Friday, June 29, 2007

Criminally insane

Really, it's time for the press, pundits, etc., to admit the fact that pretty much all of the Republican candidates for their party's nomination are batshit crazy. None more so, of course, than Mitt "Double Guantanamo" Romney. Should be interesting...I mean, it's one thing to want to go all medieval on terraists, but the family dog?

h/t C&l

If not for you

Thanks for 16 years of unmitigated joy, Madam Cura.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Left turns

This is an encouraging sign as more young people identify with liberal politics/issues. However, it is curious that their preference for democrats and declining support of republicans in general and preznit in particular doesn't align with their overall confidence in the ultimate outcome in Iraq. Perhaps, after a lifetime of Grenadas (or is even that conflict before their time?), Gulf War Is, and Bosnias, American defeat is simply unfathomable. Something to keep an eye on, and underscores the difficulty democrats are going to have in articulating a strategy for disengagement. Of course, now that Republicans are beginning to head for the door, the other danger for democrats is that they continue to look too timid...

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Like a steam locomotive...

Sitting here in a the Carmel Best Western. If I crane my neck just right out over the patio railing and imagine, I can see and hear the surf through the fog and the sound of Waste Management trucks.

Anyway, this whole tourism there any aspect of vacation travel that isn't meant to cater exclusively to the very young and/or the very old? If so, Madam Cura and I are having trouble finding it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"Enough is enough"

It's going to be a long generation of Supreme Court incomprehensibility in service of the conservative ideological agenda:

In a splintered 5-to-4 decision, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said that as interpreted broadly by federal regulators and the law’s supporters, the restrictions on television advertisements paid for from corporate or union treasuries in the weeks before an election amounted to censorship of core political speech unless those advertisements explicitly urge a vote for or against a particular candidate.

“Where the First Amendment is implicated,” the chief justice said, “the tie goes to the speaker, not the censor.”

Consequently, Chief Justice Roberts said, the only advertisements that can be kept off the air in the pre-election period covered by the law — the 30 days before a primary election and the 60 days before a general election — are those that are “susceptible of no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate.”

Describing and then dismissing the rationale for the advertising restrictions, Chief Justice Roberts used a phrase that seemed to sum up the new majority’s view toward campaign finance regulation. “Enough is enough,” the chief justice said.

I think the Times' Supreme Court analyst, Linda Greenhouse, is being a bit restrained when she writes that it is unclear who benefits and who loses from this decision. On the face of it, she's right, this isn't an "ideological" decision. Trouble is, I think we are seeing a clear "flexibility" in how the majority now views the law and past Supreme Court decisions. Like Bush v Gore, ideology is going to be at the core of the Court's decision making. Today the Court demands the free speech rights of an anti-choice group in Wisconsin. Tomorrow I suspect, the same rights will not be afforded to an anti-war group in New Hampshire.

For instance, it's unclear how Roberts squares his opinion that the only ads that can be rightfully prohibited are those that are "susceptible of no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate" with the Wisconsin Right To Life ads, which specifically named Russ Feingold. Not to vote against him. No, not at all. Just to call his office. Repeatedly And provided the number. Wink fucking wink.

Even Scalia, no stranger to making things up as he goes along, finds Roberts' opinion little more than obfuscation.

The dissenters’ argument that the court had effectively overruled its 2003 decision in McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, presented in an opinion by Justice Souter, found agreement among election law experts.

“Corporations received the victory that they did not achieve in 2003,” said Edward B. Foley, a professor at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University.

It may be only a matter of time before the court reconsiders its 2003 decision upholding the constitutionality of the entire law, or at least expands its Monday decision to strike down any restriction on advertising. Three of the five justices in the majority, Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas, declined to sign the chief justice’s opinion because it did not take that step.

In fact, Justice Scalia, in a footnote to his separate opinion, agreed with the dissenters that the court has in effect already reversed the 2003 decision when it came to the advertising restriction. The decision changed the law so substantially that it “effectively overrules” the 2003 decision “without saying so,” Justice Scalia said. And demonstrating that he does not consider the new chief justice immune from the insults for which his opinions are famous, he added: “This faux judicial restraint is judicial obfuscation.”

In any case, kiss goodbye to McCain Feingold. Whether that's a good or a bad thing remains to be seen. After all, Democrats have proven they can fund raise with the best of them. But surely corporations, who already control how legislation gets written in Washington, will have even more freedom in how they fund campaigns. And don't give me that "unions can do it too" -- unions currently have no where near the financial clout that corporations and "industry trade groups" have.

Well, WTF. Jesus sez, don't bogart that bong.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Elections, consequences, or, "I'll never get out of these blues alive"

For those of you who gleefully voted for Nader in 2000, thanks.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court loosened restrictions Monday on corporate- and union-funded television ads that air close to elections, weakening a key provision of a landmark campaign finance law.

The court, split 5-4, upheld an appeals court ruling that an anti-abortion group should have been allowed to air ads during the final two months before the 2004 elections.

The case involved advertisements that Wisconsin Right to Life was prevented from broadcasting. The ads asked voters to contact the state's two senators, Democrats Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, and urge them not to filibuster President Bush's judicial nominees.

Feingold, a co-author of the campaign finance law, was up for re-election in 2004.

The provision in question was aimed at preventing the airing of issue ads that cast candidates in positive or negative lights while stopping short of explicitly calling for their election or defeat. Sponsors of such ads have contended they are exempt from certain limits on contributions in federal elections.

Chief Justice John Roberts, joined by his conservative allies, wrote a majority opinion upholding the appeals court ruling.

And next time someone says, "Republicrats," remind them of this.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court tightened limits on student speech Monday, ruling against a high school student and his 14-foot-long ''Bong Hits 4 Jesus'' banner.

Schools may prohibit student expression that can be interpreted as advocating drug use, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court in a 5-4 ruling.

Joseph Frederick unfurled his homemade sign on a winter morning in 2002, as the Olympic torch made its way through Juneau, Alaska, en route to the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Frederick said the banner was a nonsensical message that he first saw on a snowboard. He intended the banner to proclaim his right to say anything at all.

His principal, Deborah Morse, said the phrase was a pro-drug message that had no place at a school-sanctioned event. Frederick denied that he was advocating for drug use.

''The message on Frederick's banner is cryptic,'' Roberts said. ''But Principal Morse thought the banner would be interpreted by those viewing it as promoting illegal drug use, and that interpretation is plainly a reasonable one.''

And for those who think voting for Nader again might be fun, shut the fuck up.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court ruled Monday that ordinary taxpayers cannot challenge a White House initiative that helps religious charities get a share of federal money.

The 5-4 decision blocks a lawsuit by a group of atheists and agnostics against eight Bush administration officials including the head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

The taxpayers' group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation Inc., objected to government conferences in which administration officials encourage religious charities to apply for federal grants.

Taxpayers in the case ''set out a parade of horribles that they claim could occur'' unless the court stopped the Bush administration initiative, wrote Justice Samuel Alito. " Of course, none of these things has happened.''

The justices' decision revolved around a 1968 Supreme Court ruling that enabled taxpayers to challenge government programs that promote religion.

The 1968 decision involved the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which financed teaching and instructional materials in religious schools in low-income areas.

''This case falls outside'' the narrow exception allowing such cases to proceed, Alito wrote.

In dissent, Justice David Souter said that the court should have allowed the taxpayer challenge to proceed.

The majority ''closes the door on these taxpayers because the executive branch, and not the legislative branch, caused their injury,'' wrote Souter. ''I see no basis for this distinction.''

And remember, my fellow Democrats, liberals, progressives, or just plain logical human beings, while we may see the Bush administration as one of the most corrupt, disastrous episodes in the history of the Republic, our opponents -- once they get over their repudiation by the American people in the next election -- will long proudly gaze upon Bush's presidency as a huge victory for their ideology.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court sided with developers and the Bush administration Monday in a dispute with environmentalists over protecting endangered species.

The court ruled 5-4 for home builders and the Environmental Protection Agency in a case that involved the intersection of two environmental laws, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.

Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the conservative majority, said the endangered species law takes a back seat to the clean water law when it comes to the EPA handing authority to a state to issue water pollution permits. Developers often need such permits before they can begin building.

A federal appeals court had said that EPA did not do enough to ensure that endangered species would not be harmed if the state took over the permitting.

Environmental groups, backed by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal, said the administration position would in essence gut a key provision of the endangered species law. The act prohibits federal agency action that will jeopardize a species and calls for consultation between federal agencies.

Blue Monday, indeed.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Field guns

Meanwhile, in that other war.

KABUL, Afghanistan, June 23 — Somber, impatient and angry, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan on Saturday accused the United States military and its NATO allies of carrying out “careless operations” that lead to civilian casualties, asserting that “Afghan life is not cheap and should not be treated as such.”

His remarks, made on the front lawn of the presidential palace, came in response to a week in which more than 100 civilian deaths have been reported from airstrikes and artillery fire against the Taliban.

“The extreme use of force, the disproportionate use of force to a situation, and the lack of coordination with the Afghan government is causing these casualties,” he said. “You don’t fight a terrorist by firing a field gun from 37 kilometers away into a target. That is definitely bound to cause civilian casualties. You don’t hit a few terrorists with field guns.”

Mr. Karzai has made these criticisms before in recent months. While his rebuke on Saturday was more irate in tone, he was still vague about his government’s intended recourse if the civilian deaths continue to mount. “Either this cooperation and coordination will be created and applied, or Afghanistan will take its decision in this regard,” he said.

More than 50,000 foreign troops are operating in Afghanistan, the bulk of them Americans. The Taliban insurgency has employed guerrilla tactics that include attacks on police stations, aid workers and schools. The Taliban commonly hide among civilians, and NATO officials insist that it is the insurgents who deserve blame when innocents die.

Late Saturday, there were fresh reports of civilian deaths, this time in Paktika Province along the frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where NATO forces and the United States-led coalition said they had killed 60 insurgents. During the fighting, a rocket landed across the border and hit a house, killing nine civilians, according to a Pakistan Army spokesman quoted by The Associated Press.

There's a great deal of reporting on the anti-insurgent tactics employed by U.S. forces in Iraq -- ever-changing and mostly unsuccessful, to be sure, but at least something we can debate. In Afghanistan, not so much. I suppose that our smaller footprint there and a prevailing sense here at home that we "won" that war in 2002 has much to do with that. So do news budgets stretched thin by covering the war in Iraq and an infrastructure even more damaged than Iraq's making getting reporters in and reports out more difficult.

But I sense that our anti-insurgent tactics in Afghanistan are primarily calling in air support to destroy any farm house or school in which someone identified as Taliban has been spotted. Not the most effective way to win the hearts and minds. And it is a foreshadowing of our tactics in Iraq when the inevitable pull down does finally occur, probably in another couple of Friedman Units.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The game at Balco Park

Ok, ok, AT&T Park, or whatever. It was a terrific game, particularly if you were wearing an away "New York" or home "Yankees" jersey. The Yankees won comfortably against an offense about as anemic as any in the Major Leagues, and we got to witness an incredible line drive homer by Bonds, that cleared the fence in deepest right center, about 463 feet, or something. A mammoth shot, but one -- with no one on and the Yankees well ahead -- that was essentially meaningless. Not to get too deep, but that could be a pretty good metaphor for Bonds' career.

The fans went wild, though. They love them their Barry (except that a constant refrain I heard from the Barry-adoring Gi'nts fans was that, "as soon as he breaks the records, they gotta trade him").

Bonds is an albatross for this team, that's for sure. But they only have themselves to blame. Forget about the recliner in the clubhouse. On the left field wall, directly behind where Bonds lumbers about on defense, is a sign that reads "a giant among legends," showing Barry's face along with Mays and McCovey. That's like retiring his number before he' know...retired. And there was an unbelievable campaign -- complete with between innings commercials and stadium workers wearing badges -- to get fans to "vote Barry" for the all-star game. I've never seen a team work so hard to get a single player elected. This year's game is being played in Frisco, but it was weird. Unseemly. Maybe the other members of this old, washed up*, never saw a pitch they wouldn't swing at team, don't mind. But between the constant losing, this attention on one player -- albeit, the only one with an on-base percentage higher than a mediocre .350 -- has to get old after a while.

As for Giants fans, like 49er fans, they're about as tribal a bunch as you'll see. It was a sea of orange jerseys, though it mysteriously morphed into blue and white jerseys as the game progressed. And they had a real hatred for the Yankees, even though most hadn't been born when the two teams last played. It went so far as them cheering for the Red Sox who were at the time beating the Padres, the Giants division rivals. I turned to Madam Cura at one point late in the game (the booze does flow very, very freely at this place), and noted, they're about as vitriolic as Red Sox fans, without Red Sox fans' appreciation for the game.

On the Caltrain back to the sourthern suburbs it was fairly tense for the four or five of us wearing Yankee insignia. Like I said, the booze does flow freely in the late innings.

Oh, but the food is really good. Heartily recommend the Neiman ranch organic hot dogs ($6.50) and the clam chowder soup in a sourdough bowl. Gets cold there late at night. And if you're in the upper decks, as we were, the view at night is gorgeous.

* Omar Vizquel can't hit, but he is as pretty a shortstop as you'll ever see out there.

Authoritarian wannabes

The Grand Ol' Police blotter now features not only Giuliani's aides. It seems that a senior aide to Mitt "Double Guantanamo" Romney has been watching too many episodes of Reno 911, thinking they're real.

Mitt Romney's director of operations is taking a leave of absence from the presidential campaign after becoming the focus of an investigation into allegations that he posed as a state trooper in a recorded phone call complaining about a company's driver, the campaign announced today.

The Globe reported today that Jay Garrity is the primary target in a State Police investigation into a May 13 call to a Wilmington drain and sewer cleaning business, in which a caller complained about the erratic driving of a company van.

During the phone call, a recording of which was made by the answering service and obtained by the Globe, a man calling himself "Trooper Garrity of the Massachusetts State Police" threatens to cite the driver he says he saw speeding and cutting off cars in the Ted Williams Tunnel.

Also this week, the New Hampshire attorney general's office opened an investigation into a charge that a Romney campaign aide -- identified as Garrity -- pulled over a reporter following a campaign vehicle and claimed to have run his license.

"He has taken a leave of absence from the campaign in order to address these complaints," said Kevin Madden, spokesman for the Romney campaign.

A lawyer for Garrity denied both allegations.


These were not the first times Garrity was accused of having law enforcement aspirations.

In 2004, he was cited by Boston police for having police equipment, such as flashing lights, mounted in his Crown Victoria without the proper permits.

They live in a fantasy world where they are all, in fact, "law enforcement officials," obsessed with the trappings of badges (or, in Garrity's case, "I don't need no stinkin' badge"), flashing lights, and who knows what hanging in their closets. Geez, the fact he even owns a Crown Vic is weird enough. They need to be kept far, far away from real power over people since they are so quick to use fake power to harass people.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Secrets of the mundane and the profound

The Bush administration giveth:

The Central Intelligence Agency will make public next week a collection of long-secret documents compiled in 1974 that detail domestic spying, assassination plots and other C.I.A. misdeeds in the 1960s and early 1970s, the agency’s director, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, said yesterday.

In an address to a group of historians who have long pressed for greater disclosure of C.I.A. archives, General Hayden described the documents, known as the “family jewels,” as “a glimpse of a very different time and a very different agency.” He also directed the release of 11,000 pages of cold-war documents on the Soviet Union and China, which were handed out on compact discs at the meeting, in Chantilly, Va.


Thomas S. Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, which obtains and publishes collections of once-secret government records, said the step announced yesterday might be the most important since at least 1998, when George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, reversed a decision to release information on cold-war covert actions. “Applause is due,” Mr. Blanton said.

But Mr. Blanton took issue with General Hayden’s assurance that the current C.I.A. was utterly different from the pre-1975 institution. “There are uncanny parallels,” he said, “between events today and the stories in the family jewels about warrantless wiretapping and concern about violation of the kidnapping laws.”

The six-page 1975 Justice Department summary, of C.I.A. actions that some officers of the agency had reported as possible illegalities, included the 1963 wiretapping of two newspaper columnists, Robert Allen and Paul Scott, who had written a column including “certain national security information.”

The document said those wiretaps had been approved after “discussions” with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara. A C.I.A. report described them as “very productive,” picking up calls of 12 senators and 6 members of the House, among others.

And they so much.

For four years, Vice President Dick Cheney has resisted routine oversight of his office’s handling of classified information, and when the National Archives unit that monitors classification in the executive branch objected, the vice president’s office suggested abolishing the oversight unit, according to documents released yesterday by a Democratic congressman.

The Information Security Oversight Office, a unit of the National Archives, appealed the issue to the Justice Department, which has not yet ruled on the matter.

Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California and chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, disclosed Mr. Cheney’s effort to shut down the oversight office. Mr. Waxman, who has had a leading role in the stepped-up efforts by Democrats to investigate the Bush administration, outlined the matter in an eight-page letter sent Thursday to the vice president and posted, along with other documentation, on the committee’s Web site.

Officials at the National Archives and the Justice Department confirmed the basic chronology of events cited in Mr. Waxman’s letter.


J. William Leonard, director of the oversight office, has argued in a series of letters to Mr. Addington that the vice president’s office is indeed such an entity. He noted that previous vice presidents had complied with the request for data on documents classified and declassified, and that Mr. Cheney did so in 2001 and 2002.

But starting in 2003, the vice president’s office began refusing to supply the information. In 2004, it blocked an on-site inspection by Mr. Leonard’s office that was routinely carried out across the government to check whether documents were being properly labeled and safely stored.

Mr. Addington did not reply in writing to Mr. Leonard’s letters, according to officials familiar with their exchanges. But Mr. Addington stated in conversations that the vice president’s office was not an “entity within the executive branch” because, under the Constitution, the vice president also plays a role in the legislative branch, as president of the Senate, able to cast a vote in the event of a tie.

Mr. Waxman rejected that argument. “He doesn’t have classified information because of his legislative function,” Mr. Waxman said of Mr. Cheney. “It’s because of his executive function.”

Mr. Cheney’s general resistance to complying with the oversight request was first reported last year by The Chicago Tribune.

In January, Mr. Leonard wrote to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales asking that he resolve the question. Erik Ablin, a Justice Department spokesman, said last night, “This matter is currently under review in the department.”

Whatever the ultimate ruling, according to Mr. Waxman’s letter, the vice president’s office has already carried out “possible retaliation” against the oversight office.

As part of an interagency review of Executive Order 12958, Mr. Cheney’s office proposed eliminating appeals to the attorney general — precisely the avenue Mr. Leonard was taking. According to Mr. Waxman’s investigation, the vice president’s staff also proposed abolishing the Information Security Oversight Office.

The interagency group revising the executive order has rejected those proposals, according to Mr. Waxman. Ms. McGinn, Mr. Cheney’s spokeswoman, declined to comment.

Mr. Cheney’s penchant for secrecy has long been a striking feature of the Bush administration, beginning with his fight to keep confidential the identities of the energy industry officials who advised his task force on national energy policy in 2001. Mr. Cheney took that dispute to the Supreme Court and won.

Steven Aftergood, who tracks government secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists and last year filed a complaint with the oversight office about Mr. Cheney’s noncompliance, said, “This illustrates just how far the vice president will go to evade external oversight.”

But David B. Rivkin, a Washington lawyer who served in Justice Department and White House posts in earlier Republican administrations, said Mr. Cheney had a valid point about the unusual status of the office he holds.

“The office of the vice president really is unique,” Mr. Rivkin said. “It’s not an agency. It’s an extension of the vice president himself.”

Hmmm. Really? I think the truth lies somewhere in the decision to stop complying in 2003, when it no doubt became clear to even the dead-endiest of the dead-enders in the White House that the intelligence was showing there were no WMD in Iraq. No one can be sure the extent Cheney's "extension of himself" -- the office of the VP -- manipulated that intelligence if we don't really know what the intelligence maintained.

Friday dog blogging

Djuna contemplates
Originally uploaded by vegacura
Light, shadows.

Change of managers

Well, so much for that.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Cocaine blues

"Less than 500 grams?" That'd make for a helluva weekend.

COLUMBIA, S.C., June 19 (AP) — The South Carolina treasurer was indicted on Tuesday on federal cocaine charges.

The treasurer, Thomas. Ravenel, a former real estate developer who became a rising political star after his election last year, is accused of buying less than 500 grams of the drug to share with other people in late 2005, said United States Attorney Reggie Lloyd. Mr. Ravenel, a 44-year-old millionaire, is charged with distribution of cocaine, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Mr. Ravenel, a Republican, is also the state chairman for Rudolph W. Giuliani’s presidential campaign.

The investigation into Mr. Ravenel arose from a drug case last year in Charleston, Mr. Lloyd said. Robert Stewart, the state law enforcement division chief, said that his agents were aware of the accusations before Mr. Ravenel was elected in November but that they did not have enough information to pursue criminal charges. The case was turned over to the F.B.I. in April.


Mr. Giuliani’s political director, Mark Campbell, said in a statement: “Our campaign has no information about the accusations pending against Mr. Ravenel. Mr. Ravenel has stepped down from his volunteer responsibilities with the campaign.”


Who is Digby?

I'm not Spartacus, either. Just so's you know.

UPDATE: But she is.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Wish you were here

Wish you were here
Originally uploaded by vegacura
Dear reader, postings will probably be light through the end of this month as Madam Cura and I head west for some much needed r&r. I'll bring my trusty intertubes writer and will do my best, but, truth be told, I write this stuff primarily as an anecdote to working,

Um, that would be "antidote." Thanks to alert reader, "Tom."

A beautiful thing


Rudy! AWOL

I have no idea why they'd want Giuliani to be a part of the Iraq Study Group, but given a chance to serve his country, help the Republican administration extricate themselves from Iraq, and burnish his own foreign policy credentials he simply didn't show up.

WASHINGTON -- Rudolph Giuliani's membership on an elite Iraq study panel came to an abrupt end last spring after he failed to show up for a single official meeting of the group, causing the panel's top Republican to give him a stark choice: either attend the meetings or quit, several sources said.

Giuliani left the Iraq Study Group last May after just two months, walking away from a chance to make up for his lack of foreign policy credentials on the top issue in the 2008 race, the Iraq war.

He cited "previous time commitments" in a letter explaining his decision to quit, and a look at his schedule suggests why -- the sessions at times conflicted with Giuliani's lucrative speaking tour that garnered him $11.4 million in 14 months.

Giuliani failed to show up for a pair of two-day sessions that occurred during his tenure, the sources said -- and both times, they conflicted with paid public appearances shown on his recent financial disclosure. Giuliani quit the group during his busiest stretch in 2006, when he gave 20 speeches in a single month that brought in $1.7 million.
Priorities. Meanwhile his BFF continues to suffer in silence.

June 19, 2007 -- Disgraced ex-NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik can't stop crying over his fizzled friendship with former BFF Rudy Giuliani.

"I accept the distance created by Giuliani. I understand it, but inside, it's killing me," Kerik said.

"It's like dying a slow death, watching him have to answer for my mistakes," the former top cop said of the ex-New York mayor-turned-presidential-candidate.

Kerik dished up the surprisingly frank comments in a dark, F-bomb-infused interview in the August edition of Best Life magazine.

In the bizarre chat, he said he is now working for the Jordanian government overseeing its construction of "an underground, seismic-shock proof, oxygen-stowing compound that could withstand a nuclear attack.

"At least here in Jordan, I stand half a chance," Kerik whined.

I guess 9-11 did change everything. It sure elevated to national prominence these two self-absorbed jerks and their delusions of grandeur.

The dark arts

Glenn Greenwald pens another mighty essay, this time on the latest "Free Scooter" rant by Richard Cohen.

One could write media criticisms for the next several years and not come close to capturing the essence of our Beltway media the way Cohen did in this single paragraph:

With the sentencing of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Fitzgerald has apparently finished his work, which was, not to put too fine a point on it, to make a mountain out of a molehill. At the urging of the liberal press (especially the New York Times), he was appointed to look into a run-of-the-mill leak and wound up prosecuting not the leaker -- Richard Armitage of the State Department -- but Libby, convicted in the end of lying. This is not an entirely trivial matter since government officials should not lie to grand juries, but neither should they be called to account for practicing the dark art of politics. As with sex or real estate, it is often best to keep the lights off.
That really is the central belief of our Beltway press, captured so brilliantly by Cohen in this perfect nutshell. When it comes to the behavior of our highest and most powerful government officials, our Beltway media preaches, "it is often best to keep the lights off." If that isn't the perfect motto for our bold, intrepid, hard-nosed political press, then nothing is.

That is the motto that should be inscribed at the top of Fred Hiatt's Editorial Page in pretty calligraphy. And let us acknowledge what a truly superb job they have been doing in keeping the lights off.

You really must read the whole thing. The past six years have been an intriguing glimpse into the collective mind of the Washington establishment, coinciding so nicely with the arrival of King George II. The mindset is one of elitism and clubishness. Serious men and women all, they see their duties and responsibilities to be crushing, but ones that must be done outside the sight of an ignorant public. That came through again and again in the "Free Scooter" letters to Judge Walton. Regardless of what we used to call "political affiliation (and we now realize that their real affiliation is to their own powerful kind)," the letter writers consistently referred to Libby's immense responsibility to keep America safe -- a responsibility so great that it far outweighted such niceties as telling the truth to FBI agents and Grand Juries.

Cohen now goes even further. In practicing "the dark art of politics," said practitioners should be permitted to practice without the nosy oversight of the rubes, the dirty fucking hippies, and "the antiwar left."

And, by the way, it wasn't the urging of the "liberal press, (especially The New York Times)," the investigation began at the urging of the CIA.

If Cohen isn't awarded a Golden Wanker for this, there truly is no justice. Mona Charen seconds my emotion.

Richard Cohen on Libby [Mona Charen]

The Post's Richard Cohen zeroes in on the hypocrisy of the press on the Libby matter (always a good topic). This is quite an impassioned argument for sparing Libby and coming from a lib should be praised.

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Projecting and procrastinating with a single post

NRO hearts Lieberman

Sheesh, "the editors" even criticize Republican Senators for not coming to his defense for his stupid threats against Iran.

Cleaning out the email archives

Apparently they're very diligent about that at the RNC.

Tony Snow, the White House lip-mover, says that officials using their RNC email account were just trying to avoid running afoul of the Hatch Act. Bullshit. Aren't their Blackberries "government assets?

Voting rights for the "mentally unfit"

To me, these efforts to restrict voting rights to those judged "insane" are suspicious and part of a growing -- and coordinated -- effort to restrict the number of voters.

CRANSTON, R.I. — Behind the barbed wire and thick walls of the state mental hospital here are two patients who have not been allowed to live in the outside world for 20 years. Both were found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.

Still, they have voted in elections nearly every two years, casting ballots by mail. Now, however, election officials are taking steps that could ban them from voting, arguing that state law denies the vote to people with such serious psychiatric impairments.

“I just think if you are declared insane you should not be allowed to vote, period,” said Joseph DeLorenzo, chairman of the Cranston Board of Canvassers. “Some people are taking these two clowns and calling them disabled persons. Is insanity a disability? I have an answer to that: no. You’re insane; you’re nuts.”

Rhode Island is among a growing number of states grappling with the question of who is too mentally impaired to vote. The issue is drawing attention for two major reasons: increasing efforts by the mentally ill and their advocates to secure voting rights, and mounting concern by psychiatrists and others who work with the elderly about the rights and risks of voting by people with conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

This summer, recommendations for national standards will be released by a group of psychiatrists, lawyers and others led by the American Bar Association, suggesting that people be prevented from voting only if they cannot indicate, with or without help, “a specific desire to participate in the voting process.”

Some state skirmishes involve efforts to ease restrictions, while others involve specific cases that compel officials to clarify old laws.

And with research showing that many people with dementia or other impairments vote or want to, there is also a desire to ensure they are not pressured to vote certain ways.

“There’s a lot of people out there who either don’t have adequate access to the ballot and should, or could be vulnerable to overreaching political types who want to take advantage of their votes to swing an election,” said Charles Sabatino, director of the commission on law and aging at the bar association.

Yeah, but that's true of all manner of people. Would we want to restrict the rights of elderly people who may be vulnerable to calls from political parties because they're lonely. If they've been phone scammed, should they be taken off the rolls?

Through lawyers, Mr. Sarro, 52, said, “I’ve been voting a long time now, and it’s important to me.” Mr. Sarmento, 40, said: “I read the paper just about every day. I’m aware of what is going on in the world. I care about voting.”

The Missouri lawsuit seeks to end what it calls a state voting ban for people under full guardianship because of mental illness. Missouri’s attorney general’s office says the law lets judges allow voting in individual cases. A court ruled for the state, but the case is being appealed.

David C., 26, of Fayette, Mo., who asked that his last name be withheld, said he had been prevented from voting because he was under guardianship, although he had distributed campaign fliers and lobbied a state senator about issues like Medicaid.

Sebastian Go of St. Peters, Mo., under guardianship because of bipolar disorder, Asperger’s syndrome and brain injury, registered to vote and researched races when he turned 18 last September, said his guardian and grandmother, Linda Clarke. But the day Mr. Go received his voting card he also got a letter saying he could not vote because he had been declared mentally incapacitated.

“He has to have someone manage his money for him and make his medical decisions,” Ms. Clarke said. “But Sebastian is able to make a political decision.”

Mr. Go said he considered voting “my duty as an American citizen,” adding “I have an opinion on the outside world, on who’s governor, who’s senator, who’s president. And that one vote could count.”

Our notions of mental illness are still primitive, in many ways. I would argue that anyone who voted for the current president in 2004 is non compos mentis, but I'm not arguing they should be denied the right to vote for another dangerous fool in 2008.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Nice guys finish last

As a programming note, long-time readers will have noticed the photos of legendary major league managers in the upper right of this establishment. The intention was to rotate them every couple of weeks, but as long as the Yankees stay on their winning ways, I'm sticking with Leo and Willie (even though the Yankees are playing the Gi'nts this week).

But it was all about democracy, anyway

Breaking news: the hunt for Saddam's WMD officially over.

Blue Monday, Son House, Butterfield Blues Band edition

"If he was a tuna fish sandwich, Butterfield'd be into the blues."

Yer outta here!

Very, very amusing.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Subway Series II

When last the Yankees and, on May 19, the Yankees were reeling. What a difference a month makes as the Yankees have just reeled off nine straight and the Metropolitans have lost 9 of their last 10. Going into the May series, Yankee fans were hoping the team would win 1 of the 3 games, this weekend, anything less than 2 of 3 would be considered a huge failure.

And that sound you hear: it's the angry bowels of Red Sox Nation.

But really, this post is just an excuse to link to Emma Span, who is the most enjoyable baseball writer to not be employed by a daily paper in New York.

The Diamondbacks also made three errors, but that doesn’t even begin to describe the unfathomable abyss that was their defense; they really should have made at least three or four additional plays. Some of this can probably be blamed on starting pitcher Doug Davis, who, apparently determined to resuscitate Steve “Human Rain Delay” Trachsel’s tarnished reputation, was taking his sweet, sweet time before every single pitch, throw to first, and cup-adjustment, while his infielders lolled around with glazed eyes knitting elaborate holiday sweaters. His sluggishness was so frustrating that Michael Kay and John Flaherty, dying up in the booth, got peeved enough to start attacking his personal appearance -- though I don’t think they can have been totally aware of all the connotations of the phrase “landing strip.”
Anyhoo, the Yankees are playing (and, most importantly, pitching) well right now, their cross-city rivals not so much, while the Red Sox finally hit a rough patch. Just as the Sox couldn't play .800 ball all season, neither can the Yankees, so my beloved Bombers really do have a long way to go (though the amount of ground they've made up, particularly in the Wild Card, is amazing). And they still don't have a first baseman, despite Cairo's inspired play lately. But winning's better than losing.

Save General Pace!

Ah, the outrage.

“In a time of war, for a leader of a party that says it supports the military, it seems outrageous to be issuing slanders toward the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and also the man that is responsible for the bulk of military operations in Iraq,” said Tony Snow, the White House spokesman.
No, it's much better to simply fire him.

"Oooh, spare me."

Am I the only one envisioning this scene in the Oval Office sometime today?

Dick Cheney: So, Mr. President, what are we going to do about Scooter?

George W. Bush (lips pursed in mock desperation): Please don't send me to jail. Heh, heh.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Clutching at their pearls

The hero of the DC establishment will not pass go, nor collect $200.

It's going to be a noisy night on the cable shows tonight as the various monkeys hurl their feces about.

Labels: ,

An obsession with candy canes

Your Bush administration Justice Dept. at work.

¶Intervening in federal court cases on behalf of religion-based groups like the Salvation Army that assert they have the right to discriminate in hiring in favor of people who share their beliefs even though they are running charitable programs with federal money.

¶Supporting groups that want to send home religious literature with schoolchildren; in one case, the government helped win the right of a group in Massachusetts to distribute candy canes as part of a religious message that the red stripes represented the blood of Christ.

¶Vigorously enforcing a law enacted by Congress in 2000 that allows churches and other places of worship to be free of some local zoning restrictions. The division has brought more than two dozen lawsuits on behalf of churches, synagogues and mosques.

¶Taking on far fewer hate crimes and cases in which local law enforcement officers may have violated someone’s civil rights. The resources for these traditional cases have instead been used to investigate trafficking cases, typically involving foreign women used in the sex trade, a favored issue of the religious right.

¶Sharply reducing the complex lawsuits that challenge voting plans that might dilute the strength of black voters. The department initiated only one such case through the early part of this year, compared with eight in a comparable period in the Clinton administration.

Along with its changed civil rights mission, the department has also tried to overhaul the roster of government lawyers who deal with civil rights. The agency has transferred or demoted some experienced civil rights litigators while bringing in lawyers, including graduates of religious-affiliated law schools and some people vocal about their faith, who favor the new priorities. That has created some unease, with some career lawyers disdainfully referring to the newcomers as “holy hires.”

It's been said lately that what the Bush administration has done to the Justice Dept. will take 10 years to undo. That may be a conservative estimate.

Real solutions to imaginary problems

Another edition of conservatives are quick to find solutions for problems they don't think exist.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Like Libby, she's sacrificed a lot for her country

Ok, the Vega's been Paris-free so far (except when discussing what GOP talking points call "the death tax") and everyone involved feels all the more Irish Springy clean as a result. But I couldn't pass on this one, in response to news that the young heiress is getting preferential treatment at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, The Superficial writes.

Anybody who thought Paris would be treated fairly must be completely out of their mind. Judging by the way she's been treated so far I'm surprised they haven't awarded her the Congressional Medal of Honor and bought her a pony.

Principled candidates

Digby compares and contrasts Romney's and Giuliani's attitudes towards convicted criminals. We've known Giuliani's schtick for decades now, but this little item about Romney made my jaw drop.

Decorated Iraq war veteran Anthony Circosta seemed like an ideal candidate for a pardon from then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for his boyhood conviction for a BB gun shooting.

Romney said no — twice — despite the recommendation of the state's Board of Pardons.

At age 13, Circosta was convicted of assault for shooting another boy in the arm with a BB gun, a shot that didn't break the skin. Circosta worked his way through college, joined the Army National Guard and led a platoon of 20 soldiers in Iraq's deadly Sunni triangle.

In 2005, as he was serving in Iraq, he sought a pardon to fulfill his dream of becoming a police officer.

"I've done everything I can to give back to my state and my community and my country and to get brushed aside is very frustrating," said Circosta, 29, of Agawam, Mass. "I'm not some shlub off the street."

In his presidential bid, Romney often proudly points out that he was the first governor in modern Massachusetts history to deny every request for a pardon or commutation during his four years in office. He says he refused pardons because he didn't want to overturn a jury.

But, when it comes to poor Scooter...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Of footnotes and endnotes

Wow, via Bitch Ph.D., we find this little footnote the Libby trial judge aimed at all of the "distinguished academics" who asked the court for permission to write an amicus brief on behalf of the defendant.

And then there's just teh stupid.

And they tell me U.S. productivity keeps rising

These people have waaaaaaaay too much time (and indignation) on their hands.

And that's why I avoid flame wars like the plague.

Lieberman hearts Gonzalez

Voting to end cloture and proceed to a no-confidence vote on Gonzalez:
  • Norm Coleman (R-MN)
  • Susan Collins (R-ME)
  • Chuck Hagel (R-NE)
  • Gordon Smith (R-OR)
  • Olympia Snow (R-ME)
  • Arlen Specter (R-PA)
  • John Sununu (R-NH)

Voting against ending cloture, 38 Republicans and
  • Joe Lieberman (WTF-CT)

Love and Theft

That was Sept. 11, 2001 by the way.

"Jarring focalization"

Works for me, too.

Re-watching it last night, I noticed that when T enters the restaurant he looks up and sees...T. It didn't just feel like a shift of camera angle, but a signal.

Good stuff.

Kill the Phillies phanatic

Really, something must be done to appease the baseball gods before the Phillies lose their 10,000th game.

PHILADELPHIA, June 11 — During the 1920s and ’30s, when the Phillies inhabited a park called the Baker Bowl, the fence in right field was adorned by a giant advertisement for soap that read: “The Phillies Use Lifebuoy.”

This only encouraged fans to add a sour retort: “And they still stink.”

In fact, no team has ever stunk so often as the Phillies, who, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, have lost more games than any professional franchise in any sport. The Phillies are 14 losses from a particular threshold of ignominy — the 10,000th defeat for a club that has won one lonely World Series title (in 1980) during its 125 years of often dreadful existence.

“I didn’t know this until a week ago,” Manager Charlie Manuel said before the Phillies defeated the White Sox, 3-0, on Monday. “It means they’ve had a team here a long time. I don’t think we need to celebrate it, though.”

Defeat has been as spectacular and excruciating as it has been regular. On May 1, 1883, the team lost its inaugural game; by the end of that miserable season, a pitcher named John Coleman had lost 48 times. From 1938 through 1942, the Phillies lost at least 103 games each year.

The franchise has set awful records for futility — with a collective earned run average of 6.71 in 1930 and 23 consecutive defeats in 1961. And, of course, 1964 brought one of baseball’s most infamous collapses, when the Phillies held a 6 ½-game lead in the National League with 12 games to play and blew the pennant after losing 10 in a row.

No wonder Atrios is so cranky.

Here, not only the Phillies fail. Sometimes, the entertainment tanks, too. On April 17, 1972, a hang-gliding daredevil named Kiteman was hired to ski down a ramp at Veterans Stadium and soar to home plate, where he would deliver the first ball of the home season. First, Kiteman panicked and froze. Then he caught a gust of unfortunate wind, clipped rows of seats, crashed into the railing of the upper deck and tossed the ball into the Phillies’ bullpen — about 400 feet from its intended destination.

“I was just relieved that he was alive,” Bill Giles, the Phillies’ chairman, wrote in his autobiography, “Pouring Six Beers at a Time.” “Generally speaking, a dead body is not a good omen for the start of a baseball season.”

The wheels of justice grind slowly

But grind they do.

The appeals panel ruled that Bush had overreached his authority and that the Constitution protects U.S. citizens and legal residents such as Marri from unchecked military power. It also rejected the administration's contention that it was not relevant that Marri was arrested in the United States and was living here legally on a student visa.

"The President cannot eliminate constitutional protections with the stroke of a pen by proclaiming a civilian, even a criminal civilian, an enemy combatant subject to indefinite military detention," the panel found.

The Bush administration will likely ask the full Fourth Circuit to consider and, of course, there's always the 5-4 Allito court.

And this is insane:

U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson, a Bush appointee, dissented from the opinion. Hudson contended that Bush had the power to detain enemy combatants under Congress's authorization to use military force.

"Although al-Marri was not personally engaged in armed conflict with U.S. forces, he is the type of stealth warrior used by al Qaeda to perpetrate terrorist acts against the United States," Hudson wrote. "There is little doubt," the judge maintained, that al-Marri was in the country to aid in hostile attacks on the United States.

"Little doubt?" There has been no trial, so how can there be "little doubt," as no evidence as been presented other than the Justice Dept's claims. So, while this is a nice victory for the Constitution, it's a shaky one.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Gingrich's "think" tank

More like a money pit for corporate contributors.

WASHINGTON --Potential GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has promoted public policy positions that closely track the financial interests of companies that underwrite a think tank he founded.

The Center for Health Transformation is part of an elaborate consulting and communications empire Gingrich has built since he left Congress under a political cloud in January 1999. It gives the former House Speaker and Georgia Republican a far-reaching platform for his views, which he airs on television and radio, in paid speeches and in dozens of opinion columns in major newspapers.

Among his ideas is a health system that lets consumers, not health maintenance organizations, choose the best doctors, medical treatments and hospitals. Such a goal would be accomplished with health savings accounts, which are sought by companies that fund Gingrich's think tank. The accounts would encourage people to shop for cheaper care and forgo treatments they do not need.

A second idea, electronic records to keep better track of people's medical care, is a potential boon to technology companies that underwrite the center.

Rarely does Gingrich acknowledge his opinions would benefit the drug makers, insurers and others who each pay the center up to $200,000 annually.

Critics say Gingrich is doing free advertising, not the free thinking he is admired for by conservative supporters. Gingrich aides say his ideas are aimed at helping all people and not a particular company.

Gingrich, through a spokesman, declined to be interviewed.

"This is a massive financial conflict of interest: taking money from organizations that have a set of views, then using the weight of your name, Newt Gingrich, to advance the views of these organizations," said Sid Wolfe, director of health research for Public Citizen, a liberal-leaning watchdog group.

Ellen Miller, an open-government advocate who runs the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation, said: "It's a phony think tank. He's nothing but a corporate shill and everything he says about health care should be regarded with complete skepticism."

Gingrich aides say companies give money because of Gingrich's views, not the other way around.

Personally, I don't really care. Gingrich is a phony historian and a hack. My problem is with the newspapers and radio and TV programs that regularly give him a platform to communicate his "ideas" and never indicate that he's on the payroll of companies with a vested interest in the recommendations he makes.

Blue Monday, Son House edition

John the Revelator.

The song remains the same

The Bush administration has pretty much become a parody of itself.

The Bush administration increasingly emphasized partisan political ties over expertise in recent years in selecting the judges who decide the fate of hundreds of thousands of immigrants, despite laws that preclude such considerations, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

At least one-third of the immigration judges appointed by the Justice Department since 2004 have had Republican connections or have been administration insiders, and half lacked experience in immigration law, Justice Department, immigration court and other records show.

Two newly appointed immigration judges were failed candidates for the U.S. Tax Court nominated by President Bush; one fudged his taxes and the other was deemed unqualified to be a tax judge by the nation's largest association of lawyers. Both were Republican loyalists.

Justice officials also gave immigration judgeships to a New Jersey election law specialist who represented GOP candidates, a former treasurer of the Louisiana Republican Party, a White House domestic policy adviser and a conservative crusader against pornography.

These appointments, all made by the attorney general, have begun to reshape a system of courts in which judges, ruling alone, exercise broad powers -- deporting each year nearly a quarter-million immigrants, who have limited rights to appeal and no right to an attorney. The judges do not serve fixed terms.

Yeah, pretty funny. But, of course, these actions have consequences and no amount of Congressional scrutiny can put the worm back in the can. Tough luck if you're an immigrant who has to deal with these bozos.

And that 2000 recount is the gift that keeps on giving for GOP loyalists.

Another politically connected lawyer, Garry D. Malphrus, was appointed to Arlington's immigration court in 2005. He had been associate director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and, before that, a Republican aide on two Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittees.

During the Florida recount after the 2000 presidential election that brought Bush to office, Malphrus took part in the "Brooks Brothers riot" -- when GOP staffers from Washington chanted "stop the fraud" at Miami's polling headquarters.

Arming both sides in a civil war

Military strategist I am not, but...

BAGHDAD, June 10 — With the four-month-old increase in American troops showing only modest success in curbing insurgent attacks, American commanders are turning to another strategy that they acknowledge is fraught with risk: arming Sunni Arab groups that have promised to fight militants linked with Al Qaeda who have been their allies in the past.

American commanders say they have successfully tested the strategy in Anbar Province west of Baghdad and have held talks with Sunni groups in at least four areas of central and north-central Iraq where the insurgency has been strong. In some cases, the American commanders say, the Sunni groups are suspected of involvement in past attacks on American troops or of having links to such groups. Some of these groups, they say, have been provided, usually through Iraqi military units allied with the Americans, with arms, ammunition, cash, fuel and supplies.

American officers who have engaged in what they call outreach to the Sunni groups say many of them have had past links to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia but grew disillusioned with the Islamic militants’ extremist tactics, particularly suicide bombings that have killed thousands of Iraqi civilians. In exchange for American backing, these officials say, the Sunni groups have agreed to fight Al Qaeda and halt attacks on American units. Commanders who have undertaken these negotiations say that in some cases, Sunni groups have agreed to alert American troops to the location of roadside bombs and other lethal booby traps.

But critics of the strategy, including some American officers, say it could amount to the Americans’ arming both sides in a future civil war. The United States has spent more than $15 billion in building up Iraq’s army and police force, whose manpower of 350,000 is heavily Shiite. With an American troop drawdown increasingly likely in the next year, and little sign of a political accommodation between Shiite and Sunni politicians in Baghdad, the critics say, there is a risk that any weapons given to Sunni groups will eventually be used against Shiites. There is also the possibility the weapons could be used against the Americans themselves.

Best part, they're going to use "biometric tests" as a condition for arming the militias. I can see them now, lining up for their retinal scans.

How does The Onion stay in business?


Today's Krugmaniad (Time$elect)

Rich liberals who claim they’ll help America’s less fortunate are phonies.

Let me give you one example — a Democrat who said he’d work on behalf of workers and the poor. He even said he’d take on Big Business. But the truth is that while he was saying those things, he was living in a big house and had a pretty lavish summer home too. His favorite recreation, sailing, was incredibly elitist. And he didn’t talk like a regular guy.

Clearly, this politician wasn’t authentic. His name? Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Luckily, that’s not how the political game was played 70 years ago. F.D.R. wasn’t accused of being a phony; he was accused of being a “traitor to his class.” But today, it seems, politics is all about seeming authentic. A recent Associated Press analysis of the political scene asked: “Can you fake authenticity? Probably not, but it might be worth a try.”

What does authenticity mean? Supposedly it means not pretending to be who you aren’t. But that definition doesn’t seem to fit the way the term is actually used in political reporting.

For example, the case of F.D.R. shows that there’s nothing inauthentic, in the normal sense of the word, about calling for higher taxes on the rich while being rich yourself. If anything, it’s to your credit if you advocate policies that will hurt your own financial position. But the news media seem to find it deeply disturbing that John Edwards talks about fighting poverty while living in a big house.

On the other hand, consider the case of Fred Thompson. He spent 18 years working as a highly paid lobbyist, wore well-tailored suits and drove a black Lincoln Continental. When he ran for the Senate, however, his campaign reinvented him as a good old boy: it leased a used red pickup truck for him to drive, dressed up in jeans and a work shirt, with a can of Red Man chewing tobacco on the front seat.

But Mr. Thompson’s strength, says Lanny Davis in The Hill, is that he’s “authentic.”

Oh, and as a candidate George W. Bush was praised as being more authentic than Al Gore. As late as November 2005, MSNBC’s chief political correspondent declared that Mr. Bush’s authenticity was his remaining source of strength. But now The A.P. says that Mr. Bush’s lack of credibility is the reason his would-be successors need to seem, yes, authentic.

Talk of authenticity, it seems, lets commentators and journalists put down politicians they don’t like or praise politicians they like, with no relationship to what the politicians actually say or do.

Here’s a suggestion: Why not evaluate candidates’ policy proposals, rather than their authenticity? And if there are reasons to doubt a candidate’s sincerity, spell them out.

For example, Hillary Clinton’s credibility as a friend of labor is called into question, not by her biography or life style, but by the fact that, as The Nation recently reported, her chief strategist — a man Al Gore fired in 2000 because he didn’t trust him — heads a public relations company that helps corporations fight union organizing drives.

And where do you start with Rudy Giuliani? We keep being told that he has credibility on national security, because he seemed so reassuring on 9/11. (Some firefighters have condemned his actual performance that day, saying that rescue efforts were uncoordinated and that firemen died because he provided them with faulty radios. “All he did was give information on the TV,” said a deputy fire chief whose son died at the World Trade Center. “He did nothing.” And the nation’s largest firefighters’ union has condemned his handling of recovery efforts in the weeks following 9/11.)

But he’s spent the years since then cashing in on terrorism, and his decisions about Giuliani Partners’ personnel and clients raise real questions about his seriousness. His partners, as The Washington Post pointed out, included “a former police commissioner later convicted of corruption, a former F.B.I. executive who admitted taking artifacts from ground zero and a former Roman Catholic priest accused of covering up sexual abuse in the church.”

The point is that questions about a candidate shouldn’t be whether he or she is “authentic.” They should be about motives: whose interests would the candidate serve if elected? And think how much better shape the nation would be in if enough people had asked that question seven years ago.

© 2007 New York Times Corporation

Sopranos finale

There was way more violence in the Cubs/Braves game last night.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Another starter for the Yankees

A record 12th different starter takes the mound for the Yankees this afternoon.

First batter just missed a homerun.

1:46 Clemens looks pretty good for 44; just barehanded a dribbler to the left of the mound and fired to first for the third out of the second.

The Fox 1/2 Hour News Show or whatever it's called advertises on Yes; even the highlights aren't funny. Weird.

Here's two names on the all-time leaders list I hadn't heard before: Pud Galvin (fifth) and Kid Nichols (seventh).

2:23 Clemens looks pretty ordinary this inning, a base hit, a walk, and a two-run double and it's all tied at 3.

Another commercial for that stupid Fox "fake news" show. Chreeeeist. I understand it's created by the guy who came up with 24. Now I understand...he's trying to torture us with that shit.

2:40 Five innings for Clemens is probably it. 3 runs (all earned) on 5 hits, 2 walks and 5 strikeouts. 96 pitches, 60 for strikes. Jeter leads off with a walk to start the bottom of the inning, so maybe they can give Clemens a chance for a decision. Abreu then attempts a bunt. A bunt. Fortunately he can't lay it down and the next pitch he lines to left. That's what you're paid for, Bobby. The Astros averaged 3.6 runs per Clemens' start. With Rodriguez up and two on, lets see if the Yanks can change his fortune. A-Rod walks to load em up for Jorge "MVP" Posada. Sac fly to right, Jeter scores.

2:57 And that's all they get. Bases loaded, no one out, and they get one run in the inning. Uh oh.

3:00 Clemens out to start the 6th. And promptly records two outs on a grounder to second and a strikeout. Clemens will say after the game that he had to "grind" in this one. Granted it's the Pirates, but I'm impressed by the performance. Strikeout #7 retires the Pirates in the sixth.

3:21 Yankees load 'em up again (twice) and score two more.

3:23 Now it's up to the bullpen. Brian Bruney comes out and Paulino hits one as far as you can, but Cabrera took a HR from him. Clemens' line is same as above, just one more inning pitched and two more strikeouts.

4:39 9-3. That'll do.

Ordinary people

Lying to invade a country? Ho hum. Abu Ghraib? No big deal. Guantanamo Bay? What's that? Warrantless wiretaps? S'ok. But immigration reform?

“Ordinary people like me rose up and put a stop to it,” said William Murphy, a retired policeman from Evansville, Wis., one of the volunteers who delivered petitions to his senators. On Thursday before the vote, he said, he put in new calls to 15 senators.

Mr. Murphy said he felt strongly about the bill because he believed it would degrade the value of American citizenship.

“If I come from Mexico, I can jump the fence and get all those American benefits,” he said. “It’s outrageous when you can buy your citizenship for $5,000,” he said, referring to the fines that illegal immigrants would pay under the bill to become legal permanent residents.

When asked about Mr. Bush’s support for the bill, Mr. Murphy, a longtime Republican, had to pause to temper his words.

“I was stunned, really,” he said. Mr. Bush “has always been a person who stood for some basic human values, and now he’s going to give away the country?”

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Steve Gilliard

I must admit the News Blog wasn't often on my radar, but I did check in once in awhile and usually had my eyeballs torched by his passion. I'd also heard that he had health problems. Such a loss.

You can help his family pay for his funeral.

Here's his NYT obit.

Our axis of evil

From a "Christian libertarian:"

While I am one of the multitudes who despise New York City, I would find it very difficult to decide which city I would rather see destroyed by asteroids, Biblical plagues or global warming: New York, Washington D.C. or Hollywood. It's hard to choose because America would be much better off without all three.
I wonder if it was the "Christian" or the "libertarian" side of him that brought him to that conclusion. But he did decide to spare San Francisco.

An investigation that wants to be on steroids

This is ridiculous. Giambi does something almost no player ever does, and certainly something Selig has never done -- tell what he really thinks to a reporter -- and now he's told that he better tell Mitchell what he wants to hear, or else.

After Jason Giambi of the Yankees tacitly admitted last month to using steroids, Commissioner Bud Selig was placed in an awkward position. Selig wants to show that he is tough on steroid users, but punishing Giambi is problematic because if he used steroids, it occurred before Major League Baseball punished players for using performance-enhancing substances.

Would Selig try to fine or suspend Giambi? What would other players think if Giambi was punished for being honest about the past? How would it look if Selig did nothing?

Selig took a calculated approach yesterday when he asked Giambi, the Yankees’ designated hitter, to cooperate, within the next two weeks, with the investigation into the use of illegal performance-enhancing substances being conducted by the former Senator George Mitchell. If Giambi agrees to speak with Mitchell, it is believed he would be the first active player to do so.

In a statement, Selig strongly hinted that any possible punishment of Giambi would be influenced by whether he cooperated with Mitchell. Selig noted that his decision about Giambi would not be completed until after Giambi had a chance to meet with Mitchell.

“It is in the best interests of baseball for everyone, including players, to cooperate with Senator Mitchell in his investigation so that Senator Mitchell can provide me with a complete, thorough report,” Selig said. “Discipline for wrongdoing is important, but it is also important to create an environment so players can feel free to honestly and completely cooperate with this important investigation.”

By asking Giambi to cooperate with Mitchell, Selig is apparently trying to appear to be a disciplinarian while also offering Giambi a way to avoid a possible punishment. If Selig announced a stern punishment yesterday, it would have in effect told players that they could be disciplined for being candid. It might have also ruined the slim chance Mitchell has of getting players to speak with him in an investigation that is now 15 months old.

"Disciplined?" For what? Saying he "did stuff" before there was a policy. Saying he "did stuff" back when Selig was basking in the glow of Sosa and McGuire chasing Maris's record?

Pitcher Mike Mussina, the Yankees’ player representative, was asked if he thought Selig’s approach would work.

“To say either help us or you’re suspended? No,” Mussina said. “But Bud thinks he can do whatever he wants, so we’ll find out.”

Mitchell's investigation is a joke; a CYA beard to keep Congress off of Selig's back (even as MLB now has the strongest testing policy in American professional sports). This was a stupid gambit on Selig's part, because now it's really caught the attention of the Players' Union. And there's a reason it's the most powerful labor union in the United States.

Meanwhile, Ozzie Guillen thinks MLB is targeting Latin players.

Oh, and speaking of sports unions, there's a reason the NFL players' union is the paid monkey of the team owners.

Grand Coulee Dam

What a great find.

Crazy on you

Dedicated to Chien-Ming Wang.

Manchurian convict

There's an eerie sameness to the letters to Judge Walton in support of "Scooter."

Jim Clark

It's too bad I don't believe in Hell.

A fleshy-faced bear of a man who stood 6-foot-2 and weighed 220 pounds, Mr. Clark strode through the civil rights era wearing a lapel button emblazoned with a single word: “Never.” A billy club, pistol and cattle prod often dangled from his belt.

By the mid-1960s, Mr. Clark was considered one of the most controversial men in Alabama, if not the South. Staunch segregationists adored him. Blacks reviled him, and even many moderate segregationists were unsettled by the level of violence he regularly used. In 1965, as The New York Times reported, Mr. Clark was receiving 200 letters a day — pro and con. Because of repeated death threats against him, he moved with his wife and their five children to the Selma jail for safety.

“What they want,” Mr. Clark told The Times in 1965, speaking of civil rights demonstrators, “is black supremacy.”

Enshrined in the public memory for acts of brutality, Mr. Clark could be charming and even courtly in private, according to many news accounts of the period. But on civil rights, he remained steadfast till the end of his life. He told The Montgomery Advertiser last year, “Basically, I’d do the same thing today if I had to do it all over again.”

Friend of the devil

You can judge a man by the company he keeps, ya know.

In a recent letter to donors, Robert B. Asher, a prominent Pennsylvania Republican and prolific fund-raiser, wrote, “I am proud to say that I have agreed to be the state political chairman for Mayor Rudy Giuliani.”

But Mr. Asher has another claim to fame: He was convicted in a famous corruption case two decades ago, at the same time Mr. Giuliani was making his reputation as a corruption-busting prosecutor.

Asked about Mr. Asher’s involvement, a spokeswoman for the Giuliani campaign, Maria Comella, said last night, “We have not made any announcement at this point in time” regarding leadership in Pennsylvania.

Mr. Asher, a Republican national committeeman who has worked on several major statewide campaigns, was convicted in 1986 of bribery-related charges as part of a scheme to award a no-bid contract to a company in exchange for promises of $300,000 in payoffs and political contributions. The case became nationally known when his co-defendant, R. Budd Dwyer, the Pennsylvania state treasurer, called a news conference and shot himself to death in front of television cameras and dozens of spectators. Mr. Asher, who was the state Republican committee chairman when the questionable contract was awarded, was fined and sentenced to a year in prison in the case.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Two Americas

Attaturk compares and contrasts Rudy! Giuliani's two views of justice. One white, one not.

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I want my Terra! on the front page!

From today's "Questions for the managing editor:"

Q. I live in California and was astounded yesterday to look at my print edition of The Times for the article on the J.F.K. bomb plot and to find it back on page A30!

What has happened with the news judgment of your colleagues? A terrorist plot that could have badly damaged the entire economy of the nation, including those of us who live in the Bay Area, and it's relegated to the level of bridge club reports. You might wish to suggest to your editors that your readers do not live in a vacuum, that we do have alternative sources for news and they only make The Times look foolish with such ineptitude. No wonder your circulation and advertising are falling; your editors are turning a once-honored newspaper into a dinosaur in the electronic age.

-- Richard Godfrey, San Francisco

Q. Could you offer some insights on how The Times decided to play the story about the alleged J.F.K. terror plot? It was noticeably different than the way the other leading national papers played it; your placement (Metro) and coverage have been more skeptical. I'm particularly curious about why it was not considered a national story, but rather, a local one. Thanks.

-- Barbara, Manhattan

A. Here's the basic thinking on the J.F.K. story: In the years since 9/11, there have been quite a few interrupted terrorist plots. It now seems possible to exercise some judgment about their gravity. Not all plots are the same. In this case, law enforcement officials said that J.F.K. was never in immediate danger. The plotters had yet to lay out plans. They had no financing. Nor did they have any explosives. It is with all that in mind, that the editors in charge this weekend did not put this story on the front page.

In truth, the decision was widely debated even within this newsroom. At the front page meeting this morning, we took an informal poll and a few editors thought the story should have been more prominently played. Some argued it should have been fronted, regardless of the lameness of the plot, simply because it was what everyone was talking about.

And Mr. Godfrey, as to dinosaur-ism: we had the story up on before 1 p.m. on Saturday. The official press conference on the subject had not even started.

Outside of the oasis of civility that is TheTimes, reactions to this turning out to be, um, not so much are a little more heated.

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg Weighs in on Life-Threatening Plots

"There are lots of threats to you in the world. There's the threat of a heart attack for genetic reasons. You can't sit there and worry about everything. Get a life."
- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, commenting on the news that a skinhead gang was uncovered plotting to set fire to the New York headquarters of the Nation of Islam and the Islamic Thinkers' Society.

UPDATE : Oops! My mistake. Turns out he was commenting on the news that a Muslim group was actively plotting to blow up JFK Airport and kill thousands of New Yorkers. Par for the course. Not newsworthy. My apologies.

Well, not exactly.

When U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf described the alleged terror plot to blow up Kennedy Airport as "one of the most chilling plots imaginable," which might have caused "unthinkable" devastation, one law enforcement official said he cringed.

The plot, he knew, was never operational. The public had never been at risk. And the notion of blowing up the airport, let alone the borough of Queens, by exploding a fuel tank was in all likelihood a technical impossibility.

And now, with a portrait emerging of alleged mastermind Russell Defreitas as hapless and episodically homeless, and of co-conspirator Abdel Nur as a drug addict, Mauskopf's initial characterizations seem more questionable -- some go so far as to say hyped.
As for that "Muslim group," blowing up Queens does not appear to be in their "Mission Statement."

''Nothing could be as bad as the authorities made it sound,'' said Mike Ackerman, a former CIA officer who runs an international security consultancy in Miami. ``The fact is that pipelines are hit all the time. The leftists in Colombia have hit pipelines dozens, probably hundreds of times and the technology is such that sensors in the pipelines shut them down. To suggest they'd blow up half of Queens and probably all the way to Pennsylvania was ridiculous. It would have been a huge disruption, but nowhere near catastrophic proportions.''

Ackerman said such self-generating groups -- perhaps inspired by Al Qaida but not part of it or trained by it -- are unlikely to be capable of massive scale attacks. ''What they're capable of doing is bothersome but lower level scale attacks,'' he said.

He questioned, too, whether Abu Bakr's Jamaat al-Muslimeen (JAM) would have been able to supply the suspects with ''the expertise that would have brought this to fruition. He called JAM ``a very bad group'' but added it's more involved with kidnappings, robberies and drug trafficking. As for bBombings [sic], he added, ``It's not the kind of thing they do particularly, on a large scale.''

That's from a guy who makes his living as a security consultant.

It continues to amaze me that news that New Yorkers -- the residents of the city with the target on its back -- are sanguine about make the rest of the country quite literally shake in their collective boots.

And it also continues to amaze me that the U.S. Attorneys, FBI, etc., continue to trot out these horrible plots when they know that 1.) they're no where near being hatched, 2.) the "conspiracies" are being run by delusional homeless people, and 3.) they probably aren't technically feasible. Yes, they keep the rubes in a state of fear, but will only undermine their credibility should a real threat emerge.

UPDATED so that the headline would remotely make sense.
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