March 31, 2006

Look at THIS

For those of you who simpley will not pay attention to the Jack Abramoff/Tom Delay/GOP scandels, no matter what (Abramoff in a Black Hat!, Gangland style murder!)I offer the final hook: Romance! Betrayal! States Evidence! Via Muckraker, the story of how a jilted lover, left at the alter, brought down a criminal empire:

The engagement of Emily Miller and Michael Scanlon was supposed to mark the coming out of a new Washington power couple.

The two had met on Capitol Hill, where they worked as press secretaries to Rep. Tom DeLay, the feared Texas Republican. They got engaged in September 2001 on the beach in Santa Monica, Calif., and planned an August 2002 wedding. As the date approached, Mr. Scanlon bought a $4.7 million oceanside mansion and guest house, formerly part of the DuPont estate, in Rehoboth Beach, Del. He furnished it down to the monogrammed towels and presented it to his bride-to-be.

Then, with the wedding a few months away, he called off the engagement and started dating a 24-year-old waitress.

Betrayal! Heartbreak! The monogrammed towels no longer make sense! Ms. Miller turned to the only person who could give her comfort in this dark period of her life: the Federal Prosecutor.

Prosecutors came to Ms. Miller to help them build a case that drove her ex-fiancé to plead guilty, according to a person familiar with the situation. Mr. Scanlon's testimony in turn helped force Mr. Abramoff into a guilty plea. Another former DeLay aide, Tony Rudy, has been cited by prosecutors in the investigation. Now Washington is wondering whether prosecutors will use testimony from Messrs. Scanlon and Rudy to go after Mr. DeLay, who has resigned as majority leader.

Break her heart, not only is she sending you to prison, but all your friends as well. So there it is. This whole corruption affair brought to life because of a busted engagement. They are not kidding about the woman scorned thing.

March 30, 2006

Sea of Blue

Good News

I just wanted to put up some links to good news:

Carroll Set Free by Captors in Iraq.

Sole Sago Mine Survivor Released from Hospital.

Former Liberian Dictator Charles Taylor captured, on way to war crimes trial.

Now back to the bad news.

We are the Problem

More on the decline of Western civilazation:

We are swearing more:

Nearly three-quarters of Americans questioned last week -- 74 percent -- said they encounter profanity in public frequently or occasionally, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll. Two-thirds said they think people swear more than they did 20 years ago. And as for, well, the gold standard of foul words, a healthy 64 percent said they use the F-word -- ranging from several times a day (8 percent) to a few times a year (15 percent).

I wish to do my part, but this is a family blog. So go here.

March 29, 2006

Irony Test

If I were to tell you a member of the Village People was arrested, could you tell me which member it was? Consider it a test of your sense of irony.


That's right, its The Cop.

March 28, 2006

Long Time Coming

So the first move in the often-predicted White House staff shake-up came today. The Wh Chief of Staff is out. (For those who only know the WH staff throught The West Wing think Leo McGarry's old job and C.J. Cregg's current one)

It's early and I haven't had my coffee so I'll just borrow this take from The Washington Note:

Andrew "Andy" Card, one of the least publicly visible White House Chiefs of Staff in history but someone with a steady, careful management hand who must be given credit for much of Bush's political success, has announced his resignation.

I don't think that this is the guy that you need to replace in order to turn things around.

March 27, 2006

Suicide by Jury

The sad strange evil case of Zacarias Moussaoui took still yet another turn today. Moussaui is the only man being tried in the United States in connection with the 9/11 attacks. The man has already confessed to being member of Al-Quida and being part of a plot to attack the United States. The only real drama left in the case was whether he would get the death penalty or not. In order to kill him, the Federal prosecutor has to tie him directly to the deaths on 9/11, being part of some future attack isn't good enough. Its a real tricky case to make because Moussaoui was already in jail at the time of the 9/11 attacks.

Dahlia Lithwick layed out the real stretch that the Government was trying to make to have Moussaoui be responsible for 9/11:

Last week Robert Weisberg and I tried to highlight the central flaw of the government's conspiracy theory in the Zacarias Moussaoui penalty phase: You can't easily stretch lying into a capital federal criminal conspiracy to murder. The government's contention that Moussaoui actually caused the 9/11 deaths because he lied to federal investigators about details of the plot might satisfy some definition of criminal conspiracy. But it's a hard argument to sustain under the federal conspiracy and death-penalty rules. The causal link between Moussaoui's acts and the actual murders is just too stretched out to work under the federal laws involved in this case.

Then something funny happened at the sentencing trial: The prosecutors switched theories. Somewhere along the way, they stopped arguing that Moussaoui's lies had caused 9/11 and began to argue that his failure to tell the truth was the cause. In other words, the deaths happened not as a result of the false information Moussaoui gave FBI investigators (that he was taking lessons in flying 747s for fun, had worked in marketing research in London for a company called NOP, and had earned the money in his terrorist bank account) but as a result of the true information he withheld.

Up until today, it was widely held, by both the defense and the prosecutor is that Moussaui was not part of the 9/11 plot, was not the "20th hijacker" but was part of some future terror plot. Thus the reach by prosecutors.

But today Moussaoui just jumped into the noose that has been prepared for him. Despite the desperate pleadings of his defense team, he took the stand. He now claims that he was going to fly a plane on 9/11 and that Richard Reid, the"shoe bomber" was to be part of his team. I'm pretty sure Moussaoui just killed himself.

No need for strange legal theories - Moussaoui seems to be perfectly willing to say whatever it takes to die.

Quote of the Day

Al Sharpton on Chris Matthew's Hardball:

MATTHEWS: Who is funnier, you or Dick Cheney?

SHARPTON: I'm really funny. There's a difference in being funny and being the fun, and Mr. Cheney is the fun at this point.

Eschaton and West Wing

You West Wing viewers out there will note that Matt Santos was being interviewed by the Blogger Atrios from the Blog Eschaton in last night's episode. Turns out that was just an actor playing Atrios, but you can find the actual Eschaton blog if you want.

March 26, 2006

Real Horror

There's a horror movie out this week called Stay Alive, the premise of which is that there's a video game, and if you die in the game, you die in real life. Unfortunately the movie is only 20 minutes long, because after the first person dies, everybody else stops playing the game.

If you want real horror, look at the headlines from Iraq. today's horror:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Police found 30 more victims of the sectarian slaughter ravaging Iraq — most of them beheaded — dumped on a village road north of Baghdad on Sunday. At least 16 other Iraqis were killed in a U.S.-backed raid in a Shiite neighborhood of the capital.

Now how in the world is the media going to find the "good" in Iraq when this is whats happening. Find me some good that can overcome thirty headless bodies.

March 25, 2006

Man on the Street

So today I found myself walking across downtown Sac. I’m going to leave out why, on account of it would make me look foolish.
But as I was walking, I came across a rather large protest march working its way through downtown to the state Capitol. I’m always up for fighting for a good cause and besides, it was heading my way, so I joined up.
I soon found myself surrounded by a huge crowd of high-school-aged Latino kids. I joined in a chant of what I assumed was, “No justice, no peace,” in Spanish.
So it turns out that the march was to protest new immigration legislation now working its way through Congress. The most controversial of the measures being considered would make it a crime to “aid illegal immigrants,” which could make charitable aid to illegals, well ... illegal.
The Sac protest is just one of many. Immigration is going to get really hot real soon. As one of my Drinking Liberally companions said, immigration is great because it scrambles all the normal lines of politics. Both parties have strong pro- and anti-immigration elements. There’s nothing predictable about this debate.

March 24, 2006

Think About the Future

I've tried to resist the urge to start with the 2008 presidential speculation. I honestly was trying to hold out till at least the end of the year. But stuff happens and I can't help myself. So here goes my first speculation for 2008. A couple of things first. One, 2008 will be a wide open contest on both sides. No incumbent President or Vice-President will be running. This means that right now it's a lot like Spring Training - everyone thinks that their guy (or girl) will win it all. But the press, the donors, the activists, and the voters all hate a wide open contest with lots of candidates. It’s complicated, hard to cover, hard to decide who to vote for and who to give money to.

So the Presidential primaries are a brutal Darwinian process where something like 8 serious contenders on each side will be narrowed down to one candidate each, who get to do the big battle in November 2008. Without trotting out too much of my old Poli Sci degree, the mechanics of these races usually result in a dramatic primary race showdown between two likely candidates. These showdowns are where the true action is, and it’s these showdowns that I will try and predict.

For the GOP, the race will become a showdown between a moderate and a conservative. The moderate will be one of the a-typical GOP types who have broad popular appeal because they break with conservatives on issues. The smart money on this category is John McCain, but don't rule out Rudy Giuliani. Moon-shot speculation could include Condi Rice in this category. The moderate will go head-to-head with a conservative, an ideological true believer who will scare the crap out of most Craigorian Chant readers. Someone like Sam Brownback, who you can read about in Rolling Stone. Scary. Of course we here at the Chant will be pulling for the conservative on account that he will scare the crap out of voters and lead to an easy election of the Democrat.

On the Democratic side, it will come down to Hillary and Not-Hillary. If Hillary Clinton runs, she will be the instant front-runner for a host of reason layed out in this Salon piece. Hillary may be tough, but there are a lot of Dems out there with some real doubts about her, including me. This post is too long already to get into why I think Hillary is a bad idea, but lots of people will be looking for an alternative. Lots of people will be trying to be the Not-Hillary. John Warner, Joe Biden, John Edwards, Feingold and so on. The most interesting Non-Hillary is a reborn Al Gore. Check out this Ezra Klein piece on what Al Gore has been up to. If Gore gets in, he could really shake things up, but who knows? So it comes down to Hillary vs. Not Hillary and I will be rooting for the Not Hillary.

So that is the shape of things to come. Stay tuned.

March 23, 2006

Vote For Something

Nice little Tapped post on the need for young voter moblization efforts to be about more than "civic virtue, particularly when paired, incomprehensibly, with rappers"

You need to appeal to young people's self-interest. The NRA moblizes gun owners basted on the need to own guns, Senior Citizens vote to protect Social Security, so why is it that young people are told that they should vote because "its the right thing to do" by P.Diddy of all people.

No other group gets lecured on why voting is good for the Country. The rest of American gets told why voting is good for them.

March 22, 2006

Open Thread

Craig's going to be learning the dark art of FEMA flood maps all day today, so talk amongst yourselves. I'll give you a topic:

Grape-nuts are neither grapes, nor nuts. Discuss.

Do you think that troops will remain in Iraq for the full Bush Presidency?

Did she get off beat the rap just because she's hot.

Is the BMW Z4 really the best car for Craig's mid-life crisis? I'm nowhere near a mid-life crisis, but I like to plan ahead. After all, Katrina showed us all the importance of planning for a crisis.

Answers, people I want answers. Use the comments.

March 21, 2006

Remember, Remember

You should go see this movie. Then tell me what you think. It's very much an action movie but it has a whole lot to say.

First and foremost, this is the movie that will show you what fascist government would look like in the UK. We can find German and Italian fascism in old history books, Serbian fascism in new history books and Belarussian fascism in today's headlines. But it's important to know what the UK or US version would look like. I'm not one of those who run around calling Bush a fascist, and I certainly don't go tossing that around when talking about Tony Blair, but you can see hints of totalitarianism in warrentless wiretapping and the eliminationist rhetoric of Ann Coulter.

The second theme of V for Vendetta is political violence. Blowing up buildings and killing lots of cops and police up close and personal with lots of knives. The anti-hero of the movie, known only as V is your classic terrorist/freedom fighter ink blot. Just depends on who's looking at him. V has no political program except destruction and chaos. He is firm is his conviction that the current government is profoundly wrong and must be destroyed. What he believes is correct, so what we must look at is his tactics. They are extreme and cruel and at one point, indistinguishable from the regime he is fighting.

The true test of non-violence is always fascism. At the end of every work about the Holocaust there is some message of "never again." The question is, do you really mean that? Because a protest march does not stop this kind of evil. True fascism destroys all democratic, peaceful means of change. At what point does violence become necessary?

Breaking News

Crawford, Texas -- A tragic flood this morning destroyed the personal library of President George W. Bush. The flood occurred in the presidential bathroom where the books were kept. Both of his books have been lost. A spokesman said the president was devastated, as he had almost finished coloring the second one. The White House tried to call FEMA but there was no answer.

March 20, 2006

Inside Scoop

Ok, having just concluded a trip to Trader Joe's not more than 10 minutes ago, I can testify to the accuracy of this very helpfull insider's guide to the store:

Adopt a Soviet Mentality. This is the first thing nearly every regular TJ's shopper mentions: Products appear suddenly, work their way into your daily routine, and then disappear with no warning.

Some very tasty Pad Tai noodles, which came with childishly simply instructions, have been a regular part of my diet for the last couple of months. Alas, today they were gone. The shelf space is now devoted to bags of charcoal briquetts, which I could never get into, taste-wise.

The Shopping-List Guarantee. If you go to TJ's with a shopping list for a dinner party or even a moderately complex recipe, you are guaranteed to leave the store without finding at least one item on the list. Just accept the fact that you will have to hit one or two other stores on the way home. This raises a bigger issue: TJ's has great prices on many staples, and it's easy to forget that its selection is tiny compared to a real supermarket. It is not a one-stop shopping solution.

Case in point: was stuck today with the craving for bagels and lox. Joe gave me an excellent deal on the smoked salmon and some tasting looking bagels. However, no cream cheese was to be found in the entire store. A key ingredient. Holds the whole thing together. I've got to go out again to the regular supermarket. Trader Joe's requires strategy and planning to realize its full potential.

Year Three in the Books

Anniversaries. Time to take stock, look back, and look to where we are going.

We have now been in Iraq for three years.

Even as I type this, Bush is giving a speech about the progress we are making in Iraq. Again. The short version of his speech - all kinds of good things are happening in Iraq, but if we leave the situation will get even worse.

If you want to know how we got here, Think Progress has a comprehensive timeline of the Iraq war.

March 19, 2006

The Goods

TPM keeps a careful eye out for these things so I don't have to. Josh links to a San Diego UNION-TRIBUNE article that has the goods on one John T. Doolittle, official white whale of Craigorian Chant. To sum up:

A number of members of Congress have spouses on the payroll. But the Doolittles, well ... they did a lot. Julie Doolittle had a political consultancy and she worked on commission raising money for Doolittle's campaign and political action committee.

Now, let's take out the ethico-criminal magnifying glass and look closely at what that means. As the article, makes clear, Julie had no fundraising experience prior to starting her consultancy. She also didn't seem to do any actual fundraising. What this meant was that every time someone gave Doolittle money, Julie and John personally got a 15% taste of the cash.

So, for instance, the Wilkes crew gave Doolittle's campaigns $118,000. And according to the Union-Tribune's investigation, the Doolittle's got at least $14,400 of that personally.

Now, you might say, if Julie Doolittle was a professional fundraiser, and why should she be barred from working for her husband's campaigns. But then Julie Doolittle wasn't a fundraiser.

Julie Doolittle's Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions, launched in March 2001, right after Doolittle got his seat on the Appropriations Committee. In other words, right after he got in a position to hand out federal contracts in a big way. SDFS has no phone number, no website and no employees except for Julie Doolittle. Prior to opening the firm she seems to have had no experience doing fundraising.

Now one of the things that offen gets lost in the campaign fiance debate is that politicians do not personally benefit from the money they raise from donors. That money goes into a campaign account and is just spent on campaign activities. But the Doolittles seem to have created an arrangement so that a portion of what they raise goes into their personal account. All married couples I know have joint bank accounts. This arrangement with Doolittle's wife seems to exist only to give the family a personal cut of their campaign cash. This arrangement turns money given as political support into personal bribes. It stinks.

March 18, 2006

Collateral Damage

Interesting idea about the upcoming Scooter Libby trial and how it might expose the WMD backstory:

Lawyers for Vice President Dick Cheney's former top aide are signaling they may delve deeply at his criminal trial into infighting among the White House, the CIA and the State Department over pre-Iraq war intelligence failures.
Court papers filed late Friday raise the possibility a trial could become politically embarrassing for the Bush administration by focusing on the debate about whether the White House manipulated intelligence to justify the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

The defense team stated that in June and July 2003, Plame's CIA status was at most a peripheral issue to "the finger-pointing that went on within the executive branch about who was to blame" for the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

We can only hope. I would just love for the whole WMD issue to be fought out in a court of law. The reason - perjury. Unlike, say Meet the Press where you can lie without consequence, in a court of law you lie, you go to jail. In fact, I can make a pretty good case that the whole reason that Scooter is in trouble is that he used the same tactics with FBI agents that he used with reporters, i.e. he lied.

March 17, 2006

An bhfuil tú ar meisce fós?

Anybody know Gaelic? That's "Are you drunk yet?" Happy St. Patrick Day everyone. More Gaelic here. Hope your all celebrating in the traditional manner. This being Craigorian Chant we have to work high matters of State into everything, so here's a surprisingly upbeat take from Slate on the prospects for Irish unification. The main driver behind unification may be economics. Ireland, which pretty much always meant "poor" has emerged as an economic powerhouse, while Northern Ireland is completely dependent on London to keep it propped up. Of course there's a thousand years of bloody history to overcome, but maybe the power of green money will overcome the difference between green and orange.

March 16, 2006

Historical Document

The news cycle moves so fast and the GOP is able to switch talkings points without any sense of irony or guilt its sometimes very helpfull to look back what was being said just three years ago. FAIR, a liberal media watchdog, put together an amazing list of quotes from the "Mission Acomplished" era"

"Iraq Is All but Won; Now What?"
(Los Angeles Times headline, 4/10/03)

"The only people who think this wasn't a victory are Upper Westside liberals, and a few people here in Washington."
(Charles Krauthammer, Inside Washington, WUSA-TV, 4/19/03)

"The war was the hard part. The hard part was putting together a coalition, getting 300,000 troops over there and all their equipment and winning. And it gets easier. I mean, setting up a democracy is hard, but it is not as hard as winning a war."
(Fox News Channel's Fred Barnes, 4/10/03)

"Now that the war in Iraq is all but over, should the people in Hollywood who opposed the president admit they were wrong?"
(Fox News Channel's Alan Colmes, 4/25/03)

"I will bet you the best dinner in the gaslight district of San Diego that military action will not last more than a week. Are you willing to take that wager?"
(Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, 1/29/03)

Anybody want to try and collect from Mr O'Reilly? I've been in the gaslamp, there are some great places to eat.

March 15, 2006

Far Away, So Close!

I think that we can safely say that Bush is in trouble when even Jessica Simpson is trying to get some distance between the President and herself:

Concerned about politicizing her favorite charity, singer-actress Jessica Simpson Wednesday turned down a invitation to meet with President Bush, a snub that left Republicans dismayed.

The apparent final word that Simpson would be a no-show at a major Republican fund-raiser with Bush and congressional leaders Thursday night came after a day of conflicting reports from her camp and organizers of the event.

and by "politicize" she means "associate it in any way with a wildly unpopular President." When a President is popular, his presence brings legitimacy and needed attention to your charity. When he's polling in the mid-thirties, he brings the dread "politics" with him.

The GOP reply is pretty feeble:

NRCC spokesman Carl Forti said he was surprised at Simpson's position.

"It's never been a problem for Bono,"

Bono, of course, is bigger than the President. There is no way that Bush's bad mojo causes so much as a ripple in Bono's aura. Jessica Simpson, being a mere mortal starlet, has to keep an eye out for her reputation. Bono is beyond such petty concerns.

More like Guidelines than Rules

So during Lent (that's the forty days before Easter, you heathens) good Catholics such as myself the rest of my family are to abstain from eating meat on Fridays. This year, however, St. Patrick's Day falls on a Friday. What is a good Catholic, in need of the traditional corn beef, to do? Well you get a dispensation from your Bishop. A dispensation is the magic wand that Bishops are issued with their pointy hats that make sins go away. You just have to make up the day of no meat at a later date. A good solution. St. Patrick gets honored and no one goes to hell.

March 14, 2006

$$$ Trouble

So the United States has itself a bit of a budget problem. It seems we are running a record deficit.

But have no fear, for we have found a solution. It involves some fake Billion Dollar bills.

No Wait, really this can work...

Evil Twin

So Claude Allen, domestic policy advisor/shoplifter is circulating an "evil twin" defense. TPM has the details.

Bush claims that Iraq turning away from 'the abyss'

Back in reality, 86 bodies have been found in Bagdad in the last day. Is this what pulling back from the abyss looks like? And what's Bush doing, adminting that Iraq is on the edge of an abyss. I though all was well in Iraq, that freedom was on the march.

Maybe that was just Bush's evil twin giving that last speech.

March 13, 2006


Season final of Battlestar Galactica was Friday. Really good. You can get shot of supergeeky political and sci-fi talk on the show from both the left and the right.

It seems Milosevic was messing with his own heart condition treatment in order to get out of the war crimes trial. It got him out, just a little more permanently than he intended.

Wesley Clark, who lead the NATO campaign against Milosevic, has a piece on him here.

The Need for the Hard Men

The death of Slobodan Milosevic sent me back into the Slate archives to find this Dispach that Peter Maas filed from the middle democratic revolution that brought down Milosevic in October of 2000. Its tell the story of the men of Cacak, miners who brought a bulldozer and absolute commitment to Belgrade. These men go to the policemen who are protecting Milosevic's government and say

"This morning I kissed my family farewell. I hope you kissed your family farewell, too."

It turns out that the police weren't prepared to die. They flee and the regime falls, Serbia is now a democracy, and Milosevic spent the rest of his days rotting away in a cell. And it happened because of the presence of Hard Men, men willing to go all the way:

Who were these people? They were not the students and middle-class professionals who had marched against Milosevic, fruitlessly, for much of the past 10 years. Those protesters were out on the streets again last Thursday, of course, blowing their whistles and shaking their baby rattles and wearing their irreverent stickers ("Suck my dick, Slobo"). In the last decade, they had been the most well-behaved of protesters, so Gandhi-like in their nonviolent opposition that they might as well have worn sarongs. I do not want to suggest that they should have been violent or threatened violence; I just think it is interesting to note that they are a breed apart from the angry men of Cacak, who entered Belgrade as though entering the Colosseum in Rome. They even brought a bulldozer to crash through police roadblocks (which it did) and barrel into barricaded buildings (such as the headquarters of Radio-Television Serbia). The opposition movement had found its vanguard.

We always hold up Gandhi and Martin Luther King as the way to change societies non-violently. But there are societies that are brutal enough to remain immune to non-violent pressure. The Dali Lama's campaign to free Tibet, while inspirational, has been completely futile. Non-violent protest will not save Darfur. Some situations call for Hard Men. Men like Michael Collins:

Irish nationalism had always had a surplus of dreamers, poets, visionaries, rhetoricians, and idealists. What it lacked was bureaucrats. Collins became the indispensable man of the Irish revolution because he knew how to run things.
Romantic rhetoric might sanitize or even substitute for violence, but Collins intended to get on with the dirty business itself. This time there would be no heroic and dramatic failures, just cold instrumental killing.
"But what is your point, Mr. Russell?" It was a question that previous Irish nationalist leaders had tended not to ask. The struggle was its own point--merely to have fought was, in some mystical sense, to have won. For Collins, the point was simple enough: to force the British to negotiate their withdrawal from Ireland by any means necessary.

Expect a fresh round of looking at political violence this week. The movie V for Vendetta is coming out this week. The movie is the story of a future totalitarian Britain and the man working to destroy that system. Let's just say he's not taking Gandhi as his model.

March 12, 2006

Love the Difference

I dig music that breaks rules. I love unlikely covers. I think Country/Hip Hop collaborations are great. I love an act that your first reaction is "What the hell?" and your second reaction is to hit replay. In that spirit, I present to you Matisyahu who is the first Hasidic Reggae artist I've ever seen. Feel free to put up your own music in comments. Just try and keep it a little different.

March 11, 2006

Saturday, Saturday

Slobodan Milosevic, genocidal former leader of the former Yugoslavia, died in his cell today in the Hague. He was on trial for crimes aganst humanity. The bastard died of natural causes and thus saved the world the trouble of hanging him.

In a completely bizarre event, Bush's domestic policy adviser, who resigned last month, has been arrested for shoplifting:

Police believe Allen would buy items, take them to his car, then return to the store with his receipt. He would select the same items, then take them to the store return desk and show the receipt from the first purchase. Using that method, he would receive credit for the second items on his credit cards, Burnett said.

Allen was allegedly seen Jan. 2 at a Target in Gaithersburg taking items off the shelf that he then took the return desk. He had a receipt for the merchandise, was given a refund and left.

This is a very Senior WH official, think Sam Seaborn or Josh Lyman on West Wing, or George Stephanopoulos in the Clinton White House. The guy is advising the most powerfully man in the world, making six figures, and ripping off the local target. Just bizarre.

March 9, 2006

Science Friday

The Cassini space probe has found evidence of liquid water on one of Saturn's moons. Water is erupting from underground pools. Its being described as similar to "Old faithful" in Yellowstone Park. Enceladus - destined to be the must-see tourist destination of 2081.

Scientists are working on methods of regenerating limbs lost in war.

Science gives.

Science Takes away:

There is a new breed of weaponry fast approachin —and at the speed of light no less. They are labeled "directed-energy weapons" and may well signal a revolution in military hardwar, —perhaps more so than the atomic bomb.

Directed-energy weapons take the form of lasers, high-powered microwaves, and particle beams. Their adoption for ground, air, sea, and space warfare depends not only on using the electromagnetic spectrum, but also upon favorable political and budgetary wavelengths too.

Science can get just plain wierd:

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, the blue-sky wing of the Pentagon, has set yet another group of American scientists loose to create the basis for future red-in-tooth-and-maw Discovery Channel programs. In this case, they are planning to put neural implants into the brains of sharks in hopes, one day, of "controlling the animal's movements, and perhaps even decoding what it is feeling." In their dreams at least, DARPA'S far-out funders hope to "exploit sharks' natural ability to glide quietly through the water, sense delicate electrical gradients and follow chemical trails. By remotely guiding the sharks' movements, they hope to transform the animals into stealth spies, perhaps capable of following vessels without being spotted."

Damage control

The presence of a civil war in Iraq might be debatable, but the GOP Congress is in full rebellion:

On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee essentially blocked the deal by voting 62-2 to insert an amendment into a $68 billion emergency supplemental funding bill for military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bush can't veto the amendment without "hurting the troop" It really is fun to watch the President being roasted with his own rhetoric.

There is a move afoot for damage control. Sort of a face saving measure:

United Arab Emirates-owned DP World said Thursday it would transfer its operations of American ports to a U.S. "entity" after congressional leaders reportedly told President Bush that the firm's takeover deal was essentially dead on Capitol Hill.

"Because of the strong relationship between the United Arab Emirates and the United States and to preserve that relationship ... DP World will transfer fully the U.S. operations of P&O Operations North America to a United States entity," Edward H. Bilkey, DP World's chief operating officer, said in a statement.

The announcement did not specify which American company would be involved.

This proposal seems rather vague. It either means nothing, in which case the fight will still be on, or it effectively kills the deal and DP World doesn't take control of port operations

March 8, 2006

The Game

Tonight's game is Saw it Coming/Did not see it coming.

Congress declares war on ports deal.
I totally saw this coming. Right Here.

Yanni arrested after domestic dispute.
Did not see that one coming.

Barry Bonds did Steroids.
Ok, who didn't see this coming?

Iraqi Police Are Tied to Abuses and Deaths, U.S. Review Finds
Sadly, we saw this one coming.

British Tourist Marries Dolphin
Umm, No. However we did have a pretty good post about dolphins here.

Rings True

I've come across a few conservative critics of the movie Syriana in my random web surfing. A pretty typical example is this Charles Krauthammer piece. Basically this these critics boil down to the contention that Syriana's vision of corruption and US foreign policy is just a Hollywood fantasy. Which brings us to the new TPMMuckraker, explorer of all things corrupt. One of the revelations: Mitchell Wade - the defense contractor who bought off Duke Cunningham, also set up an outfit called the "Iranian Democratization Foundation." Oh and it also appears that Wade was buying off people inside the CIA and White House for defense contracts. Syriana featured a shadowy "Democracy for Iran" group that seemed to consisted of nothing but well-aged white men. There is a pretty good reason that Syriana rings true, despite Krauthammer's protestations that US foreign policy is noble and incorruptible. That reason is called the news.

Some trust fund prosecutor, got off-message at Yale, thinks he's gonna run this up the flagpole, make a name for himself, maybe get elected some two-bit, no-name congressman from nowhere, with the result that Russia or China can suddenly start having, at our expense, all the advantages we enjoy here. No, I tell you. No, sir. "But, Danny, these are sovereign nations." Sovereign nations. What is a sovereign nation, but a collective of greed run by one individual? "But, Danny, they're codified by the U.N. charter!" Legitimized gangsterism on a global basis that has no more validity than an agreement between the Crips and the Bloods! Corruption charges. Corruption? Corruption ain't nothing more than government intrusion into market efficiencies in the form of regulation. That's Milton Friedman. He got a goddamn Nobel Prize. We have laws against it precisely so we can get away with it. Corruption is our protection. Corruption is what keeps us safe and warm. Corruption is why you and I are prancing around here instead of fighting each other for scraps of meat out in the streets. Corruption is why we win.


March 7, 2006

The Links of Fun

Michael Tomasky of TAP put together a political knowledge quiz that just kicked my ass and I'm a big political nerd. I went 10 for 25. Give it a try.

For Tyler: The Simpsons as live action.

Watch the people of the world shake their ass to latest Sakira song. Funny/Sexy/Ridiculous all in just 3:30.

Natalie Portman goes off.

You're paying extra for that high-speed connection. Time to get some use out of it. Download some video.

Intent, Results, Time, Dynamics, Polls, truth

Fascinated as I am by Bush's popularity and lack thereof. I found this piece of TAPPED analysis to be on target:

Plenty of liberal Dems might read this and angrily rejoin: "What the heck took everyone so long to realize that this bozo's incompetent?" The answer to that question is well worth considering, because it suggests not just the secret to Bush's success, but also a way to help ensure his continued demise.
I'd argue that a key to Bush's success has been his uncanny knack for keeping voters focused on his intentions, rather than on his performance. Bush's national security record is uniformly awful -- the Sept. 11 attacks happened on his watch; the Iraq war has been a disaster in countless ways; our policy on Iran has only empowered that country; the list goes on. Yet Karl Rove can brazenly declare that national security will be the key to the GOP's strategy in 2006. How can this be?

One answer is that Bush's political skills, combined with the GOP's relentless reliance on military stagecraft, has enabled him to come across as someone who really, really wants to kick the heck out of as many terrorists as possible, whatever his actual performance. The central conundrum for Dems has been how to get the electorate to focus on that performance. In 2004, just enough voters decided they'd rather overlook Bush's performance and vote for the guy who, they thought, seemed to have at least more of an inclination to be aggressive. To make that happen, of course, the GOP had to successfully tar John Kerry as lacking the stomach -- and hence the inclination toward aggression -- of Bush. Nominating a war hero seemed like a good way to keep that from happening. But the Swift Boat vets and John Kerry's effete manner raised just enough doubts about Kerry's inclinations to ensure that enough people decided it was safer to go with the guy who's intentions they thought they understood -- again, whatever his actual performance.

I'd argue that the key reason Bush's second term has been politically catastrophic is that it finally shattered this dynamic, perhaps permanently. The Harriet Miers nomination and Katrina focused the electorate's attention squarely on performance and nothing else. On Katrina, once the nation had been transfixed by the image of Bush's awful performance, no amount of parading around with firefighters amid the New Orleans wreckage -- a belated bid to convince us all of Bush's good intentions -- could change the country's conclusion. And unlike with Iraq -- where Bush's handlers successfully deflected his critics by refocusing attention on "the enemy" -- with Katrina, the only ready-at-hand enemy has been Mother Nature. There's been no escaping the electorate's verdict on his performance and nothing else.

I would argue also that part of this is simply a function of time. Results take time to form and become apparent. Long term, I can make the case that Bush's policies will make us less safe, but it will take time to prove me me right (or wrong)
So it is effective to argue intentions when the outcome of policies aren't apparent. But now its been five years of Bush rule and the headlines are filled with chickens coming home. Its now easily proved that Bush's policies are bad in a way that they weren't in say 2003.

March 6, 2006

Free Lunch

So the Governor of South Dakota just signed a draconian anti-abortion law today. No exceptions for health of the mother. No exception for cases of rape or incest. Five years in prison for doctors performing an abortion. It's everything the most extreme anti-abortion activists want. And its completely unenforceable under Roe v Wade. Which is why they can get away with being so extreme. When you know that the law will be thrown out, why not give the anti- side everything it wants. It's not like there are any real-world consequences. No backlash. No need for the pro-choice forces to fight back politically, they just need to file a lawsuit to block the new law. Despite two new Bush appointees, there is still a pretty certain 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court in favor of Roe. So the anti-abortion folks get themselves a free lunch today.

March 5, 2006

Three 6 Mafia 1, Martin Scorsese 0

That seemed like a very fair Oscar ceremony. Now something like six different movies can cut commercials saying "And now the winner of two Oscars, including ____" instead of one Movie getting 12 Oscars. The Gay shepherds lost to Crash. Someone will attempt to spin how that means that gays aren't accepted in American or that middle America isn't ready for two guys getting it on in a tent. I will not be that someone. Keep in mind that Crash was a really preachy movie about race relations, so maybe that's the driving issue of our day. Or maybe it was just the better movie or maybe its attack ads were more effective.

But regardless of the issues that divide us, we can come together to celebrate It's Hard Out here for a Pimp winning for best song.

Guns Under the Table

Let's say you're a Conservative GOP Congressman. You've backed the President on every single issue of the day, foreign or domestic. You've followed him willingly through a drug-benefit program that has proven neither popular or cheap and frankly the unpopularity of the President is scaring the crap out of you. Now, given the rules of modern politics, you can't go back and change position on old issues. That would be "flip flopping." What you need is a new issue where you can break with the President.

I present to you Duncan Hunter (R-CA) notable for being a San Diego conservative not going to Federal Prison, as well as Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (I.E. a player). He was on This Week today and really let the administration have it on the Dubai ports deal. He vowed to kill the deal, which is a pretty serious marker to throw down. This isn't "I have some concerns" or "We should be taking a closer look at this" is this "I am going to kill this deal" Now President Bush has already put down his own marker to veto any attempt to block the port deal. Hunter seems to be set on a very serious attempt to block the deal. Which means Bush is going have a massive showdown with the GOP controlled Congress. Popcorn anyone?

March 3, 2006

Friday Roundup

"Duke" Cunningham to be sentenced today. There was a Congressional Historian being quoted on the radio today saying that, dollar for dollar, Cunningham is the most corrupt representative in History. He took more money in bribes than any other Congressman. Ever.

I can only hope that Alba v. Playboy will someday make it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Is it weird that, in light of recent revelations, I'm starting to feel like Brownie got a raw deal?

Finally today's Rant of the Day comes from James Wolcott on the subject of "Hollywood Values" conflicting with "Heartland Values"

The heartland issue is such a crock, especially when it's taken up by pseudo-populist pundits who cling to both coasts and wouldn't move to the middle of the country unless the name of that middle was Chicago. Fuck the heartland. It doesn't exist. It's a metaphor for all the simple good things Americans would believe in if they flattered themselves by believing in simple good things. (Go reread Sherwood Anderson or Sinclair Lewis if you want to savor the loneliness and cultureless vacuity of so much of the bedrock America we insist on coloring with Norman Rockwell nostalgia.) It's true that more Americans than usual are unaquainted and uninterested in the Oscar pics this year, but how many Americans saw McCabe and Mrs. Miller when it came out? Or Mean Streets? Not that long ago, the Oscars noms were panned because for being an index of popularity, not quality; now quality prevails in the judging, tastes have improved even at the Golden Globes, and the kvetching chorus is complaining that the finalists chosen aren't commercial enough, and don't reflect the interests and values of average Americans. There's no such thing as an average American anymore (if there ever was), unless by "average American" you mean (as news producers and pundits seem to do) white, middle-aged, heterosexual Christian small-towners and suburbanites who won't even be watching the Academy Awards because it'll be past their bedtime and they have elk to milk the next morning.

March 2, 2006

Life of the Party

I would like to give a hearty Craigorian Chant endorsement to fine organization Drinking Liberally. A great gathering where you talk politics and drink. Really, is there anything better? There are chapters all accross the nation so go to the homepage and pick one out near you. I just back from a meeting of the Sacramento Chapter and had a great time. This could be the Guiness talking but that was a great bunch of people. Good Times.

Let's Go to the Video Tape

Everybody, including the President himself, knows that he is lying when he says stuff like "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees" back when he was making excuses for the administration's Katrina response. Usually, it is difficult to call him on such statements. But now there has been a video tape uncovered of the President and top officials getting briefed before Katrina hit, and there are numerous mentions of the danger of the levees failing. It's on tape. All there for history and everything.


So took in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada a little Indie film directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones. The action revolves around the killing of the aforementioned Melquiades by a border patrol agent and Jones' quest to return the body to his home in Mexico and get a little justice. Let's just say we spend a lot of quality time with a dead body. Now the movie does have its highlights, Tommy Lee Jones with a gun and some one-liners is always good cinema and the overall story is compelling, as well as an epic downer. Lowlights include the worse sex scene I have ever seen on film. Seriously bad sex. Terrible. Also, it may be that I'm just the product of an ADD, MTV culture, but this movie was edited way too slowly. Every scene seemed to drag on too long or just just had 35 seconds of action/dialog but 55 seconds of film time. It runs an even two hours long but felt much longer. Overall, I would say its a worthy movie, if not a good one.


Best Tommy Lee Jones-with-a-gun-one-liners

Number 1:

"I didn't kill my wife"

"I don't care"

The Fugitive

Number 2:

"You're breaking my heart cockroach, show me your face I'll cure all your ills."

Men in Black

March 1, 2006

More Popular than ...

Looks like that 34% Bush approval number is really freaking the Republicans out:

The release of a new CBS News poll showing Bush's approval rating dropping to 34 percent, a low for him in that survey, sent tremors through Republican circles in Washington. Scott Reed, who managed Robert J. Dole's presidential campaign in 1996, called the results "pretty shattering." Most distressing to GOP strategists was that Bush's support among Republicans fell from 83 percent to 72 percent.

"The repetition of the news coming out of Iraq is wearing folks down," Reed said. "It started with women and it's spreading. It's just bad news after bad news after bad news, without any light at the end of the tunnel."

Bush shrugged off the poll numbers in an interview with ABC News yesterday. "If I worried about polls, I would be -- I wouldn't be doing my job," he said before leaving Washington for a trip to India and Pakistan. "And, look, I fully understand that when you do hard things, it creates consternation at times. And, you know, I've been up in the polls and I've been down in the polls. You know, it's just part of life in the modern era."

Yet at the White House, aides were decidedly downbeat, making dark jokes about the latest political trajectory and the Murphy's Law quality of life in the West Wing these days -- what can go wrong will go wrong. At least, some consoled themselves, Bush beat out Vice President Cheney, who was viewed favorably by just 18 percent in the CBS survey.

And the Vice President's staff consoled themselves with the thought that their guy is viewed more favorably than both Saddam Hussein and Cancer. There is always someone or something less popular. You just have to look hard enough to find it.