Thursday, March 29, 2007

Meet the New Conservative Michael Moore!

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Some people never learn! As if it wasn’t enough that Fox proved with The Half-Hour Comedy Hour that “conservative political humor” is about as hard to find as a mermaid, Rick Santorum now says he wants to provide entertainment through conservative political documentaries.

According to Santorum:
"Politics and political dialogue has some impact on America but changing the culture has a much bigger impact," Santorum said about his new role outside the public sector and his push to make documentaries. "That is what the left is doing and doing it in a big way, producing a lot of left content for Hollywood, and even not just out of Hollywood. Even independent films are now more and more left-wing driven, whether it is Michael Moore or Al Gore."

He added: "Someone has to go out there and tell them the other side of the story."
First, we were given the new conservative John Stewart, in a show so profoundly lame that even the Right Wing News could only come up with this description:
This show was not timely at all and at times you felt like their first priority was getting across a message, not making people laugh. Perhaps more importantly, this may be the least edgy show made since Leave it to Beaver.
Now, Santorum wants to show us he can be the new conservative Michael Moore! Say what you want about Michael Moore’s politics, he is clearly a talented filmmaker and a very entertaining and engaging fellow.

And based on what I’ve seen of Santorum’s competence as a legislator, and of his personality and speaking style, I’m willing to predict that Little Ricky will turn out to be no Michael Moore. In fact, I seriously doubt that he will have the filmmaking talent of a manatee!

(Note: Rick Santorum's hat and logo from: The Cranky Princess)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Gonzo Says - Move Along Nothing to See Here!

In an interview with Pete Williams of NBC News - Alberto Gonzales today attempted to quiet the call for his resignation. His performance in the interview wasn't any better than his supervision of his own justice department. Here is my favorite exchange:

(Emphasis mine)

Williams: Given that, then how can you be certain that none of these U.S. attorneys were put on that list for improper reasons?

Gonzales: What I can say is this:
I know the reasons why I asked you — these United States attorneys to leave. And it — it was not for improper reasons. It was not to interfere with the public corruption case. It was not for partisan reasons.

I also — we also know that there's nothing in the documents that indicates that they were asked to leave for improper reasons. But all — but lastly, just to be sure, I have asked for an internal — review by the Office of Professional Responsibility, working with the Office of Inspector General. And, of course, the Congress is going to be doing its own review because I want to know as well if, in fact, there were improper reasons, we — we should know about it. And there will be accountability.

Williams: To put this question another way — if you didn't review their performance during this process, then how can you be certain that they were fired for performance reasons?

Gonzales: I — I've given — I've given the answer to the question, Pete. I know — I know the reasons why I made the decision. Again, there's nothing in the documents to support the allegation that there was anything improper here.

OK So Gonzo has good reasons that were not at all improper, he just can't tell anyone about them. He knows them, he really does. He just can't tell anyone about those really good non-partisan, non-corruption interfering reasons. But he knows them - he really really does!

I can't believe that this guy is our Attorney General. What kind of lawyer makes this lame of an argument. I see why George keeps him around. It must be the only time he feels smart.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

How to Lie With Statistics!

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This classic book, first published in 1954, was instrumental in a decision, over 20 years ago, to expand my college study from strictly business finance and statistics to include philosophy - particularly logic and critical thinking.

From the description at Amazon:

"There is terror in numbers," writes Darrell Huff in How to Lie with Statistics. And nowhere does this terror translate to blind acceptance of authority more than in the slippery world of averages, correlations, graphs, and trends” . . . The book remains relevant as a wake-up call for people unaccustomed to examining the endless flow of numbers pouring from Wall Street, Madison Avenue, and everywhere else someone has an axe to grind, a point to prove, or a product to sell. "The secret language of statistics, so appealing in a fact-minded culture, is employed to sensationalize, inflate, confuse, and oversimplify," warns Huff.

Here’s a good example – an article by Steven Thomma of McClatchy News Services, citing a statistical analysis of lifetime voting records and concluding that Barack Obama is “the most liberal” of the Congressional Democrats currently running for President in 2008.

“More liberal than Dennis Kucinich,” Thomma warns, going on to cite a bunch of percentages from past votes that serve to rank the candidates as follows, according to frequency of liberal votes:

Obama 84.3 %
Kucinich 79.4%
Dodd 79.2%
Clinton 78.8%
Biden 76.8%

To understand how this is absolute crap, consider that Obama was sworn in as a Senator on January 4, 2005. His entire congressional career has been spent voting only on the bills allowed to be brought to the floor by an extremist right-wing majority! So naturally he would be forced to take the more liberal side of those issues. Legislators with experience extending back to a time when Democrats could actually propose legislation have had opportunities to occasionally consider and make some more conservative votes (without threatening democracy as we know it!)

Clearly this article is intended to scare anyone who might be worried about "excessive liberalism" into writing off Obama. How sad to be Steven Thomma, working hard to build a career in journalism that finds him writing for a large and influential news organization like McClatchy, carefully crafting articles to be distributed under his byline so that his own mother can be proud of her son’s accomplishments – but to have an intended audience made up of people like this guy!

And I guess what this article really shows is that, based on the fact that Hillary Clinton was sworn in as a Senator on January 3, 2001, during the same period of Republican rule in the Senate, a lifetime voting record of 78.8% liberal votes suggests that she may actually be a conservative!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Pop Goes the Weasel

So now we we have definitive proof that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales lied under oath about his involvement in the US Attorney firings. It is time for Alberto to go - resign in shame - adios amigo. Gee I wonder what else he has lied about during his tenure.

I really just wanted to post this picture again!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bush Administration Grappling with US Attorney Scandal

When I was a kid, about 9 years old, I spent a lot of time at the local high school gym -watching my older brother compete in wrestling matches. I bring this up because the current Bush Administration scandal du jour has brought back specific memories from that time.
As George Bush and Tony Snow posture, spin and obfuscate the administration's role in the US Attorney firings and the Democrats in the legislature threaten - but have yet to issue subpoena’s – I can’t help but picture the beginning of those wrestling matchs, where the combatants circle, reach, slap and lunge at each other – neither willing to attempt an actual take down.

The matches would progress in different ways. Some of my brother’s teammates would win on points. Some of them would lose on points. Some of them pinned their opponents while others were pinned themselves.

My brother’s matches however always seemed to go pretty much the same. As a freshman he was wrestling on the varsity team – a fine honor - but he was always up against older more experienced and frankly better wrestlers. The matches would start out promising with my brother holding his own, but inevitably his matches would end with him on his back – bridging (see photo above) - determined not to be pinned - but with no real chance to win. But man could he bridge with the best of ‘em. He could bridge for what seemed like forever.

And, that is exactly what the Bush Administration is doing with this scandal. They are stalling hoping to run out the clock before the referee slaps the matt. Bush is going to have to do this for the rest his disastrous tenure - all 21 months of it.
This is what the Bush Presidency has come to - anything to avoid being pinned.

Good luck George. Even my big brother can’t bridge that long.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Unraveling the Common Thread

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It turns out Scooter Libby’s efforts at obstructing justice were rather pedestrian by White House standards!

Its funny how the Republicans used to accuse Democrats of being “obstructionist” any time they didn’t go along with the President’s agenda, while it now appears that the President’s agenda has been propped up by all kinds of White House “plots and plans” to obstruct justice.

The latest example:
Fired San Diego U.S. attorney Carol Lam notified the Justice Department that she intended to execute search warrants on a high-ranking CIA official as part of a corruption probe the day before a Justice Department official sent an e-mail that said Lam needed to be fired.
The e-mail clearly suggests that Lam’s firing was more urgent than a routine personnel matter:
The May 11 e-mail was from D. Kyle Sampson, chief of staff to Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales, to White House Deputy Counsel William Kelley. "The real problem we have right now with Carol Lam … leads me to conclude that we should have someone ready to be nominated on 11/18, the day her four-year term expires," it said.
In fact, it seems highly possible that the firing of eight U.S. attorneys was orchestrated as cover to specifically thwart an ongoing investigation by Lam. As the NYT suggests, this could be yet another instance of lawbreaking by White House officials.

I’m just speculating here, but by the time all the facts are unraveled, I wouldn’t be surprised if the genesis of the whole scheme was a plot to end the investigation by Lam. However, for political cover, it was first proposed to fire all 93 U.S. attorneys, and then limited to a smaller group who could be justified with talking points.

That group, apparently compiled by Kyle Sampson under the guidance of Karl Rove, was made up of attorney’s who made the list for a variety of reasons, including merely being in a job desired by a Rove protege!

Beyond that, it sure sounds like the word was out among Republican legislators that nominations for the short list were being accepted!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

It’s My Party . . . and I’ll Cry If I Want To!

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I’m sure at least a few regular readers will relate to be frightened by this article.

Apparently, Rahm Emanuel (D-Cave) is using his experience and influence to impart key bits of wisdom to the incoming freshmen class of Democratic House members.

One of Rahm’s suggestions is to decline interviews with Stephen Colbert. Apparently, reputedly brilliant strategist Emanuel is worried about the negative political implications of The Colbert Report's viewers thinking his white male colleagues are really black females, or that Democrats actually put kittens in a wood-chipper! It’s hard to believe that this is the guy who is in charge of campaign strategy for the Democrats!

But wait, it gets worse. When asked to describe Emanuel’s impact on the rookie House Democrats, one new member gave him an endorsement that is almost as frightening as the thought of a third Presidential term for George W. Bush:
He’s the Al Davis of Congress,” said Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), referring to the legendary owner of the Oakland Raiders who coined the phrase, “Just win, baby.”
Great, now I’ve got the image stuck in my head of having to hold my nose in 2008 while casting my vote for a Hillary Clinton–Randy Moss ticket!

Just shoot me now!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Gonzales Accepts Deniable Responsibilty

Here is basically what the AG said today:

Mistakes were made...........I accept full responsibility...........I stand by those mistakes..........I intend to find and hold someone else responsible.

This is one Giant snowball picking up speed!

[Note by seenos: I noticed the image was messed up, so I grabbed this old one I had made for an earlier post. Somehow, it is even more fitting today!]

Monday, March 12, 2007

Where Have I Heard That Before?

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So Karl Rove is right in the middle of the U.S. attorney purge! As Gomer Pyle would say, “Well surr-priise, surr-priise, surr-priiiissse!!!!!” As consistent as he is at being involved in political scandals, Rove seems equally consistent at making sorry explanations about his involvement:
In an interview Saturday with McClatchy Newspapers, Weh said he complained in 2005 about Iglesias to a White House liaison who worked for Rove and asked that he be removed. Weh said he followed up with Rove personally in late 2006 during a visit to the White House, but Rove told him Iglesias had already been fired.

"He's gone," Rove said, according to Weh (my emphasis).
Despite the tough sounding talk from Rove, he later relied on a White House lackey to try to get him off the hook:
(White House Spokesperson Dana) Perino said Rove might have mentioned the complaints about Iglesias "in passing" to Gonzales.

"He doesn't exactly recall, but he may have had a casual conversation with the A.G. to say he had passed those complaints to Harriet Miers," Perino said, relaying Rove's hazy recollection.
Sound familiar? Here’s Newsweek’s description of Rove’s involvement in the CIA Leak scandal:
In early October 2003, . . . immediately after Novak's column appeared in July, Rove called MSNBC "Hardball" host Chris Matthews and told him that Wilson's wife was "fair game." But White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters at the time that any suggestion that Rove had played a role in outing Plame was "totally ridiculous." On Oct. 10, McClellan was asked directly if Rove and two other White House aides had ever discussed Valerie Plame with any reporters. McClellan said he had spoken with all three, and "those individuals assured me they were not involved in this."
Substitute “gone” for “fair game,” Perino for McClellan, and “might have mentioned in a casual conversation” for “was not involved” and you’ve got the same damned playbook in action. Except now Rove is running the play usually called for Scooter Libby!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Does Character Still Matter, Mr. President?

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Anyone who coaches youth sports, and most parents of young children, will tell you that one of the best ways to build character in young people is to make sure that they have to experience the negative consequences of their own poor decisions. To let a kid completely off the hook for doing something wrong is to ignore an opportunity to teach a lesson that can help form an honorable, respectful, and in some communities, a God-fearing, adult. It’s often called “tough love,” and it’s practiced in various forms by liberals and conservatives alike.

George W. Bush came into the White House after campaigning under the banner “Character Matters.” While criticizing the misdeeds of his Democratic predecessor, he promised “to restore honor and integrity” to the White House. And his supporters believed him!

Aside from a small number of hypocritical neocon politicians, lobbyists, and pundits, Bush’s supporters are mostly those who see the world in black and white, right and wrong, crime and punishment, terms that are, when considering a family member who has done something wrong, consistent with the idea of “tough love.”

So, if Scooter Libby is such a nice guy, why not practice a little “tough love” and use his conviction as an opportunity to teach him a valuable lesson and build some character? After all, character matters in a Bush White House, right? A few years in prison won’t kill Scooter Libby. As the saying goes, it will probably make him stronger!

Or George W. Bush can issue a Presidential pardon. He can let Libby completely off the hook without building any character at all! He can be like the Little League coach who lets a player cheat, or lie about his age, without any attempt to teach good sportsmanship and fair play.

And what kind of character would the President be modeling as a leader? To pardon Libby, Bush would have to break his own Justice Department’s rules to pardon his own advisor, for actions taken at the behest of his own Vice President, and likely with his own approval. After all, according to Cheney, “this Pres” is the one who asked Libby to put his neck in the meatgrinder!

Of course we know that character isn't expressed through campaign slogans, and this President hasn't displayed much in the way of character since taking office. Still, at every opportunity, between now and the time George W. Bush leaves office, as long as Scooter Libby is in line to be held accountable for his own poor decisions, the President should be asked the followng question, over and over:

“Does Character Still Matter, Mr. President?”

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

My Dumbest Investment!

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In a syndicated feature published periodically by The Motley Fool, readers contribute stories describing the stupidest investments they have ever made. Sometimes it’s a failed business venture, or a stockpile of some not-so-rare collectible items. Sometimes it’s a questionable real estate deal, or an unexpectedly complicated commodity like a herd of livestock.

I wonder how long before we start seeing stories from some of the members of the Scooter Libby Legal Defense Fund - like, perhaps, actors Ron Silver or Fred Thompson, or Tucker Carlson’s dad, Richard!

After contributing something near $5 million to fund Scooter’s defense, these “investors” watched Libby’s lawyers fold their hand after only two days of mostly pointless testimony that “climaxed” with John Hannah, a witness who was described by one juror as having been the least credible of everyone they heard during the trial! The defense failed to call any witnesses who could validate some of the assertions made in their opening statement, such as the “scapegoat to protect Karl Rove” theory. After huffing and puffing about testimony from Libby and Cheney for months, neither man was put on the stand, leading even the Judge to question the effectiveness of the defense.

No wonder Ted Wells ended his closing argument with a tearful plea, followed by burying his head in his hands throughout the Prosecution’s rebuttal!

I guess Libby’s supporters can always look at the bright side: at least Scooter still has lots of money left in the fund to keep him well stocked in cigarettes and soap-on-a-rope!

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Limits of Human Possibility

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Last week’s jury deliberation in the Libby trial ended with the following question being posed to the judge:
Is it necessary for the government to present evidence that it is not humanly possible for someone not to recall an event in order to find guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?
Immediately, observers noted the likelihood of a holdout threatening to prevent the jury from reaching a verdict. Surely, they suggested, one of the jury members is confusing “reasonable doubt” with questions of “human possibility.”

And, although an appropriate answer to their question was a simple and straightforward “NO,” Judge Walton this morning decided to ask them to clarify their question, stating:
I do not fully understand what you mean by "humanly possible." If you can rephrase the question considering the language I gave you in the reasonable doubt instruction, I will assess whether I can provide further guidance to you.
The reasonable doubt language is presented below:
Reasonable doubt … is doubt based on reason. … Reasonable doubt is the kind of doubt that would cause a reasonable person, after careful and thoughtful reflection, to hesitate to act in the graver or more important matters in life. However, it is not an imaginary doubt, nor a doubt based on speculation or guesswork; it is a doubt based on reason. The government is not required to prove guilt beyond all doubt, or to a mathematical or scientific certainty.
So what do we have here, and why was the judge confused by such a seemingly silly and unnecessary question? How did the discussion of what is “humanly possible” even get introduced in the first place?

My guess is that it really had nothing to do with Libby’s memory, but that one of the jurors is clinging to the idea that it is not humanly possible to know that Libby lied, hence there will always be reasonable doubt!

In trying to get clarification that would shake this idea, the rest of the jury posed the wrong question, and the judge may have tried to get them to rephrase the question in such a way that makes the answer more obvious, even to a stubborn juror!

In my view, the more appropriate question is: Is it humanly possible for a juror to have reasonable doubt that Libby lied? That is - to have doubt based on reason, rather than doubt based on imagination or speculation?

Well, based on imagination, I have no problem speculating about the unlikely confluence of an extremely small-headed yoga master with a very relaxed sphincter. So, in that sense, it is "humanly possible" for one of the jurors to have his or her head up his or her own ass!

But, based on reason, I don’t think so!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Dick Cheney, Supervillain!

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Yesterday’s New York Observer contained a great one-two punch straight to the heart of the secretive, self-appointed and stolen, shadow presidency of Dick Cheney.

As we learn more and more about his secret goal of expanding U.S. Military operations in the Middle East, including the possibility of nuclear war in Iran, it is becoming pretty clear that Dick Cheney has become a real-life version of some of the great fictional supervillains. His image now seems to belong right alongside of such notables as Lex Luthor, The Penguin, and Ernst Stavro Blofeld (pictured above).

With new evidence that the devious Cheney may be certifiably insane, as suggested by recent news accounts that went something like this:
Speaking on a condition of anonymity, a “senior administration official” said, of Dick Cheney’s recent trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan, “I’m the Vice President, and you’re not!
Frankly, I’m surprised he didn’t try to further conceal his identity by adding: "So go f**k yourself, before I shoot you in the face!"

Cheney’s underhanded and megalomaniacal schemes have brought the country, and the World, to the brink of self-destruction, and something dramatic may have to be done to stop him.

Unfortunately, it seems all we can hope for now is that some mild-mannered congressman (or woman) is secretly able to transform into a superhero in time to stop Dick Cheney from carrying out his dastardly and fiendish plans!

Somebody? Anybody? So far, all I’m seein’ are birds and planes up there!