As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, January 07, 2006

DeLay Gives Up

I guess Abramoff was one scandal too many. We won't have Tom DeLay to kick around as House Majority Leader anymore. Couldn't happen to a nicer Bugman.

But here's the problem in the House right now.

Republicans don't know who their leader will be.

Democrats have leaders that aren't leading.

I want to distinguish the House from the Senate on this. But Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic caucus should be pouncing on this. They should demand that Congress is taken out of recess, they should be talking about the Abramoff scandals, they should be pushing back the "everybody does it" meme that in their absence appears to be taking hold (I just saw the MSNBC stooge say "Democrats are caught up in this too). WE know the truth but the nonpartisan, inattentive voter doesn't, and if you're going to launch a national strategy you need to do it NOW while the press is bad for the GOP and the getting's good for us. Just explain to the American public WHY Congress isn't allowed to do their job right now. The House is in recess because they're in turmoil, and here's why, there's this Republican lobbyist who gave perks for favors, and here's the trips, and here's the legislation he pushed through, and this is part of a larger culture of corruption, and (most important) HERE'S OUR IDEA TO REFORM THE SYSTEM. The GOP has a lobbying reform package and the Dems don't. Are they nuts?

Strike while the iron is hot, guys. And it's burning up in the Repubs' hands currently.


Friday, January 06, 2006

More GOP Scandal News

The Dukestir wore a wire:

In a week when legislators are focused on the question of who else might be brought down by ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff's cooperation with prosecutors as he seeks lenient sentencing over his two federal guilty pleas this week, sources tell TIME that ex-Rep. Cunningham wore a wire to help investigators gather evidence against others just before copping his own plea.

Sources familiar with the situation say Cunningham, a California Republican who pleaded guilty Nov. 28 to taking $2.4 million in bribes -- including a yacht, a Rolls Royce and a 19th Century Louis-Philippe commode -- from a defense contractor, wore a wire at some point during the short interval between the moment he began cooperating with the feds and the announcement of his guilty plea on Nov. 28.

The identity of those with whom the San Diego congressman met while wearing the wire remains unclear, and is the source of furious -- and nervous -- speculation by congressional Republicans. A Cunningham lawyer, K. Lee Blalack, refused to confirm or deny the story, and wouldn't say whether Cunningham will implicate any other members of Congress. The FBI is believed to be continuing its probe of defense contractors involved in the Cunningham case.

Everybody's turning on everybody in the GOP caucus. Abramoff's gonna name names. The Duke's got everything on tape. Would-be leaders are openly challenging Tom DeLay for his leadership position.

The Republican rats are jumping off the sinking ship. The question is whether or not Democrats will get their act together long enough to set their own sail.


D-Day Recommends!

I just picked up Vonage, and I have to say I'm incredibly impressed. For less than the price of a standard land line, you get unlimited long-distance calling through the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico, a slick voicemail system, call waiting, call forwarding and caller ID. They email you when you have a voicemail message, which for me is great (as I'm often on email more than near my phone anyway). You can also keep the same number you currently have. My number isn't officially ported over, it takes up to 20 days, but I don't forsee any problems. And the sound quality is just fine.

You need broadband to get it (as it works through your high-speed service rather than through a phone line), but it's well worth it.


When In Doubt, Buy Your Way Back Into Their Hearts

Californians woke up today with a new governor. After being the populist fiscal conservative, the hard right anti-worker ideologue, and the pro-Bush shill, last night Arnold Schwarzenegger turned into Sir Spend-A-Lot:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday launched a super-sized plan to rebuild the very foundations of California — a $222-billion construction project to fortify freeways, schools, jails, ports and waterways.

Schwarzenegger used his annual State of the State speech to outline a decade-long blueprint for reshaping California to its core. If successful, he would be author of the state's largest public building program since the 1960s, when former Gov. Edmund "Pat" Brown helped California absorb millions of new residents during a postwar boom.

The governor's aides said earlier Thursday that he wants a series of public bond issues, starting with $25 billion this year, placed before voters in five elections through the year 2014. In total, $68 billion in new government debt would be incurred to pay for the building program.

You don't have to be an economist to understand why $68 billion in new debt on top of the already wide revenue gap in the state would be, to put it charitably, a bad thing. And these are proposed bond issues, which means that by the time the state paid them off, they would owe far more than $68 billion. It's the same "spend-now, borrow-now, let our children and grandchildren pay for it" mentality that's taken hold on the national stage, and it reflects a real selfishness among our most prosperous citizens. We can't have it all, folks: low taxes (the lowest in the developed world) AND high government spending. You have to be able to pay for things as you go. Until the Governor and his Republican allies face this political reality and offer a fair system of taxation (which would close corporate loopholes and enable everyone to pay their fair share), we run the risk of enjoying the present while destroying the future.

And let me just add that I don't think one single solitary dollar should be spent on a new road in California. You can fix the old ones and add carpool lanes. Highways will just fill up, and traffic will just be as bad as ever. If you're going to fund transportation it HAS to be public. I would sell my car tomorrow if I knew I could get around on buses and light rail. And I thought it was eerie that the Governor wanted to build two new prisons to house "83,000 new prisoners." That's way too specific a number. It's like he had their names on a list.

Finally, this is the ultimate is big talk from the ultimate hypocrite, a man who's changed his governing style at least 3 times, whose seen his popularity collapse and is now trying to buy votes. Anyone who trusts this guy ought to have their head examined. The ultimate opportunist is going to have a hard time wearing a new sheepskin in front of the voters in November; they're going to see the same old wolf.


Thursday, January 05, 2006

Now That's Just Funny

(via Corey Anderson.)


Mad Libs

I'm getting tired of blogging a new "look what the dumbshit Pat Robertson said" story every time he goes off the meds and fires off another zinger. So I've decided to write a generic one.

Do you believe what Bush's friend Pat Robertson said today? He said that (Hugo Chavez/Ariel Sharon/the city of Dover, PA/space aliens/queers) deserved (assassination/a massive stroke/a hurricane/forced sodomy/9/11) because (s)he (has too much oil/won't give Jerusalem back to the Christians/voted for a new school board/wants to enslave all humans/looks at me in that funny way)! We have to do something about this before he (says something else stupid/buys a gun and starts offing nonbelievers himself/splits in two and becomes a force of pure energy/pees his pants on the air)!

Fill in your own blanks, it's fun!


Andrea Mitchell Lets Her Slip Show

A very weird story broke inadvertently yesterday when NBC released, and then redacted, a transcript of Andrea Mitchell's interview with James Risen, co-author of the New York Times illegal wiretapping story. John at AmericaBlog was the first to notice it:

Mitchell: Do you have any information about reporters being swept up in this net?
Risen: No, I don't. It's not clear to me. That's one of the questions we'll have to look into the future. Were there abuses of this program or not? I don't know the answer to that.
Mitchell: You don't have any information, for instance, that a very prominent journalist, Christiane Amanpour, might have been eavesdropped upon?
Risen: No, no I hadn't heard that.

Mitchell led the witness better than most prosecutors I've seen. She obviously knows something and isn't telling us. The name "Christiane Amanpour" came completely out of the blue. The story got weirder when NBC abruptly changed the transcript of the interview, deleting the Amanpour reference. Then, forced by us darn bloggers and our citizen journalism, the network made a statement:

Unfortunately this transcript was released prematurely. It was a topic on which we had not completed our reporting, and it was not broadcast on 'NBC Nightly News' nor on any other NBC News program. We removed that section of the transcript so that we may further continue our inquiry.

So basically, NBC is saying that they tipped their hand too soon, that they're working on a story about the illegal wiretapping extending from terrorists to journalists, but it's not confirmed enough yet and everyone's going to have to wait. Seems pretty dumb for a reporter like Andrea Mitchell to go blabbing about the story in an interview before they have it nailed, then.

For all we know, we may never hear about this again. It might end up as one of those things tossed around Washington cocktail parties, one of the open secrets that we hoi polloi are never privileged to be trusted with. But I hope we do hear more about this, because we need to. The reason so many are upset about the President overturning federal statutes and illegally wiretapping people, aside from the fact that it's unconstitutional, is that it's a slippery slope. If you're using the wiretaps to eavesdrop on suspected terrorists, that's one thing. You still should use the FISA courts and get a warrant, but there's at least more of an argument that this is within Presidential power. But if you're using the program to wiretap jounalists it's an entirely different matter. I've given up trusting this Administration that they won't go down the slippery slope, that they won't violate civil liberties, that they'll police themselves, that they'll limit the program. They never have. And Andrea Mitchell is insinuating that they haven't in this case either.

Now, why wiretap Christiane Amanpour? Well, aside from the fact that she's one a' them librul media members, she happens to be married to a guy named Jamie Rubin. Jamie Rubin worked in the State Department under President Clinton, and it turns out he was a high ranking official in the 2004 Kerry campaign. Let the rampant speculation run wild.

Whether you're using these wiretaps to ensnare terrorists or spy on your political enemies, it's still illegal and we can't have Presidents thinking they're above and beyond the law. But spying on journalists, spying on political enemies... that really is a throwback to the Nixon era of the "enemies list" (and I think Kerry was on that one too). It's completely out of bounds and inexcusable. If proven true, I would probably have to change my opinion on impeachment. We can't have a police state in our own country.


Darn Good Progress

The President made a nice photo-op today, gathering around a bunch of former White House officials to discuss events in Iraq. I hope he listens to all the viewpoints around the table, but until I see an actual change in policy rather than smiling for the cameras, I'm skeptical. I'm skeptical because of statements like this:

The main thrust of our success will be when the Iraqis are able to take the fight to the enemy that wants to stop their democracy, and we're making darn good progress along those lines.

Sounds like a tragically out of touch statement on a day when things like this happen:

Two suicide bombers killed 120 people and wounded more than 200 in the cities of Kerbala and Ramadi on Thursday in Iraq's bloodiest day for four months.

Another three bombs exploded in Baghdad, two of them detonated by suicide bombers, and insurgents sabotaged an oil pipeline near the northern city of Kirkuk, starting a huge fire.

The beat continues to go on in the sad and desperate lives of the Iraqi people. To reverse the trend takes more than happy talk. It takes more than saying "stay the course." It takes more than pretty pictures. It takes listening and acting on recommendations. That would involve leadership.

UPDATE: My suspicions proven by the fact that the President spent "5 to 10 minutes" listening to the group of former cabinet members. But hey, it's a great picture!


Reason to Watch the Oscars

I'd rather get the results downloaded to me while I'm doing something worthwhile. But my boy Jon Stewart is hosting, so I'll be ringside.

I met Jon Stewart once, about 13 years ago. I was a punk kid who was thinking about doing stand-up and he was headlining at Caroline's in New York. Nice guy, we talked for about five minutes. He's the sharpest guy working in comedy today by a wide margin.



When Yassir Arafat died I wrote that it would take a new generation of leaders to change anything in the Arab-Israeli conflict. I didn't know it would happen so quickly. Ariel Sharon is at the least in a coma, possibly brain damaged and rumored to be dead.

This comes at the worst possible time for Israel, when Sharon was developing a pragmatic, centrist third party in time for April elections. I don't know what happens now in Israel. The only party with any experienced leaders are the Likudniks under Netanyahu; however, Sharon rejected them by bolting to a third party, and the country seemed to be following his lead. I still think the Gaza pullout was part of a larger strategy to dig in to settlements in the West Bank, like giving up a little to maintain a lot. However, it moved the peace process forward, or at least set up conditions where it could move forward. I fear that the current tensions (rocket attacks north of Gaza, the imposition of a no-go zone there, the controversial separation wall) will only be exacerbated in the absence of leadership. Netanyahu is a neocon through and through, and will not likely brook any compromise. A government with him in power would be a crushing blow to peace and stability in the region. Mahmoud Abbas has his own problems and does not need this turn of events either. I hope for the best but am bracing for the worst.


I got Glenn Reynolds to praise Democrats

So, I try to check out both sides of the blogosphere whenever possible. It's far too easy to get caught up in an echo chamber of your own ideology, and if your beliefs are too weak to stand up to challenging, they probably aren't worth having. In the course of this the other day, I learned how disarming facts can be.

Instapundit, the largest site on the right, and less a blog than an aggregator of other blogs, is a place I'll visit a few times a week. The other day I checked in and read this post about tourists returning to New Orleans. That's a pretty nonpartisan issue: I don't know how anyone would not support tourist dollars flowing into the ravaged area (although I have written about how crazy it is to open the Superdome to football again. I mean, they didn't have soccer games at Andersonville prison). But there was something missing from his post. I remembered that back in November, the DNC announced that they would hold their spring meeting in New Orleans. I wrote about it at the time, and I thought it was significant that one of the first organizations to hold an event in New Orleans was the Democratic Party.

So I wrote Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit himself. I wrote "Regarding your post, you are aware that the DNC is holding its annual meeting in New Orleans this spring. I know Howard Dean is the devil and all, but surely this is a positive development to inject cash into the region, no?" Not snide, not mean, just building on his post with a fact. I expected no response.

Well, Glenn wrote an addendum to his post:

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader David Dayen points out that the Democrats are holding their spring meeting in New Orleans. Hardly an act of disinterested generosity, but praiseworthy nonetheless.

OK, it's not an unqualified note of praise, but from the Right's biggest blogger, that's high praise indeed for a Democrat. It's clear to me from his post that he didn't know that this was happening, despite the fact that it was a pretty big story on the Left a couple of months ago. I don't think either side of the political spectrum talks to each other enough, and there's a way to do it in a factual manner that earns respect. Out of one email, thousands of Insta-heads ended up reading words of approval for the Democrats, which is pretty remarkable if you ask me.

Sure, there are the wingiest of wingers that are beyond this kind of approach. But if you don't go in throwing bombs, if you are armed with only facts, it's hard for anyone to ignore. I'd feel the same way if the situation were reversed.

UPDATE: I was going to do the same thing with Michelle Malkin today regarding the recess appointment of Julie Myers (who she's excoriated in the past), but someone must have beat me to it, because she has a post up.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

It's Good To Be The King

Not only can you decide which laws to follow and which laws to overturn, you can appoint anyone you want to any position you want without that pesky "advise and content" business:

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 4, 2006

Personnel Announcement

President George W. Bush today recess appointed the following

Floyd Hall, of New Jersey, to be a Member of the AMTRAK Reform Board.

Enrique J. Sosa, of Florida, to be a Member of the AMTRAK Reform Board.

Nadine Hogan, of Florida, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of
the Inter-American Foundation (Private Representative).

Roger W. Wallace, of Texas, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of
the Inter-American Foundation (Private Representative).

Gordon England, of Texas, to be Deputy Secretary of Defense.

Benjamin A. Powell, of Florida, to be General Counsel of the Office of
the Director of National Intelligence.

Ronald E. Meisburg, of Virginia, to be General Counsel of the National
Labor Relations Board.

Julie L. Myers, of Kansas, to be Assistant Secretary of Homeland
Security (Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement).

Tracy A. Henke, of Missouri, to be Executive Director of the Office of
State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness at the
Department of Homeland Security.

Arthur F. Rosenfeld, of Virginia, to be Federal Mediation and
Conciliation Director at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

Ellen R. Sauerbrey, of Maryland, to be Assistant Secretary of State
(Population, Refugees, and Migration).

Dorrance Smith, of Virginia, to be Assistant Secretary of Defense
(Public Affairs).

Robert D. Lenhard, of Maryland, to be a Member of the Federal Election

Steven T. Walther, of Nevada, to be a Member of the Federal Election

Hans Von Spakovsky, of Georgia, to be a Member of the Federal Election

Peter N. Kirsanow, of Ohio, to be a Member of the National Labor
Relations Board.

Stephen Goldsmith, of Indiana, to be a Member of the Board of Directors
of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Julie Myers was a major cause celebre on the right, as she will be made head of Immigrations and Customs without any experience in the field, and she happens to be the daughter of the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers. So far, they're silent on this one. The apologists continue to apologize. Color me unsurprised.

Thomas Jefferson is turning over in his grave.

UPDATE: Julie Myers is actually Gen. Myers' niece. And also the wife of DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff's chief of staff. Small world...


We Did WHAT???

James Risen's book is going to have enough in it to keep us talking for months. According to this LA Times story, the CIA used a Russian defector to hand officials in Tehran designs for a nuclear bomb with an intentional flaw.

But the Iranians were tipped to the scheme by the Russian defector hired by the CIA to deliver the plans and may have gleaned scientific information useful for designing a bomb, writes New York Times reporter James Risen in "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration."

How do we think we're dealing with, Iran or Wile E. Coyote? Are you fucking serious? We handed a foreign country labeled as a terrorist state BOMB PLANS??? And what was the hidden flaw, by the way, did they add one part hydrogen somewhere?

We know that, as stupid as it sounds, that this is likely to be true for the simple reason that the New York Times wouldn't publish it:

Top New York Times officials also refused to publish a news article about the reported CIA plot to give intentionally flawed nuclear plans to Iran, according to a person briefed on the newspaper's conversations by one of the participants. That person said the New York Times withheld publication at the request of the White House and former CIA Director George J. Tenet.

Thanks again, fellas. No wonder Risen decided to write a book, every thing he uncovered was getting stonewalled by the editors.

The Keystone Kops story of this goes that the CIA was trying to counter Iran's burgeoning nuclear program. They hired the Russian defector to provide the Iranians with what were purported to be Russian nuclear weapons blueprints. They then sent this guy UNACCOMPANIED, where he promptly tipped off the Iranians to the flaw.

The only way a flaw like that could be so well hidden was if 99% of it was legitimate. So we end up giving a country ALREADY WORKING on the nuclear issue a near-perfect design for how to build the bomb. And their scientists are well-trained enough to pick out the information that would move their project forward.

If true, this has got to be one of the most colossally stupid ideas this government has ever hatched. If this was in "Syriana" you would never have believed it. It reminds me of some lame sitcom plot. Do we routinely play these kinds of games with national security? If so, our intelligence services are more broken that any of us think.

I'm sure this idea was met within the CIA as some kind of great "outside the box thinking." Of course, there is a reason for the box, after all. It's so you don't do anything THIS THUNDERINGLY STUPID.


The Mining Tragedy and Workplace Safety

The death of 12 coal miners in West Virginia this week is tragic, especially after reports that they were found alive proved to be untrue. And while this story played out on the visceral, emotional level we've come to expect from 24-hour cable news, it would be wrong not to put the tragedy, and the general issue of worker safety, into its proper context. Indeed we dishonor these workers' memories if we don't.

The Sago Mine, site of the tragedy, was cited hundreds of times in its history, including 21 times for a "build-up of combustible materials" at the mine. But the Bloomberg story shows how ridiculously easy it was for the company to shrug off these serious violations:

The Sago mine, owned by billionaire investor Wilbur Ross's International Coal Group Inc., was cited for a total of 208 federal safety violations last year, up from 68 in 2004, according to the Labor Department. The largest individual fine last year was $440; the citations for combustible materials carried fines of $60.

So what's easier for a billionaire to do: pay a $60 fine or pay the labor and capital costs associated with running a mine within the boundaries of the law? A $60 fine for putting workers at risk is insulting. Indeed, this is a problem not limited to the mining industry, but across every workplace in the country. The regulatory agencies have been de-fanged, understaffed, and given no tools to fulfill their mandate of protecting workers from occupational hazards. OSHA was humming along until the Republican revolution in Congress:

The 1990s enforcement data show that inspections and violations were stable through 1994 while penalties continued to increase. Inspections, violations and penalties declined sharply in 1995 and 1996 due to reinvention efforts and the Federal Government shutdowns. A partial recovery of inspections, violations and penalties occurred from FY 1997 to FY 2000.

We have to understand the battle lines here. Big corporations don't like any regulation that can force compliance. They'll pay a fine (read: bribe), sure, as long as the fine is miniscule and pesky and doesn't interfere with their profit margins. As corporations' fealties are to their shareholders and not their workers, profit trumps worker safety. And the Party most concerned with limited corporate regulation and oversight is, you guessed it, the GOP. This mining tragedy needs to be a touchstone for extending Homeland Security to the workplace. Too many people needlessly die from occupational and industrial accidents each year when the government has the apparatus to do something about it.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum has more. I thought it went without saying that the mining companies were into the Bush Administration for big money. I didn't know how big: over $3 mil. And they got one of their own to head the regulatory agency. All too typical.


Abramoff ONLY gave to Republicans

In terms of his personal gifts, EVERY SINGLE ONE was to a Republican. See for yourself.

And the NRSC was caught lying about this. They called it a typo.

There site continues to say that "40 of the 45 members of the Senate Democrat Caucus have taken money from Abramoff, his associates, and Indian tribe clients."

Except none of the money was from Abramoff, so it should say "40 of the 45 members of the Senate Democrat Caucus have taken money from Abramoff associates and Indian tribe clients."

And aren't the Indian tribe clients the VICTIMS in this story? Is the NRSC claiming that Democrats should be ashamed to receive money from groups that were bilked by Jack Abramoff? This view makes it sound like Indian tribes shouldn't have a right to use their free speech to lobby Congress.

It's almost amusing to see the Republicans try to squirm out of this one. Their entire movement, the entire way they do business is going down. That fig leaf of bipartisanship can't be seen with a microscope.


Fake Children's Charities

There's been a significant amount of water-muddying in the past 24 hours over the Jack Abramoff plea bargain, and we'll see if it lasts. But you really have to dig into the heart of this story to understand what a foul series of crimes this guy committed, and for what reason.

The Austin American-Statesman details just one of the, apparently, several slush funds Abramoff used to funnel money to his select circle of friends in the legislature. And money of these front groups were children's charities.

Capital Athletic Foundation, a charity run by disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff now at the center of an influence-peddling investigation on Capitol Hill, told the IRS it gave away more than $330,000 in grants in 2002 to four other charities that say they never received the money.

The largest grant the foundation listed in its 2002 tax filing was for $300,000 to P'TACH of New York, a nonprofit that helps Jewish children with learning disabilities.

"We've never received a $300,000 gift, not in our 28 years," a surprised Rabbi Burton Jaffa, P'TACH's national director, told the Austin American-States- man. "It would have been gone by now. I guess I would have been able to pay some teachers on time."

So where exactly did that money go, if not to the children's charity?

But around the time Capital Athletic's tax form was filed in fall 2003, listing the $300,000 donation P'TACH says it didn't get, a DeLay-created charity called Celebrations for Children was begun with $300,000 in seed money.

Celebrations for Children was a short-lived effort to raise money for children's charities by providing donors with special access to DeLay, plus yacht trips and other enticements, during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York. Watchdog groups protested, claiming the fundraiser violated a new ban on accumulating unlimited "soft" money, and DeLay dropped it in May 2004.

They used money supposedly directed to children to fund perks for DeLay cronies like yacht trips, parties at the Republican National Convention, and more. This is the perfect microcosm of this scandal. The Republican machine that unleashed Jack Abramoff and his ilk on the world will go to any lengths, even faking charity donations to needy children, to reward their political friends. Most of these charities weren't even asking Abramoff for money: he simply used them to throw everyone off the money trail. It's almost to the point that you don't want this guy to plea bargain, so great were his crimes.

Another slush fund that Abramoff and DeLay set up was called The US Family Network, and Russian oil money was funding it in part:

During its five-year existence, the U.S. Family Network raised $2.5 million but kept its donor list secret. The list, obtained by The Washington Post, shows that $1 million of its revenue came in a single 1998 check from a now-defunct London law firm whose former partners would not identify the money's origins.

Two former associates of Edwin A. Buckham, the congressman's former chief of staff and the organizer of the U.S. Family Network, said Buckham told them the funds came from Russian oil and gas executives. Abramoff had been working closely with two such Russian energy executives on their Washington agenda, and the lobbyist and Buckham had helped organize a 1997 Moscow visit by DeLay (R-Tex.) [...]

There is no evidence DeLay received a direct financial benefit, but Buckham's firm employed DeLay's wife, Christine, and paid her a salary of at least $3,200 each month for three of the years the group existed. Richard Cullen, DeLay's attorney, has said that the pay was compensation for lists Christine DeLay supplied to Buckham of lawmakers' favorite charities, and that it was appropriate under House rules and election law.

Some of the U.S. Family Network's revenue was used to pay for radio ads attacking vulnerable Democratic lawmakers in 1999; other funds were used to finance the cash purchase of a townhouse three blocks from DeLay's congressional office. DeLay's associates at the time called it "the Safe House."

So when the traditional media goes on Hardball or Meet the Press and tries to paint this as a bipartisan scandal, remember this stuff. Remember that a Bush Pioneer and former College Republicans President set up a lobbying firm, got millions of dollars out of his clients, sometimes getting money from one client to compete against another client, and funneled this money into benefits and perks for his friends. There's a major difference between political contributions, which are legal, and kickbacks with a quid pro quo expectation, which is not. The same Republicans that decry the "criminalization of politics" and say that taking money from a lobbyist is not a crime are the ones that are pointing to Abramoff client donations to Democrats and saying "See, they took money too." That's ridiculous.

This comprehensive Kos diary puts it completely in perspective:

All the efforts to paint this as a bipartisan scandal are done in by one salient fact: the GOP has set up the game to systematically exclude the Democrats. Right there is the fatal flaw in the whole thing. The GOP set up an updated version of the old-fashioned political machine, and, like all machines, it needs to press the boundaries of legality and propriety to fund the large apparatus it needs to perpetuate itself. Plus, the people who set up and run these machines are invariably corrupt and arrogant, and we all know what happens to folks like that when you give them power. Basically, this all has roots in the K Street Project.

I've written about the K Street Project several times, the odious attempt by DeLay and friends to systematically place Republicans into lobbying positions and exclude Democrats. This worked brilliantly for a while, until people like Abramoff got greedy. The Justice Department was finally roused to look at this and wonder if the entire machine was illegal. That's where we are right now. And if you excluded Democrats from the lobbying dollar then, you're going to have to take the fall now. Sorry. The question is not who got donations but who broke the law. That fact has sent Republican members of Congress scurrying to their defense attorney rollodexes this week.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Constitutional Crisis

We're reaching a significant showdown moment between the White House and Congress. Think Progress notes that Scotty sounded anything but conciliatory today to the idea of Congressional hearings on the illegal wiretapping scandal. This is from today's briefing:

Q: And my question is, does the White House take this into account, will it try to talk to them, will it participate in the hearings?

MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, and the President has said we’ve briefed members of Congress on more than a dozen occasions.

In other words, they've cooperated all that they're willing to cooperate. Hearings on this issue absent the cooperation of the executive branch won't mean anything.

MR. McCLELLAN: And in terms of discussions about this, the President talked about this at his end-of-the-year news conference. We shouldn’t be talking about intelligence activities, particularly in a time of war, in a public way. This is a highly classified authorization –

Q Not anymore. I mean, it’s public now.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, it still is. It still is highly classified. The President has talked in a very limited way about the nature of this authorization and what it’s designed to do, and how it’s limited. And so we will continue to talk with members of Congress —

It's so secret that the President let slip a couple days ago that it was limited to incoming calls.

Q Will you cooperate with a congressional hearing?

MR. McCLELLAN: — the Attorney General has been talking to additional members of Congress about this authorization, so that they do understand why this tool is so vital in our efforts to prevail in the global war on terrorism.

Q But will you cooperate with a hearing?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I’m not going to get into talking about ruling things in or out from this podium. We’ll talk with members of Congress and make sure that they’re briefed and kept informed, as we have been.

They actually think the American people are with them on this (hence Scotty's regurgitation of that BS Rasmussen poll), and that they can stonewall and stonewall until Congressional outcry subsides. There's a major difference between informing Congress and subjecting yourself to Congressional oversight (which, of course, is part of Congress' job description).

I wasn't really even for impeachment in this case, as long as the President backed down from this attempt to impose Total Information Awareness on all Americans through the back door. But they don't even want to cooperate with the hearings, yet alone withdraw the policy. Of course, this White House has a lot of past experience with showing a lack of cooperation. They didn't want a Homeland Security Department. They didn't want a 9/11 Commission. Eventually Congress got its way on both counts. Will they on these hearings?


Liberal Media

From an earlier CNN story on Abramoff (since scrubbed):

DeLay, who himself is facing money laundering charges, was forced to step down from his leadership position in September after he was indicted on conspiracy charges that were later dropped.

Of course, the money laundering charges that are more serious are still active, but we won't mention that! We're CNN!

Also, Chris Matthews on Abramoff:

Chris: I'm not sure it's partisan. I'm not sure people are going to see him as part of any republican culture of corruption. I think Duke Cunningham also was sort of a lone wolf in that department...

Abramoff was a Bush pioneer, for fuck's sake. He personally gave over $127,000 to Republicans the last four years, and exactly $0 to Democrats.

Please remove head from ass.

UPDATE: Look at this email trail between Abramoff and his associate Michael Scanlon (who has also pleaded guilty). Wow.



As you can see here, Democrats in the Senate this year proposed hundreds of amendments to legislation, and only 18 of them were agreed to. With a Republican majority in the chamber this is to be expected. But the Senate is supposed to be the great chamber of consensus, free from the rank partisanship of the House. And on bill after bill, amendment after amendment, the GOP struck down one vote after another. Bob Geiger describes some of those votes, and you begin to see a picture of that "Democratic agenda" which the Right believes is nonexistent. Turns out it's almost all about protecting Americans, especially working families:

Two attempts by Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) to raise the federal minimum wage, S. amdt. 44 and S. amdt. 2063, went down by votes of 49-46 and 51-47, respectively, with only a couple of Republicans crossing the aisle on behalf of working Americans. John Kerry (D-MA) and Jack Reed (D-RI) tried three times to getting funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and failed on all of those attempts...

Bigger, Republican-sponsored bills – one, an anti-Bankruptcy gift to the financial industry and another measure that almost entirely neutered any possibility of lawsuits against the firearms industry – passed despite many attempts by Democrats to make them less harmful to the American people.

The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, which took effect in October, makes it almost impossible for Americans to file for bankruptcy any longer, no matter how dire the circumstances that drove them to that end. The best Senate Democrats could do was propose amendments to the bill, in an attempt to water down how many middle-class and low-income people it could hurt. Also sponsored by Kennedy, S. amdt. 28 would have exempted debtors whose financial problems were caused by serious medical problems from any means testing in filing for bankruptcy. The measure couldn't make it past Bill Frist and was voted down.

S. amdt. 32, by Jon Corzine (D-NJ), sought to preserve existing bankruptcy protections for Americans in economic distress if they acted as caregivers to ill or disabled family members. Dick Durbin (D-IL) sponsored two bankruptcy-bill amendments, S. amdt. 49 and S. amdt. 110. One would have protected employees and retirees from losing their life savings in corporate bankruptcies, while the other attempted to exempt debtors below the nation's median income from filing restrictions.

All were defeated on primarily party-line votes – almost all Democrats voting for and almost all Republicans against.

Charles Schumer (D-NY) had two amendment defeated (S. amdt. 1189 and S. amdt. 1190) that would have provided $70 million to identify and track hazardous materials shipments and provide new security programs for inspection of air cargo containers -- both were defeated by the GOP leadership.

Here's the thing: Republicans have an agenda. It involves paying off big business at the cost of the American worker. Democrats have an agenda. It involves helping the vast majority of Americans reach their potential and set their goals. If you remove all the spin and obfuscation, that's what you've got. Republicans were able to hold off almost all of these Democratic attempts to further their agenda in 2005. After the 2006 elections, the path may not be so clear, as long as Democrats explain to everybody what their votes mean and why people should support them.


A Word About Party Loyalty

I get a lot of flack from Republicans with regard to the illegal spying scandal that "you Democrats are so interested in the rule of law now, but weren't concerned about perjury in the 1990s."

Know your history. Might I remind everyone that the most liberal interest group around,, started with a campaign to censure a sitting Democratic President? They judged, along with the vast majority of America, that lying about a blow job didn't rise to the level of impeachment. But they did favor censure, which is about as grave as you can get short of impeachment. MoveOn is short for "Censure and MoveOn."

The Republican apologists, on the other hand, refuse to admit that their President did anything wrong, refuse to ask that he stop doing the illegal actions to which he has admitted, and claim afterwards that the DEMOCRATS are the ones being hypocrites. OK, whatever.


You Don't Know Jack

But you will. Oh, yes, you will:

Embattled U.S. lobbyist Jack Abramoff is expected to plead guilty on Tuesday in a corruption probe that implicates several top Republican lawmakers including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Justice Department official said.

The long-expected plea will give prosecutors extra ammunition as they seek to link the activities of DeLay of Texas, Republican Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio, and other top lawmakers to favors paid for by Abramoff's lobbying clients.

According to the charges, Abramoff and former DeLay aide Michael Scanlon overbilled several Indian tribes by millions of dollars and used that money to shower golf trips, sports tickets, lavish dinners and other favors on lawmakers.

The charges are also expected to include breaking lobbying laws by hiring congressional staffers to lobby their former bosses within a year of their employment on Capitol Hill.

"It was a purpose of the conspiracy for defendant Abramoff, Scanlon and others to enrich themselves by obtaining substantial funds from their clients through fraud and concealment," the charges said.

I fully expect the Republican spin machine to come out and say "He gave money to both parties!" to try and equivocate this, but I don't see how that can stick when prominent Republicans are mentioned in the suit:

One unidentified lawmaker agreed to support legislation sought by Abramoff, place statements supporting him in theCongressional Record -- the official daily report on congressional proceedings, and give one of his clients a contract to provide wireless telephone service to the House of Representatives, the charges said.

That description matches actions taken by Ney, who inserted comments supporting Abramoff into the Congressional Record and who oversees routine matters like wireless service in congressional buildings as chairman of the House Administration Committee.

Ney's attorney Mark Tuohey was not immediately available for comment.

Yeah, he was too busy throwing up in the Capitol Rotunda men's room.

I don't have any apostasy about this. If Democrats took money from Jack and summarily made votes favorable to his clients, out the door with them too. But here's a simple analogy. If the Plame case was about how the White House works, this Abramoff case is about how Congress works. And Congress doesn't do a damn thing unless the GOP Leadership says "Boo." So you can try all you want to paint the former leader of the College Republicans as a bipartisan sleaze merchant, but that dog don't hunt, as we say in my pinko queer-loving liberal enclaves.

Look no further than our favorite screenwriter Dana Rohrabacher's take on Abramoff, just a few days ago:

"I think he's been dealt a bad hand and the worst, rawest deal I've ever seen in my life. Words like bribery are being used to describe things that happened every day in Washington and are not bribes."

Somebody didn't get the "he's going to plea bargain and we need to disassociate ourselves with this guy" memo. As a result, we get an insight into what's going on here. What the Justice Department calls a felony, the Republican Party calls politics.


Monday, January 02, 2006

Liberal Wedge Issues, Part II

Despite the scandal going on in South Korea, stem cell research is a train that has left the station. No self-respecting scientist believes, just because Hwang Woo Suk and his team faked their cloned human embryonic stem cell lines, that the iea is impossible and can never be achieved. In fact, another breakthrough happened just today:

A private lab working with researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has developed a stem cell system, free of animal cells to create human embryonic stem cells.

Researchers say the new discovery makes it easier for stem cells to thrive in a culture free from animal viruses and other agents that might infect human patients who use those cells for therapy.

The breakthrough opens the door for studies in possible treatments for Parkinson's disease, diabetes and spinal cord injury.

The report was released in the Journal Nature Biotechnology.

So long as researchers are properly funded and encouraged, breakthroughs like this will be a daily occurrence. This is not nearly so far away as many would have you think. Since the federal government will not fund the research any further than the mysterious "existing stem cell lines" (and nobody really knows what they are), there is an opportunity for the states to pick up the slack by deciding to fund it themselves. It worked as a ballot measure in California, and the added benefit for the states is that it could spawn an entire new part of the biotech industry, and they'd be in on the ground floor. I think some stem cell research ballot measures would be both good policy and good politics, particularly for those states who are on more solid economic footing and can devote some cash to funding.


Not a Weapon in the Culture War, Just a Fairly Shitty Movie

Roy Edroso does the review of Munich that I've wanted to write ever since I saw it on Christmas Eve. The talk about Munich thus far has been dominated by those on the Right who think Spielberg commits treason or moral cowardice by asserting some kind of equivalence between Palestinian violence and Israeli self-defense. That's an irrelevant argument to make about a movie directed by someone whose output includes Jurassic Park, Jaws, E.T. and other theme park rides. This ain't Fassbinder, and Spielberg ain't that deep.

For all the talk about how the movie thematically describes the futility of perpetual violence there's shockingly little of that actually in the film. The first half, practically, is basically no different than The Goonies: a ragtag group is assembled to complete various exciting missions in exotic locales. While the group is supposed to incorporate five people with diverse backgrounds and particular skills, we never find out what any of them are save for the guy who makes bombmaking gadgets (Matthieu Kassovitz). Apparently the special skills of the others are mainly "waiting in the car while the bomb explodes." Sure, there are a few isolated moments of self-doubt and faux sincerity, but the forward motion of the plot throughout the first half is really "What bad guy will go down next?" It's pretty to look at, and has the look of 70s potboilers like Black Sunday (that movie in particular leapt out at me while I was watching). And underneath it's just as hollow as those thrillseeking escapades.

When the movie does get around to its message, it's alternately awkward, stilted and derivative. Roy addresses this much better than I could:

So far as it goes, this is a creditable approach that might have served, say, Alan Clarke or Costa-Gavras well. Try, though, to imagine Spielberg sticking to a format like this. He just can’t do it, and has to reach out of the moral morass for his nearest equivalent to redemption, the Big Movie Moment that is his stock in trade: the Moment of recognition between Avner and his Arab counterpart (across a bloody street battle), the Moment of personal crisis (cribbed rather tastelessly from The Conversation), several Moments of Mom involving the women in Avner’s life -- his mother, his wife, and Golda Meir -- and the biggest Moment (and biggest mistake), of Thanatopsis, when Avner recalls the climax of the Munich massacre during a physical act of love. (Not the mention the Moment with the radio, which would have made a nice Coca-Cola commercial.)

It says something that the most genuinely eloquent, unforced, and moving moment in the movie is Avner’s reaction to his infant daughter back in Brooklyn saying "Dada" on the phone. Home is where the heart of Munich is. The screenwriters have loaded the story with references to home, and made it the McGuffin for the widening gyre of violence. Maybe this is what attracted Spielberg to the project: E.T. wanted to go home, and so does everyone else, including people who haven’t got one. I suppose Spielberg thought pointing this out would suggest a common ground on which these feuds could be settled, and sharpen the sense of waste and futility of the struggle.

But "home" really is one thing coming from a muppet in a kiddie picture, and another coming from adult commandoes on a blood-hunt. This is not a political but a dramatic observation. In the context of what actually happens in Munich, the endless talk among the counter-terrorists and their contacts of home -- and of morality, ethics, and nearly everything else more exalted than munitions and procedure -- is revealed to be absurd, and the sentimental gestures that inflate the movie are all a con. The team’s Mossad handler is very clear-eyed (not to say correct) about the whole business -- when Avner confronts him about the reciprocal nature of violence, he shrugs, "Why should I cut my nails? They’re only going to grow back again." Did none of the other team members ever consider this point of view, either to adopt or reject, before joining the mission?

I had many of the same reactions. I knew more about Avner's wife and mother than any of the other members of the assassination team. Not everything should be told through the lens of family. I don't care if your parents were the greatest people in the world, you can talk about the Arab-Israeli conflict without referring to them. This movie isn't a prayer for peace, it's a prayer for a deeper filmmaker.

Oh yeah, and it ends with a shot of the Twin Towers. Nice and subtle.


Signing Statements

Marty Lederman directs us to the Presidential signing statement on the McCain Torture Amendment, which essentially nullifies it:

The executive branch shall construe Title X in Division A of the Act, relating to detainees, in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power, which will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President, evidenced in Title X, of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks.

Basically, they're saying that "I'm going to read this Amendment as the law for now, but I reserve the right to change it whenever I want and you can't stop me."

Actually, if you read the entire signing statement, you'll see a multitude of legalese resulting in the President attempting to refashion numerous aspects of the law. This has a dangerously imperial bent, and until now I had no idea that the executive branch went to these lengths to rewrite legislation. I went and found a history of signing statements written by Assistant Attorney General Walter Dellinger in 1993. He makes a distinction between reasonable and, shall we say, extra-reasonable purposes of signing statements:

Many Presidents have used signing statements to make substantive legal, constitutional or administrative pronouncements on the bill being signed. Although the recent practice of issuing signing statements to create "legislative history" remains controversial, the other uses of Presidential signing statements generally serve legitimate and defensible purposes.

Creating "legislative history" means basically that the executive is making his argument to the courts in favor of his interpretation of the law, and expects the court to give that as much weight as the text of the law itself. This notion started in, you guessed it, the Reagan Administration:

In 1986, then-Attorney General Meese entered into an arrangement with the West Publishing Company to have Presidential signing statements published for the first time in the U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News, the standard collection of legislative history. Mr. Meese explained the purpose of the project as follows:

To make sure that the President's own understanding of what's in a bill is the same . . . or is given consideration at the time of statutory construction later on by a court, we have now arranged with the West Publishing Company that the presidential statement on the signing of a bill will accompany the legislative history from Congress so that all can be available to the court for future construction of what that statute really means.

It seems to me that if you allow the President to make up his own interpretation of a statute, and then that becomes as much a part of the law as the actual text, you've effectively rendered Congress moot in the legislative process. Under this theory, the President could be given a bill to build a new highway and decide "To me, this bill means I should attack Yemen on Friday," and the two interpretations are completely equal parts of the law. This is no different than issuing a line-item veto, which has been determined unconstitutional since 1985. What we end up with, at worst, is a President speaking for Congress, and it's not at all surprising that our current King George gets off on this new expansion of executive power.


Liberal Wedge Issues, Pt. II

The One-Terminator has jumped on the liberal wedge-issue bandwagon and proposed a one-dollar hike in the minimum wage. What the headline doesn't tell you, but the story does, is that this represents a desperate incumbent playing defense, not offense:

After two years of rejecting increases in the minimum wage at the behest of California businesses, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger next week will propose raising the basic hourly pay $1 over 18 months, administration officials said Friday [...]

Restaurants and retail businesses that rely on unskilled, low-wage workers have maintained that a higher mandatory wage slows economic growth by driving up costs and discouraging them from hiring more employees.

But in California, business owners are facing a ballot initiative that would increase the minimum wage to $8.75 an hour and require cost-of-living increases after that. With internal polling showing widespread public support for an increase, some business groups said Friday that they were inclined to support the governor's plan.

"I think a minimum wage increase is inevitable," said Bill Dombrowski, president of the California Retailers Assn. "The governor has come up with the best compromise the business community can get."

It's not hard to connect these dots. Schwarzenegger is trying to defuse the issue rather than inflame it, and give workers the rawest deal he can get away with. When the traditional media blowhards start bloviating about how much of a "maverick centrist" Schwarzenegger is, keep this in mind. He's trying to hold the gates back before they burst, nothing more. And he's vetoed TWO minimum wage increases in as many years. We should all know exactly what side of this issue he's on.

UPDATE: The New York Times has a story about the minimum wage issue. Even the CEO of Wal-Mart is on the record in calling for an increase (since his target audience is the working poor, anyway). And this was new to me:

The 2006 battle over the minimum wage is expected to be particularly intense in Ohio, one of only two states that have a minimum wage below the federal level (the other is Kansas). The minimum wage in Ohio since 1991 has been $4.25 an hour, which applies to small employers, some farms and most restaurants. Workers at larger enterprises are generally covered by the federal minimum wage.

Efforts to get the Republican-run General Assembly to consider raising Ohio's minimum wage have gone nowhere, so labor groups and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, known as Acorn, an advocacy group for low-income individuals and families, are planning a ballot initiative to put the issue to a popular vote in November.

This is a winner in a state that will be one of the major hot spots in 2006, with several House seats, Mike DeWine's Senate seat and the governor's chair in play.


The Superdome? For Football?

From the absurd news site Happy News, (yes, they only report HAPPY news. It's a small site) we learn that New Orleans has decided to devote a good portion of its meager resources to where they are clearly most needed: fixing goalposts.

Owner Tom Benson said Friday that the team might be able to return to the hurricane-ravaged Superdome as early as September, while NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue was far more cautious in setting a timetable.

Asked whether New Orleans could support an NFL team long-term, he said, ''We think it can, but it's not a slam dunk.''

However, Benson said the state agency managing the Superdome told him the stadium can be ready for games by Sept. 15.

You know, when I think about where to hold an exciting, rollicking NFL football game, nothing springs to mind quicker than a site of extreme human misery like the Superdome. I understand that the local economy would be helped by the Saints' return, but does it really make sense to hold games THERE? After everything that went down? (warning... extreme satire alert) What can we expect: "Welcome to Ration Night here at the Louisiana Superdome! The first 10,000 fans through the gates receive a Meal-Ready-to-Eat of rice paste... It's halftime now, and we're going to have another "Jump from the Upper Level Balcony" Race... Section 18, Row 3, Seat 6, you are the lucky seat today! We've actually cleaned the human excrement off of it!"

Why is everybody looking at this as an unquestioned good thing? Tell me it won't be creepy watching football inside a house of horrors.


Sunday, January 01, 2006

Patriots in the DOJ

Richard Comey is a saint. He values the duties of his office over party loyalty. It's a sad statement on America that such a mundane act (doing your job) can propel you to sainthood. But Comey wasn't going along with the White House's illegal spying racket:

A top Justice Department official objected in 2004 to aspects of the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program and refused to sign on to its continued use amid concerns about its legality and oversight, according to officials with knowledge of the tense internal debate. The concerns appear to have played a part in the temporary suspension of the secret program.

The concerns prompted two of President Bush's most senior aides - Andrew H. Card Jr., his chief of staff, and Alberto R. Gonzales, then White House counsel and now attorney general - to make an emergency visit to a Washington hospital in March 2004 to discuss the program's future and try to win the needed approval from Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was hospitalized for gallbladder surgery, the officials said.

The unusual meeting was prompted because Mr. Ashcroft's top deputy, James B. Comey, who was acting as attorney general in his absence, had indicated he was unwilling to give his approval to certifying central aspects of the program, as required under the White House procedures set up to oversee it.

With Mr. Comey unwilling to sign off on the program, the White House went to Mr. Ashcroft - who had been in the intensive care unit at George Washington University Hospital with pancreatitis and was housed under unusually tight security - because "they needed him for certification," according to an official briefed on the episode. The official, like others who discussed the issue, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the program.

This image of Abu Gonzales and Keystone Kard spiriting into a hospital in the dead of night to force a bedridden patient just out of surgery to let them continue their nefarious deeds is right out of a 50s film noir. And apprently, even Ashcroft wouldn't go along with it:

On one day in the spring of 2004, White House chief of staff Andy Card and the then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales made a bedside visit to John Ashcroft, attorney general at the time, who was stricken with a rare and painful pancreatic disease, to try--without success--to get him to reverse his deputy, Acting Attorney General James Comey, who was balking at the warrantless eavesdropping.

Let the Eagle Soar could even see through this game. Of course, having the Chief of Staff and top counsel burst into your hospital room while you're on your potential deathbed probably didn't make him too happy either. This led the White House to have to suspend and reform parts of the program, which must have burned the Brush-Clearer-in-Chief's hide.

At what point are Risen and Lichtblau going to take their place alongside Woodward and Bernstein? Their reporting has been dogged, with revelation after revelation advancing the story with almost every article. These guys deserve a lot of credit, despite the cowardice of their betters, who won't even answer to their own ombudsman about why they held this story out for over a year. As pontificator correctly notes, the release of this information did not compromise national security in any way. It was a matter of public record that the government could obtain secret warrants to spy on terrorists in the United States.

The disclosure of the NSA's secret wiretapping program therefore changes nothing in terms of a terrorist's knowledge, and simply could not under any circumstances "tip off" a terrorist that he was under surveillance.  Accordingly, there are simply no circumstances under which disclosure of the program could harm national security.  (Of course, if the disclosure were to then go on and identify actual persons under surveillance, then of course that could harm national security -- but clearly that is not what happened here).

What we're talking about here is the rule of law, a principle about which Republicans only have a passing knowledge. It wasn't so long ago that Republicans would fulminate away about how, in the absence of the rule of law, we would be susceptible to "the arbitrary exercise of power by the state." Of course, then they were talking about a blow job, and the dangers to the republic contained therein. Now, when we have the executive branch ACTUALLY exercising that arbitrary power, too many of them remain silent. Arlen Specter and now Richard Lugar support hearings, and we'll have them. But this is clearly an episode that shows how 9/11 really changed everything: it turned a party that was once intimately concerned with small government and civil libertarianism into a bunch of fear-addled bedwetters who don't mind giving up on everything they once believed and held dear, so long as they can run into Daddy Dear Leader's waiting arms and be kept safe and soothed from the big bad monsters just outside the window.

This is a variation on a progressive blogosphere theme, but it's so damn true that we need to keep saying it over and over again. Stop being so afraid of everything, America. We can't dismiss the founding tenets of the country because a bad thing happened four years ago and trickles of pee started running down everybody's legs.


New Changes in the New Year

Happy quirk of the calendar to all of you.

There are going to be some changes with this site in the new year. I'll be incorporating it into a larger site that will include other aspects of my life, like my professional resume and credentials, and my performance dates (I dabble in the arcane art of stand-up comedy now and again). You can now reach this site simply by typing in

More to come on this as the year progresses.