January 31, 2006

Trying to Care

So a pure hour of Bush rhetoric and I'm left a bit underwhelmed. I'm not even pissed at much. I think that Kusnet was wrong. Bush eased up on the gas a lot. Or maybe I'm just used to more grrr out of Bush. Bush's mention of the NSA wiretapping program was painful in its evation of basic fact. The line about the "U.S. must kick oil addiction" I will ignore on the grounds that he is in no way serious about doing anything that would hurt oil companies. Bush used the exact same lines about Democracy in the Middle East and somehow completely ignored the Hamas victory in Palestine. That's a pretty big hole in the whole democracy = peace and love theme. No attempt to explain it, all he did just trot out the same lines. That's the LA LA LA can't hear you theory of democracy promotion. Somebody managed to give Cindy Sheehan a ticket to the event, but she was arrested before she could...I wonder what she was going to do? That would have been good television. Also, who the hell let Bush watch The Island of Dr. Moreau right before a big speech? He called for the banning of human/animal hybrids! Is this a pressing concern? The next thing you know, Bush will be calling for the Mutant Registration Act.


Attorney General Alberto Gonzales seems to have fibbed to Congress. Back when Congress was considering Gonzales for the AG job a year ago the issue was torture and Presidential power. Gonzales was walking back a White House memos that claimed the President had the power to aurthorize torture. Rus Feingold (D-Bill of Rights, WI) asked if the President had the power to bypass the law and aurthorize wiretaps. Gonzales used the classic dodge that he "would not answer a hypothetical question" Politico's use this dodge all the time. Really it means "That question sound tricky and I don't want to get tied up in it." The problem for Gonzales is that the question wasn't hypothetical. The illegal wiretap program was going on for several years at this point and Gonzales himself was key in formulating the justification for the program. Hypothetically that mean the Attorney General lied to Congress. And by hypothetically, I mean actually.

January 30, 2006

Ready to Rumble

State of the Union Tuesday night. Of course, tune into Craigorian Chant for the best analysis I can muster. For a good preview tune into David Kusnet who wrote these things for Bill Clinton back in what we now refer to as "the good old days."

Kusnet point is to expect a rather partisan, combative speech. None of that sweeping, city on a hill crap. Bush is at last stand time. Not only does he need to pick a fight, he needs to pick a fight he can win. Nothing seems a certain winner. Wiretaps, the Iraq War, even this health savings accounts thing, all of them are going to get worked over this year. Its not clear that Bush is going to get a clear win on any of them. Alito is going to be a win. The dems couldn't muster the votes for a filibuster today. Which means the simple math is that Alito gets the cool black robes. But the victory lap will be short. The news from Iraq is terrible, Iran is problem that's not going away, and the bomb that is Jack Abramoff has more victims to claim.

Bring me the head of John Doolittle!

Live From

ABC's "World News Tonight" anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt were badly injured in Iraq by an IED over the weekend. Woodruff is one of two anchors who replaced Peter Jennings. This just underlines that for all the happy talk, Iraq remains the most dangerous place on earth. This story from TNR's Lawrence F. Kaplan does a good job of showing what reporters face trying to cover Iraq.

A much safer place to report from is the World Economic Forum in Davos, Swizerland. Davos is a global gathering of the rich and powerful. Its the kind of place where the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, Bill Gates and the Dali Lama will all appear on the same panel discution together. Craigorian Chant European bureau Chief Chris C-B passes on this blogger who is covering the event. Highlight of Bill Clinton's appearance:

Schwab asked him to give advice to the next president, "who may be sitting in this room, or who may be your wife." Clinton smiled and say: "First of all, in this age of culturally changed circumstances, I should make it clear for the record that Senator McCain and I are not married."

Davos sounds like fun. Soon as this blog get its corporate sponsorship I'm going to go to Davos to blog. I will not be going to Iraq to blog.

Underworld: Evolution

I think I have to create a special genre of movie. It is the Action Movie with a Hot Babe that Craig Goes to See Even Though he Knows it Will be Bad. I'll call them AMHBCGSETKWB's for short. Tomb Raider, Elecktra and now the second Underworld Movie. Every time. I'm such a sucker. Kate Beckinsale is the draw in this case. She's in this marvelous black skintight outfit, which I was pretty sure was made of leather, but now I think is some kind of rubber material. She's pale and pretty and kills lots of things. Frankly, I got no idea what is going on in this movie. I wonder if anybody who made this movie knows. Its vampires and werewolves and lots and lots of blood. Pretty much everybody dies. Except Kate, who really is just too pretty to kill. So very, very pretty. So once again I have watched a movie when I should have know better. Its not like I learned my lesson though. There was trailer for something called UltraViolet staring Milla Jovovich. Sigh. Another AMHBCGSETKWB. I have to work on that acronym.

January 29, 2006

Year of the Dog

So today is Chinese New Year. So set off any fireworks that you might have left over from the 4th of July cause we got to keep the evil spirits away. Be careful:

There are many traditional taboos for Spring Festival. Crying on New Year's Day means you will cry for the rest of the year, and washing your hair signifies washing away good luck.

Likewise, the number "four" is banned, because it sounds like the word for "death", and using knives or scissors may cut off good fortune.

This luck thing is tricky.

January 27, 2006


Ah polls. The State of the Union is coming up Tuesday, so everybody wants to know the state of Bush's job approval. Not so hot. CBS has it at 42% approve/51% disapprove. LA Times and Bloomberg have him at 43%/54%. My favorite result is the CNN poll which showed 58% of people believed that Bush's second term has been a failure. I just wonder which newspaper the other 42% have been reading.

January 26, 2006

Oh for a Simple Problem

So I'm watching replays of Bush trying to explain himself with regard to the Palestinian elections. Painful. You can check out some video here. As long as Bush can stick with a simple script he can at least pass as having a brain. The simple script up to this point is "elections are good." Of course, things got complicated as soon as soon as reality brought an election of a terrorist group. Juan Cole, being a professor of Middle Eastern studies, lays it out better than I can.

But the point is, that it's only when things get complex that Bush reveals himself as having the mental capacity of a fern. If the action is simple, like declaring war or giving a stump speech or doing some version of "Me good, you Bad" he functions. Too bad the world is complex. Look, the downside to progress is that problems get harder, because we already solved the "easy" ones.

Polio is cured, we have to deal with AIDS,

We went to the Moon, now its time to go to Mars,

Europe is peaceful, so now solve the Middle East,

and so on. So the world is complex and Bush just can't do complex and so we get failure after failure. If only Bush had a simple problem he might be able to handle it, but the President doesn't get to do the simple stuff. The job just demands more than Bush has to give.

Wondrous Wine Web

Today's recommended web page is the Montevina Winery Page. This is Claire's baby and she is really proud and with good reason. This is the best winery homepage ever. The animation! The art! The text! Don't forget the text. The wine write-ups are great and all Claire:

Fuzzy little koala bears chewing on eucalyptus and sipping cheery cola - that's the image conjured up by the bright red fruit flavors and herbal aromas of Freisa.

Check it out.

Hamas Wins

Oh my. The Palestinians just had an election and Hamas just won. The two main political parties in play in this election were the ruling Fatah, the late Yasser Arifat's party which supports negociations with Isreal and Hamas, an Islamic party that rejects the peace process and is considered a terrorist organization by the US and Israel. The Hamas win is completely unexspected and completely blows up the Bush administration's approach to the Middle East. Bush pushed hard for these elections. He gives speech after speech about elections and democracy. Now a group has taken power that it is offical US policy not to talk to. Which means the "Peace Process" is dead in the water.

January 25, 2006

Old Times

Tantalizing bit of gossip from TPM. Back in 1998 at the height of the Clinton impeachment drama (Remember when sex was the only thing that Presidents did wrong?) Newt Gingrinch was tossed out as speaker of the House after the Republicans lost seats in the 1998. The new GOP leader was going to be one Bob Livingston. But it quickly emerged that Bob had fooled around and beacuse the GOP was in the middle of a sexual witch-hunt, they couldn't have a sinful leader so he dropped out in favor of Dennis Hastert, who is basically Tom Delay's puppet and has remained Speaker of the House to this day. The new bit:

Prosecutors now checking if Abramoff and Scanlon took Livingston down at DeLay's behest.

Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, Clausewitz: Pikers, Amateurs, Fools. If turns out to be true Tom Delay will go down as one the great political in-fighters in history. I'm sure going to miss him.

Asking the Important Questions

Why is President Bush so awesome?

Georgetown law students to Gonzales

January 24, 2006

Canada Votes

Ooooh, a Canadian election, how exciting. The Conservatives won one, which is a new thing. The Liberals have been in power for the last 12 years. The Liberals had themselves a big kick-back scandal and the thinking is that voters just got tired and wanted somebody new. Don't go thinking that Canada is moving to the right in a big way. Conservatives can only get into power by promising not to back the Iraq war and to never touch the Canadian health care system. So desperate American liberals can still flee to safety.

January 23, 2006

Lacks Subtlety

So now our Governator is getting into trouble with his right wing:

Republican activists disenchanted with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Thursday that they will try to strip the governor of the party's endorsement unless he fires his new chief of staff, Democrat Susan P. Kennedy.

Restive Republicans said they would rally conservatives behind a resolution, to be offered at the state GOP convention in San Jose next month, that may give Schwarzenegger an ultimatum: Dump Kennedy by March 15 or the party will withdraw its backing of his reelection bid.

Susan Kennedy's hire was part of Schwarzenegger's "lurch to the left" strategy that he hopes will save his ass come November. Kennedy is an out lesbian, former Grey Davis staffer and all around liberal. I would just like to say I totally called Schwarzenegger's move to left seven month ago. I don't like to brag, but I don't get these predictions things right that often.

The real problem with Arnold the Governor is that he lacks all subtlety, which you could pretty much guess from his acting career. Blowing things up is not the way a Governor gets things done. His "reform" agenda turned into a pissing match with cops, nurses and other popular unions. Now that his propositions have been beaten, he realizes that California is a liberal state and suddenly moves left and in a way that guarantees that he pisses off California conservatives, who are really the only people that still support him. If he had just stayed the Liberal Republican that he ran as, he could have gotten something done, but now he's just floundering.

January 22, 2006

West Wing: RIP

No more West Wing! My little political junkie's heart is breaking. Still. Seven years years is a pretty damn good run. That leaves five seasons I still need to get on DVD. Guess I just have to give Commander in Chief a try again if I want my political drama fix. West Wing proved two things:

That TV could be really smart and people would watch.

That you could do politics as drama and people would watch.

Which is why I will always be grateful for it.

January 21, 2006

Movies Explain the World

Somewhere on my to-read list is the book How Soccer Explains the World : An Unlikely Theory of Globalization. The concept is just too intriguing to pass up. We all want to understand the world, but who has the time? So we look for shortcuts. Sports in general, and soccer in particular seems like a pretty good way.

If I were to write such a book, it would be something like Movies Explain the World. I could tie the whole world to movies. The Internet and Netflixs. Global Hollywood and American Power and so on.

So here's a chapter on globalization and Movies. A horror/fantasy movie made in Russia called Nightwatch is tearing up the box office. The movie and it's sequel, Daywatch are breaking all kinds of records and beating the Hollywood imports that ususally fill Russia theaters. Yahoo has a trailer up. The flick looks visually dazzling and it shows a modern-day Moscow that you've never seen before. The global lesson: all movies and moviemakers become Hollywood movies and movie makers. Nightwatch is coming to the States in Febuary and director is coming to America:

Bekmambetov is due to shoot an English-language concluding film to the "Watch" trilogy in collaboration with Fox and Russian producers. Before that, he's due to shoot his next film, "Wanted," for Universal.

Globalism good = we would never have had chance to even hear about a dazzling new Russian movie a few years back, much less put it in our Netflix Queue. Globalism bad = Does eveybody have to go Hollywood? If Jerry Bruckheimer gets his hands on this guy and ruins him, I will be seriously peeved.

January 20, 2006

Quote of the Day

A spin too far:

"Look, this is going to come out. Nobody is going to keep it a secret. Jack Abramoff is so radioactive—I've got Jack Abramoff fatigue already. I mean, good grief, he didn't kill anybody. Maybe that one guy in Florida."

Ed Rogers, GOP lobbyist, from last night's Hardball. Via Talkingpoints Memo.

Tech Talk

First the fun tech news. We just lanched a probe to Pluto. Excellent, that will check off all nine planets for up-close pictures. New Horizons is the fastest spacecraft we have ever lanched. Earth to the Moon in nine hours. Even so, its not reaching Pluto till 2015. The mission homepage is full of great stuff.

Now for the scary stuff. The government is now seeking to look at Google's database. As in records of what everyone has searched for, ever. I'm suddenly painfully aware of everything I ever did a search for. Google is fighting this. This is going to be a huge case. All kinds of privacy issues here. Google is trying to get deep in all our lives, and because it's such a useful tool it is succesful. Which means if the government can get into Google, it gets deep into all our lives as well.

January 19, 2006

Iraq: The Game

I love it when you guys send me stuff. It balances my need to post with my need to be lazy. Chris sent in a great link. Remember those text based computer games like Zork or Hitchhiker's Guide? ...Anybody...(Cricket Chirps)...Ok, maybe only Chris and I remember, but this is still really funny.

January 18, 2006

Future Imperfect

Loyal Craigorian Chant reader and official timekeeper Larry has sent me a fascinating column in the Daily Telegraph by Neil Ferguson. It purports to be a work of a future historian, looking back at the causes of a “Great War” with Iran from 2007 to 2011. Now this is interesting for a couple of reasons. First of all, I love alternative and speculative historic fiction. I’m pretty deep right now in the “1632” series, which is about a modern small town in West Virginia getting thrown back in time to the Thirty-Years War and the religious, social and military impact of modern American ideals and technology on…but I digress. The other reason is that this is interesting is that Ferguson is completely wrong. About so very much. Ferguson cites three reasons why Iran’s power rises and leads to this future war:

The first underlying cause of the war was the increase in the region's relative importance as a source of petroleum. On the one hand, the rest of the world's oil reserves were being rapidly exhausted. On the other, the breakneck growth of the Asian economies had caused a huge surge in global demand for energy. It is hard to believe today, but for most of the 1990s the price of oil had averaged less than $20 a barrel.
A second precondition of war was demographic. While European fertility had fallen below the natural replacement rate in the 1970s, the decline in the Islamic world had been much slower. By the late 1990s the fertility rate in the eight Muslim countries to the south and east of the European Union was two and half times higher than the European figure.
This tendency was especially pronounced in Iran, where the social conservatism of the 1979 Revolution - which had lowered the age of marriage and prohibited contraception - combined with the high mortality of the Iran-Iraq War and the subsequent baby boom to produce, by the first decade of the new century, a quite extraordinary surplus of young men. More than two fifths of the population of Iran in 1995 had been aged 14 or younger. This was the generation that was ready to fight in 2007.
This not only gave Islamic societies a youthful energy that contrasted markedly with the slothful senescence of Europe. It also signified a profound shift in the balance of world population. In 1950, there had three times as many people in Britain as in Iran. By 1995, the population of Iran had overtaken that of Britain and was forecast to be 50 per cent higher by 2050.
Yet people in the West struggled to grasp the implications of this shift. Subliminally, they still thought of the Middle East as a region they could lord it over, as they had in the mid-20th century.
The third and perhaps most important precondition for war was cultural. Since 1979, not just Iran but the greater part of the Muslim world had been swept by a wave of religious fervour, the very opposite of the process of secularisation that was emptying Europe's churches.

Ferguson gets the oil part right but the other two completely wrong. These aren’t the Middle Ages. Sheer population and religious fervor don’t equal power. Science and technology equal power, both economically and militarily. All of which the West has in spades. Iran having a bigger army just means more targets for our smart bombs. Population growth without economic growth leads to poverty and unrest. Sure, Iran’s population is growing and now equals the UK’s. But Iran’s GDP is measured in billions and the UK’s in trillions. (CIA Factbook) Who would you bet on? Lots of disaffected young people in Iran are a much bigger threat to the Iranian regime than to the West. Going to church a lot isn’t going to get Iran a modern air force or navy. That is what you need if you want to play power games with the U.S., not lots of young people. Iran’s power is all about oil and the ability to make trouble in Iraq. You remember Iraq? It was the last overwhelming threat.

Iran with a nuke does not lead to war. If history has taught us anything, it’s that nukes and the perversity of MAD (mutually assured destruction) actually is huge incentive not to go to war. The U.S. and the USSR didn’t. India and Pakistan have fought four wars since independence, but nothing after they both got nukes. The math of deterrence is even worse for Iran. Let’s say a crash Iranian nuclear program produces one nuke by 2007 (Big If). Great Britain, France, and Israel have hundreds of nukes. The US has thousands. Iran could kill a city in Israel or Europe and will then cease to exist as a nation. Persian culture would be something we only study in books. Now I don’t care how much “youthful energy” you have, you don’t commit national suicide. I’m not saying that we should just let Iran have the bomb. Diplomacy and sanctions should be on the table Nuclear Iran would cause all kinds of problems in the region. A nuclear Iran would be bad, but the cure proposed is worse.

Ferguson's conclusion is that the only way to stop this future “war” is War Right Now. Some good old-fashion Bush-style pre-emption in the form of air strikes:

Yet the historian is bound to ask whether or not the true significance of the 2007-2011 war was to vindicate the Bush administration's original principle of pre-emption. For, if that principle had been adhered to in 2006, Iran's nuclear bid might have been thwarted at minimal cost. And the Great Gulf War might never have happened.

No, no, no. Air strikes will have all kinds of terrible fallout. They will not have minimal cost. The government we have installed in Iraq is Shia and pro-Iranian. They will not stand for us bombing Iran. The current insurgency is from the Sunni, who make up 20 percent of Iraq. The Shia make up 60 percent. When they rise up against us we are screwed. Helicopters on the roof of the embassy-type screwed, not to mention what a shooting war with Iran does to oil prices. So if we bomb Iran you can kiss Iraq and economic growth for the next five years goodbye, which is a pretty heavy price to pay for a pretty questionable “what if” future history. Please don’t buy what Ferguson is selling. I respect the literary device that he is using, but the world he is describing is as real as the one in my book with the time-traveling West Virginians.

January 17, 2006

Right to Die

The Supreme Court upheld Oregon's physician-assisted suicide law today in an 6-3 ruling. The actuall issue at hand is the conflict between the State law, which allows physician-assisted suicide and the Bush administration's DEA which was using Federal drug laws to block physician-assisted suicide in Oregon. For those of you keeping score at home the three dissenters in the case were Thomas, Scalia and the shiny new Roberts. This case is different in that it turns everybody on their head. Conservatives make a big noise over State's Rights and favoring the States over the Federal Government. But in this case we had the conservative Bush administration pulling some rather questionable moves in order to stomp all over a State law and the most conservative Justices backing their play. Which goes to show you that State's rights only seem to apply to conservative States

January 16, 2006


...is not on Bush's side. Every day that goes by is one day closer to inauguration day 2008 2009. And Bush's political pull drips away a little more the closer we get to that magic day. Anything and everything that keeps Bush occupied with "other stuff" means less time that Bush can spend on say, horrifyingly bad health care proposals. So the fact that the House Republicans are now locked in a three-battle to replace Tom Delay and that this leadership fight is going to step on Bush's State of the Union address just warms my heart.

Also, Al Gore gave a barn-burner of a speech on Bush's illegal wire-taps today. He keeps this up and we're going to start speculating on Gore making a new Presidential run. Now that I think about it, I'm really not finding the ideal all that terrible.


One man come in the name of love
One man come and go
One come he to justify
One man to overthrow

One man caught on a barbed wire fence
One man he resist
One man washed on an empty beach.
One man betrayed with a kiss

Early morning, April 4
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride

In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love...

"I Have a Dream" speech here.

January 15, 2006

Alexa is a Very Cool Person

Cool as the other side of the pillow.

So cool, when she goes to sleep, sheep count her.

Carry on.

January 13, 2006

Friday the Uh Oh

So I made it all the way to lunch without realizing that it's Friday the 13th. But now that it's been pointed out to me, I'm expecting the sky to fall in on me. I will attribute the bad mojo of the date for the fact that Hemingway's Bahamas bar burned down, thus making my lifelong quest to "Drink where Hemingway drank" much harder.

I'm also hoping that's the worst the bad mojo brings. Things are not shaping up well with Iran. Don't go thinking, like Bill O'Reilly does, that this is going to end up with us bombing Iran. Iran has the ability to really hurt the US if we try and bomb their nuke program. Oil for starters. Making the US position in Iraq untenable for round two. Unlike Iraq, where all the bad stuff from an invasion came as a "surprise," the bad stuff from attacking Iran is pretty clear.

January 12, 2006

Studies Show

Here's a fun afternoon at work activity. Studies show that over 7% of people drink at work. Now in my building that means that about 5 people are on the sauce right now.

Start a pool. Can you guess which of your co-workers are drinking? Who was drunk in that last meeting? The study shows people usually drink at lunch, so the afternoon is your time. This could really help fill up your day.

Beats working

Crying Game

Now we are getting somewhere: Alito's wife broke down and cried yesterday. Massive fingerpointing has resulted. Actually this means that we are getting no where. Really this stuff should be about Alito and the type of judge he will be. The fact is, that kind of judge isn't very popular. Striking down Roe is rather unpopular. So Alito, despite being on record as saying Roe is a bad ruling, has to dance around. The Democrates try and play "pin the view on the judge." Then the whole thing comes down to a vote and the GOP has more votes.

January 11, 2006

Hot Stuff

So what do you guys think? Will this kid grow up to be the most attractive human being the world has ever seen?

Storm Clouds

Alito hearing continues apace today. Reporters are so desperate for fireworks that a "Spat" between Senators Kennedy and Spector is getting top billing. Otherwise the hearings are getting dragged down by overwhelming mass of legal mumbo-jumbo and senatorial Ego. Can we please look into the man's sex life already?

More excitement, and not in a good way, on the international front. Iran is making moves to restart its nuclear program, much to Europe and the US's distress. A lot of factors make our position with Iran very difficult. The price of oil, US forces bogged down in next door Iraq, the US's sorry ass diplomatic standing all make dealing with Iran difficult. There's no military solution for Iran (see US forces, bogged down, Iraq) and diplomacy not exactly this administration's strong suit so pessimism would be healthy here. Kevin Sites, my favorite dude-with-camera-in-trouble-spot, is reporting from Iran right now. Good way to get a street level view of things.

January 10, 2006


There are only a fixed number of chords that you can play on a guitar. Everybody gets the same chords but some people sell millions and others clear a room the moment they open the case. The difference: execution. Alito has same goals and same audience that Roberts did in his quest for the fancy black robes. He's playing the same chords: joke, odes to the law, duck the hard stuff about Roe v. Wade. He just can't play as well. He's not as funny as Roberts. Not as graceful. I joked a lot about Roberts being boring. Roberts was boring on paper. In person he turned out to be rather winning. Alito is boring in person. Dahlia Lithwick is, as always, the best read on all things Supreme:

It doesn't help, either, that his (Alito's) facial expression throughout the afternoon is one of ferocious, determined impassivity. Unlike Roberts, who'd mastered the boyish "I'm listening" head tilt or the impish "Hey, you're funny!" acknowledgment of every senatorial joke, Alito keeps his eyes fixed somewhere on the middle distance; like while all this is happening around him, he is really very busy recalling a rather violent segment about mating lemurs on Animal Planet.

This might make a difference on the margins. Roberts managed to charm a few Dems into voting for him. Alito won't be winning anybody over this way.

January 9, 2006

Mouse on Fire

Here's one for the instant karma file. A man is burning leaves in his yard. Sees a mouse and throws it in the fire. The mouse, now ablaze, runs out of the yard and into the man's house! House goes up, woosh. Serves you right trying to torment a cute widdle mouse like that. For his heroic effort, the mouse was issued the rodent medal of honor with cheese cluster. Posthumously, of course.

This Week

Sam Alito nomination hearing kick off today so the mother of all Q and A sessions should be starting right...about...now!

GOP Corruption fallout to continue. Tom Delay announced that he wouldn't seek to get his job as Majority Leader back. White House kicking Tom Delay now that he's down can be found here.

Your reading assignment for the week is a really interesting post from Shakespeare's Sister on aristocratic privilege and obligation, Bush and the British Royals.

January 8, 2006

Doolittle on the Hot Seat

Growing up, my congressional representative was John Doolittle. If you think that Congressman Doolittle sounds like a cartoon, you might be right. Doolittle is the platonic ideal of a DeLay back-bencher. Not one political position that would surprise you. Always goes the conservative way. Gets in fights with the rest of the Sacramento-Area Congressional delegation over a new dam, of all things. A bland nothing of a Congressman who has a nice safe conservative district. But his wife was on Abramoff's payroll, he isn't returning his Abramoff $$$. And now this. Reps. John Doolittle and Richard Pombo went to bat in a big way for a Houston millionaire under investigation for his role in the collapse of a Texas savings and loan. The two Reps used the Congressional Record to sabotage the investigation:

The effort to help Hurwitz began in 1999 when DeLay wrote a letter to the chairman of the FDIC denouncing the investigation of Hurwitz as a "form of harassment and deceit on the part of government employees." When the FDIC persisted, Doolittle and Pombo, both considered proteges of DeLay, used their power as members of the House Resources Committee to subpoena the agency's confidential records on the case, including details of the evidence FDIC investigators had compiled on Hurwitz.

Then, in 2001, the two congressmen inserted many of the sensitive documents into the Congressional Record, making them public and accessible to Hurwitz's lawyers, a move that FDIC officials said damaged the government's ability to pursue the banker.

The FDIC's chief spokesman characterized what Doolittle and Pombo did as "a seamy abuse of the legislative process." But soon afterward, in 2002, the FDIC dropped its case against Hurwitz, who had owned a controlling interest in the United Savings Assn. of Texas. United Savings' failure was one of the worst of the S&L debacles in the 1980s.

This is an amazingly blatant abuse of power on behalf of a crooked, wealthy donor. That seat is looking a little less safe.

January 7, 2006

Clapp On--Clapp Off--(clap on, clap off)--The Clapper!!

As we National Geospatial Intelligence employees filed into work yesterday, a news report about our director began circulating amonst us via email.

Now, we all knew the Clapp was going to step down as the director of NGA this coming June. We all assumed this was his decision, that he had served his time and was moving on to other endeavors. What we didn't know, however, was what we all found out yesterday: That as a result of the Clapp's testimony to Congress, back in '04 he had really angered Donald Rumsfeld. As such, ole Rummy refused to renew his term.

This is a bad move. Clapp has taken NGA from an old school Cartography agency--that had very little impact on national policy--to a highly technical Intelligence agency that supports not only the armed forces overseas, but other intell agencies, All the Commands: PACOM, SOCOM, EUCOM, etc., completely overhauled the new analyst training program, the promotion system, signed huge contracts for commercial imagery, implemented the GeoScout Program. Clapper's been a government contracter, and Air Force General, and the director of the DIA. He has a wide range of experience and is really tech savy (despite having no real educational background in it; two degrees in Political Science--he's quick learner though). He would, at least a couple times a month, send emails out to us explaining recent decisions, transformations, polices. Would also conduct employee surveys about what we could do better, etc, read the all, and then actually listened to us and changed some shit around! He even turned down a higher paying gig at the Dept. of Home Land Security to stay with us. We're not just a map factory any more, like we were during the Cold War....NGA is actually a big player in the Intel community now. Seriously, this guy know his shit. It was by no means certain that our agency would be where it is today, had we been assigned someone other than Clapper to be our director. Very few senior Intel officers had the experience and vision of the Clapp...(Our last director was a narrow minded Army General....). He deserved to leave on his own terms.

Clapper had intended to stay and see through many of his decisions...Switching out directors at this point is idiotic. Clapper has his finger on too many button's, this is going to undoubtely set us back a bit because its unlikely we'll get someone with Clapper's extensive Intel know-how.

Man, I'm actually pissed at our Sec Def. I never thought I would be, but here I am!

Ode to Galactica

The upside to being down with a cold is that I can skip going out on a Friday night and just embrace the shear nerd joy that is Battlestar Galactica. I missed the first half of the second season with a cable system that didn't have SciFi channel and Netflix's won't help me out till the end of the month. Doesn't matter. This is the most riveting drama on television, full stop. I was right back in it. A second Battlestar has survived and the tactics that it has adopted are horrifying. There will be nothing left of humanity, physically or morally, if they take control of the fleet, but a direct fight will destroy everyone. Really need to know what is going happen next. Great great show.

Bonus cussing feature: Galactica uses "frack" as this universes equivalent of...you can guess. Its a rather fun way of getting all the cussing these characters need to do past the censors. Salon's video dog has highlights.

January 6, 2006

Bad Thing in the Middle East Part 1,047

So this is how the fate of nations is determined. Ariel Sharon had a massive brain hemorrhage, which has put Israeli politics into chaos. This being the Middle East, my guess is that the overall effect of this will be terrible, for no other reason than its taking place in the Middle East. In related news, we can always count on Pat Robertson to say exactly the wrong thing.

Speaking of terrible, bloody day in Iraq. Eleven U.S. troops and 140 Iraqis were killed in attacks on Thursdays alone. The pattern is now fixed: Violence, Violence, Violence, peaceful election after massive security effort and County-wide lock-down, Violence, Violence, Violence. The solution is now clear: have an election every week. Its the only thing that stops the killing.

January 4, 2006

No Happy Endings

I went to bed thinking I would write a post with a different title this morning. After being told that 12 of 13 the miners trapped in a West Virginia coalmine were found alive, the families now know that only one man got out alive. The thing about instant communication is that if you watch closely enough, you can get every emotional swing that the people on the scene do.

Up in the California foothills where I grew up we all get told about the Argonaut Mine Disaster. It's a part of local lore. In 1922 47 men were trapped after an explosion. (hard-rock gold mine, not coal) It took 22 days for rescuers to reach them. All signs indicated that the men lasted a few days, if not hours. They had time to write messages to their families before they died. But the event got worldwide media coverage and put 47 families under an agonizing spotlight. So really, we haven't come that far, have we?

January 3, 2006

Good Start

Jack Abramoff copped a plea deal today. Lighter sentence for cooperation with the Feds. That's a deal that makes for some sweaty palms in a lot of Congressional offices. As we all learned from Law and Order these cases go up and the only fish bigger than Jack are people that get addressed as "The honorable gentleman from Ohio." Jack Abramoff reminds me of Hollywood's version of an evil lobbyist. Like the characters that Eddie Murphy scams in The Distinguished Gentleman or the bad guys that James Stewart faces down in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Abramoff even had on a black trench coat and black fedora going out of the courthouse today, just in case you were wondering who the villain of the piece was. There are parts of this story that actually resemble an Elmore Leonard novel what with casino deals gone bad and mob hits. This one will talked about all year.

January 2, 2006


This is time for it.

Bush's poll numbers will go up and then go down. Then down a little more. Then stay the same. Then go up. I will link with great joy to all the polls where Bush goes down and carefully ignore the ones where he goes up.

I will master the fine art of Italian cooking.

We aren’t getting out of Iraq. As the 2006 election draw near, a small chunk of US troop will be brought home to great trumpets and fanfare. This will be a cynical ploy to make swing voters think that Iraq is over and a victory. Swing Voter will not be fooled.

I will get a couch. It won't be a great couch, only "good enough."

The Governator is going down. Nothing will save him. He will wake up one day and realize that he has become the villain in his own movie. I will spend a lot of time this year explaining who Phil Angelides is and come November, everyone will know who Phil Angelides is.

The economy will be fine. It won't be a great economy, only "good enough."

The year of trials and hearings. Many high stakes Congressional hearings will be held, about important issues like Separation of Powers and the Fourth Amendment. Senators will grandstand and revelations will be revealed. I will put up with the former to get the latter. Also, 2006 is the year of trials. Or rather, trials I can talk about. Abramoff is cutting a deal. "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, is going on trial. I will become deeply emotionally involved in this trial.

Everyone will be well prepared for hurricanes this year. There will be no hurricanes this year. This year, it will be earthquakes.

A pretty white girl will go missing, her body will be found, her killer put on trial. I will remain emotionally distant from this trial.

Big gains for the Donkeys come November. Democrats will gain narrow control of the US Senate. They will pick up seats in the House of Represenitive but the Republicans will cling to a razor thin majority.

Bonus 2007 and 2008 prediction: Total gridlock in DC as a GOP President and House fight constantly with Democratic Senate. Result: nothing. But a good show.

I will see movies. Some will be good, some bad. I will tell you about them.

Something totally unexpected will get a lot of attention.

Everyone reading Craigorian Chant will have a good year.

Happy New Year!

My Head

Well, January 1 slipped by while I was in a coma, so its awfully nice of them to move all the New Years Day Stuff to the 2nd. This being the one day of the year I pay attention to college football. Although I do regret that the Poinsettia Bowl got past me.
Ah, the hollowed tradition of the Poinsettia Bowl, dating back all the way to December 22, 2005.