Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Stupid Is As Stupid Does!

In the aftermath of Samuel Alito’s confirmation, I’m going to lay off of the four democrats who voted in favor of Alito. Byrd (WV), Conrad (SD), Johnson (SD), and Nelsen (NE) have their reasons, and I can only assume they are good ones – like family members being held hostage at Gitmo under orders of Dick Cheney! At least these four acted consistently based on their own conscience, and they will have to live with their decision.

On the other hand, the following list of democrats (along with republican Chafee (RI)) voted for cloture on one day, knowing that Alito would be confirmed, and then cast a meaningless vote against Alito on the very next day. Huh?

Akaka (HI)
Baucus (MT)
Bingaman (NM)
Cantwell (WA)
Carper (DE)
Dorgan (ND)
Inouye (HI)
Kohl (WI)
Landrieu (LA)
Lieberman (CT)
Lincoln (AR)
Nelson (FL)
Pryor (AR)
Rockefeller (WV)
Salazar (CO)

This is the equivalent of lecturing your kids on the importance of a good education on the day after you let them drop out of school! What a bunch of idiots.

By the way, with 72 votes for cloture, the democrats would have needed only 13 of the 15 above to extend debate beyond the SOTU, if not indefinitely! I just hope the senators on this list have lots of grandchildren to remind them of their decision.

Monday, January 30, 2006

A Sad Day for America

As I sat in my cubicle today watching the C-Span 2 streaming feed of the Cloture vote, I couldn't help but feel that this country, my country, is on the eve of something truly catastrophic. After tomorrow's confirmation vote approves the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, the Republicans and George Bush will control all three branches of government, Most big business, the major lobbying firms in Washington, and the corporate "retro" media. And while most polls show that the majority of Americans disagree with the conservative agenda - there is little or nothing that this majority can do about it.

Tomorrow night George Bush will give his State of the Union Speech - laying out his vision for the last two years of his Presidency. But it is not at all necessary. You see, George doesn't need to sway public opinion in support of his message or even tell us what it is. Because this administration can now just ram its right wing, Jesus loving, gay hating, corporate aiding, bullshit right down our throats. Today's lack of vision by many Senate Democrats lead us directly to this point.

For those Democrats who voted for Cloture - you missed your big chance and the outcome of your refusal to stand up for democracy will be a heavy burden for generations to come. For those who say that this is just a small setback, I can't help but remember the famous quote:

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller

And Now For Something Completely Different . . .

. . . a President With Three Buttocks (Er, Branches!)

With the impending confirmation of Samuel Alito, George Bush will have a Supreme Court stacked with conservative partisans loyal to his administration to add to a “rubber stamp” Congress that won’t seriously question any part of his agenda. In an earlier post, I speculated that an Alito confirmation would make Bush a de facto dictator. That might be a slight exaggeration, but clearly the future course of the country can be considered the sole responsibility of George Bush and the republicans who have chosen to march in line behind him!

Bush can take full credit if he is able to bring about a successful resolution in Iraq, and help Americans feels safe from terrorist threats like the recent one from Osama bin Laden.

He can take full credit if he can provide adequate support for disaster victims, and protection from potential natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, fires and flu pandemics.

He can take full credit if he can lead the economy is a positive direction that creates jobs for people like the 30,000 Ford employees who were recently let go, starts to reduce the national debt, controls inflation and keeps home ownership within reach of new potential buyers.

He can take full credit if he can help Americans manage the uncertainty of rising medical costs, and the cost of educating their children.

Since there are no more checks and balances in our government, it’s all on the President to make this country what it is going to be in the immediate future. If things don’t go well, he can’t blame congressional democrats, since it is clear that they have no power or influence. He can’t blame “activist judges,” since he now has his stable of “strict constructionalists” at the top of the judicial food chain. At this point, to he’s THE MAN, and he now has 10 months to show, once and for all, what kind of man he really is!

But in November, the American people get to vote on whether accept a “Bush dictatorship” until 2008. They can return a republican majority to congress and allow Bush to continue with unchecked power during the remainder of his term in office, placing all their bets on him to make their lives better. Or they can choose to return the legislative branch to a democratic majority that will act as a potential check against presidential over-reaching, and perhaps influence the country in a different direction.

Hopefully, it will come down to one simple question that all Americans will have to answer when they cast their votes in November of 2006. Has my life, and the lives of the people I care about, been improved by George W. Bush’s vision of America? (Of course, a corollary to that question is: Is my vote being counted? But that’s another story.)

FILIBUSTER!!!!!!! [with update by seenos]

The Filibuster is not dead.

Call Curse your Senators!

Well, only certain senators . . . like the ones who said they would vote against Alito, but still voted for cloture. What a bunch of f**king idiots!

The complete list will follow, as they will need to be purged from the Democratic party before we can bother worrying about the Republicans!

Friday, January 27, 2006

New "Angle" to Abramoff Scandal

The Bush Administration is in full stonewall mode regarding convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Scott McClellan has been peppered with requests to provide details of Abramoff's White house contacts. McClellan first stated that he would look into it and report back. But when asked at a later press briefings Scottie changed his tune:

(January 18)
Q Scott, just quickly back to Abramoff. Can you give any more specificity on those meetings, when they were, years, times?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, this is sticking with our past policy. We're not going to engage in a fishing expedition.

(January 19)
Q And going back to the Abramoff investigation, do you have an update for us on any records of phone calls or emails between staff members and Mr. Abramoff, or photos of the President with him?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, as I indicated yesterday, we're not going to engage in some sort of fishing expedition.

(January 20)
Q But if there was nothing improper about contacts with him, why not open up records about any visits or meetings Mr. Abramoff might have had?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I've already talked to you about that information and responded to questions that you have. There's a difference between responding to questions like that and engaging in a fishing expedition that has nothing to do with the investigation.

But Saturday's edition of the Washington Post reports the results of a new Post/ABC News poll. And, lets just say that there is a reason ESPN televises bass tournaments.

The article states:

A strong bipartisan majority of the public believes President Bush should disclose contacts between disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and White House staff members despite administration assertions that media requests for details about those contacts amount to a "fishing expedition," according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The survey found that three in four -- 76 percent -- of Americans said Bush should release lists of all meetings between aides and Abramoff; 18 percent disagreed. Two in three Republicans joined with eight in 10 Democrats and political independents in favoring disclosure, according to the poll.

Gas up the bass boat Mildred, and test the fish finder, because -

American's want to go Fishing!

Did Rove Just Activate the Getaway Plan? (Part 2)

In Part 1, I reached the conclusion that Bush may actually want to be impeached over domestic surveillance. Here’s why.

Because of all the pending corruption scandals that combine to suggest deeper, more sinister connections (some good speculation here), recent events signal to me that the strategic focus is no longer on gaining ultimate political power, but on getting away with the crimes. How else can one explain the stubborn, defiant tone of Bush’s response to Congress in the face of near unanimous opinion that he broke the law by failing to get FISA warrants. I think Bush wants to fight an impeachment battle over illegal wiretaps because there are much worse things he could be impeached for if the Democrats do end up regaining control of Congress.

My guess is that wiretapping is to the other crimes that have been committed, like Scooter Libby is to the rest of the White House Iraq Group – the lighting rod set up as a last ditch effort to avoid getting struck during the storm! In fact, given the ease with which Bush could have gotten the FISA warrants, he may have chosen not to do so merely to give himself a “defendable crime” that he could get impeached for if the rest of the scam looked like it was going to break. This would give the approaching attack dogs some raw meat, without having to ever confess anything, in the hope that they would be satisfied with any impeachment. Like putting away Al Capone for tax evasion, only without the “putting away” part!

An impeachment battle over wiretaps alone would give Bush the ability to hold firm to the sanctimonious position that he was only conducting domestic wiretaps to protect us because we are at war. An impeachment might be politically damaging, and it would probably consume much of his remaining presidency, but it might also head off any serious investigations into anything deeper. It would also focus the discussion on something he feels he can argue while keeping his base, maybe even long enough to keep a majority in Congress through 2006. After that, it’s merely running out the clock.

He could insist the impeachment was just Democratic payback for Clinton (even though some irresponsible Republicans got sucked into it), and fight it to the end by sticking to his argument like the kid who hits his younger brother and insists he is being framed by fake tears. Ultimately, the issue is bound to end in an ambiguous decision, like Clinton’s impeachment, where his detractors will still hate him, his supporters will still think of him as a hero, and he gets to end up talking about fighting the good fight. But most importantly, he’ll get away with the loot!

OK, I’m removing my tin foil hat now!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

When Bush Talks - People Get Confused

I only caught some of George's hastily called news conference this morning but what I did hear is even more ridiculous when you read it. Here are a couple of lowlights:

Q They were domestic calls --

THE PRESIDENT: No, domestic outside -- we will not listen inside this country. It is a call from al Qaeda, al Qaeda affiliates, either from inside the country out, or outside the country in, but not domestically.

Q Mr. President, though -- this is a direct follow up to that -- the FISA law was implemented in 1978 in part because of revelations that the National Security Agency was spying domestically. What is wrong with that law if you feel you have to circumvent it and, as you just admitted, expand presidential power?

THE PRESIDENT: May I -- if I might, you said that I have to circumvent it. There -- wait a minute. That's a -- there's something -- it's like saying, you know, you're breaking the law. I'm not. See, that's what you've got to understand. I am upholding my duty, and at the same time, doing so under the law and with the Constitution behind me. That's just very important for you to understand.

Secondly, the FISA law was written in 1978. We're having this discussion in 2006. It's a different world. And FISA is still an important tool. It's an important tool. And we still use that tool. But also -- and we -- look -- I said, look, is it possible to conduct this program under the old law? And people said, it doesn't work in order to be able to do the job we expect us to do.
And so that's why I made the decision I made. And you know, "circumventing" is a loaded word, and I refuse to accept it, because I believe what I'm doing is legally right.
So, Bush is "circumventing" the law, because it is an old law and some "people" said it doesn't work. But it is all OK - because George believes what he is doing is "legally" right.

We have to Impeach this SOB!

Please, Senator Feinstein!

These are the faces of the constituents who will be forced to grow up without civil rights in the new United States that will be created by this Congress if you and others do not support a filibuster of Samuel Alito. Please do not abandon them!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Did Rove Just Activate the Getaway Plan? (Part 1)

When Karl Rove gave his recent speech blasting Democrats and seeming to spell out the Republican strategy for the 2006 mid-term elections, I thought (in my best imaginary Reagan voice) “well, there he goes again!” After being forced out of the public eye for weeks, Rove immediately seemed to go right back to the “9/11 well” that has been so reliable for Bush in the past - make the Dems seem weak on national security and try to ride a wave of fear to election victory.

My initial reaction was to hit back by fiercely arguing the national security failures under Bush’s leadership. I would use the recently discovered MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base to pull statistics and plainly show with charts and graphs how nothing Bush has done since taking office has made the US, the World, and certainly the Middle East, even the slightest bit safer.

Then I saw an article from Insight Magazine in which “an administration source” was quoted as saying that Bush expects to be impeached over the issue of domestic spying. Expects to be impeached! Now why would anyone in the administration “embolden” Bush’s enemies by revealing there is even the slightest possibility that he would be impeached for something he vehemently insists was within his powers?

And then I remembered Scooter Libby’s odd and very suspicious letters to Judy Miller, described here as seeming intended to make him into a “lightning rod” to distract attention from other, less obvious but more exposed, conspirators. All with the intention of running out the clock, probably getting a pardon, and ending up an ambiguous character in history – a hero to some and a villain to others – but a free man who most people would forget (and probably a wealthy one at that!)

Finally, it hit me that perhaps Rove’s speech wasn’t simply a return to old habits developed when his long-term goal was to completely and permanently eliminate the Democrats as an opposition party. At this point, he may be setting the stage for the getaway plan - a battle over national security that is shaping up because Bush WANTS to be impeached over domestic surveillance while the Republicans still control the Congress!

In Part 2, I’ll try to flesh out the reasons Bush might want to do this.


Just noticed that since we posted Sleepychild's Enemies of the State? yesterday afternoon, about 20% of the traffic on this site has been from Google blog searches for Natalie Holloway, Laci Peterson or James Frey!

Go read it and you will know why I think this is so funny!

Bush Administration: "Reasonable Suspicion" Standard May Not Be Constitutional

On June 20, 2002, Senator Mike Dewine R-OH proposed legislation to modify the standard of proof for issuance of FISA warrants. The bill would have changed the threshold from "probable cause" to "reasonable suspicion".

The Bush Administration opposed the bill with James A. Baker writing the Justice Department Statement. Their concern was that the proposed change might not "pass constitutional muster".

Here is some of what Baker wrote:


The Department of Justice has been studying Sen. DeWine's proposed legislation. Because the proposed change raises both significant legal and practical issues, the Administration at this time is not prepared to support it.

The Department's Office of Legal Counsel is analyzing relevant Supreme Court precedent to determine whether a "reasonable suspicion" standard for electronic surveillance and physical searches would, in the FISA context, pass constitutional muster. The issue is not clear cut

If we err in our analysis and courts were ultimately to find a "reasonable suspicion" standard unconstitutional, we could potentially put at risk ongoing investigations and prosecutions.

.....there may be little to gain from the lower standard and, as I previously stated, perhaps much to lose.
Media Matters has all the details here.

If I'm not mistaken, they were already spying under this program - while they were stating that it might not be legal. I'm sure the Administration will argue that they did their review and found that this spying was within the law. But, that does not get them off of the hook for using the "reasonable suspicion" standard prior to thinking it was legal.

I would love to see James Baker interviewed about this.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Photo of the Day

AP photo Charles Dharapak

This is definitely the photo of the day. Obviously these students are taking advantage of their education. We all should be this brave. Way to go!

Enemies of the State?

This diary is reposted from SleepyChildren with permission. It is so good we want to share it with as many readers as we can. Enjoy!

This week Laci Peterson's mom has been doing promotional interviews timed to the release of her new book, For Laci. She was on Dateline with Katie Couric and spoke with Larry King as well. I didn't watch the interviews, and I don't know what the book reveals. But I bet it will sell a whole lotta copies.

America certainly needs the diversion. We've already read Amber Frey's book, there've been no recent "developments" in the Natalee Holloway case (if you can call an empty barrel being pulled out of the ocean a development), and the Runaway Bride's book and TV movie aren't ready yet. Without Laci's mom we might be forced to pay attention to the war in Iraq or the President's little domestic spying habit or the fact that we'll likely be lobbing missiles into Iran soon.

There have also been a lot of people who've spent more time in the last three days discussing the distortions and exaggerations in James Frey's A Million Little Pieces than they have in the last three years examining the Bush Administration's claims of WMD in Iraq or Saddam's ties to Al Queda. And it's no mystery why the inaccuracies in a personal memoir are such a big story--this is Oprah's bookclub we're talking about. And that's more than enough these days to warrant major media attention. At least James Frey went the the trouble of writing what is apparently a pretty gripping book, even if it's not entirely true. At the risk of sounding callous, that's a helluva lot more than many of the people who dominate our 24-hour news cycle have accomplished. Laci Peterson, wonderful woman I'm sure she was, is famous only for being murdered, as thousands of Americans are each year. Amber Frey for sleeping with Laci's killer. Natalee Holloway for going missing in Aruba. The Runaway bride for being a an ignorant hick with bug eyes who was too cowardly to call off her wedding and was rewarded with a half-million dollar book deal.

But I'm getting off track. In mocking these people my anger is misdirected. The real problem is the segment of the American population who faithfully track Greta Van Susteren's campaign to overhaul the Aruban legal system-- people who, armed with their Nancy Grace/CourtTV expertise, are more upset about the Aruban government's refusal to charge those boys than they are that the NSA has been monitoring Americans' phone call without warrants or oversight. The real problem is the people who flock to see Laci's mom on Dateline or Pat Summerall's tearful, surreal confession to Dr. Phil. Yes, Angelina is pregnant with Brad's baby and a 7-year-old was pulled over for driving erratically. And maybe in six months when the 3,000th American soldier is killed in Iraq we'll spend a few moments on that again.

The bias of the mainstream media has long been debated, occasionally with good reason. And equally dangerous is the profit-driven approach that dictates what stories get the most coverage. But the essential characteristic of the American news consumer that legitimizes both concerns is our willingness to unquestioningly devour whatever we're told to swallow. Laci Peterson is on TV everyday for a year; I must be interested in the Laci Peterson story. If I don't watch Laci Peterson coverage they'll stop giving it to me. They might even give me real news. But I do watch Laci Peterson coverage. I can't get enough Laci Peterson coverage. I like it so much I want more dead missing white women on my TV.

There is a very simple equation in America. George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004 because a publisher can pay the Runaway Bride $500,000 for the rights to her story and make a nice profit off it. Both atrocities are symptoms of the same pervasive malady. Both require a tremendous lack of curiosity by a huge portion of the American population, a refusal to even consider that there might be alternatives to what's being served up on cable news networks. Why else would anyone be even remotely interested in what Sharon Rocha or the Runaway Bride has to say? And why else would anyone be even remotely convinced that George W. Bush is qualified to lead this nation? The answer to both questions: I saw it on TV.

Do this: when the Runaway Bride's book comes out (and I'm afraid I don't know when that is but you won't be able to miss it because she'll be back on every "news" program the week it's released), go to your local bookstore and observe the people who buy it. That is the America that elected our president. That is the America that isn't worried about its own civil rights. That is the American that has never even casually wondered how many tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians (women and children included) have been killed by American bombs in what has been billed as part of the War AGAINST Terror. But they know who Jen's dating now....

Monday, January 23, 2006

Bush: A Little Soft on the Details

A priceless moment today from Bush's Kansas State question and answer session. Think Progress has all the details including the video clip.

Bush's Unreasonable Argument

The new White House campaign to defend Bush's NSA spy program kicked off today with a speech by former National Security Agency Director Air Force General Michael Hayden. In his prepared remarks Hayden introduced the term "reasonable belief" to describe the criteria by which the White House and NSA used to operate their domestic spy program. The NY Times explains:

The standard laid out by General Hayden - a "reasonable basis to believe" - is lower than "probably cause," the standard used by the special court created by Congress to handle surveillance involving foreign intelligence.

Mr. Hayden said that warrantless searches were conducted when one of a "handful" of senior officers at the security agency determined that there was a "reasonable belief" that one party to a call between someone in America and someone overseas had a link to Al Qaeda.

This is obviously an attempt to shoehorn warrantless spying amongst the text of the 4th Amendment - which guarantees the rights of citizens against "unreasonable search and seizure".
I think this is an obvious admission that what was really going on violated the Constitution and Bush and advisors new it. Talk about what "the definition of is is".

The Times continues:

General Hayden defended the program's constitutionality. He said the lower, "reasonable belief" standard conformed to the wording of the Fourth Amendment, pointing out that it does not mention probable cause, but instead forbids "unreasonable" searches and seizures.

"The constitutional standard is reasonable," he said. "I'm convinced that what we're doing is lawful, because what it is we're doing is reasonable," he said.

That's two reasonables and one unreasonable in two sentences. Way to go General!

Here is Hayden's most outrageous quote and the one that I "reasonably" predict will come back to haunt him.

"It's the same tactics and procedures used to tell American forces 'You can go ahead and put a 500-pound bomb on that target,' " he said. "It's the same art and science."

Not a great analogy General. Are you suggesting that the US military drops 500-pound bombs based on a hunch that there might be "evil doers" down there? Or, are you suggesting that you are so confident in the process that we can bomb the houses of anyone in the U.S. that has been wiretapped under this program? Either way it is a ridiculous statement.

In the end all I can say is - if there was "reasonable" evidence the FISA court would have issued warrants and if the FISA process is not relevant to the dangers we face post 9/11, President Bush has had 5 fricken years to get his Republican controlled Congress to change the law.

Update - This just in.

Here is the text of the 4th amendment to the Constitution. It seems General Hayden was - how shall I put it - Lying through his teeth!

Amendment IV - Search and seizure. Ratified 12/15/1791.

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

Sunday, January 22, 2006

My Letter to Deborah Howell by Giraffe

I'm reposting this letter to Deborah Howell from our comments section because is needs to be seen by all our readers.

Thanks to frequent Left-Over commenter Giraffe for sharing it with us.

Dear Ms. Howell,

It takes strong language to shock some people into reality, just like it takes a slap in the face sometimes to get people out of hysteria. You've just been slapped in the face by the bloggers. Take a minute and digest it. Don't just say arrogantly that you can hide behind your two year contract, and we all have to accept what you say.
American Democracy is way too important for that. Thank God we have bloggers who are caring enough and paying enough attention to seek truth. Americans won't let you excuse corruption by blaming everybody. A very great loss of trust goes with that decision. Traditional media has lost our trust. Bloggers are in the mainstream and more so everyday. When those indicted are invited to government events, one knows the truth of the corrupt who care not for democracy at all, but only for themselves.

Here is a link to the site open letter to the washington post which has been started by the folks at Firedoglake as place to post reaction to this whole Deborah Howell incident.

In a Culture of Corruption, Voting Fraud is Just Another Piece of the Puzzle

We now know there is ample evidence of widespread corruption involving bribes, kickbacks and money laundering among congressional Republicans, administration members indicted or under investigation for security leaks for personal revenge, and a President who admits to authorizing surveillance activities that most legal scholars consider to be illegal. Many on the left, including a few key members of Congress, have rightly labeled what we have seen a “Republican Culture of Corruption” under the current leadership.

Justice Department investigations are ongoing into numerous potentially criminal activities, and congressional investigations are likely to follow. Amid the flurry of activity aimed at rooting out corruption, so far very little has been said regarding previous allegations - at the time swept under the rug – of voting irregularities on a large scale in the last two presidential elections. Looking back, I am led to ask the question: If the current Republicans in control would lie, accept bribes, launder money, secretly torture detainees in violation of the Geneva Conventions, and secretly wiretap American citizens without proper court approved warrants, would they not try to rig elections in order to ensure they were able to gain and keep control of the country?

This article in today’s WAPO provides even more evidence that there is a significant problem that needs to be addressed in many jurisdictions around the country. Since even Republicans are falling over themselves to be seen as trying to “clean up” Washington, why not revisit the entire election process and investigate whether we actually have had free and fair elections in this country? Without fixing the voting process, we might be able to catch a few crooks, but we can’t ensure that they aren’t simply replaced by different crooks who will keep the culture of corruption alive.

During the last two presidential elections, most people couldn't comprehend the possibility that elections in the great United States of America could be tainted. According to the WAPO piece,

Questions about the security of electronic voting machines have been circulating widely in recent years. But many of the concerns have been dismissed as the fantasies of Internet conspiracy theorists or sore-loser partisans who could not accept that their candidates simply got fewer votes.
For many of those people, particularly in the media but also in many living rooms around the country, voting fraud was just beyond the imagination. So the allegations were quickly cast aside.

Similarly, however, before Katrina most people couldn’t comprehend the possibility that a major American city like New Orleans could be wiped out by a hurricane. Now we know it can! And before being hit by “Hurricane Abramoff,” we couldn’t comprehend the depths of Republican corruption. Now we can!

In light of what we have seen, dismissing allegations of voting fraud as being merely "sour grapes" is more like dismissing allegations of lobbying fraud as being mere jealousy that Republicans have money. It sounds hollow and even Republicans aren't willing to say it. At this point, ensuring free and fair elections is clearly one of the most critical issues facing our country. Rooting out corruption among those in positions of power is only as good as our ability to root out the corrupt means by which they come to power!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Blog On!

It has been a very interesting week in the Blogosphere.

First, there is the ongoing Washington Post mess where bloggers called out inaccurate reporting by ombudsman Deborah Howell resulting in so many posts by angry readers that the comments section of her blog was turned off and she was forced to answer for her statements.

In another development this week, John Kerry posted two diaries on Daily Kos. Welcome to the community.

And finally, my favorite Blog reference this week came from everyone’s favorite Spokesliar – Scott McClellan. When asked about reports that the US has sent people to Syria to be tortured, Scottie played stupid then chose to deflect the question by blaming the reports on "bloggers".

If there was any doubts that Blogging was in the mainstream – this weeks developments should put them to rest.

Keep on Blogging!

Looking Into The Crystal Ball of Wall Street!

In 2003, the Pentagon was forced to pull the plug on a program that would commit $8 million to create a Web site that would encourage investors to bet on futures involving terrorist attacks and public assassinations. The idea was that such a futures market would be accurate at predicting attacks, since the information captured by the market would be free from bias and deception. In other words, the Pentagon theory was that markets don’t lie like people do!

So what do we make of accusations by House Democrats that Tom Delay and Bill Frist had day traders working out of their offices in order to take advantage of inside information related to pending legislation? This dkos diary includes all the details of the accusations, as well as the background of the story, but the critical question on the minds of many is whether these shocking accusations could actually be true.

Taking a cue from the Pentagon, perhaps we can look to stock market behavior after the day trading allegations were released to tell us whether the story is true – using the markets as a form of crystal ball. If the Pentagon theory about markets is correct, then it seems they may be telling us that there is substance to the story. Reuters reported yesterday that U.S. stocks suffer biggest loss in nearly 3 years. Economists are saying that the large decline is due to uncertainty over Iran, oil prices, and the release of a new bin Laden threat of terrorist attacks. Then again, it could be an indication that confidence in the credibility of the stock market is a bit lower now that we have the possibility of Republican congressmen gaming the system to take advantage of less knowledgeable investors!

Although Frist and Delay will certainly deny that they were supplying inside information to select traders in order to gain potentially illegal advantage, perhaps the market knows more about the Republican Culture of Corruption than many individual participants would be willing to admit!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Rove's Tales From Bizarro World

Karl Rove climbed out from under his rock today to speak to GOP leaders about the current conditions in Washington. It is obvious from his statements that he lives in some sort of "Bizarro World" where up is down and down is up. CNN has the article. Here is some of what he said:

(emphasis added)

"Republicans have a post-9/11 view of the world. And Democrats have a pre-9/11 view of the world,"..........That doesn't make them unpatriotic, not at all. But it does make them wrong -- deeply and profoundly and consistently wrong."

"The GOP's progress during the last four decades is a stunning political achievement. But it is also a cautionary tale of what happens to a dominant party -- in this case, the Democrat Party -- when its thinking becomes ossified; when its energy begins to drain; when an entitlement mentality takes over; and when political power becomes an end in itself rather than a mean to achieve the common goal."

"We need to learn from our successes.......and from the failures of others."

What the F----? Why don't you try learning from your own failures. There's a lot of material there Mr. Rove.


Howard Dean responded to Rove's statements today. The Washington post story about Rove's speech included a response from the Democratic Party Chairman.

Democrats were quick to respond, with Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean challenging Rove's fitness to serve. "Karl Rove only has a White House job and a security clearance because President Bush has refused to keep his promise to fire anyone involved in revealing the identity of an undercover CIA operative," Dean said in a statement. Dean added: "The truth is, Karl Rove breached our national security for partisan gain and that is both unpatriotic and wrong."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

More Bad News for the Bush Administration: A New Bin Laden Tape!

That’s right - I said bad news for the Bush Administration! After seeing it happen enough times, I’m sick and tired of letting bin Laden’s face be a signal that the American people should drop any criticism of Bush, and return to being fearful and fortunate that we have such a tough President to protect us. And it’s ridiculous to feed that kind of thinking by complaining about the timing of bin Laden’s threats, which frequently seem to pop up when things aren’t going well for Bush. It’s the oldest play in their playbook and we should know how to stop it by now!

For some inexplicable reason, national security is the only area where Bush has favorable poll numbers, and any new threat from bin Laden should stand out as a reminder that national security is his biggest failure! Bush is the one who had the chance to kill bin Laden in Afghanistan when, shortly after 9/11, he chose to pull out troops and send them to Iraq. Bush is the one who said in 2002 that:

I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority.

I am truly not that concerned about him.

Rather than being a distraction from the current damaging news, bin Laden’s warning tapes should be turned into George Bush’s worst political nightmare! The image of bin Laden should be prominently displayed next to the image of Bush admitting failure to care about catching him. If Bush were doing his job, we wouldn't have to deal with bin Laden any more, and every new tape of bin Laden should remind us of how much we desperately need a stronger, more competent leader.

Instead of letting bin Laden convince us that we should sit back and let the strong and resolute “Daddy Bush” protect our family, any threats from bin Laden should be a reminder that this daddy is an incompetent drunk who let the intruder into the house on his watch! After the intruder killed members of his family, and with full knowledge of who the intruder was, this daddy then decided to pick a fight with an unarmed neighbor instead of avenging the real crime! Some strong leader!

With a daddy like that, we’d all be better off as orphans!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What You Get For The Money

Because of the infectious enthusiasm of a person who I will call Ms. seenos (to keep the relationship information simple), I’ve become a frequent watcher of the cable channel HGTV The Home & Garden Television Network. One of the shows we have been known to watch is called What You Get For the Money, a comparison of homes in different geographical locations in the same price range. It is a great opportunity to quickly compare housing alternatives without having to consider differences in price.

I had a similar opportunity today as I was scanning the news. I found this article from The Texas Observer describing how $25,000 would get you a lunch date in the White House with President Bush arranged by Jack Abramoff. However, I also found out that for the same $25,000, I could purchase William Shatner’s kidney stone! That’s a tough call – an afternoon of conversation with George Bush, or the ability to stare at a jar containing Captain Kirk’s kidney stone in the privacy of my own home? Decisions, decisions . . . .

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Politics of a Filibuster [Updated]

With the critical question of whether to filibuster Samuel Alito before them, the Democrats have been granted a one-week delay before a vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Because several prominent Republicans have already threatened to invoke the “nuclear option” if there is a filibuster, it appears Alito will likely end up on the Supreme Court regardless of actions taken by the minority. So the debate over whether or not to filibuster largely hinges on whether potential negative political fallout outweighs the slight chance of successfully keeping Alito off the court – by gaining enough Republican votes to maintain the filibuster in the face of the “nuclear option.”

In short, the issue is: Can the Democrats frame a filibuster to gain maximum support from the electorate regardless of whether they are successful at keeping Alito off of the Supreme Court? In my view, the key question to ask is simply this: Do the American people want George W. Bush as their dictator?

If Alito is confirmed, or forced onto the court by procedural maneuvering by the majority Republicans, Bush will, in essence, be a dictator. At least until the mid-term elections, there will be no branch of government that isn’t beholden to him.

He has insisted that he is not bound by laws enacted by Congress, and the current Republican congressional majority will not allow a meaningful investigation into any of the questionable activities he has undertaken since becoming President. They have proven themselves to be nothing but a rubber stamp for his agenda for the last five years.

Allowing Alito on the Supreme Court could be the final nail in the coffin of American democracy. After all, Alito is the one who authored the opinion that the President can sign legislation with a stipulation that he doesn’t have to follow the law that he is signing, as he recently did with the torture ban. With such an expansive view of presidential powers, Alito, as a replacement for Sandra Day O’Connor, can only tip the balance of the court toward giving Bush the unchecked power of a dictator.

Arguably, with Alito on the Supreme Court and a Republican Congress, the only real difference between Bush’s presidency and the reign of Saddam Hussein would be that the US has elections in which the people can vote to restore checks on presidential power. Listening to Bush, he already seems to think he has the power, if not the overt desire, to do any of the horrible things Saddam was said to have done, as long as it’s in the name of the “war on terror!”

If the Democrats frame a filibuster as their last stand to keep Bush from becoming a dictator, I believe it will be very difficult for the Republicans to make hay by claiming the Democrats are being obstructionists. Regardless of their feelings toward Bush, most Americans don’t like the idea of being led by a dictator, and Bush’s recent actions (and even some of his past statements) indicate that he would prefer being a dictator to being President anyway!

I think it could work, and with relatively little political risk! Besides, even if the “nuclear option” is successfully invoked to get Alito on the court, the Democrats will have just kicked off their campaign for retaking the Congress in the mid-term elections!

[Update] Here's a great post that covers many of the points I want people to know about the Alito confirmation.

Gore Puts Terror Threats in Perspective

I finally read Gore's entire speech, having just seen clips yesterday. To me this was the high point:

The founders of our country faced dire threats. If they failed in their endeavors, they would have been hung as traitors. The very existence of our country was at risk.
Yet, in the teeth of those dangers, they insisted on establishing the Bill of Rights.

Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol? Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of missiles poised to be launched against us and annihilate our country at a moment's notice? Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march-when our fathers fought and won two World Wars simultaneously?

It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it is up to us to do the same.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Did Bush Spy on Joe Wilson?

This article from today's New York Times punches big holes in the Bush Administrations defense of their NSA spying activities. My favorite quote from the article is:

... in bureau field offices, the N.S.A. material continued to be viewed as unproductive, prompting agents to joke that a new bunch of tips meant more "calls to Pizza Hut," one official, who supervised field agents
So now we have several sources stating that the program was not "limited" in scope and that the information gathered was basically a wild goose chase of busy work for the NSA and FBI - and in reality the program probably made the nation less safe.

One more point that I haven't heard any speculation about - What is the likelihood that Bush or his minions were spying on Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame during the time of the now infamous leak? How likely is it that Fitzgerald is asking this very same question?

I haven't had time to think this through fully, but it sure seems likely to have happened. We know that the Whitehouse was incredibly worried about Wilson. It appears that Bush had already approved the domestic spying. It is not much of a leap. Could this end up as part of the CIA leak investigation?

Let me know if I'm crazy or if this seems plausible.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Georgie and Jackie Sitting in a Tree . . . .

According to Time Magazine, the President has been frantically trying to destroy any photos that would disprove his claim never to have met Jack Abramoff. Josh Marshall at TPM recently put out a call for such photos and apparently hit paydirt although he has chosen to let the anticipation build before posting one on his site.

He did, however post a beauty with Abramoff, Ralph Reed (another recent victim of the Republican version of leprosy), and Susan Ralston, Karl Rove’s top assistant and a Special Assistant to the President.

Rolling Stone revealed the inside dirt on Ralston, who used to work for Abramoff, and is reported to have been placed inside the White House through an Abramoff recommendation to Rove. Abramoff himself has bragged about his connections to Rove and the White House.

Hopefully the prosecutors in the Abramoff case have Ms. Ralston high on their list of witnesses! It sure would be nice to know her role in all of this! Somehow, I don’t think the President will be able to insulate himself forever.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Archived Article Establishes that Abramoff Was Not a Bipartisan Problem

Billmon provides a wonderful summary of statements regarding Jack Abramoff and his connection to the Republican Party, as well as a few choice efforts to fan some of the stink over to the Democrats, most notably this one by George Bush:

I'm not, frankly, all that familiar with a lot what's going on over at Capitol Hill, but it seems like to me that [Abramoff] was an equal money dispenser, that he was giving money to people in both political parties.
However, adding to Billmon’s theme, I found this great article in the archives of Washington Business Forward. Published in the Nov/Dec 2002 issue, the article was written well before Abramoff’s current legal predicament by an obviously conservative magazine. It is a glowing, almost bragging, account of Abramoff’s successes, complete with extensive quotes from Abramoff himself. It is accessed through a link entitled “The Right Wing's Right-Hand.” on their special section page entitled “Government, Inc.” A bipartisan problem? Here are a few choice snippets (with my emphasis) to help you decide.

The Teaser:

Abramoff has emerged as an insider’s insider, with close ties to top Republicans and a hefty book of business. But even with his ally Tom DeLay poised to become House Majority Leader, Abramoff’s still found time to go into the restaurant business. Don’t bet against him. (Now there's a hot tip I'll bet some conservatives wish they had passed)
The Money Quote:

Along with (Haley) Barbour, former Republican Hill staffer and George W. Bush confidante Ed Gillespie, ex-Rep. Bill Paxon (R-NY), Tom Korologos of Timmons and Co., and one-time White House Chief of Staff Kenneth Duberstein, Abramoff is considered among the elite of GOP lobbyists. “He’s definitely in the top tier,” says Dan Cohen of Loeffler, Jonas & Tuggey, himself a former top House Republican staffer on Capitol Hill. “He’s a real power player, but he’s also one of the few guys on the right who has real credibility when he says he won’t work for just anybody.” It doesn’t hurt that he raises between $4 million and $6 million annually for Republicans, and makes sure his clients give millions more to the party and prominent conservative groups that help mold opinion within the GOP. He hires only Republicans, although Greenberg Traurig has plenty of Democrats on its payroll . . .“Jack Abramoff is the face of Republican lobbyists in the future,” says one K Street influence peddler. “He can get anybody to do just about anything he wants.”

Some Background:

Then came a pivotal moment for Abramoff — the November 1994 Republican Revolution. Led by former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), the GOP took control of the House for the first time in 40 years, and overnight, every lobbying firm in town desperately wanted people who were tight with the newly installed Republican leadership. Thanks to his own strong conservative credentials, Abramoff was able to make the transition easily. “When the Republicans won the Congress, my across-the-street neighbor was the managing partner of Preston Gates,” he recalls. “I think a lot of K Street law firms were a little nervous about conservatives. When I went to work at Preston Gates, I think they looked at me like some exhibit from the zoo.”
The crucial relationship with DeLay began well before 1994 . . . We had a lot of mutual friends as well,” says Abramoff of DeLay. . . .“The DeLay thing is played up a lot in terms of our relationship. The fact is when I pitch a client, I never mention Tom DeLay. I never say I know Tom DeLay.” Abramoff says he’s just as close to other Republicans, like Reps. Roy Blunt (MO), Christopher Cox (CA), John Doolittle (CA), Phil Crane (IL) and Dana Rohrabacher (CA).
On the Lighter Side:
Abramoff has other plans in the works. He wants to get back into the movie business, an industry he left eight years ago to become a lobbyist. Abramoff hopes to form a production company soon and turn out a couple of sports-themed movies for children each year. “There’s an absence of sports movies for kids that aren’t childish,” Abramoff says. “There’s a real niche there I think nobody is doing.”
Abramoff says he’s “looking at an incredibly well-done script” by a British director about cricket but hasn’t made a final decision yet about whether to go ahead with the project. He envisions a Rocky-like film with poor kids matched against their wealthy counterparts battling for dominance on the cricket pitch. (I’m guessing that his “feel good” ending involves the rich kids triumphing over the adversity of playing the welfare-aided poor kids)
His Judaism is clearly central to his identity, and it’s becoming central to his efforts in Greater Washington, too. Abramoff is starting a school catering to Orthodox Jewish boys in the seventh to eleventh grades called the Eshkol Academy, and getting it up and running is eating up his normally very expensive time . . . This new academy will “combine the aspects of a fine prep school with a yeshiva. This is something unheard of in the Orthodox world,” Abramoff says . . . Beyond the political world, it’s Abramoff himself who’s a bit unheard of, but that won’t last for long. (Little did they know!)
Funny how when Abramoff was simply an up-and-coming power broker who was raking in piles of money, the Republicans wanted to claim him as their own! Free of spin, I’m guessing that this is a much more accurate depiction of Mr. Abramoff’s partisanship than the Republicans now want us to believe. I would have expected it to be purged from the archives by now!

Front Paged at ePluribus Media

Friday, January 13, 2006

Gore to Hit Bush Hard

Former Vice President Al Gore is set to give a high Profile speech on Monday. John Nichols at "The Nation" has the details here. Nichols writes:

...this will not be the sort of cautious, bureaucratic speech for which Gore was frequently criticized during his years in the Senate and the White House... his aides and allies are framing it as a "call to arms" in defense of the Bill of Rights and the rule of law in a time of executive excess.

I sure hope the "Traditional Media" gives this speech some coverage. I also hope that Al is at least considering another run for the Whitehouse.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bush and Cheney for a Cleric to be Named Later

Driving in my car yesterday morning I accidentally tuned into Rush Limbaugh. I hate when that happens. Anyway, he was spewing his typical right wing drivel, when he said something that got me thinking. I’ll paraphrase:

“These hateful liberals will stop at nothing to regain power............If they don’t like the direction of this country then they should just leave.”

My first reaction was to mutter a few choice words describing Limbaugh’s “relationship with his mother” his “stature” and his “fondness for certain medications”. But I eventually moved on to more constructive thinking.

We seem to use sports analogies often on this site and I hope that you will indulge me as I use one more.

In any team sport, I’ll use my favorite – basketball, in order to have a winning team, you need many different types of players: Big men who can rebound and block shots, ball handlers, shooters, defenders, and hustling role players. A team with 12 Shaqs would never make the playoffs, even though Shaq is a dominant player. A team with 12 Steve Nashs would also never be able to compete with even the worst NBA teams. But Steve Nash was last years’ MVP and is the best point guard in the league. A good team needs players with different talents and strengths that compliment one another - So does an effective government.

What I’m trying to say is that as much as I dislike republicans, as a Liberal Progressive, I recognize the fact that this country is better because *conservatives exist. I admit that left to rule on my own I would probably spend too liberally in an effort to help the poor and elderly. I might not spend enough on weapons for our military and I would be so pro environment that it would probably hurt the economy.

The reality is that having a diverse group with different priorities allows our government to at least try to address the needs of all its citizens. We need environmentalists, and those who are pro business, people who are focused on the military and those who want to expand social programs. It’s this mix that makes the country a competitive team.

But Limbaugh, Bush , Cheney and most Republicans think that we would be better off if no one ever had a differing opinion. Well, the country has been as close to this as ever since 9/11 and look at the mess we are in. They have a one party rule and what have they done with it? Is the country better off today? I don’t think so.

This administration is like a team full of Ron Artests or if you prefer football - Terrell Owens. It is all about them and even though they may be valuable players – their selfishness is destroying our team. And unfortunately, unlike professional sports we can’t solve this problem simply by trading this administration to another country. Who would want them anyway ………… Maybe Iraq!

Bush and Cheney for a Cleric to be named later. Limbaugh will just be released after his next failed drug test.

*P.S. the conservatives that I admit to needing in the above diary are reasonable social and fiscal conservatives – not NeoCons. There is never any need for a NeoCon!

In a Just World, He Would be Samuel Ali-toast!

After two days of listening to the Samuel Alito hearings, I am completely disgusted with the process that we are allowing to take place.

The guy is clearly lying about his recollections of his past. He is clearly unwilling to reveal any substantial insight into his character, despite his supporters’ claims of unprecedented openness (gag!). While testifying under oath, he has probably committed multiple felonies in the process of trying to be confirmed for the one job in the country that most requires honesty and integrity!

At this point, there is no choice but for the Democrats to filibuster Alito. The entire process of testifying under oath is intended to require openness and candor, isn’t it? The idea is to keep extremists from either side of the political spectrum from getting on the Supreme Court, isn’t it? The idea is to make the process transparent, and to ensure that the views of all Americans are at least equally considered by the highest court in the land, isn’t it?

If Alito is going to lie and conceal in order to get the job, then he must be filibustered. If the Republicans “go nuclear” to get him on the court despite a filibuster, then the Democrats will just have to retake the Congress in November, and use the Republicans’ own rule change as a club to beat them with – until the corruption is gone and fairness is returned to our country!

If we don't, Alito will get confirmed anyway, and we'll be like the boxer who goes into the last round knowing he is losing the fight, but deciding to “play rope-a-dope” to avoid getting knocked out!

We've got to start throwing some haymakers! What do we have to lose? Really – WHAT? The Republicans control everything, and they are running the country into the ground while filling their own pockets! Might as well force them to push Alito in through procedural loopholes, so that when he starts showing his true colors, we can call them for the liars they are. Again! And eventually we can turn the tables on them when their lying becomes so obvious that the voters won’t take it anymore.

I know it seems that we should have reached this point already, but frankly, it appears that we are finally moving in the right direction. The Republicans are a party with their weaknesses exposed. Indictments, bribery, money laundering, and on and on and on. Although they have been pounding us, and thumbing us and occasionally hitting us below the belt, for the last 11 rounds, all it would take is one good punch to knock them out of power.

Let’s come out swinging at Alito! Who knows – sometimes the underdog wins one!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Seven Year Old's Rhetoric Emboldens Bush

Bush appeared at another one of his campaign style town hall meetings today. Mike at Born At The Crest has a great post analyzing the absurdity of it all. Here is a snip.

From the press briefing.(Reuters)

Q: Are those questions pre-screened, or ....

MR. McCLELLAN: No, they can ask whatever -- the people at this event can ask whatever they want

Okay, so we know it's a non scripted event, right?

Asked by a 7-year-old in the audience at the Louisville Convention Center how people could help in the war on terrorism, Bush replied, "One way people can help as we're coming down the pike in the 2006 elections is remember the effect that rhetoric can have on our troops in harm's way and the effect that rhetoric can have in emboldening or weakening an enemy."

Go read the rest at Born At The Crest.

A Pox on Both Your Houses, MSNBC and Fox News!

Watching MSNBC’s Hardball and Countdown yesterday, I heard the phrase, “A Pox on Both Your Houses” twice to describe the public’s supposed reaction to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Nora O’Donnell said it to Chris Matthews, who just laughed and agreed. Then, Dana Milbank of the Washington Post said it to Keith Olbermann, without being challenged.

I felt like I might as well be watching Fox News, because spreading this line to describe public sentiment about the culture of corruption in Washington is just plain bullshit!

Consequently, I was compelled to send the following e-mail to Countdown in the hope that it will make its way to Mr. Olbermann.

A Pox on Both Your Houses (Fox News and MSNBC)

Will you quit using this ridiculous phrase to describe public sentiment about the Abramoff lobbying corruption scandal? I normally respect Keith for being more than just a talking head reading a teleprompter, but he can't keep letting guests like Dana Milbank (who I normally also respect) keep spreading this line of bullshit! It is just wrong.

So far, the democrats are looking at the evidence and seeing a republican “culture of corruption." The republicans are looking at the evidence and seeing "widespread misuse of power among both parties." Until you are able to find a democrat in Washington, or among the public, who views the evidence as a sign of corruption in the Democratic Party, it is stupid to imply that the "public" is saying "a pox on both your houses!" The republicans are saying it because it's their ass-covering talking point! Nothing more, nothing less.

The bottom line is:

There are no democrats who have been accused of changing legislation, or their votes on legislation, due to bribes from lobbyists.

There are no democrats who have been accused of taking golfing trips to Scotland, and other blatantly outrageous perks, from lobbyists.

There are no democrats who have been accused of having their wives paid for questionable work by corrupt lobbying firms.

There are no democrats who have been accused of taking money directly from admitted felons.

There are only democrats who received campaign contributions, along with many other campaign contributions, from some of the same organizations that were employing Jack Abramoff as a lobbyist.

Saying this lumps them in with the republicans under scrutiny in the investigation, is like lumping Keith Olbermann in with Bill O'Reilly because there are individuals who have watched both Countdown and The O'Reilly Factor! And saying that the public lumps them together, because republican apologists from among the crowd are bleating their tired talking points about bipartisan corruption, is irresponsible and wrong!


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

First NSA Whistleblower Steps Forward

In a development that could take the sting out of Bush's defense of his NSA spy program, Russel Tice a 20 year NSA employee has stepped forward. This is a big deal because Bush's main defense has been to attack the leakers and grandstand about the investigation. Now there is a face to the story and if he proves sincere and credible, Bush is in big trouble. I'm sure Mr. Tice is in for the "swiftboat" ride of his life. I can't wait to see the interviews. Here is an excerpt from the ABC News article:
President Bush has admitted that he gave orders that allowed the NSA to eavesdrop on a small number of Americans without the usual requisite warrants.

But Tice disagrees. He says the number of Americans subject to eavesdropping by the NSA could be in the millions if the full range of secret NSA programs is used.

"That would mean for most Americans that if they conducted, or you know, placed an overseas communication, more than likely they were sucked into that vacuum," Tice said.

Alito's Pause.

Ever since the Supreme Court confirmation hearings began yesterday morning, there has been non-stop live blogging, and rigorous, detailed analysis of every word that passes through Samuel Alito’s lips. I’m going to leave that discussion to the formal and informal legal experts and focus my comments on what Alito seemed to show about his character before he even opened his mouth! Well, after he was sworn in actually, but before he began his opening statement, when he let everyone sit in anticipation for what seemed like forever. Since I've only seen the video once, and have been unable to find it again, I'm working from memory, but I believe my recollection captures the essence of the moment that I call “Alito’s Pause.”

After being sworn in, he stood at the table, looked out at the senators, sat down, pulled out a small note pad, idly flipped through the pages, then stood up, grabbed a bottle of water and a glass, slowly opened the bottle and poured himself a glass, sat down again, looked out at the senators again as if ready to speak, then paused, picked up the glass of water and swirled it gently, took a small sip, set it back down, then reached for the bottle again to top off the glass. Finally ready to speak, he slowly leaned forward with his enormous head bobbing like a doll on a car dashboard, and in a whiny, petulant voice, he began to talk.

Clearly, the entire prolonged pause before speaking was a choreographed statement to show that he was in control - that he would not be intimidated, and that he would only speak when he was damned good and ready. Perhaps he was just following the coaching he received from Judiciary Committee member, Lindsey Graham. Or perhaps he really had a frog in his throat and needed to consult his notes as a reminder that water is a good remedy. Or perhaps, he really is, as Digby suggests, an asshole!

In any event, Alito’s pause made him seem like the pedestrian who meanders slowly in front of traffic after the light has already turned, relishing the fact that the cars can’t move until he’s done crossing the street. He seemed like the clerk who refuses to make eye contact with the only customer in the store because he’s doing something so important that the customer can just wait. He seemed like the rock band sitting backstage, drinking beer and snorting coke, while the ticket buying audience waits an hour and a half for the show to start. All in all, he seemed to fall into Digby’s description more than any other possible explanation!

When the confirmation hearings began, I was willing to support the notion that the Democrats should start out by giving the guy the benefit of the doubt. I had my concerns about quite a few issues, but thought he should have the chance to share his views before being judged. However, before he even made his opening statement, he found a way to convince me that the Democrats should just step on the gas and try to mow the guy down!

Monday, January 09, 2006

A Deep Breath

With all of the scandals, investigations, indictments and guilty pleas in Washington these days it is easy to get caught up in the excitement. I find myself surfing the “internets” with added intensity, hitting refresh time and again hoping that one more click will reveal details of yet another Republican’s demise.

But today, instead of sitting in front of my TV with laptop in hand glued to the first day of the Alito confirmation hearings, I did something really good.

I went cross country skiing!

It was a beautiful, sunny day in the Sierra Nevada. The crowds were small, the snow was great and the views even greater. And as I skied through pine forests and around a frozen lake I realized that even though we still have a huge mountain to climb, in the last few months there has been significant progress.

I understand that the Republicans still control the Executive Branch, the House and the Senate. And, as we all know, the Judicial Branch currently hangs in the balance. But lately, I’ve sensed something in air that seems hopeful - like it might be a sign. However, I haven’t been able to put my finger on it.

But, at the edge of this beautiful frozen lake - I took a long, deep breath and finally figured it out.

Sometimes you just have to stop and smell the Republicans.

Libby – Indicted
Delay – Indicted & forced to step down as Majority leader
Abramoff – Plead Guilty
Scanlon – Plead Guilty
Cunningham – Plead Guilty and resigned

The next few months should be full of more beautiful bouquets of Republicans. Make sure that you take time to breathe it all in.

Of News, Bloggers, and Basketball.

In an earlier post, left-over gave an excellent overview of the failure in media coverage of the West Virginia mining tragedy. Clearly the importance of the story was the human tragedy first, and the media failure second. I’d like to extend the discussion a little further, however, using this example to highlight some of the differences between the so-called “mainstream media,” and the bloggers who have taken on a rapidly increasing role in disseminating news, information and editorial opinion throughout the world.

Kos has expressed a growing distaste for the phrase “mainstream media,” and I agree with his contention that what he calls the “interactive media” has become as “mainstream” as newspapers and 24-hour television news outlets such as CNN and MSNBC. However, I have also read statements implying that bloggers “lack the necessary filters” to provide reliable information to readers like members of the traditional media do.

Well, using the mining accident in West Virginia as an example, I would contend that Kos’ view of the blurring credibility line between news reporting and blogging is almost complete. Both can be extremely useful at times, and at other times can be completely full of crap! However, I have to say that it is much less often that a blogger who is full of crap ends up being treated like a rising star in a shameless drive for ratings. Witness MSNBC’s Rita Cosby, and a long line of others before her.

As a life long sports junkie, I like to look at traditional television and print media as being like professional basketball players, while the new interactive electronic media are more like college or high school basketball players.

Professional players will talk about their superior athletic ability and the speed of the game at their level. They will tell you that college players can’t match up with their skills. In fact, they are mostly correct if you consider the average college player.

However, watching an NBA game is like watching a collection of individuals struggling to maintain their statistics in order to maximize bargaining power at contract negotiation time. Ultimately, they are playing for money, and it is most important for them to look better than the competition, even if it means both they and the competition play a sloppy game. And, it’s all driven by a huge marketing machine in which appearance is everything. The underlying fundamentals and the joy of playing the game are often overlooked in favor of pleasing the corporate sponsors!

College players, in general, are quite different. Although a few college players will eventually turn pro, most of them are playing for pride and not money. They do what they do primarily for love of the game. They are more likely to be enthusiastic and passionate in the way they play. Because most college players are not as athletically gifted, they are more likely to focus on fundamentals like shooting free throws, making solid passes, and using their heads to analyze the game while they are playing.

For the casual fan looking only for entertainment, the pro game may be just fine. As long as you can see an occasional rim-rattling dunk by a guy you recognize from a Nike commercial, you’ll be happy. But if you really want to learn to understand and appreciate the game of basketball, you are probably better off watching a college game or a good high school game! There won’t be as much flash, but you will see players who really care about what they do, and who will sacrifice their individual statistics to make it the team game it was intended to be.

Likewise, when I get my news and analysis from some of the better blogs, I see writing filled with fire and passion, with generous assists to other bloggers, and with fundamental links to sources. I see a love for the news and a depth of analysis that is often lacking in traditional media outlets that give only enough of a summary to get a face on the television or a name in the byline. I might not be reading the words of a household name that I’ve seen in endless commercials. In fact, I might not even know the blogger by name at all! But I will learn what’s going on in the world, and be able to put it in context.

All without having to see some over-hyped glory hog brag about being the first on the scene to tell me that 11 dead people are still alive!

Watch Your Step!

I once visited a wonderful place called Plitvice Lakes National Park in the beautiful country of Croatia. It was barely more than one year after the country had established independence from the former Yugoslavia during a fierce war with Serbia. During part of the war, the park had been under occupation by Serbian troops, and although it was back under Croatian control by the time of my visit, there were still large signs along the main trails throughout the park warning visitors not to stray from the path because of the possibility of undiscovered land mines.

With recent reports in Time Magazine that Duke Cunningham wore a wire during conversations with undisclosed individuals to gain potential evidence related to corruption, and with Jack Abramoff claiming to have the goods on over 60 members of congress, being a Republican in Washington these days must feel very much like I felt while walking through Plitvice Lakes National Park. Stick to the path and you are probably OK, but stray just a little bit, and your political career could be blown to smithereens with each step!

And unlike my visit to Plitvice, where I stuck to the path like glue, most of the current crop of congressional Republicans seem to be choosing to take their chances off the path. They are unloading Abramoff-tainted campaign funds, claiming to be shocked at the web of scandal surrounding its origin. They are claiming that Cunningham was a lone wolf whose actions don’t reflect on them at all. Yet every step they take could be their last, as all the evidence still sits out there, like land mines hidden in front of them.

Sooner or later, some of these guys are going to have to start seeing the danger that could be lurking before them, and decide to get back on the path for good. Some of them are going to decide that the slight chance of getting hit with a little shrapnel from a distance is preferable to having their limbs blown off by a recorded conversation with the Dukester, or some pointed testimony from Abramoff. They are going to get back on the path – a path which leads directly to the prosecutor - to cut their own plea deals to save themselves, while becoming additional potential land mines for those who still insist on wandering off the path.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Delay Now Doolittle and Pombo Oh My!

I may get my wish. Doolittle and Pombo are in the crosshairs. The Republican Culture of Corruption is going down. The LA Times has the story here.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Schwarzenegger: When Fees are Fees

With Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's about face and huge new spending proposals, the obvious question is how the heck is he going to pay for it. Especially with his ongoing pledge of no new taxes. On Friday Arnold stood in front of Sacramento's Nimbus Dam on the American River to give the details of one piece of the enormous plan - his proposed flood protection package. John Myers at Capitol Notes has a great piece which underscores Schwarzenegger's command of the issues.
To help pay for the water protection elements, Schwarzenegger is proposing $5 billion in new water user fees (the administration is technically calling it a "water resources investment" fund). The fee would amount to $3 a month for every residential water user in the state, and $10 a month for every industrial water user.

But why isn't that a tax, asked a reporter today? And isn't Schwarzenegger opposed to taxes? Here's the governor's answer:

"You know, a lot of times, you know, fees are fees and taxes are taxes. And that's why they're called fees. And that's why they're called taxes."

Thanks for clearing that up Arnold. You have obviously mastered the complexities of running the seventh largest economy in the world.

Quote of the Day!

Randi Rhodes (1/6/06):
"These days it's easier to find Republican congressmen in Washington who will publicly admit that they jack off than that they know Jack Abramoff!"

Oh, and just a quick note about all those members of congress who are desperately unloading campaign contributions from Abramoff and his clients: Getting rid of stolen property after the guy who stole it and gave it to you gets caught doesn't make you look less guilty - if you knew he was a thief when you took it!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Caption of the Day!

E.F Hutton? I knew E.F Hutton. I used to talk investments with E.F. Hutton. And George W. Bush, you're no E.F. Hutton!

(feel free to add alternative captions in the comments section!)

Image Credit: Evan Vucci/A.P. January 5, 2005. White House. Via BAGnewsNotes.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The (Very) Abridged Arnold Schwarzenegger. [with update]

As regular readers can attest, we have been pretty hard on the California Governor on this site. In fact, he’s been pretty well lambasted here, here, here, and here.

However, in honor of his “State of the State” speech today, with a newfound spirit of cooperation, I’m going to begin this post with a compliment. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a much better actor than I have ever previously acknowledged. Unlike President Bush, who always sounds like a spoiled and defensive child, Schwarzenegger has an uncanny ability to express sincere remorse and a sense that he has learned from his mistakes. He can present himself as an inspiring, charismatic leader who at several points during today’s speech actually had me feeling a bit teary eyed. Then again, when I saw “Junior,” I though Arnold actually was pregnant!

I realize that not everyone reading this post cares that much about California issues. Those who care a lot probably listened to the speech. For those who care just a little, here’s a 10-cent paraphrased version of today’s speech so you don’t need to bother listening or reading the transcript (and want to be able to try reciting it in one breath, just for kicks):

Welcome. I’m still glad to be the Governor.

I tried to get my way by being a dick, but the people wouldn’t let me. So it’s now time to work together to rebuild California for the future.

We need better roads. I say build it!
We need better flood control. I say build it!
We need more schools. I say build it!
We need more hospitals. I say build it!
We need more courts. I say build it!
We need more prisons. I say build it!
We need cleaner air. I say build it! (Hey, there’s only so much a speechwriter can do!)

Perhaps you are wondering where we will get the money to invest in California for the future. It won’t be from taxes. Instead, we will borrow some of it from the future and then ask for matching Federal funds.

In addition, child molesters are bad! (loud applause)

People wouldn’t understand this in Illinois, or Delaware, or Kentucky. But here in California, we are dreaming!

God bless you!

Update: In case anyone is tempted to believe that Arnold really has found redemption and suddenly cares about working Californians, as he tries to adopt programs traditionally supported by Democrats to dampen criticism heading into a re-election campaign, here’s something to think about from the SF Chronicle. His re-election campaign is reportedly going to be run by current Bush/Cheney aide, Steve Schmidt, who is described as follows:
On the national scene, Schmidt earned his reputation as a steely political strategist who ran the Bush 2004 war room and became a member of the exclusive Breakfast Club, the small group of top operatives who planned the campaign during regular meetings at the home of White House political strategist Karl Rove.
As he showed during the clemency review of Tookie Williams, Arnold doesn’t believe in redemption. From the prospective of the Democrats, Schwarzenegger’s political career is scheduled to be executed in November, and despite his recently proclaimed turnaround, that execution should also be carried out as scheduled!