Deserter

Remember how everyone freaked out when Michael Moore called Bush a "deserter"? Pundits right and left excoriated him. 'Wingers everywhere fell all over themselves puffing up the Chimp's military record to the point where you expected them to erect a bronze statue of Bush in his TXANG flight suit on the White House lawn. Everyone agreed that Moore's charge was over-reach at best, libelous at worst.

Well, well, well. What do we have here?

Looks like maybe Dumbya was a "deserter" after all:

An examination of the Bush military files within the context of US Statutory Law, Department of Defense regulations, and Air Force policies and procedures of that era lead to a single conclusion: George W. Bush was considered a deserter by the United States Air Force.

After Bush quit TXANG, he still had nine months of his six-year military commitment left to serve. As a result, Bush became a member of the Air Force Reserves and was transferred to the authority of the Air Reserve Personnel Center (ARPC) in Denver, Colorado. Because this was supposed to be a temporary assignment, ARPC had to review Bush’s records to determine where he should ultimately be assigned. That examination would have led to three conclusions: That Bush had “failed to satisfactorily participate” as defined by United States law and Air Force policy, that TXANG could not account for Bush’s actions for an entire year, and that Bush’s medical records were not up to date. Regardless of what actions ARPC contemplated when reviewing Bush’s records, all options required that Bush be certified as physically fit to serve, or as unfit to serve. ARPC thus had to order Bush to get a physical examination, for which Bush did not show up. ARPC then designated Bush as AWOL and a “non-locatee” (i.e. a deserter) who had failed to satisfactorily participate in TXANG, and certified him for immediate induction through his local draft board. Once the Houston draft board got wind of the situation, strings were pulled; and documents were generated which directly contradict Air Force policy, and which were inconsistent with the rest of the records released by the White House.

Hey, Peter Jennings, how about a nice big cup of Shut The Fuck Up?

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Political Animal Mauls F/9-11

Kevin Drum has his review of Fahrenheit 9-11 up, and it's... horrible. And, believe me, I say this as a fan of his site.

Drum was apparently unimpressed by the movie. That's fine. Moore's style doesn't suit everyone's taste. But rather than leave it at that, he goes on to suggest that the movie's redeeming value lies in it being a mirror image of the duplicitous rhetoric the pro-war crowd has been using against the left. For example:

Take the first half hour of the film, in which Moore exposes the close relationship between the Bush family and the House of Saud. Sure, it relies mostly on innuendo and imagery, but then again, he never really makes the case anyway. He never flat out says that the Bush family is on the Saudi payroll. Rather, he simply includes "9/11," "Bush," and "Saudi Arabia" in as many sentences as possible, thus leaving the distinct impression that George Bush is a bought and paid for subsidiary of the Saudi royal family.

Which is all remarkably similar to the tactic Bush himself used to link Saddam Hussein to 9/11. He never flat out blamed Saddam, but rather made sure to include the words "9/11," "Saddam Hussein," and "al-Qaeda" in as many sentences as possible, thus leaving the distinct impression that Saddam had something to do with it.

Um, thanks, Kevin. Excuse me while I barf.

I mean, seriously, this is the kind of half-assed equivalence I expect to see drawn by hacks like Slate's Will Saletan or Jack Shafer, not from the typically insightful Drum. You know the drill:

  1. Focus on a perceived similarity of styles between a left-wing source and a right-wing source.

  2. Paint a nice, pretty, symmetrical picture.

  3. Avoid getting into the messy business of evaluating the veracity of the claims involved.

Wait, wait, let me try my hand at this:

"In his film, Moore repeatedly links the terms 'table', 'chair', and 'lamp'. Sure, he doesn't ever come out and say what the relationship between them is. But he implies there is one. This tactic strikes me as perfectly analogous to the Bush administration's repeated linking of the terms 'car', 'truck', and 'orangutan'. Indeed, it could very well serve as a sly commentary on the administration's underhandedness, were it not for the fact that Moore clearly didn't mean it that way."

Give me break, people, OK? Do I need to spell out the radical differences between what Moore does here and what the Bushies did making their case for war?

Moore: Describes links between the Bush family and various Saudi political and business interests. These links exist. They are matters of fact. Moore hints at what he thinks these connections mean, but, by and large, leaves it for the viewer to come to their own conclusion.

Bush Administration: Describe links between Saddam and Al Qaeda. These links do not exist. The administration knows this, but pretends that the facts of the matter are ambiguous. Bush, Cheney, and crew use this bogus assertion as part of their campaign to make Iraq the "central front in the war on terror".

Fahrenheit 9-11 has it's flaws, but comparing it to the right's pro-war propaganda is unfair in the extreme. Love Moore's style or hate it, this film does not fall down on the factual record. Moore's propaganda is based on reality. The administration's is based on lies. Drawing bullshit parallels between the two? That's what I call a real cheap shot.

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A Decision Beyond Partisanship (Well, Almost...)

Supreme Court to George W. Bush: You are not the Law:

[T]he opinions, concurrences and dissents were decisive on this: They represent a nearly unanimous repudiation of the Bush administration's sweeping claims to power over those captives.

Liberal or conservative mattered little in the ultimate outcome. The court roundly rejected the president's assertion that, in time of war, he can order the "potentially indefinite detention of individuals who claim to be wholly innocent of wrongdoing," to quote the court's opinion in the case of foreign prisoners held at the U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In fact, the administration's claim to such power over U.S. citizens produced an opinion signed by perhaps the court's most conservative justice, Antonin Scalia, and possibly its most liberal, John Paul Stevens.

"The very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of separated powers has been freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the Executive," Scalia wrote, with Stevens's support.

In this way, the court's rejection of the executive-power arguments in the cases might be seen as part of a reemergence of the other branches of government from the shadow of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. As the justices suggested several times in their opinions, emergency measures that might have been within the president's power in the days and weeks just after 9/11 now must be reconciled withAmerican norms of due process.

This decision is a huge win for democracy, principled government, and the rule of law. The idea that one human being can be held at the whim of another without recourse to the courts or representation -- indeed without being confronted with the evidence against him -- is anathema to the principles this country was founded on. The fact that the court's conservatives, save one, joined the moderates and liberals in affirming this basic idea is cause for hope. It is also a sign of just how far this administration is willing to over-reach that they managed to turn two of their most shamelessly partisan backers -- Scalia and Renquist -- against them.

Alas, there was one holdout who stood up for the joys and blessings of dictatorial reign:

Only Justice Clarence Thomas embraced the administration's positions without reservation, referring in a dissenting opinion to "the breadth of the President's authority to detain enemy combatants, an authority that includes making virtually conclusive factual findings" that the Supreme Court is powerless to "second-guess."

Sad. Such a sad, stupid little man.

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Sane Republican Watch: Exhibit 1

"We attacked a sovereign nation, and we went in there and we did things that the United States shouldn't have done," Charles Drum, 36, a Republican from Alameda, Calif., said in an interview after the poll was taken. "I feel that we went after the wrong people, and it's unacceptable, and it's absolutely ridiculous that innocent people are dying over there in Iraq, and our own troops are dying for a cause that is not just."

(Huh. Wonder if he's related to Kevin...)

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Vote Bush? Not.

A lot of ink will be spilled this campaign season on the question of "Why should people vote for John Kerry?" It's easy to see why the question comes up. Kerry certainly wasn't my first choice, and I'm still sort of sniffing around his campaign page to see what, exactly, the guy is all about. Bottom line for me, however, is that it is sufficient for him to not be George Bush. You could chisel a statue out of municipal waste and put a suit on it, and I'd vote for it over Bush. It's as simple as that. I'm confident the Shit Statue would, at the very least, do less harm in office.

Unfortunately, not everyone feels that way. I assure you that, at this very moment, legions of people who would self-identify as "very likely" Kerry voters are out there furrowing their brows, wallowing in angst, wondering "Why Kerry?" And you will find, if you engage these people on the subject, that the gold of a good, solid pro-Kerry argument can quickly be transmuted into the lead of a not-Bush argument when exposed to the miserable alchemy of our nation's bipolar political atmosphere.

Today, however, my fiancée alerted me to an article in the Hartford Advocate that suggests a different counter-argument: Why Bush?

Alan Bisbort frames this question in the context of dealing with his pro-Bush brother-in-law:

[T]he more appropriate question I should ask my brother-in-law is: What has GWB accomplished to warrant your rewarding your vote to him for a second term?

My guess is that my brother-in-law would start by saying, "Well, he is not a liberal." And that would be true enough. George W. Bush is not a liberal. And I am not a pedophile, but that does not qualify me for the priesthood. Nor am I a crook or a crack addict, but that doesn't qualify me to be a G-man.

Then, he would say, "And he is not a member of either the Clinton or Kennedy families." End of discussion.

Maybe these "negatives" explain why otherwise rational people would consider voting (again) to hand our nation's most crucial job at a time when we're facing our gravest dangers to a man who hears voices from God, taunts his enemies, thumbs his nose at the rest of the world, lies to the United Nations, the Congress and the American people and finds adolescent humor in all this.

Indeed, the only things GWB has going for him are negatives. He is not a liberal. Not a woman. Not black. Not any persuasion, really, other than Connecticut WASP. Not gay (although Betty Bowers offers a "fabulous" assessment of that possibility at her hilarious Web site). Not a vegetarian, not a tree hugger, not even as smart as Billy Carter. Not, not, not: GWBush in a not-shell. He is simply "not" and nothing else can be said for him.

Here are a few more "Nots": Not a good president. Not by any measure, even those conservatives ostensibly hold dear. Not good at defending our country and making it safer. Not good at balancing the budget and controlling government spending. Not good at pruning the federal bureaucracy. Not even good at reducing taxes, if you step back and look at our total tax burden.

I understand the frustration of the "Why Kerry?" crowd. In an ideal world, after all, it would be nice to vote for someone for a change. But the reality is that's a luxury we don't appear to have right now, and if there were ever an election where idealism needed to be put aside so we can all keep our eyes on the prize, this is that election.

Bisbort concludes:

The deep political divides that exist in this country right now, and the fear and loathing that wafts out of Washington, D.C. to stoke this mean-spirited malaise, may make it impossible for Americans to be fully honest with themselves. Because if American voters were honest with themselves, they'd have to admit that, just this one time, the incumbent's miserable failings do not warrant turning to the Republican Party out of habit this November.

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Herbert on Health Care

Bob Herbert looks at the reality of health care in America:

The U.S. has the most expensive health care system on the planet, but millions of Americans without access to care die from illnesses that could have been successfully treated if diagnosed in time. Poor people line up at emergency rooms for care that should be provided in a doctor's office or clinic. Each year tens of thousands of men, women and children die from medical errors and many more are maimed.

But when you look for leadership on these issues, you find yourself staring into the void. If you want to get physicians' representatives excited, ask them about tort reform, not patient care. Elected officials give lip service to health care issues, but at the end of the campaign day their allegiance goes to the highest bidders, and they are never the people who put patients first.

To get a sense of just how backward we're becoming on these matters, consider that in places like Texas, Florida and Mississippi the politicians are dreaming up new ways to remove the protective cloak of health coverage from children, the elderly and the poor. Texas and Florida have been pulling the plug on coverage for low-income kids. And Mississippi recently approved the deepest cut in Medicaid eligibility for senior citizens and the disabled that has ever been approved anywhere in the U.S.

Even the affluent are finding it more difficult to obtain access to care. For patients with insurance the route to treatment is often a confusing maze of gatekeepers and maddening regulations. The costs of insurance are shifting from employers to employees, and important health decisions are increasingly being made by bureaucrats and pitchmen interested solely in profits.

On the bright side, health care seems to be one issue where, if pushed hard enough, people will fight. I can't see us travelling too much further down our current path before the demand for goverment intervention becomes too loud to ignore. Real suffering is involved here. Shouting "Yay! Capitalism! Yay!" at the top of their lungs will only blind the herd and cover the profiteers' asses for so long.

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Hitler, Anyone?

Some days, the GOP is so disgusting it's almost like they're trying to morph into a caricature of themselves. By now, many of you have doubtless received the DNC's e-mail alert about the new ad on the Bush/Cheney campaign site. The ad manages the amazing feat of getting John Kerry's mug and Adolf Hitler's demonic visage into the same 60 seconds of footage. Why is this amazing, you ask? Well, let's go back a few months...

Remember when MoveOn.org had their home-made ad contest during the Democratic primaries? Something like 1500 ads were submitted, all of them, of course, critical of Bush. Two of those submissions contained Hitler footage, which the authors used to not-so-subtly suggest a similarity of temperament between the two.

MoveOn's reaction was swift. They removed the ads from their site and publicly condemned them. Most of us on the left agreed that this was the right thing to do. Sure, in our weak moments we might toss out a Hitler-related low-blow, but this wasn't the time or the venue.

Anyhow, it didn't matter. The right wing went absolutely bat-shit, blowing the whole thing up into a big controversy, trying to use it to depict MoveOn -- and liberals generally -- as hate-filled and unhinged. You see, no civilized political operation would stoop so low as to link their opponent to Hitler. Right?

Well, no one except the GOP. You can go watch the ad yourself (uh, no, I am not linking to a fucking Bush site). See, here's what they did: The setup for the ad states that it is wrong to compare the president to Hitler. Then it says that John Kerry has not condemned the two MoveOn ads that drew such a comparison. Then they roll a bunch of footage. Al Gore shouting about Bush. Howard Dean ranting about Bush. A snippet from one of the Hitler ads. John Kerry sermonizing about Bush. Another snippet from the Hitler ads.

It's a nice effect, really. Splice old uncle Adolph in between those crazy, ranting Dems. Makes you think maybe the Democrats are, what, I don't know, fascists? But surely George Bush's campaign wouldn't stoop that low on such a flimsy pretext, would they? I mean, honor and dignity, people. Changing the tone. What happened to that?

Truly, I am in awe of their audacity. I can't wait to see how they spin their way out of the this one. 'Course the media will probably give them a free pass and fail to look at the whole back-story behind the ads and MoveOn's response. (Did anyone ever ask Kerry what he thought of the MoveOn submissions in question? Doubt it.) Or maybe this will be that rare instance where the GOP goes too far and they actually get called on it. We'll see.

One last thing: For the record? I have no problem with anyone comparing the Bushies to Hitler's crew. As they've now conclusively demonstrated, the fucking pigs deserve it.

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Kinney Bitch-Slaps Hitchens

If you are one of the unfortunate souls who has been subjected to Christopher Hitchens' perfidious attempt to slime Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9-11, then today is your lucky day, because Aaron Kinney's got the antidote. Click right on over to parts one and two of Kinney's merciless bitch-slapping of Slate's most dishonest writer. (Quite a feat, that, too...)

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No, Fuck You, Dick

It seems Dick Cheney got a little out of line during a heated discussion on the Senate floor with Patrick Leahy the other day, telling the Vermont Senator "Go fuck yourself."

Me? I'm not upset with Cheney for dropping the F-Bomb. Nah. Real men swear, OK? Get over it.

No, I'm upset with Patrick Leahy.

I'm upset that Leahy didn't say "No, you go fuck yourself, you disgusting little toad. Grab that tiny, shriveled dick of yours, Dick, give it a good pull and see if you can stuff it up your lying, secretive little ass, you fucking worthless piece-of-shit warmongering corporate whore. And when you're done, why don't you walk on down to the Senate cafeteria and stand next to a microwave?"

Or, um, something like that.

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Vil-Who???

This is from John B. Judis, guest blogging for Josh Marshall over at TPM:

Speculation is rife about whom John Kerry will choose as his running mate. Newsweek reports that Kerry "is engrossed in the final short list of veep picks. Kerry sources say the choice is narrowing to Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and former House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt, and that the candidate remains personally uncomfortable with Sen. John Edwards." I have no idea whether this report is accurate, but if it is, the Democrats are in trouble.

Whoa! No shit! Tom fucking Vilsack??? I kept hearing this guy's name surface, but I thought it had to be a joke. This would be the most bizarre choice for a running mate since Perot chose Admiral James "Who Am I? Why Am I Here?" Stockdale. Anyhow, Judis continues:

There are different criteria Kerry and the Democratic convention delegates should use in choosing a running mate, but they should not include whether the candidate is "personally comfortable" with whomever he chooses. If John F. Kennedy had used this criterion in 1960, Richard Nixon would have won the election. If Ronald Reagan had used it in 1980 and chosen his friend Nevada Senator Paul Laxalt rather than his leading challenger George Bush, Reagan might have lost that election. Gore did use this criterion in 2000, and it's one reason why he lost. In the final tally, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman didn't bring Gore a single electoral college vote. Kerry has to choose a running mate who, above all, will help him win states in the Midwest and South that he may not be able to win on his own.

I think this sheds some light on Kerry's earlier obsession with McCain. Initially, I thought Kerry wanted to bring McCain on board as part of a bold, strategic move to unite the country behind a two-party ticket. Now, based on the above, it seems much more likely that the reason he really wanted McCain is that the two are close friends.

Earth to John Kerry: You're not picking a friggin' bowling partner. As Eric Alterman put it so wonderfully "Elections are not therapy." That goes for you too. This is about strategy and it is about winning. It is about kicking that shit stain Bush out of the Oval Office. It is most certainly not about finding you a love connection. Freak.

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"Hate" - A (Very) Short Skit

Right-Wing Blogger: "I think all liberals and Democrats are fucking traitors. It's not simply that their ideas are stupid and evil, they themselves are rotten to the core. Disenfranchisement or exile would be too good for these people. No, we should execute them as enemies of the state. Well, torture them first -- hmmm.... since liberals are all terrorist sympathizers, do they qualify as "unlawful combatants"? -- and then execute them. And after executing their sorry asses, we should eviscerate them and then dump their steaming guts into the Potomac as a warning to any other would-be pussy traitors who fail to adhere to the true vision of America described by the Republican platform and embodied by our greatest president ever, George W. Bush."

Left-Wing Blogger: "I think the so-called conservative agenda being promoted by these dishonest, dirtbag right-wingers is a serious threat to American democracy. It's absolutely imperative that we defeat these idiots come November."

Right-Wing Observer: "See! SEE! You guys are just as bad! JUST AS BAD!"

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John Ashcroft Protects His Own

Krugman's piece on Ashcroft this morning contains a pretty amazing story that really gets to the heart of who Ashcroft is:

In April 2003, John Ashcroft's Justice Department disrupted what appears to have been a horrifying terrorist plot. In the small town of Noonday, Tex., F.B.I. agents discovered a weapons cache containing fully automatic machine guns, remote-controlled explosive devices disguised as briefcases, 60 pipe bombs and a chemical weapon — a cyanide bomb — big enough to kill everyone in a 30,000-square-foot building.

Strangely, though, the attorney general didn't call a press conference to announce the discovery of the weapons cache, or the arrest of William Krar, its owner. He didn't even issue a press release. This was, to say the least, out of character. Jose Padilla, the accused "dirty bomber," didn't have any bomb-making material or even a plausible way to acquire such material, yet Mr. Ashcroft put him on front pages around the world. Mr. Krar was caught with an actual chemical bomb, yet Mr. Ashcroft acted as if nothing had happened.

..it sounds over the top to accuse Mr. Ashcroft of trying to bury news about terrorists who don't fit his preferred story line. Yet it's hard to believe that William Krar wouldn't have become a household name if he had been a Muslim, or even a leftist. Was Mr. Ashcroft, who once gave an interview with Southern Partisan magazine in which he praised "Southern patriots" like Jefferson Davis, reluctant to publicize the case of a terrorist who happened to be a white supremacist?

More important, is Mr. Ashcroft neglecting real threats to the public because of his ideological biases?

The answers to those questions are "probably" and "most certainly". From the moment he took over the position of attorney general, John Ashcroft has used it to pursue his own culture-war hobby horses. Prostitution and pornography rings were high on his list of targets, as were people who took advantage of their states' medical marijuana bills. Meanwhile, enforcement of laws meant to protect patients at abortion clinics from rabid protestors were laxly enforced. And terrorism? That piddling concern didn't even make Ashcroft's Top Five list until 9-11.

A horrifying spectacle, this man's tenure at the Justice Department. And yet the strange case of Attorney General John Ashcroft is just one more instance where the politically astute saw the shitstorm coming way before everyone else. During his confirmation hearings, the left side of the web reeled as the Democrats put up only a token resistance before rolling over and allowing this known extremist to take the reins of the country's law enforcement apparatus. It was clear to anyone without partisan blinders on that John "No King But Jesus" Ashcroft would not enforce the law fairly and evenly, but would instead use the AG position in the service of his religiously-insane far-right agenda. Mainstream pundits, of course, didn't listen. Instead, they chastised the Democrats as obstructionist and uncooperative for the few objections they did voice against Mr. Ashcroft.

Well, people, do you see the light yet? And how many more cases like this have to happen -- cases where the "extremist", "alarmist" left gets it right only to have the placid middle grounders come around years too late -- before America wakes up and sees the conservative movement for the threat that it is?

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Clinton

You know, part of me wishes that Clinton could've just stayed quietly retired. As much as I find the man interesting and want to read and hear what he has to say, his presence has the unavoidable effect of bringing all the right-wing maggots and roaches crawling back out of the woodwork. Check out this front-pager in the Times to get a taste of the freakish reality these people live in:

In the buildup to the release of "My Life," the talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, another villain of Mr. Clinton's narrative, has begun calling the book "My Lie." And a column in the American Spectator, once the leading journal of Clinton-bashing and another target in his book, pronounced "a long hot Clinton summer is upon us" and derided Mr. Clinton's expressions of contrition for his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

"Yes, it's terrible to be caught," the Spectator wrote, "though rather delightful to commit moral error when no one is looking."

In the conservative Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes, the executive editor, called Mr. Clinton "Calvin Coolidge without the ethics and self-restraint."

Keith Appel, a Republican media consultant, said that the Web-based Drudge Report, which rose to prominence during the Clinton years, is playing a leading role again.

"That Web site is read by millions of conservatives and just about every conservative talk radio host in the country," Mr. Appel said, noting a headline that said, "After Reagan Week, Now Comes Clinton Summer." "The airwaves are hot with it already, bringing back all the bad news about the Clinton impeachment, lying under oath, the stain he has brought on the presidency. It helps remind people that the Bush administration is the antithesis of Clinton."

To drive home the point, Bush campaign allies are reviving talk about the honor and dignity of the Oval Office in thinly veiled references to the Clinton years. "I have found that the best way to get a rousing response from a crowd is to say that whatever disagreements you may have with President Bush on one issue or another, nobody can argue that he hasn't restored honor to the White house," said Gary L. Bauer, chairman of the organization American Values.

On reading Appel's quote above -- "It helps remind people that the Bush administration is the antithesis of Clinton" -- my fiancée remarked "He says that like it's a good thing."

Indeed. Seeing these shameless fools back in the news, spouting the same unhinged nonsense we heard back then as if nothing has changed, as if history hasn't completely discredited their viewpoint, one mourns for the death of consensus reality. Honor and dignity? Bush has killed them as dead as the 700 soldiers we've lost in Iraq. And, given our standing in the world now, they may never rise again.

Of course, maybe I'm wrong to worry. Maybe dragging all this stuff back out and allowing the public to contrast the phony scandals of the Clinton years with the very real jeopardy our nation is in now will set a few light bulbs off over some heads. I doubt it. Whatever the Thinker Thinks, the Prover Proves, after all. But you never know. I suppose I have to allow for the possibility that people can still learn, can still change their minds. The alternative, after all, is permanent cynicism about the future of my country.

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Two Posts

Two blog posts I would like to commend to everyone's attention:

First, Dave Neiwert responds to Tucker Carlson on the question of which side of the political divide is responsible for the most violent rhetoric. If you're not normally exposed to the right-wing hate-o-sphere, you might find some of the examples he provides truly disturbing.

Second, Digby excerpts and amplifies Pierce's Friday rant on Altercation about the media's sudden soothing calls for political civility.

Have a great remainder of the weekend.

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Those Annoying Democrats

Kevin Drum has a quote up today that is sure to be an instant classic. The subject is Vladimir Putin's recent move to back Bush on his Iraq/Al-Qaeda lies (emphasis mine):

DEMOCRACY....Yesterday I was wondering why Vladimir Putin wants George Bush to be reelected. Here's one analyst's answer:

"It's apparent that Russians and President Putin are interested in a second term for Bush," said Liliya Shevtsova of the Carnegie Moscow Center. "We've always had good relations with Republicans. We dislike Democrats, because Democrats always care about democracy in Russia."

Yeah, Democrats can be annoying that way. It's much easier to deal with Republicans who occasionally jabber about democracy but never actually do anything about it, isn't it?

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Kenny Boy is Going Down

Well, now, this is excellent news (emphasis mine):

HOUSTON - Kenneth Lay, Enron Corp.’s founder and former chairman, could be indicted on charges stemming from its 2001 collapse by the end of June, sources close to the case told The Associated Press on Saturday.

Two sources who spoke to The AP on condition of anonymity said federal prosecutors are aggressively pursuing Lay, and witnesses with information about him have recently testified before a special grand jury probing Enron’s December 2001 collapse.

Barring any delays, federal prosecutors aim to ask the grand jury for an indictment before the Fourth of July, the sources said. The Houston Chronicle first reported the possible indictment in Saturday’s editions, citing unidentified lawyers close to the case.

It was unclear what kinds of charges would be filed against Lay, a friend and contributor to President Bush. The sources said any indictment would include conspiracy charges for allegedly participating in hiding Enron’s true financial condition before its collapse into bankruptcy.

Like I said when they went after Skilling, got to give the team prosecuting this case their props. I never really thought they'd take it this far. I thought Fastow would be the fall guy, and that would be it. Instead, here we are at the top of the Enron pyramid. Kenny Boy Lay might be only a trial away from a nice, cozy cell.

Of course, the real bonus would be if they get him on the stand and he comes clean about his dealings with the Bushies. Like how they let him pick the FERC chairman. How they OK'ed Enron's screwing over of California. What really happened inside Dick Cheney's energy committee meetings. That would be too good to be true.

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Gays And the Church

My fiancée just asked me the following question: "How come the church is so against gay marriage, but priests molesting little boys is OK?"

Well, now, the more you think about it, that almost answers itself, doesn't it?

I mean, if gays were allowed to marry, if they were so completely accepted and integrated into society, that would deal quite a blow to church staffing, wouldn't it? Just think, all those sexually frustrated gay men who are so terrified of coming out that they instead choose to take a chastity vow and don the collar? They might just say "Ah, fuck this shit!"

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Aaron Thinks Cheney is... Lying

Aaron Kinney over at Hornswaggler seems to think Dick Cheney is lying about purported links between Saddam and Al-Qaeda. How do I know this? Well...

Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies!

In response to the determination by the 9/11 commission yesterday that Saddam Hussein was uninvolved in the Sept. 11 attacks and that there was never any relationship between Al Qaeda and the Iraqi regime, Vice President Dick Cheney came out and called The New York Times' coverage of the news "outrageous."

Today's Times quotes Cheney as saying on CNBC that the Times, in running a headline saying the panel "Finds no Qaeda-Iraq Tie," was trying to "fuzz up" up the distinction between 9/11 itself and the decade leading up to it. "Sometimes," Cheney said, referring to the Times' bias, "it's through ignorance. Sometimes it's malicious."

Are you fucking kidding me? Are you fucking kidding me?

Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies!

You really do have to hand it to Cheney. I mean, lying comes easy to politicians, sure, but this is different. It takes no particular skill to lie when you've got some ambiguity in the facts to cover your ass. But to continue lying when the issue you're lying about has been completely settled, when everyone with two neurons to rub together knows you're lying, well, that's another feat entirely. That takes a special kind of man. A special kind of small-minded, morally bankrupt, utterly, nakedly fraudulent man. A man like our Vice President.

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Back From The Dead

Got a new post up in Sports. Yeah, I know I've slacked horribly on the non-front-page sections of the site. I promise to reform.

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Ending the Age of Argument?

The mythical Iraq/Al-Qaeda love affair made it's way back into the news this week, pinning the needle and breaking the casing on my outrageometer. On Monday, Cheney was caught insisting yet again that Iraq "had long-established ties with Al Qaeda." Then the 9-11 Commission released their report on Tuesday stating unequivocally that Iraq had no "collaborative relationship" with Al-Qaeda. On Wednesday, a White House staffer, asked if the administration would back away from Cheney's claims in light of the report, said "Hell, no!". And, sure enough, today, BushCo was out in force, aggressively asserting a claim that every denizen of the non-Bush-partisan portion of the universe knows to be untrue.

It's enough to make capillaries spontaneously burst in your tongue and eyeballs.

Alas, has it come to this? Is this the end of the Age of Argument? What, after all, is the point of engaging in any sort of debate when the opposition will not concede the most basic, proven facts of the case?

Which got me thinking. How would they like it? Yeah...

Imagine, you're at a cookout, and your idiot conservative co-worker (or some other such politically-challenged type) steps up to you, clearly wanting to start some shit. Before long (actually, way, way before "long"), he brings up Clinton. "HE LIED UNDER OATH! THAT'S PERJURY, DAMMIT!" You, sensing the way this conversation is going to go, because you've actually had it a few hundred thousand times before, decide to try something different.

YOU: "But, you do realize that Clinton never had sex with her."

HIM: "You mean except for oral sex, right?"

YOU: "No, no sex of any kind. Never happened. In fact the whole idea that they had an affair is just a conservative fantasy promulgated by the right-wing media."

HIM: "You're nuts! Clinton admitted it himself!"

YOU: "Well, yes, but only to defuse the political pressure."

HIM: "WHAT??!! Give me a break! What about the dress???"

YOU: "What dress?"

HIM: "The dress with his semen on it?!"

YOU: "Well, if such a dress does exist, it was planted."

HIM: "%$^*$#$%^#$%^@###$!!!!!"

Seriously, I think I'm going to try this at my next family outing. I mean, if Dick Cheney and assorted 'Wingers can go on denying the incontrovertible evidence that exists regarding their pre-war Iraq claims, all in the name of backing their team, why can't we?

Oh, that's right. Because we give a shit about the truth.

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Pistons Win! In FIVE?!

Congratulations, Detroit, and thank you!

Thank you for sending Karl Malone, one of the NBA's all-time dirtiest and most dishonorable players, home without a ring.

Thank you for puncturing Phil Jackson's ill-earned aura of invincibility. Hey Phil, I hear the Hawks might be interested in your services. What's that? Oh, that's right, no superstars to carry your faux-Zen-Master ass.

Thank you for preventing the dreaded four-peat.

Thank you for making Kobe's life just a little more miserable.

Thank you for doing a yeoman's job containing Shaquille "Offensive-Foul-On-Every-Possession" O'Neal.

Thank you for giving Rip Hamilton a proper stage upon which to shine. Put that ring right next to your NCAA championship one, Rip. You've done it all now.

Thank you oh so much for all of this, Detroit. Enjoy your title, you earned it.

Oh, and... LAKERS SUCK!!!

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WRX

Sorry for the light posting over the last few weeks. Been a little busier than usual. And, um, of course I'm somewhat preoccupied right now because yesterday I went out and bought myself one of these! Got a really good price on an '04 WRX with the premium package. Java Black Pearl finish. Power everything. Heated seats. Moon roof. Boost gauge. 6-CD changer with upgraded speaker system. Oh, and, thanks to the 2.0L turbo charged boxer engine mated to Subaru's renowned All-Wheel Drive, it does 0-60 in under 6 seconds. (sigh) Life is good.

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Greider

If you read only one article this weekend, make it William Greider's Under The Banner of The War On Terror:

When President Bush called Americans to enlist in his "war on terror," very few citizens could have grasped the all-encompassing consequences of the proposition. The terrifying events of 9/11 were like a blinding flash, benumbing the country with a sudden knowledge of unimagined dangers. Strong action was recommended, skeptics were silenced and a shallow sense of unity emerged from the shared vulnerabilities. Nearly three years later, the enormity of Bush's summons to open-ended "war" is more obvious. It overwhelmed the country, in fact deranged society's normal processes and purposes with a brilliantly seductive political message: Terror pre-empts everything else.

What this President effectively accomplished was to restart the cold war, albeit under a new rubric. The justifying facts are different and smaller, but the ideological dynamics are remarkably similar--a total commitment of the nation's energies to confront a vast, unseen and malignant adversary. Fanatical Muslims replaced Soviet Communists and, like the reds, these enemies could be anywhere, including in our midst (they may not even be Muslims, but kindred agents who likewise "hate" us and oppose our values). Like the cold war's, the logic of this new organizing framework can be awesomely compelling to the popular imagination because it runs on fear--the public's expanding fear of potential dangers. The political commodity of fear has no practical limits. The government has the ability to manufacture more.

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The Enron Tapes

Today's Big Non-Iraq Story is brought to you by your friends at Enron. Seems that those fun-lovin' robber barons got caught on tape yukkin' it up about all the rubes they were fleecing during the California energy "crisis" of 2001.

Go read these quotes. You won't believe this shit. I thought my head was going to explode. I mean, remember when half the punditocracy wanted to have Paul Krugman committed for suggesting that these guys were gaming the market? They thought he was being a conspiracy theorist. Right.

Here's my favorite bit of conspiring from the good ole boys at Enron:

In one transcript a trader asks about "all the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers of California."

To which the Enron trader responds, "Yeah, Grandma Millie, man. But she's the one who couldn't figure out how to (expletive) vote on the butterfly ballot."

"Yeah, now she wants her (expletive) money back for all the power you've charged right up - jammed right up her (expletive) for (expletive) 250 dollars a megawatt hour," the first trader says.

Let me describe my emotional reaction to this. When I read this quote, I wanted to grab the "first trader" by the back of the neck and shove a fucking brick through his face. Then I wanted to smash the "second trader's" knee caps in.

Please understand. I'm not saying I would do this. Or that I really want to do this. OK? Save me the moral condemnation.

I'm merely trying to communicate the depth of my visceral reaction to reading what these people said. I feel that in this case revealing the imagery above is justified because, frankly, I practically never feel this way. To tell the truth, I've never struck someone else in anger. Rarely feel the desire to. It takes a lot to get me this pissed off. Put it this way: My visceral reaction to this is stronger than that provoked by, for example, Nick Berg's beheading. The violence at Abu Graib. Suicide bombers in Israel. Even - get this - abortion clinic bombings. And, yes, I know, intellectually, that all of those things are more morally reprehensible.

I'll try to explain. Please forgive me if I fall short.

People choose to harm other people for a wide variety of reasons. Jealousy. Blind rage. Insanity. Religious conviction (a variety of insanity). And, perhaps more often than any other reason, people harm each other when they believe they have been treated unjustly. None of these reasons justify violence. But, to me, they do at least make it comprehensible. I can look at the actions people take based on these motives and say "Yeah, I can see how that could happen."

The one motive for doing harm to another person that is simply beyond my comprehension is this: Greed.

I don't get that. I don't accept that a human being whose needs are accounted for, whose wealth is sufficient to take care of themselves and their loved ones, could possibly harm another human being simply because they desire more. I don't comprehend it and I don't accept it. It's simply beyond me.

And that's what these jerkwad, Benz-driving, suit-wearing, yuppie assclowns did. The world was their oyster already, and in their lust for more, more, MORE, they thought it would be funny to rip off some poor grandmother in California. Some old woman, maybe living in a tenement, maybe on the edge of bankruptcy. Thought it would be funnier than all hell to jack up her electric bill and pocket the profit. Get it? Just to make themselves a little richer.

I don't believe there's a hell, but if I'm wrong and there is, these guys belong in it.

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A Short Cell Phone Rant

I realize that complaining about cell phone behavior is getting a bit tired, but I had an experience this afternoon that I had to share.

I'm leaving a meeting at work, and I'm heading for the elevator. A woman is walking into the elevator about twelve feet in front of me. She gets in, and immediately turns to punch her button. I'm practically at the door as she does this. The door starts to close, and I reach out, stop it, and get in. Another woman walks in right behind me.

Now I notice that the first woman is talking on her cell phone. And the next thing she says into her cell phone is "Look, can I call you back in a few minutes? Yeah. I couldn't push the button fast enough."

I swear to you I am not making this up.

The second woman says something vapid to the first like "Well. Cell phones. You know?" And then the first woman says "Yeah. Sometimes it's impossible to get away from other people."

"Well, now, gee, gosh, and golly," I did not say to her, "I'm so sorry for intruding on your ultra-sensitive personal conversation. I am chastened. I now realize that it was too much for the rest of us to expect you to have your private conversation somewhere, you know, fucking private maybe? Somewhere such as the desk you walked away from thirty seconds ago? Or maybe the car you'll be climbing into in two fucking minutes? No, by all means, next time I'll inconvenience myself and wait outside for the next car so that you can satisfy your need for instantaneous tele-gratification, you ignorant, clueless, obnoxious, anti-social asshole."

So, yeah, I was kinda pissed about that. But the truth is that, at the moment it happened, I was struck so completely speechless by the audacity of her comment, her bare-faced selfishness, that I just stared at her, slightly agape, without saying a word.

I have to ask: Do certain cell phone models have a special chip in them that disables the user's consideration-for-others circuitry?

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