Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The same guy?

I'm taking the easy way out today because it's trluy hard to improve on the outrages provided by the daily news. Some gems today, 72% of U.S. troops in Iraq want a pullout within a year; after all the tough talk about arresting terrorists after 9/11 the U.S. is now going to spend your money settling their lawsuits since they were innocent and W thanking Bin Laden for helping him win the election (along with Ken Mehlman calling the Swift Boat Liars for W "heroes"). So my brain is simply full of run of the mill outrages that it's hard to improve on them.

So for today I have dueling quotes about W. You decide which makes more sense.

"In his State of the Union address, President Bush told his Iraq critics, 'Hindsight is not wisdom and second-guessing is not a strategy.' His comments are understandable. Much of the Iraq fiasco can be directly attributed to Bush's shortcomings as a leader. Having decided to invade Iraq, he failed to make sure there was adequate planning for the postwar period. He never settled bitter policy disputes among his principal aides over how postwar Iraq would be governed; and he allowed competing elements of his administration to pursue diametrically opposed policies at nearly the same time. He used jobs in the Coalition Provisional Authority to reward political loyalists who lacked professional competence, regional expertise, language skills, and, in some cases, common sense. Most serious of all, he conducted his Iraq policy with an arrogance not matched by political will or military power."

--Peter Galbraith

"It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile."

--John Hinderaker from the always insane Powerline.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Please let it be a Republican

Whenever I see a headline about "Congressman pleads guilty" or "Bribes reportedly paid to lawmaker" I always say a small prayer. It goes something like this, "Please let it be a Republican. Please let it be a Republican." Then I click the link and almost always these days it turns out it is a Republican. So when I saw the headline about a congressman getting two trips with his wife to Puerto Rice, from a client of Jack Abramoff which were not reported and then aided the client's interest, I said my silent prayer a few times. "Please let it be a Republican. Please let it be a Republican."

When the headline was finally linked I let out a small sigh of relief. Turns out, surprise, surprise, it is a Republican, namely, Rep. John Linder from Georgia. For those of you who don't remember, Abramoff the Republican uber-lobbyist has pled guilty to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials. A full reading of the article might not spell out the biggest "legal bribery" example or a the most corrupt case working its way through the Justice Department but it's another straw on the camel's back that will break the Republican's hold on Congress. It's a small straw but a straw nonetheless.

To follow the many straws breaking the camel's back go to talkingpointsmemo's Grand Old Docket to follow your favorite Republican in the criminal justice system. From murder to fraud, money laundering to bribery it's a who's who of GOP corruption.

There will be many more headlines of official corruption coming out this year and all I can say is please let it be a Republican.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Extra! Extra!

I love the New York Post and Daily News. I know Rupert Murdoch owns the Post but I still love the front page headlines. When I heard about a body snatcher or rather body parts snatcher case I knew to go to their website. They didn't disappoint. They came up with "Rest in Pieces" as the headline for the story about "four fiendish ghouls" who desecrated the dead by carving up more than a thousand corpses in a secret operating room and harvesting their often diseased organs for medical use, investigators said yesterday.

The New York Daily News came up with a so-so "Ghoul's Gold." Not their best. That's why I like The Post better. A couple past favorite headlines from The Post were "Ivana Divorce" about the Donald's divorce and "Headless body found in topless bar" which is self-explanatory. It's a guilty pleasure like "American Idol."

Forgive me. I need something to keep me distracted from the daily horror show that is the Bush Administration.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Grand Unification Theory of W

I read a quote yesterday about the history of science and scientific discovery. German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt "observed that there are three stages in scientific discovery: first, people deny that it is true; then they deny that it is important; finally they credit the wrong person." In politics, in W's neocon world, already abandoned by those who came up with it, it works much the same way. First, deny that something is true; then deny that it is important; finally credit the wrong person.

Think about W and his minions opposing the 9/11 commission or opposing creating the Department of Homeland Security or the Katrina response or the Medicare plan or Cheney's hunting accident or the UAE port deal or basically any activity of the adminstration. Deny it, say it isn't important then take credit for a job badly done. It's a nice and simple way to explain the Dear Leader and his capos. Call it the Grand Unification Theory of W. Try it as a measuring stick for W and his press secretary flack. Deny, downplay then co-opt it and take credit. Works everytime.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I'm too stupid to be responsible

I remember a story of a guy accused of cheating at cards and offered the excuse, "I'm too stupid to cheat." I am reminded of this story as W our fearless (or Dear) leader had two options to defend the sale of six U.S. port operations to a United Arab Emirates company. The first is that it's not a sale that will harm the national security of the U.S. The second is that he had no idea the deal was happening and thus can't be responsible for a sale that will harm U.S. national security. W has wisely gone for both options.

W claims he was unaware of the pending sale of shipping operations at six major U.S. seaports to a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates until the deal already had been approved by his administration, the White House said Wednesday.

While Bush has adamantly defended the deal, the White House acknowledged that he did not know about it until recently. "He became aware of it over the last several days," McClellan said. Asked if Bush did not know about it until it was a done deal, McClellan said, "That's correct." He said the matter did not rise to the presidential level, but went through a congressionally-mandated review process and was determined not to pose a national security threat.

So if you just found out about the port sales in the last few days you're apparently no different than the president. In fact, if you can learn the phrase, "I don't recall" or "I just became aware of this after the fact" or "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job" then you too can be president. But when you get there can you please stop claiming you're vigilantly protecting national security as you sell it off piece by piece to foreign corporations and governments?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Praise the Lord and pass the dope

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that a small congregation in New Mexico may use hallucinogenic tea as part of a four-hour ritual intended to connect with God. The Supreme Court, in their first religious freedom decision under Chief Justice John Roberts, moved decisively to keep the government out of a church's religious practice. Federal drug agents should have been barred from confiscating the hoasca tea of the Brazil-based church, Roberts wrote in the decision. New Justice Samuel Alito did not take part in the case.

The tea, which contains an illegal drug known as DMT, is considered sacred to members of O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal, which has a blend of Christian beliefs and South American traditions. Members believe they can understand God only by drinking the tea, which is consumed twice a month at four-hour ceremonies.

So I am building a small bell tower in my house and ringing it three times a day. That will be the first step to declaring my newly formed Church of the Curmudgeon. I will then become a tax-free entity and begin spreading the gospel of curmudgeoness. It will involve drugs, gambling and other assorted illegal activities now protected by my religious status and the Supreme Court. So welcome one and all to the newly formed Church of the Curmudgeon. Some religious organizations use dopes, some are led by them. Praise the Lord and pass the joint.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Nukes before toilet paper

A Pakistani cleric announced Friday a $1 million bounty for killing a cartoonist who drew Prophet Muhammad, as thousands joined street protests and Denmark temporarily closed its embassy and advised its citizens to leave the country. It's not clear if he was offering one million Pakistani rupees or U.S. dollars but the idea is the same.

What's interesting or rather frightening is that instead of trying actually improve the lives of the people with $1 million it's being offered to murder a cartoonist. India and Pakistan are impoverished countries that can't produce enough food, clean water, health care, education or toilet paper for their people but have nuclear weapons. They say it's for national pride but you can't eat pride and when your child is dying of some curable disease or infection I'm sure the parents would rather have medical treatment instead of highly enriched uranium.

So a Pakistani cleric, and I'm sure there are thousands more, supports bounties on the heads of cartoonists, journalists maybe, U.S. troops probably and I'm guessing anyone one offends them. No calls for better health services. No riots for food, water, shelter, education or jobs. Only death bounties and violent riots to prove to the world they are a peaceful people wronged by a drawing.

When Muslims are murdered by Muslim suicide bombers at mosques, funerals or markets not a word. No riot. No bounty. No nothing. When a guy draws a bad cartoon in an obscure Danish newspaper - death bounties are issued, violent riots (as opposed to peaceful riots) lead to death and destruction all to protest the cartoons which depicted the religion as condoning violence. Makes sense to me as much as a country producing nuclear weapons that can't feed, educate or care for its own people.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Yes Arlen there is an Earmark Santa

Sen. Arlen Specter helped direct almost $50 million in Pentagon spending during the past four years to clients of the husband of one of his top aides, records show. Specter, (R-Pa.), used a process called "earmarking" 13 times to set aside $48.7 million for six clients represented by lobbyist Michael Herson and the firm he co-founded, American Defense International. The clients paid Herson's firm nearly $1.5 million in fees since 2002, federal lobbying records show.

Herson's wife, Vicki Siegel Herson, is Specter's legislative assistant for appropriations. She deals with Specter's work on the Senate Appropriations Committee and its defense subcommittee, where all the earmarks originated. Siegel, who uses her maiden name at work, is a former lobbyist for defense contractors who has worked for Specter since 1999.

In a statement responding to questions from USA TODAY, Specter said he did not know the earmarks were going to clients of Siegel's husband. "I am advised that at no time did her husband lobby my office or seek appropriations from any member of my staff," the statement said. Taking cues from the Dick Cheney School of Scandal Management Specter declined to be interviewed. His earmark Santa aid Vicki Seigel Herson also refused comment. Amazing how many top people, Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, Michael Chertoff, Brownie, have no idea what's going around them. On the way up they are the smartest people in the room, masters of the universe. Then when something goes wrong they turn into Chauncey Gardener.

Herson said neither he nor anyone from American Defense International had lobbied Siegel or anyone in Specter's office. "I do not set foot in Specter's office as a lobbyist," Herson said. No. I'm sure when Herson steps over the threshold of Specter's office he is magically transformed into just a spouse of the earmark Santa and when he steps back into the hallway outside the senator's office he's a lobbyist.

Senate ethics rules prohibit senators and their staffers from using their positions to further their personal financial interests. Taking official action in return for money or other benefits is illegal. But not to worry. I'm sure husband-lobbyist and wife-earmark Santa never spoke about the tens of millions of dollars going to Herson's clients. Or the additional $1.5 in income to Herson's firm which I'm going to guess is just him and a cell phone. "Honey, you'll never guess what happened down at the office!" Maybe Herson's wife (aka the earmark Santa) was shocked to find an extra $1.5 million in their checking account. "Dear, I'm balancing the checkbook and I see my paycheck of $1787.00 deposited but where did this $1.5 million come from?"

Ethical issues arise more frequently than criminal cases, said Jan Baran, a Washington lawyer who has handled several ethics cases. "Usually these types of situations are political and not legal issues," he said. Yes. As Michael Kinsley has said for years, it's not what's illegal in D.C. that bothers him it's what's legal.

The 2005 federal budget included 15,877 earmarks amounting to $47.4 billion in spending. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Vice President Fudd

Suspected Taliban rebels abducted two Afghan intelligence agents in a western province and killed them, dumping their nearly decapitated bodies in the desert. The men were kidnapped while riding motorbikes in the countryside and their bodies were discovered a day later. The pair worked as intelligence agents for the province's security forces, gathering information on the Taliban and other militant groups, he said. No word on whether Vice President Dick Cheney, "Scooter" Libby or Karl Rove were involved in leaking their identity. A source close to Cheney said, "We only out the wives of critics of our policies and only if they are Americans working on preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons."

Back in planet Earth, while Cheney is quite loose lipped about sharing classified information about the National Intelligence Estimate or CIA non-official cover agent to reporters he is less forthcoming about explaining how he shot a 78 year old man in the face and chest while quail hunting. Since 1969 the right-wing Kennedy haters have kept alive the Chappaquiddick story. After crashing his car and causing the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, Ted Kennedy left the scene of the accident, didn't speak to police for 10 hours and had an expired drivers license that magically got unexpired. Cheney shotguns a guy in the face, without the proper hunting license (which gets fixed right after that), leaves the scene of the shooting accident and doesn't talk to police for 14 hours. Anyone see similarities? Anyone want to suggest Cheney was drunk? Anyone want an explanation from Cheney? You should since you paid for his weekend hunting trip.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

An idiot by any other name...

People who believe the Constitution would break if it didn't change with society are "idiots," U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says.

In a speech Monday sponsored by the conservative Federalist Society, Scalia defended his long-held belief in sticking to the plain text of the Constitution "as it was originally written and intended." Scalia criticized those who believe in what he called the "living Constitution." "That's the argument of flexibility and it goes something like this: The Constitution is over 200 years old and societies change. It has to change with society, like a living organism, or it will become brittle and break."

"But you would have to be an idiot to believe that," Scalia said. "The Constitution is not a living organism, it is a legal document. It says something and doesn't say other things." Proponents of the living constitution want matters to be decided "not by the people, but by the justices of the Supreme Court."

"They are not looking for legal flexibility, they are looking for rigidity, whether it's the right to abortion or the right to homosexual activity, they want that right to be embedded from coast to coast and to be unchangeable," he said.

So the death penalty was legal in 1789 so it is legal and constitutional today. Abortion was legal in 1789 right Justice Scalia? So it is legal and constitutional today. At least for today. Tomorrow, who knows. And let's not forget that when the 14th Amendment was passed, including the "equal protection" clause, segregation was the law of much of the land. So I guess Brown v. Board of Education was wrongly decided? How do you get around that one? What about the simple term "unreasonable?" As in the 4th Amendment's "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effect, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated..."? Is what was unreasonable or reasonable in 1789 the same in 2006? Wasn't it W who complained that the FISA law drafted in 1978 (not even 1778) was outdated for a modern world? He of course didn't tell you that FISA has been amended 5 times since 9/11 but since they don't tell you the VP shot a guy in the face why would they tell you about FISA updates?

So the high highbrow intellectual Antonin Scalia calls his critics "idiots." I wonder if he's talking about idiots as defined in 1789 or today. Today it means a "foolish or stupid person." Historically it means "a person of profound mental retardation having a mental age below three years and generally being unable to learn connected speech or guard against common dangers. The term belongs to a classification system no longer in use and is now considered offensive.

So the term "idiot" can change over time to adjust to society as it goes from hunter-gatherers to space explorers but the U.S. Constitution can't. What an idiot.

Monday, February 13, 2006

It's only a flesh wound

If you haven't heard, and I'm sure you have, Darth Cheney shot a guy. Cheney, who obviously had some free time between chasing down terrorists and leaking classifeid information, wanted to shot quail - the bird not the man. And while accidentally shooting a lawyer is not funny for the shootee it is a gold mine for bloggers. Where to begin with this feast?

First the obvious as the blasting of Harry Whittington is a metaphor (or allegory? I can never get those straight) for this adminsitration. It's the gang that couldn't shot straight. Whether it's failing to capture Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, pre-war WMD intelligence, post-war planning or rather lack of post-war planning in Iraq or responding to Hurrincane Katrina these guys just can't it right. It's like The Keystone Kops are in charge. I'd say it's like The Three Stooges in charge but that does a disservice to The Stooges. I actually think Curly could run things better than Rummy and Moe could be a good press secretary.

So after Cheney shotguns a hunting team member the first impulse was to go secret. Brush it under the rug, don't talk about it, pretend it didn't happen. The White House and the Office of the Vice President had no public notice or comment on the matter. Like this sort of thing happens everyday. It was the owner of the ranch, Katharine Armstrong who alerted the media. "It was Armstrong's decision to alert the news media. Cheney's office made no public announcement, deciding to defer to Armstrong because the incident had taken place on her property. Armstrong called the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, and when a reporter from the paper called the White House, the vice president's office confirmed the account."

Next the spin began that it was Whittington's fault for getting in the way. Before this is over Whittington will be deemed a John Kerry supporter and intended to get shot so as to embarrass the Vice President. That would be next impossible since nothing embarrasses Cheney, W, Rummy, Rice and the whole bunch of them. They are a rovering quail hunting party blasting first, going secret second and crowing about their shooting skills third.

Whittington should at least be thankful that Cheney is as incompetent a shot as he is at running the government. Unfortunately, both will eventually kill you.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Soup Nazis

Enough already. Enough of comparing things to the Nazis. The only thing like the Nazis were the Nazis. Who is the latest embarrassment who thinks they're so clever? Republican Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele who is running for U.S. Senate in Maryland.

Speaking before Baltimore Jewish leaders at a Baltimore Jewish Council board meeting Steele was discussing his position on embryonic stem cell research and said, "You of all folks know what happens when people decide they want to experiment on human beings, when they want to take your life and use it as a tool." After the unmistakable comparison between stem cell research and Nazis the audience was stunned. I can only imagine a roomful of mouths hanging open. So congrats Lt. Gov. Steele. Not only did you make a fool of yourself using Nazi comparisons but you did it in front of a nearly exclusive Jewish audience. That's like a triple-play of stupidity.

But this tired and absurd comparison is not limited to Republicans. Just least month Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) reportedly said As I read the statements by the Justice Department, the power the president claims he has, if he were in Germany in 1933, he would not have required the Enabling Act to pass the Reichstag to claim the power. He is claiming absolute power that no one in American history has ever claimed. Bravo Congressman. You've joined the growing ranks of idiots whose mouths work faster than their brains. What the administration is doing is clearly illegal and unconstitutional. Making this an argument about whether it's lke the Nazi regime is a stupid as writing a daily blog. A monumental waste of time that only makes you look bad.

And who can forget Republican Rick Santorum (R-PA) saying about a potential Democratic filibuster of judicial nominees, "What the Democrats are doing is "the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942 saying, 'I'm in Paris. How dare you invade me. How dare you bomb my city? It's mine.' This is no more the rule of the senate than it was the rule of the senate before not to filibuster." This was a few months after Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) said of the proposed Republican efforts to ban judicial filibusters, "Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality. ... Instead, he turned the law inside out and made illegality legal."

So enough. There isn't a single policy, program or parliamentary tool that is like the Nazis. The only thing that rivals the pure evil of the Nazis is the pure idiocy of your comparisons. Wait. Does comparing the comparisons count as a comparison?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Must be an election year

2005 was so nice. No terror warnings. No hysterical news coverage of false alarms. No "unless you you keep us in office the terrorists will win" speeches. But that was then this is now.

Yesterday, CNN had BREAKING NEWS on their website and cable t.v. covered the story that a U.S. Senate office building was evacuated after a sensor detected the presence of a possible nerve agent! Holy moly! Nerve gas?! In the nation's capital? Holy..Oh wait, false alarm. Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said she couldn't say whether it was powder, gas or liquid that was detected. It was more like "something in the air" in the building's attic. She added that a cleaning solvent could have falsely set off the sensor in the attic, which is used primarily as storage space. Good thing all those billions for homeland security are being spent to detect a whiff of Lysol.

Interesting how nerve gas was the fasle alarm since 20 canisters of nerve gas on Fox's (yes that Fox as in news) "24" are in the hands of terrorists in the U.S. The president's chief of staff was arrested claiming to be a patriot while he helped the terrorists and then hung himself in the only act of personal responsibility seen in politics since LBJ voluntarily withdrew from the 1968 election. Again I'm talking about the fictional show "24" not reality but it's getting harder and harder to tell them apart since Cheney's chief of staff was indicted. I'd say put him on suicide watch but there is no chance "Scooter" would take personal responsibility for, well, exactly what he did which was out a CIA operative. After his pardon he'll sue for back pay and write a book. And that's just what Roger Ailes and Karl Rove want. Blur reality then replace it with your own narrative.

Today W continues with the "we have nothing to fear but fear itself" strategy telling us that al-Qaeda planned to crash planes into LA after 9/11 and the U.S. disrupted those plans. Now I don't know what the truth of this story is but I'm willing to bet it's certainly not what W is saying. If there is anything you should have learned in the last five years is that this administration doesn't tell the truth. And in fact that is their goal. Create a reality of their choosing - fear. Fear, for lack of a better word is good. Fear is right. Fear works. Fear clarifies and cuts through and captures the essence of this administration. Apologies to Gordon Gekko.

So they are starting early this time and you can count on more breaking news and terror warnings and leaks of plots and claims of disruption of plans. None of which will really be based on any actual solid actionable intelligence. It's just the PR of fear they will ride to election day.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Meet the new crook, same as the old crook

I find myself laughing in a sad, gallows humor sort of way most mornings as a read the news. I watched "Meet the Press" this weekend and saw new House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Crooksville) say about uber-crook Jack Abramoff, "Some of his (Abramoff's) underlings worked with some low-level employees of my office. I'm telling you I never met the man." Now it turns out that, what a shock, Boehner is starting out his reign of lies and corruption boldly, proudly and worthy of Olympic gold.

Turns out according to Boehner spokesman Don Seymour that Boehner now does recall meeting Abramoff. There was also numerous contacts with Boehner's staff and Abramoff's lobbying firm including Boehner's former chief of staff. But hey, he never met the man and only little people in his office who he didn't even bother to learn their names had contacts with Abramoff and his crew. Boehner has declined to give up more than $30,000 he got from Abramoff's Indian tribe clients, saying his own work on tribal issues justifies the contributions. He did not receive any money from the tribes until Abramoff represented them. Meet the new crook, same as the old crook.

So I already got my daily, heck hourly, delivery of a Republican pack of lies and the sad, lamentable laugh and head shaking was over shortly thereafter. But it was not to last. The Washington Post reports that House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Payoffville) "is renting his Capitol Hill apartment from a veteran lobbyist whose clients have direct stakes in legislation Boehner has co-written and that he has overseen as chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee." The lobbyist landlord's clients "including restaurant chains and health insurance companies -- hired him to lobby on issues at the heart of Boehner's work, including minimum-wage increases, small-business tax breaks and tax-free savings accounts to help cover insurance costs, congressional lobbying records show." Fortis Health Plans and restaurant chain Buca di Beppo, hired Boehner's landlord lobbyist to lobby his tenant to fight minimum wage laws and get tax breaks. This on top of Boehner in the mid-90s handing out tobacco lobbying checks on payoff day to House members on the floor of the House while tobacco subsidies were being considered and taking more than $150,000 worth of junkets, translation: vacations, paid for by private interests since 2000.

The cherry on top is Boehner's 1996 intercepted conference call with Newt Gingrich, Tom Delay, Dick Armey and other Republicans when they plotted to defy the will of the House Ethics Committee. Josh Marshall sums it up this way, "To make a long story semi-short, Gingrich, DeLay, Dick Armey, Boehner and several others got together on a conference call to plot a counterattack against a finding of the House Ethics Committee -- something Gingrich was explicitly prohibited from doing as a condition of the punishment he received for various ethical infractions. Boehner, though, called into the call on a cell phone. Because of that, a Florida couple picked up the conversation on a police scanner. They recognized Gingrich's voice, thought it sounded important and recorded it. They in turn gave a copy of the recording to Rep. McDermott who was then, co-chair of the Ethics Committee. McDermott later leaked copies of the recording to news organizations to show that Gingrich et al. had broken the rules."

The cherry? Boehner later sued McDermott alleging violations of privacy. Privacy. Remember that? So the new rules are that the public has no privacy but government does and a lobbyist's tenant who was flown around the world to world-class vacation resorts by private industry like some "I'm with the band" congressional groupie is now the new House Majority leader. Like I said, meet the new crook, same as the old crook.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

It's good to be the king

The New Republic magazine used to publish headlines from newspapers that were unintentionally humorous. They might have a front page headline like "U.S. Economy Strong in Quarter" and then on the jump page where the article continued the headline might say, "Economic Weakness Continues." Sometimes two different articles on the same day and same page written by two different reporters would have completely opposite headlines. I was reminded on this yesterday when Crankybro said he had heard an NPR announcer read a news headline that said, "Muslims riot worldwide to protest cartoons depicting Islam as a violent religion." Yes it's hard to make this stuff up.

Last night I found another example. On the very day Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was explaining how the President can wiretap Americans without a warrant, and not answering questions about whether mail is being opened or entirely domestic calls are being listened into, Hollywood's most famous private investigator, Anthony Pellicano, was charged with....wiretapping. Yes, poor Anthony's last name isn't Bush or Gonzales or Cheney otherwise he too would proudly be telling doe-eyed audiences and Congressional Republicans how he wiretapped journalists, entertainers and alleged rape victims. He wouldn't have to take an oath before a Congressional hearing and he would say that his right to wiretap is "somewhere in the Constitution." He might not be able to find the right to privacy in the penumbras of the Bill of Rights but if you stare hard enough, sort of like finding "Dolphins at Play" hidden in swirl pictures, you'll easily see the inherent authority of the unitary executive to do anything in our time of war. I can't wait for the "strict constructionalists" and "originalists" on the Supreme Court how they are going to going to find "somewhere in Article II" these powers of wiretapping and all the other things W is doing now that we don't even know about. Maybe they should practice by trying to find the hidden picture in this one called "A Fantasy." Look hard enough you'll see it. Just like Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito will see unlimited presidential powers somewhere in the Constitution. And since the war will never end the broad and inherent powers of the unitary executive will last forever. The Republicans must have great faith in Diebold to keep them in The White House.

As to Anthony Pellicano, he should say he declared war on Hollywood's journalists and entertainers, something likely to get red state support, and then argue he had to wiretap for national security purposes. Changing his last name to "Bush" might help. Then come out fighting by declaring over and over, "If Sylvester Stallone is talking to Paramount, we want to know about it." Claiming the authorization of the use of force in Afghanistan gave him permission to wiretap domestically couldn't hurt his chances either. The "Nixon did it too" defense might be a bit much but just wait a week or two. W, Rove, Cheney, Gonzales and McClellan might be warming up to argue that Nixon was actually a victim of the overreaching Congress who infringed on the unitary executive and then passed the unconstitutional FISA law in 1978. Couldn't be any more historically or intellectually dishonest than they've been up to this point. Just ask yourself this question, would W, Cheney, Rove and Gonzales be for or against the Bill of Rights if they were proposed today? Not only would they be against them they would argue it was because of "national security" reasons and supporters of the Bill of Rights were aiding and abetting terrorists. And I thought it was 2006 when it's really 1984.

Monday, February 06, 2006

I swear

Hearings, or rather a hearing, on NSA domestic wiretapping without court orders began today and if there was any thought that the Republican Congress would actually act as a co-equal branch of government doing oversight and investigation on the Executive branch went bye-bye immediately. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was allowed to testify without being under oath. I mean why do that? The adminstration has been so truthful so far why even have an oath? Come to think of it why have W or his appointees even take an oath of office since preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States can have so many different interpretations under a unitary executive. Here is the transcript of what I like to call the continuing sad commentary of the death of accountable government.

Chairman ARLEN SPECTER (R-Bush): So the question is, should the ruling of the chair be upheld that Attorney General Gonzales not be sworn?

Sen. ORRIN HATCH (R-Bush): Aye.


Sen. MIKE DEWINE (R-Bush): Aye.

Sen. LINDSAY GRAHAM (R-Bush): Aye.

Sen. JON KYL (R-Bush): Aye.

Sen. JOHN CORNYN (R-Bush): Aye.

SPECTER: By proxy, for Sen. Brownback, aye. Sen. Coburn – We’ve got enough votes already. Sen. Leahy?

Sen. LEAHY: Emphatically, no.


Sen. BIDEN: No.

Sen. KOHL: No.



Sen. SPECTER: Aye. The ayes have it.

Sen. FEINGOLD: Mr. Chairman, I request to see the proxies given by the Republican senators.

Sen. SPECTER: Could you repeat that Sen. Feingold?

Sen. FEINGOLD: I request to see the proxies given by the Republican senators.

Sen. SPECTER: The practice is to rely upon the staffers. But without counting that vote – Well, we can rephrase the question if there’s any serious challenge of the proxies. This is really not a very good way to begin this hearing.

So let's review. Rafael Palmeiro, put under oath. Mark McGwire, put under oath. Oil executives, not put under oath. Attorney General Gonzales, not put under oath. Truthful testimony about steroids in baseball is a higher priority for Republicans than getting the truth about spying on Americans simply because a shift manager at NSA wants to listen into your phone calls. At least there was about 4 or 5 seconds there when I actually thought there might be an actual investigatory hearing. Oh well. Back to reality.

Friday, February 03, 2006

I'm too busy

How convenient that the attorney for Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the indicted former chief of staff to Vice-President Darth Cheney has a scheduling conflict this September and thus Libby's trial is now set for Jan. 2007, two months after the 2006 elections. The trial is set for Jan. 2007 however that will be difficult to do since the pardon is coming in December 2006. Probably around Christmas Eve. News reports have donations to Libby's defense fund at $2 million so when this all ends everyone will be happy. Libby will probably get his own talk show and maybe another high level government job. Then he'll sue for back pay, defamation and perhaps malicious prosecution. Bet his lawyer won't have any scheduling conflicts then. But in September 2006 he's too busy to go to trial.

Scooter and Karl Rove weren't too busy to phone reporters and leak Valarie Plame's name thus outing an undercover CIA agent. Or too busy to lie to and obstruct grand juries and FBI agents investigating the leak. Or too busy too have White House emails go missing. No not too busy at all. But seven months from now they're all too busy. Bravo.

I wish I were too busy to read all the articles about how busy indicted White House staff members and their lawyers are.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The invisible fist

President Bush defended the huge profits of Exxon Mobil Corp., $10 billion dollars net profit for the last three months, saying they are simply the result of the marketplace and that consumers socked with soaring energy costs should not expect price breaks. W, a former Texas oilman, said of oil costs, "I think that basically the price is determined by the marketplace and that's the way it should be."

I remember it well, the "invisible hand" of the marketplace. Last year it was a different story as the energy bill, shamefully passing with Democratic support, ballooned from $6.7 billion to $12.3 billion dollars and included billions of dollars in tax breaks, loan guarantees and other subsidies to the oil, coal and nuclear industry.

So it's let the "marketplace decide" when you collect the money from consumers but it's "let lobbying decide" when it's time to give away consumers' tax revenues paid to the federal government. I understand now. I understand that when you make $10 billion dollars profit in three months, and mind you that's only one oil company, you should also get tax breaks and subsidies because government knows best how to affect the behavior of companies rather than the marketplace.

We subsidize oil companies sitting on mountains of cash but we can't find the money to subsidize health insurance for all kids in America or teachers who are forced to buy pens and paper for their students. It's not the "invisible hand" guiding things anymore, it's the "invisible fist" of lobbyists around the throat of Congress that controls our government.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Lies per minute

Miles per hour, revolutions per minute, PSI, BTU, now add LPM - lies per minute to the lexicon. The State of the Union didn't set a record for lies per minute but it was thick with deception. The "addicted to oil" statement seemed promising but what initiatives were proposed? What funding was offered and, by the way, how is it going to paid for? In his 2003 State of the Union W offered $1.2 billion to fund hydrogen cars and hydrogen infrastructure. Any update on that? Is it possible nothing ever happened? I'm going to bet yes.

The economy under W has created 2 million jobs over the last five years and 4.5 million over the last two and a half years. Guess which time period he talked about last night? He also bragged about how the deficit will be reduced by half by 2009. Mind you this is due to offsets from the Social Security trust fund and forget that the over $400 billion deficit will still be over $200 in 2009. The "commie left" group The Heritage Foundation says CBO is wrong and that the deficit will explode. The real nonsense is that W has also asked for his tax cuts, which expire in five year, to become permanent which would ballon the deficit even higher than anyone projects. W's projected halving of the deficit assumes tax cuts end and then asks for his tax cuts to be renewed and made permanent. I thought Jeff Skilling and Ken Lay are on trial for the same kind of accounting at Enron. Are they now presidential advisors? I guess they could use the State of the Union for their defense and W as an expert witness on accounting.

My favorite part of the speech was when W said, "The United States could have accepted the permanent division of Europe, and been complicit in the oppression of others." What was that conference at Yalta in 1945 about again? oh yes, to permanently divide Europe. "We'll take Western Europe and West Berlin, you take everything else." W should have known this not because he reads you know, history books, but because last year he went to Latvia and cited Yalta widely regarded as having paved the way for the Soviet Union to dominate not only the Baltic states but also Eastern Europe for nearly half a century. And to make the point that the United States owns up to "the injustices of our history," he reminded his audience of the shameful heritage of American slavery and centuries of racial oppression.

"The agreement at Yalta followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact," Bush said, linking it to British appeasement and Soviet deal-cutting with Adolf Hitler in the late 1930s. "Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable. Yet this attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability left a continent divided and unstable. The captivity of millions in Central and Eastern Europe will be remembered as one of the greatest wrongs of history."

Lies? Deception? Misleading arguments? Phony budget and jobs numbers? History butchered like a spring lamb? No mention of New Orleans? No mention of public corruption? Add that to dragging Cindy Sheehan out of the House, who had a ticket to the speech, and arresting her for wearing a shirt with the count of the U.S. war dead on it and you'll really know the State of the Union.
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