Saturday, February 18, 2006

He had a lovely singing voice. Not many people know that.

It was a strange thing seeing the Vice President recieve a standing ovation yesterday after the week he'd had. It was matched by the surreal aspect of watching his victim, Harry Whitington, apologize for all the negative attention Cheney and his family enjoyed after the shooting. Fair enough. All Mr. Whitington had to take was a little bit of birdshot. That's nothing compared to the jokes of the likes of Jay Leno and whitheringly tough questions of Fox News' Brit Hume. Clearly Harry got the better part of the deal.

As usual the GOP can count on the rank-and-file fall in line. Consider this comment by a Cheney Supporter who attended the speech:

"We have somebody from Wyoming who made it to second-in-command, and that's a big deal for us," said Jim Kallgren, manager of the Snake River Pub & Grill, located a few blocks from the Capitol. "Because we get so many negative things [said] about us being so behind the times."

Because having a Veep from Wyoming that shoots a buddy in the face while hunting reflects SO positively on the state. Puh-leeze.

I'm afraid what we have here is just another example of the political tribalism that seems to be such a driving factor in Bush's Republican Party. It's difficult to explain the strong support shown Cheney to anything else. Taking the incident by itself and ignoring the subsequent attempt at cover-up, the BEST one can come away with is that Cheney is a careless hunter. How one can take that past indifference and into the state of righteous indignation on display in Wyoming falls outside of the realm of rational thinking.

My current fun-time reading is "Monstrous Regiment" by Terry Pratchett If you haven't read Pratchett he's sort of a cross between J.RR. Tolkien, Douglas Adams and Mark Twain. He mixes fantasy, sci-fi and political commentary.

In "Monstrous Regiment" a small squad of recruits consisting in part of a girl disguised as a boy named Polly, a Troll named Carborundum and a vampire named Maladict join up to fight for their country; the fundamentalist duchy of Borogravia. The problem is that Borogravia has little to no economy, little food and pretty much nothing of any value. When they ask their drill instructor why they're at war they get this answer:

"Well, be smart about this: you might not like everything about your country, eh? It might not be the perfect place, but it's ours. You might think we don't have the best laws, but they're ours. The mountains might not be the prettiest ones or the tallest ones but they're ours. We're fighting for what's ours, men!"

Since trolls are kind of slow it takes him until the middle of the night to get it:

"Okay , den, I fink I've worked this out. If people are groophar stupid, then we'll fight for groophar stupidity, 'cos it's our stupidity. And dat's good, yeah?

Several of the squad sat up in the dark, amazed at this.

"I realize I ought to know these things, but what does groophar mean?" said the voice of Maladict in the damp darkness.

"Ah, well... when, right a daddy troll an' a mummy troll--"

"Good, right, yes I think I've got it said Maladict."

Cheney may be a stupid, groophar Vice-President but he's THEIR stupid, groophar Vice President and that's all they really to know.

Oh, and the fact that he's from Wyoming.

Friday, February 17, 2006

I MEANT to do that.

Today's news that the Senate Intelligence Committee won't be investigating Bush's domestic spying program after all has to be a tremendous shock to all of us. Who would have thought that Pat Robert's committee, the same Committee that's continued to drag it's feet on "phase 2" of the use of intelligence by the Administration in the run-up to the Iraq War would spike a look at warrantless eavesdropping by this same Administration? Color me surprised.

I'm realizing that watching these guys squeeze and contort their way out of traps of logic brings out the same sick, strange mixture of feelings one gets watching an average episode of "Jackass." One part bemused awe, one part focused revulsion and a big part plain old embarrassment. (Whether it's embarrassment for the performers or ourselves I think is debatable.) We've all become perpetual rubber-neckers driving slowly by a horrible accident and trying not to look.

When this story broke two months ago it seemed once again like one of those "gotcha" moments in politics where a political party makes a misstep so enormous it falls well outside of the normal conventions of traditional political skullduggery. The language of the 1978 FISA law, not to mention the Constitution of the United States, seemed pretty unambiguous in it's language. In order for our government to intrude on the privacy of it's citizens it simply needs to acquire a warrant. The Administration refused to get such a warrant before initiating eavesdropping. They've clearly violated both the FISA statute and the 4th Amendment to the Constitution. Caught between an Administration who boasted loudly and publicly that they'd actually engaged in the spying and the clear letter of the law, the Administration's supporters in Congress were faced with Damocles Sword.

But then Roberts started his Contortionist act. This would be the biggest challenge of his career. (Admititedly made easier by his naturally spineless condition .) Could he worm his way between the letters of the 4th Amendment, up through the clauses in the FISA statute and still loop himself back around towards absolving the Administration of any wrongdoing? Was there ever really any doubt?

Thursday, they voted to forestall hearings in favor of developing White House-backed legislation establishing clearer rules for the controversial program. Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, is drafting legislation that would exempt the NSA program from the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act but limit eavesdropping to international calls.

Get that? They're going to okay Bush's program retroactively. I stand in awe and deliver a hearty golf clap towards the sheer enormity of this bitch-slap to objective logic and the rule of law.

Of course they can't ACTUALLY change the FISA law after-the-fact. There's this tiny little clause in the Constitution that reads "No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed."

What they can do, what they WILL do, is change the law then say something along the lines of "We meant to do that but just never got around to it, therefore it's our fault Bush had to break the law. Sorry about that." It's simply a loophole that Congress forgot to consider when they drafted the FISA law 30 years ago.

As for the violation of the Constitution, ever heard of the term "Originalism?" Conservatives, who take an "original" approach to interpreting the Constitution, are obviously in the best position to inform us of what the Founders intended to include in the text but mistakenly let slip through the cracks. Perhaps it was an edit that just didn't make it to the publisher. I have not doubt that Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito will reaffirm this position shortly.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


I was just about ready to drop the Paul Hackett thing after listening to him on Randi the other night. It's pretty clear he got shafted by the powers-that-be in the democratic party in encouraging him to run then reversing course and encouraging him to drop from the race to clear the field for Sherrod Brown. Despite Paul's obvious displeasure he encouraged us to work towards a Democratic majority and, yes, to help to elect Brown to the U.S. Senate.

Then this morning lefty radio personality Thom Hartman blundered into the debate on his local Portland show and decided to pull back the scabs and, to insult to injury, pour lemon juice onto them. Thom accused Hackett of "wrecking" the party in the way he was so vocal about the political machinations of Reid and Schumer that caused him to pull out of the race. Thom then proceeded to repeat almost verbatim the arguments made by party insiders when this issue initially exploded (Brown never said he wouldn't run, only that he was undecided and it doesn't matter because when he eventually DID decide to run he declared before Hackett.) Arguments of questionable validity weakened further by the point that they totter dangerously over the precipice of irrelevance.

If you put the general he said/ she said aspect of the debate aside you're still left with the fact that it was the Senate Democratic leadership and not the Democratic voters of Ohio that chose the party's candidate to run against DeWine. That's why so many of us went postal at the news of Hackett's exit. That's what really threatens to wreck the party Mr. Hartmann. The same-old-same-old insider politics that have been slowly destroying the Democratic party over the course of the last thirty years. That and they hurt the "Fighting Democrat" frame.

In the past few months there's been a ton of discussion about the need to frame issues and define strong narratives for our candidates. So you'll understand when so many of us were exited by the "Fighting Democrat" story line that's been evolving with the 56 (oops, 55) Iraq war veterans that are running as dems. The prospect that many of these veterans could soon be in the halls of congress, sitting on committees and getting into the grills of congressional chickenhawks sends us into spasms of almost orgasmic glee.

Hackett and the rest of these fighting Democrats are Bush & Cheney and the rest of Congress that voted for the Iraq war resolution, both Democrats and Republicans, Frankenstein Monster. They MADE these men and women. They sent them into Iraq for nebulous reasons and formed them under a crucible of fire and IEDS. Now their creation is getting set to storm the castle and rip them limb from limb. They're scared. They should be.

Can you imagine the confrontation between some chickenhawk congressman arguing for, say, an attack on Iran and one of these veterans who have friends and family in the Shia line of fire so to speak in Iraq? There'd be feathers all over the floor when it was finally finished.

The first step towards what so many of us crave; a rational foreign policy, would be to elect as many of these Democratic veterans as possible and force Dr. Frankenstein to face the monster he stiched together out of lies.

That's why we couldn't afford to lose Hackett and why Hartmann is wrong.

Freeze, Gopher!

The world remains atwitter over the Veep's friendly fire incident, ominous silence and then belated mea culpa on FOX(*) Over at Digby's spot Tristero pondered Bob Herbert's call today for Cheney to step down/ pass his evil legacy to another. Tristero points out that neither scenario: Cheney staying or Cheney stepping aside to be replaced would be good for the country.

Now I see that Peggy Noonan joined the chorus of Cheney-must-goers. Wow. Just... wow. Once you've lost the support of a conservative leg-humper like Noonan you really have sunk to unbelievable depths. I still think the average Winger wouldn't blink twice had Cheney been caught dining on a live baby. It's the fact that Cheney shot a rich, white lawyer that gets to them. This is somebody they can identify with. This is one of THEM.

Ultimately, all the calls for Cheney to down seem silly. Cheney won't leave his job for the same reason he got his job in the first place: he picked himself. He is Vice President because, in his best judgement, he is the most qualified man for the job of Vice President. So as long as Dick Cheney has confidence in the job Dick Cheney is doing then Dick Cheney will be Vice President. Simple as that.

(* I refuse to use the liberal convention of referring to "Fox" news as "Faux" news only because it stopped being clever after about the one zillioneth time it was used.)

Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life.

Welcome to The Dean's Office. If you've had to come through my door you've then you've broken the rules. Perhaps you dumped a whole truck load of fizzies in the swim-meet. Perhaps you started a food-fight in the commons. Maybe you simply attended last night's toga fiasco at the Delta fraternity house. Whatever the crime, it goes without saying that you're a non-conformist and we here at Faber college don't like non-conformists. The purpose of this school is to shape young minds into machines of independent thought NOT to create rebels.

Before I dole out punishment for whatever the hell you've done let me just tell you about a young man at this school named Doug Neidermeyer. Doug's the Student Body President, President of the Honor Society, ROTC Officer and Rush Chair of the Omega House. Doug's an outstanding citizen and it's an honor to have him here at Faber.

Doug didn't get to be the fine young man he is today by initiating a midnight panty raid on sorority row. He didn't get there by squirting mashed potatoes out of his nose or having medical school cadavers delivered to the alumni dinner. He got to be that way by discipline. He got that way by hard work and the sweat of his brow. Not to mention a leg up from a rich, well-connected father who donates generously to this college.

As I look across my desk at you I have to say you are nothing like Doug, son. Not even close.

I'm putting you on double-secret probation.

Please tell Mrs. Johnson to hold my calls on the way out and... have a nice day.