such bad shape is because the Republicans can't do math. The examples are everywhere. From the true cost of the Medicare program ($535 billion versus $400 billion) to the cost of the Iraq reconstruction ($2 trillion versus $1.7 billion) to the phony "cutting" of projected budget deficits the Corrupticans simply can't do basic math. I'm sure some can, maybe all can. They just pretend not to so as to cram long-term debt down the little peoples' throats while they take golf trips to Scotland. (Would love to see the golf scorecard totals. Probably they all shot 63s at St. Andrews and conveniently forgot how to do percentages when it came time for tipping.)

The latest example is the counting of supporters for the position of Majority Leader in the House. You'll recall the weirdly smiling Tom Delay was so happy to confront the felony charges in Texas and thrilled to get a booking mug shot and seems giddy that he is stepping down as the "Hammer." Now Reps. Roy Blunt and John Boehner are fighting to be the head Corruptican in the House. Since the budget deficit is going up from $319 billion in 2005 to over $400 billion in 2006 it would be nice if someone in charge could like, you know, add. Unfortunately that's not going to happen.

Blunt claims the lead and issued a statement claiming more than 100 supporters, though his list of those willing to make their names public contains just 70 lawmakers. Boehner claimed 90 committed supporters, but only 36 have made public commitments. A total of 116 is need to win the secret ballot on February 2. Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

In other news The Daily Curmudgeon announces that it has 1,000,000 unique daily readers but only seven will make public commitments.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Sen. Biden reads The Curmudgeon?

Yesterday I blogged about how hearings for judicial nominees are pointless. It's simply a numbers game and the Republicans have the numbers. What a giant waste of time. What a epic waste of paper and ink. Sam Alito will be on the Supreme Court next week. End of story. It's truly amazing that in all the commentary there is no honest explaination that the Republicans will all vote to confirm and that's enough to confirm every judge W nominates. The system is no system it's a phony kabuki dance where the outcome is pre-ordained. Sen. Joseph Biden must have been reading The Curmudgeon recently as evidenced by his appearance on NBC's "Today" show.

He told NBC that the hearings serve no purpose and should be replaced with a straight up or down vote on the nominee. “The system's kind of broken,” Sen. Joe Biden, (D-Del.), said. He defended the type of questions that apparently unnerved Alito’s wife, Martha-Ann Bomgardner, who briefly left the hearings in tears. Americans should know how a nominee interprets the Constitution on key social views, but since nominees refuse to discuss their interpretations, citing the possibility they’d have to rule on them in the future, the hearings serve no real purpose, Biden said. “The alternative” to hearings, he said, “is just to vote on the Senate floor, just go to the Senate floor and debate the nominee’s statements. ... instead of this game where a nominee sits there” and won't disclose his or her views. “If the judges aren’t going to talk about it than we should just go to a vote,” he added.

He's right. It's a pointless waste of time. (As opposed to a pointed waste of time.) Just vote. Put him on the Supreme Court. Watch your rights go bye-bye and then maybe people will see the connection between voting for dopey kids of aristocratic and autocratic families (think W as the Paris Hilton of the Bush family) and their rights going down an Iraq-hole. Though somehow I doubt it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Jets and Sharks

Why even waste the time to have hearings for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito? He is going to be confirmed. The Republicans have the votes and there is no way six Corrupticans will break with the President. There is also no chance every Democrat will vote against him. So why waste all the television time blathering about Griswold or Roe or Doe or any other case? It just take air time away from really important programming like ABC's Wife Swap.

He has an "open mind" about Roe and executive power and everything else. Well what a big concession having an open mind. An "open mind" can also be you are open to overturning settled precedent. The bottom line is that as long as the Republicans have a majority in the Senate you'll get Alito and Janice Rodgers Brown judges confirmed. It's simply a numbers game or a numbers gang. Like Jets versus Sharks or Crips versus Bloods. It's not an honest process so why expect an honest confirmation hearing? It has been reported that Sen. Lindsay Graham coached Alito in moot court sessions at the White House before he did his day work on the Judiciary Committee "reviewing" the nominee. Is there any wonder how he'll vote? Think his mind is made up already? And what does the MSM do? They ask Sen. Kennedy, "Sounds like you've made up your mind already. Is that fair?" It's simply a kabuki dance and a waste of time. So don't ask me to watch it. I'm busy watching something of value. Nanny 911.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Million, billion, trillion...whatever

We all have known for a long time that the Iraq-hole has been very costly for U.S. taxpayers. Now a study by Columbia University economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard lecturer Linda Bilmes claim the total cost of the Iraq war could top $2 trillion when long-term costs such as lifetime health care for thousands of wounded U.S. soldiers are included. The study included disability payments for the 16,000 wounded U.S. soldiers, about 20 percent of whom suffer serious brain or spinal injuries. They said U.S. taxpayers will be burdened with costs that linger long after U.S. troops withdraw.

Before the invasion, then-White House budget director Mitch Daniels predicted Iraq would be "an affordable endeavor" and rejected an estimate by then-White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey of total Iraq war costs at $100 billion to $200 billion as "very, very high." Lindsey barely had a chance to clear out his desk before being thrown out of the administration.

Andrew Natsios did worse at the guess the number of jelly beans in the jar carnival game played before the Iraq invasion. Natsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, the lead agency responsible for rebuilding the infrastructure of Iraq had this jaw-dropping exchange on Nightline with Ted Koppel on April 23, 2003 a month after we invaded Iraq.

TED KOPPEL: Well, it's a, I think you'll agree, this is a much bigger project than any that's been talked about. Indeed, I understand that more money is expected to be spent on this than was spent on the entire Marshall Plan for the rebuilding of Europe after World War II.

ANDREW NATSIOS: No, no. This doesn't even compare remotely with the size of the Marshall Plan.

TED KOPPEL: The Marshall Plan was $97 billion.

ANDREW NATSIOS: This is 1.7 billion.

TED KOPPEL: All right, this is the first. I mean, when you talk about 1.7, you're not suggesting that the rebuilding of Iraq is gonna be done for $1.7 billion?

ANDREW NATSIOS: Well, in terms of the American taxpayers contribution, I do, this is it for the US. The rest of the rebuilding of Iraq will be done by other countries who have already made pledges, Britain, Germany, Norway, Japan, Canada, and Iraqi oil revenues, eventually in several years, when it's up and running and there's a new government that's been democratically elected, will finish the job with their own revenues. They're going to get in $20 billion a year in oil revenues. But the American part of this will be 1.7 billion. We have no plans for any further-on funding for this.


TED KOPPEL: And we're back once again with Andrew Natsios, administrator for the Agency for International Development. I want to be sure that I understood you correctly. You're saying the, the top cost for the US taxpayer will be $1.7 billion. No more than that?

ANDREW NATSIOS: For the reconstruction. And then there's 700 million in the supplemental budget for humanitarian relief, which we don't competitively bid 'cause it's charities that get that money.

TED KOPPEL: I understand. But as far as reconstruction goes, the American taxpayer will not be hit for more than $1.7 billion no matter how long the process takes?

ANDREW NATSIOS: That is our plan and that is our intention. And these figures, outlandish figures I've seen, I have to say, there's a little bit of hoopla involved in this.

Wonder if Natsios thinks $2 trillion is an "outlandish" figure. Go ask him. He's still the Administrator at USAID. Probably because Michael "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job" Brown wasn't available. I am. And I can misunderestimate with the best of them. I thought I'd have a million loyal daily readers of my blog by now. The actual number is closer to the amount of countries we've reconstructed after pre-emptively invading them.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Jack Abramoff is a flaming rat

There is a famous legal case law students study about a rat that catches on fire after running into a space heater causing a house to burn down. The legal question was whether the flaming rat and subsequent house incineration was "foreseeable" and thus whether the space heater company could be liable for turning home sweet home into a charcoal briquette. I think the answer was "no" but I'm not sure. There is a joke about lawyers handling a rat case, (you know something like did the rat get the family discount?) in here somewhere but I'm too tired to figure it out.)

A story from New Mexico brings back memories. A mouse got its revenge against a homeowner who tried to dispose of it in a pile of burning leaves. The blazing creature ran back to the man’s house and set it on fire. It's always a good Monday when you wake up to a "flaming rodent" story. Luciano Mares, 81, of Fort Sumner said he caught the mouse inside his house and wanted to get rid of it. “I had some leaves burning outside, so I threw it in the fire, and the mouse was on fire and ran back at the house,” Mares said from a motel room Saturday. No was hurt inside, but the home and everything in it was destroyed. Maybe Mares will be on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition soon.

Think of Jack Abramoff or Rep. Duke Cunningham or Michael Scanlon or David Safavian or Rep. Bob Ney or Rep. John T. Doolittle or Rep. Richard Pombo or, or, or...well the list of "flaming" Republicans goes on and on. They claimed to have come to Washington to do "good" but they ended up doing "well." They are now "flaming rodents" and they will likely burn down the Republican political house. We can only hope. The British set the White House on fire in 1814. The Republicans prefer to burn their own house down all by themselves.

I love the smell of charred hubris in the morning, it smells like...burnt Republican rat fur.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Civil liberties when you're civil

"I'm not here to practice democracy, I'm here to protect democracy."

--President George W. Bush?

Would it shock you to hear President W said this? I mean would it be a big leap from what he has said so far? Even before he was sworn in W said, "If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator." Then there is the most recent example of twisting Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death!" proclamation into "Take my liberties to protect my death!" In April, 2004, nearly three years after ordering secret spying on Americans without a court order W boldly lied to the country when he said, "Anytime you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so." Turns out he had his fingers crossed behind his back. Now his position is different. At a recent press conference after the illegal program was disclosed by a number of troubled government whistleblowers W said, "Do I have the legal authority to do this? And the answer is, absolutely." No need for any hearings or investigations I guess. Case closed. Sounds almost identical to that great legal scholar Richard M. Nixon when he said, "When the President does it, that means that it's not illegal."

So no, W didn't say, "I'm not here to practice democracy, I'm here to protect democracy" but he might as well. According to one of my sources deep, deep inside the military industrial complex who desperately wants to get quoted in my blog this was said by some general somewhere. So it's not my sources' direct quote but its him quoting someone else. Either way Mr. Cog in the War Machine you have now been "quoted." You can now die happy. I'll of course die cranky.

BONUS POSTING: Every time I blog about this stuff I have to link to the movie trailers for V for Vendetta, here and here. Remember, people should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people.

BONUS POSTING II: Now it turns out the IRS was tracking political party affiliation in 20 states. I'm sure it was legal, just ask W.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Pat Robertson - Fountain of Insanity

Just when I thought nothing would peak my interest today to blog about. I was going to rant about the West Virginia miners who were declared alive by the entire press corps only to be killed by them a few hours later. Its no different than the game "telephone" kids play. They just repeat whatever they hear so they can be first to say it. Whether its true or not is irrelevant. So while standing before cameras and unable to actually do any real reporting someone tells the cable talking heads that 12 miners were found alive and they repeat it. What if they were told Amelia Earhart was found in the cave? Would they just repeat it? What probably happened is that someone said 12 miners were found and someone else thought that meant 12 were found alive. Big difference. And papers coast-to-coast reported it right over the headline "Dewey Defeats Truman." The media is worthless. Stick to blogs. Preferably this one.

On to Pat Robertson who at this point I look at like watching Anthony Bourdain eat ant egg tamales, braised bat, lamb testicles or cobra hearts still beating -- I can't turn away from it but it makes me dry heave a bit. Robertson probably figured he hasn't gotten any national attention lately that would help his fundraising efforts so he has weighed in on the as yet to be confirmed although broken here story that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is dead. Robertson said that Sharon was struck down by God for dividing the land of Israel. "He was dividing God's land, Robertson said. "And I would say, Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the E.U., the United Nations or the United States of America. God says, This land belongs to me. You better leave it alone." Doesn't sound too different from the Iranian President hoping for Sharon's death. Robertson has provided many blog rants here, here and here to cite a few.

There is so much land to plow here that I am considering a second blog site devoted exclusively to Pat Robertson's verbal diarrhea. He certainly pooped himself again today.


Just got the inside flash news from Israel - Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is clinically brain dead but the news has not been released publicly. This is from very reliable Israeli sources.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

If only his last name was "Bush"

A Marine is being held at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina on a charge of desertion for not going to war in Vietnam 40 years ago, a military spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Pvt. Jerry Texiero, 65, was arrested in August and charged with desertion. If he's court-martialed and found guilty of desertion, he could be sentenced to up to three years in the brig at Camp Lejeune and get a dishonorable discharge. Tod Ensign, an attorney with the advocacy group Citizen Soldier in New York, said Texiero left Camp Pendleton in 1965 because "he decided he wasn't going to be part of it and didn't go."

If only his last name was "Bush" then he could have said he was helping on a family friend's U.S. Senate campaign. Or maybe when he was young and irresponsible, he was young and irresponsible. Or maybe he could just say he fulfilled his duties and then gone on to run failed businesses like not being able to find oil in Texas and then given some sweetheart deal as a part owner of a major league baseball team. Jerry would have added as much value as W did for the Texas Rangers. Alas, his last name is not "Bush" but "Texiero." And the term he'll get is three years in the pen rather than eight years at 1600 Penn.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Reducing the size of government, Part II

Recently I pointed out the not so subtle ways W and his capos have controlled government. Among the "best of" or 'greatest hits" have been how religious and Victorian era social standards were used at the F.D.A. 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." "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."

Then the 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.

And in the first tremors after the initial NSA domestic spying earthquake story it appears the secrecy and law evading were done because many in the administration were uncomfortable or clueless about spying on Americans without a warrant. Time magazines reports, "the 'lawyers' group,' an organization of fewer than half a dozen government attorneys the National Security Council convenes to review top-secret intelligence programs, was bypassed. Instead, the legal vetting was given to Alberto Gonzales, then White House counsel." How convenient. And then the New York Times describes a Tom Clancy-like series of events when in early 2004, Attorney General John Ashcroft's top deputy, James B. Comey, who was acting as attorney general in his absence, had indicated he was unwilling to give his approval to certifying central aspects of the NSA domestic spying on Americans without a warrant program, as required under the White House procedures set up to oversee it. With Mr. Comey unwilling to sign off on the program, the White House dispatched Chief of Staff Andrew Card and Alberto R. Gonzales, then White House counsel and now attorney general - to make an emergency visit to a Washington hospital in March 2004 to get the needed approval from Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was hospitalized for gallbladder surgery. Mr. Ashcroft was in the intensive care unit at George Washington University Hospital with pancreatitis and was housed under unusually tight security. Ashcroft was said to be reluctant to sign off on antoher 45 days of spying. He may have even refused. Since everything else is secret in this story who approved what when is also secret.

So basically you have a couple of guys running and ruining the entire country. First it was "give me liberty or give me death!" now its "take my liberties to prevent my death!" The rule of law is going, going, gone. Its now a nation of men. A nation of very few, very powerful, very corrupt, very incompetent, very secretive, very rich, very religious, and very crafty, crooked, deceitful, devious, dishonorable, double-dealing, duplicitous, errant, evasive, guileful, insidious, insincere, obliquitous, scheming, shady, shifty, shrewd, sly, sneaky, treacherous, tricky, underhanded, wily very devious men. Machiavelli would be proud. Patrick Henry would not be. Personally I get sick to my stomach reading about them.
Web www.thedailycurmudgeon.blogspot.com